Buying kittens who have been irresponsibly bred, handled, and sold supports cruelty and perpetuates production of cats with serious physical and mental problems. And with all the wonderful cats and kittens available from shelters and rescue groups as well as responsible breeders, it's hard to imagine that you'd want to support irresponsible breeding or selling of cats. But it is easy to be misled by people whose only goal is to make a buck.
Pet stores get their merchandise—that's what pets are to them—from commercial breeders, brokers, kitten mills, and backyard or “accidental” breeders. Responsible breeders do not think of kittens as merchandise, and they do not entrust the well-being of their kittens to strangers.
Pet stores rely on the emotional appeal of kittens to sell them to anyone with the money. Some lucky buyers get good pets, but the odds are against it. People who produce kittens for pet stores don't care about careful breeding for health and temperament. They don't handle and socialize the kittens properly, and they take them from their mothers and siblings too early. If that's not bad enough, pet stores often charge more than shelters, rescuers, private parties, and responsible breeders do. And pet store guarantees usually cover kittens only for a short term and rarely for inherited disease or temperament problems.
As with most rules, there is an exception: Some pet supply stores work with local shelters to help place cats and other homeless animals. Before you adopt from such a program, though, please be sure the animals are being screened and adopted out responsibly under the normal procedures of the shelter or rescue group and aren't just a public relations ploy.
Kitten mills mass produce kittens and sell them to brokers who then resell them. Some kitten mills also sell directly to the public.
A queen is a female cat. A tom is a male.
Kitten millers don't care about their animals' physical and mental health. Most start with poorly bred cats and provide poor-quality food and health care. The cats get little or no exercise, socialization, or affection. Queens are bred every heat until they can no longer produce kittens, and toms are bred as much as possible as long as they are fertile. Then they are often killed, dumped, or left to languish until they die. Poor pre- and post-natal nutrition can cause the kittens physical and mental problems, which are compounded by taking them away from their mothers too young and by improper handling and socialization—not an auspicious start for a healthy, happy companion.
Pet wholesalers, or brokers, buy kittens in large numbers from kitten mills in the United States and abroad, then sell or trade them to other wholesalers, pet stores, or other outlets. Those who ship across state lines have to be licensed by the United States Department of Agriculture and are supposed to adhere to the Animal Welfare Act. However, the law specifies only minimal physical care and isn't well enforced. Millers and brokers consider pets to be a commodity, like furniture and clothes, and expect to “lose” some. But as long as there's a market for pets produced as merchandise, bad breeders and brokers will stay in business. Please don't support them.