How to successfully contact a respected and responsible breeder in order to acquire your foundation cats

A letter written by Ch. M. Ruessheim to a frustrated new breeder

Maybe, one of the first assessment you should do for yourself and before you contact prospective breeders of your choice is to find out why you want to breed Abyssinians and what you want to achieve. There is normally not only one single reason for doing something and equally there can be a variety of goals. Give those things that are most important to you a 1, less important 2, 3, etc. on a scale from 1-5 for example.

Then, do your research according to importance. Try to connect to people who have similar ideas like you have, but you will never find one single person that might share exactly the same ideas in ALL aspects, you need to find your own tolerance level;-)

The easiest way to get in touch with a breeder would be to meet potential breeders in person, and cat shows used to be a good place to do that. Unfortunately, not all that we would like to get in touch with, live near enough to meet them easily. When I was at the beginning of breeding, I went to many shows all over Europe, but also made several trips to the US (without cats) and attended some of the big shows where likely many of the breeders from all over the country would attend. But, these shows don't exist or rarely any more and of course many of the old time breeders have either passed away, quit breeding or do not attend shows much more. In Europe there are always special breed shows and that could be a starting point to meet more of them than on average, but, depending the location you will see more local breeders. Sometimes, there can be surprising results in that you can meet a breeder that is not "famous" but may show some beautiful Abys you like, too;-). Another worthwhile event to consider visiting in Europe is the FIFE World Show which takes place once a year. Depending the location this might be THAT opportunity to see many different examples of the breed!

Contacting breeders via writing (emails) only, can be quite unrewarding these days and almost everyone will tell you that, it has nothing to do with you as a person, what animals you have acquired, etc. Reasons are manifold, some breeders simply do not like to write, others feel they cannot find enough trust without meeting the person, again others get too many requests and get bored after a while, yada-yada-yada. In the past, I did often call those breeders I wanted to get in touch with, but of course back then we didn't have facebook or even internet and writing snail mail letters did often mean having to wait for weeks until an answer arrived and without knowing whether one would even have a chance to get a response;-) If you decide to call, be aware of the time zone differences! You do not want to begin communication with bad manners by waking up somebody in the middle of the night;-)

Something else that did help a lot in the past days was to become a member of breed clubs around the globe. Not only was it the only way to find out what was going on in the breed, like who bred what lines, who had litters, etc. it also gave a basic assumption that the person joining is serious about the breed and was willing to adhere to some code of ethics (if they are followed or not is another question, though). But, with the beginning of the digital age these breed clubs started to fade away, which is very sad because I think we would need them now more than ever! In fact, a few people together with me have some ideas how to make it "popular" again to belong to a breed club, but it will certainly be a long winding road....

Also, generally it is best to start more or less locally, we all did in the past. I think one reason for things getting out of control WAS the sudden worldwide and instant digital connection possibility! While I certainly would not want to go back to old age and I definitely also see the many positive aspects of new technology, we need to find some ways of balance.

You definitely need a good starting point and the help of a respected breeder, who will be willing t assist you with advice but - very importantly - also to get you connected to other respected breeders! That's why I recommend to start locally. However, things have changed and the breeder community has become quite disunited due to a few very "bad apples" so to speak. In addition, many longterm breeders have quit breeding and a large proportion of current breeders are rather new, and they have often started themselves without the right guidance and which - as a result - created some of the "breeder climate" we have to deal with today.

You mention that some new breeders were able to acquire several well known lines even though they might not all have deserved it. You certainly are right, and that fact has added to the complications, because some breeders who trusted them, found out only later that they probably shouldn't have. As a consequence, they are now often no longer willing to trade long distances. Other new breeders were simply lucky because some of the "famous" breeders needed hard cash (normally these are the "constant winners", showing to a national win is quite expensive) and the European/Russian market was willing to pay rather exorbitant prices! The entire dilemma and the frustration you are experiencing is quite complex, I only mentioned a few of the reasons.

Another mistake new people especially these days make is, that they are over demanding and ask for the perfect cat whatever that is in their eyes! I have seen some of such letters and asked myself, if they ever have learned some good manners and respect and actually know what they are planning to do! I mean, if you write to another breeder where you possibly would like to acquire something, and the first thing you do is criticizing his cats, then I don't believe you will ever be successful regardless if you also will find some good words, too;-) Believe me, every longterm respected breeder does know exactly which are the weak and strong points on each individual cat he has! There is no such thing as the perfect cat anyway! Breeding cats is artwork and and what is considered "right" for any specific cat is to a large extent in the eye of the beholder;-) Just look at judges and how they award individuals: the same cat may go best with one and be totally ignored by another - every standard has a certain margin for interpretation, and rightly so!

But apart from newbies being over demanding for the perfect cat (none of us did start out with something perfect nor do we produce consistently show cats no matter what lines are involved!) and often being impatient, too, it is also quite bold and ignorant if a new person tells an experienced person what is the correct example of the breed;-) Of course, time frame of breeding alone does not make an experienced breeder, some surely never develop the skills to successfully breeding cats longterm and anyway, it encompasses much more than just winning at cat shows. But still, I would simply not approach a breeder where I would not like his cats.

One of the best ways to approach a breeder (after thoroughly introducing yourself of course) is to first study HIS breeding work and of course knowing one self, why we would like to have a cat from him. Then, start to talk about HIS cats, past and present, what you like on them, why you would love to get a piece of his precious work and so on. As I said before, cats are not objects like computers, TVs, cars, etc. that must fulfill a certain standard and pass quality control. Breeding is artwork similar to a painting, music, etc. and you won't gain the interest of an artist if you start saying what you don't like about his work. At best he will say, then go look elsewhere;-) And, never look for a cat which will have ALL the desired features you would like yourself, but rather start to establish your own artwork by bringing together lines whose strength are a bit different but without major faults of course. I have learned early on that some of the best "producers" are not even always the show cats, sometimes a litter mate simply lacking the show stamina may actually produce the better offspring;-)

And last important advice: be prepared to develop a lot of patience and do never expect - even when you finally find a respected and responsible breeder who will be willing to help you - that he may be able to do so within the next couple of days. Patience is a virtue and remember: Haste makes waste!

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updated: June 2017