Choosing a Cat From Pictures

Not too long ago, when a cat buyer was looking for a new kitten, they would write or call a nearby breeder and ask if they had any kittens available. If the breeder said yes, the potential buyer would make an appointment and go for a visit.

If the breeder lived too far away, the seller might take photos of the available kitten, develop them and mail them off to the buyer. A week or so later, the potential buyer would receive the photos.

Since the internet, things have got a lot faster.

Now, most buyers are looking at a large number of different catteries from around the world in minutes. We can now purchase kittens from anywhere on the planet. In the last year I have brought two in from Switzerland and sent one to Belgium. 20 years ago I would have never even dreamed of this ability.

And now the breeders of the world need to improve their photo taking skills and to know what is important that the buyer be able to see to help their decesion.

Photos For the Show Cat Buyer

The buyer looking for a show kitten needs to be able to evaluate the structure of the kitten. And how well the kitten might potentially meet the structure according to the standard. The pet kitten buyer is often more interested in photos which show off a kitten's flashiness and personality.

The Three Essential Poses For Evaluating Structure

There are 3 essential poses for all breeds

  • Full Head Shot Looking Straight in the camera
  • Full Head in Profile
  • Full Cat/Body in Profile

Optional Photos

Optional poses are helpful, especially depending on the breed

  • Full Shot From Front
  • Full Shot From Rear
  • Shots of both sides in irregularly patterned or tabby cats
  • Shot of the belly in a breed or color where belly spots are important

The More The Better

Because most breeders are not professional photographers, and most cats are not trained super-models, it is seldom that buyers have perfect photos to look at and from which to make their purchasing decision. If you have ever had the pleasure of watching professionals like Ken and Helmi Flick work you would know how much of a difference they can make. But if you are not like Helmi, then by providing more photos,often several less than perfect photos can be used to get the full picture that one perfect photo could have revealed.

Examples of how to evaluate by photos and what to be looking for...


The Full Body Shot

Always include at least one full body shot of the cat showing proportions and body type. Try to take the photo in a perfect profile including the tail. Lighting is very important to get colors right and remove shadow.

They are always moving targets, it helps to have help to position cats.

The entire tail needs to be included in the photo in order to evaluate its length.

Head Shot:
Looking Directly Into the Camera

Especially in a breed where a head defines the look of a cat, close-up photos of the head are quite important. One photo of the cat looking straight into the camera is essential.

The Photo should show ear set, eyes, expression and proportions of the head. Ear size is always very difficult to see in pictures

In the photo on the right, the cat's ears are at shown well, allowing a good evaluation ear set and the cat's expression.

You can also see clearly, the beautiful eye size and color.


This photo is better. With the ears forward, you can now evaluate the ear size and set of this kitten. In this picture you can see the eyes very well. Their size, and shape are clearly evaluated. This picture would allow you to look at the standard for this breed and see if the eyes were correct

Sometimes if you cannot get a single perfect photo, 2 photos with different imperfections will give you to the whole "picture".

The Profile Head Shot

You will also want to see a photo of the cat's head in perfect profile. This allows you to see the doming, the stop or break in the profile, the length of the nose and shape of the muzzle.

The photo on the right is almost a perfect profile picture and provides a good idea of this cat's true head structure.

Just remember that there is a lot more to a cat than just the coat.

Optional Head Shot:
Profile With The Ears Pulled Down

An optional head shot to show off doming is to take a photo of the head in profile but with the ears pulled back.

This type of head shot is really great at focusing the attention on important part of structure. In many cats the doming is a critical component of the cats look.


Other Photos

You can always provide extra photos for buyers to look at, even if they are not perfectly posed or photographed.

This photo doesn't provide any information about head or expression because the turned away however you do get an idea about pattern and body - even in a kitten this small you can see boning and contrast that is coming in nicely.



Although an attractive photo, this one gives no information regarding the cat's structure.



This photo is over-exposed. The cat's color is somewhat washed out. As long as there were other correctly exposed photos showing the cat's true color, there would be no hard in including this photos for a buyer to see.

Even an over-exposed photos can tell you something.

This pose does give you an idea of the lovely boning on this kitten.

Breed Specific Characteristics

Obviously in a breed with a unique characteristic, such as an American Curl or a Japanese Bobtail, be sure to include a photo showing close-up details of the breed's unique feature.

Color & Coat Pattern

No matter the color or pattern of the cat, you will want to include full body photos of both sides of the cat and even a shot looking down on the cat's back to show the color & pattern. In breeds or colors in which belly spots are significant, take a photo of the cat's tummy too.

Color of A Photo/Color Of The Cat

It is not always easy to evaluate the color of a cat from a photo. Depending on the camera used and the calibration of your monitor, colors will appear differently from computer to computer. If you have a question about color, always ask.

Photos Cannot Tell The Whole Story

Weight, size, smoothness of head doming, tail kinks, boning ... Many things cannot be seen in a photo. Add to these physical characteristics things like temperament, personality, show presence and it is obvious that a photo is only one of the parts t in evaluating a cat.

Whether you are taking photos of a kitten for sale or evaluating photos of a kitten if you are buyer, look carefully and be willing to take or ask for extra photos, specifying the pose if you cannot tell everything you need to from the photos supplied.

I cannot tell you the number of times I have either made a mistake in buying a cat or came very close to making a mistake. I have bought a kitten where the photo's were not what the cat looked like or even close. Contrast added, eye color enhanced, even a profile doctored. You have to be cautious and even look for evidence of possible deciept. The more closely you pay attention prior to sending your money the less likey you will have a problem.

I also recommend that you have more than yourself look at photo's of a potential kitten. Ask a couple of trusted advisors and your mentor to give you their opinions. The goal is to always improve upon the breed and your cattery. Make sure you use an intelligent, thoughtful process to choose the cats you add to your program.

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