Deciding to breed or own a Maine Coon with European lines might mean you want to learn how to import a Maine Coon from Europe. That's what I did when I decided to breed. Both my Queen and my Sire are imports from Russia. It was the best option for me, as the decision was easy once I started researching the catteries and saw how gorgeous the Coonies are.
There are certainly breeders in the United States that have stunning Maine Coons, including reputable breeders that have 100% European lines. For me, however, it was a decision that I made to import my breeders directly from Europe. It just felt authentic.
I've written a blog post about why I have chosen the European lines over American lines, and since then, many people have sent me private messages asking me about the process of importing, and how I decided on the breeder to get my kittens from. It seems that many Americans want to import, but are a little skeptical because they don't know who to trust. I totally get it. I was also extremely nervous.
Now that my first transaction has been completed, I can honestly say that the second time isn't as scary. As of the day of this post, I'm in the process of importing my second one. I have a little checklist of items that I use for vetting, and helping me make the decision on who to work with and which kitten to get.
Remember, at this point in my breeding program, I'm still very much a newbie. The information that I'm about to share with you is the process that I personally used when purchasing my Queen and my Sire from Europe. Please use your own discretion and do your own research before making any final decisions. I hope to at least give you some things to consider when making a decision.
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How to Import a Maine Coon from Europe Checklist
- Social Media Presence - I usually start my search on Facebook. I'm a member of MANY groups that include other breeders both in America, UK, and Europe. If I see a kitten that I love, I'll start doing a little more digging. Most of the time they're already reserved (I'm sure you've seen that before) but if they're not, then I'll start my research. I'll check their Facebook Pages, Instagram, and Google their name and cattery name just to do some initial research.
- Check for Reviews / Search in Groups for Keywords - Join the Maine Coon groups on Facebook. There's a search feature on the left hand side of the groups where you can search for the Breeders name, or the Cattery name to see if other people have mentioned this person in the past. Sometimes you'll immediately find some negative remarks about the breeder or the cattery. MOVE ON. If you see positive remarks, then that's a good sign. And you can reach out to these people and ask for feedback from them. Check their Facebook Page for Reviews.
- Website - Does the breeder have a website? Visit their website and review the information that is there. Is it updated? Do they have health and genetic information shown for their Sires and Dams?
- Photo Albums - Look through their photo albums and see if you like the "look" of their cats and kittens. Most breeders develop a certain look in their cattery and chances are, your kitten may have similar traits. NOTE: Not all breeders have their own websites. Some reply solely on Facebook and Facebook Pages as their brochure site. And on the same token, not all breeders are on Facebook. There's no "one size fits all" in this area.
- Ask for Referrals from USA customers - Ask the breeder if they have sold any kittens to someone in the United States, and ask for their name and information. Then reach out to them and ask them about their experience with the overseas breeder. I did this with both Ursula's breeder and Motley's breeder and felt comfortable with the responses that I got from the recent buyers of breeding kittens. I asked about their experience with the breeder, how the kitten acted once he arrived, his socialization skills, and if they would buy another kitten from this breeder.
- Response Times - Internet communication demands quick responses these days, especially if that's the main method of communication. When you send someone a direct message, either to their personal page or their business page, you should expect a relatively quick response. "Quick" can be defined in your own terms. Maybe for you that means 1 hour, maybe it means 24 hours. Whatever you set your guidelines to be, then gauge the responsiveness of the breeder. Some take longer to respond than others, and this can be frustrating during your vetting process and during the kitten's grow period. Kittens must be 16 weeks old and vaccinated for rabies before leaving Europe. Keep into careful consideration the time difference in other countries. Use this time zone World Clock to see what time it is in your breeder's country.
- Cattery Registration - Ask the breeder which Federation they are registered with and then verify. Some federations are: CFA, TICA, WCF, and ACFA. I requested a copy of the Cattery Registrations from my breeders. Here's a photo of one of them (from Motely's Breeder):
- Review Breeder's Contract - Request to see the breeder's contract for the kitten.
- Health and Genetic Tests of Parents - Request to see the health certifications for both parents. You're looking for parents who are negative for HCM, PK, PK Def, SMA, and FIV. To go a step further, ask to have your kitten tested with full genetic profile. This will test for all of the above, and some additional test, like if the kitten is a carrier for dilute.
- Pedigree - Request the Pedigree for the Kitten. You should see pedigree for mother and father. Here's some sample Pedigrees:
- Shipping Your Cat - Shipping the kitten from Europe is going to be an additional cost. When I shipped Ursula, she flew from Moscow to Russia as cargo on a 13 hour flight to Miami Florida. I drove 6 hours from home to pick her up, but I was already in South Florida at the time, so it wasn't that bad. The cost for that was $805 USD. The shipping costs vary depending on the courier and location, but I'm learning that shipping 2 kittens is much better than shipping 1, so maybe team up with another breeder who is also shipping a baby. Most breeders who are in Europe have couriers that they work with. They'll arrange the pick up of your kitten, take it ot he airport, and mkae sure that it arrives to you safely.
- Making The Payment - This is probably the scariest part. The risk that you'll send your payment and never hear from the breeder again. It's totally natural to feel that way. However, if you do the proper vetting and research, then it should make you feel a bit more comfortable making the transfer. Both of the breeders that I'm working with have requested funds via PayPal [Friends and Family]. Sending it this way creates a trail, BUT when you send to Friends and Family, you can't "dispute" the transaction with PayPal should something go wrong. Sending via Friends and Family also doesn't cost the breeder any fees to receive the money. The first part of the fund you'll send will be your deposit. They'll be anywhere from $250 - $500. This will reserve your kitten. Then you'll owe the balance before the kitten is shipped, including the courier fees. In some cases, the courier fees will be paid directly to the courier instead of the breeder. There's not much I can say here except that you should feel comfortable enough sending money once you've done the proper vetting from the list above. If you ever feel in your gut that it's not a good decision, then don't do it. There's plenty of kittens and breeders that you can choose one that makes you feel good about it. Getting referrals from people who have done business with them is what makes the difference for me.
- Customs and Delivery of Your Kitten - There are no restrictions when it comes to importing kittens into the United States. Read this reference article from U.S. Customs. There is a process, however. And I'm pretty sure that it varies depending on your pickup location. I picked Ursula up in Miami. I went to the cargo area, picked up some paperwork that came from the breeder. It was attached to her travel carrier. I had to take that to the U.S. Customs Office, which was relatively close to the cargo building. They reviewed all of my paperwork, asked me some questions (i.e. how much I paid for the kitten) and then gave me the seal of approval on my paperwork. Then I went back to the cargo building, paid $65, and they gave me the kitten. It was overall about a 1 hour process with the wait and everything.
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I'm not going to lie, it's a little nerve wrecking to import a Maine Coon kitten from Europe, especially the first time. If you do the proper vetting, then you should feel relatively comfortable with the transaction. Importing kittens is pretty common right now of breeders, and it's growing in popularity for the European bloodlines in America.
My goal is to find 2-3 breeders in Europe that I absolutely LOVE their cats and I LOVE to do business with, and I will stick with them. If I'm looking for another kitten, I'll look to them for my new addition. That way, I'll already have experience doing business with them, and i won't be nervous at all. I'll also be able to refer other people to these breeders who are looking for recommendations and help them have peace of mind as well.
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Keep in mind that I'm no expert, I've only fully completed 1 import as of the day of this article, and in the process of my second import. If there's anything important that I'm missing that can help someone who is looking for information, please leave a comment and let me know! I'll gladly add it to the post and the checklist for others to learn from. Thank you. 🙂