Buying a kitten means choosing a special housemate for the next decade or more. So pay attention, because this is definitely a big commitment! To make the right choice, it’s worth focusing on three things: the right type of cat, the right breeder and the right kitten from the litter. Here are our tips on how to get it right…
Matching your kitten with your lifestyle…
All kittens are irresistible - but they don’t stay this tiny for long! And while all cats have their own quirks, it’s also true that breed type can tell you a lot about what type of personality and temperament you can expect once your buddy turns into a fully-grown feline.
So before you go out and find a kitten to fall in love with, it’s worth stepping back and thinking about the following:
- Will there be someone in the home - or will your cat be left to their own devices for much of the time?
- Are you looking for an active cat or more of a lapcat?
- Do you have the time to devote to lots of grooming? What’s your take on cat hair on the furniture?
- Are there cats or dogs in your home already?
- Are you looking for a cat who’s good with kids?
- Once you’re clear on this, look at breed types to match them to your circumstances. The cat breed profiles in our All Things Pet section provide a handy starting point for this.
Breed characteristics tend to be strongest of all in pedigree cats. But an estimated four out of five cats in the UK aren’t actually purebreds. If you’re going for a moggy, it’s worth checking the breed history of the kitten’s parents, as this can still give you some useful clues on what to expect in terms of personality.
Choosing the right cat breeder…
Choose a cat from a responsible breeder who know their stuff, and it’s usually much more likely that the kitten you bring home will be healthy with a good temperament. So if mum has been well looked after before during and after birthing, if those birthing premises are clean and well-ordered and, (especially if it’s a pedigree), if the breeder obviously understands the needs of that breed, these are all positive signs.
Here’s what to look out for…
- Check the Web and social media. Local cat clubs can often provide specific tips on good breeders (and ones to avoid). Check out club forums and Facebook pages.
- It’s a two-way conversation. It’s good to know that the breeder is keen to know what type of homes these little guys are going to! This also comes in handy later, as the breeder should be able to advise you on the most suitable pick from the litter, based on your circumstances.
- For pedigree cats, they stick to just one or two breeds. Anything more than this and it’s a sign that you could be dealing with a ‘kitten farm’, which tend to produce large quantities of often unhealthy kittens for profit.
- They know the kitten’s line. They have lots of information about mum and dad, including any temperament and health issues.
- They understand the needs of that breed. This is very important: if that breed is prone to certain inherited diseases, they can show you proof that the parents have been screened.
- Mum’s up to date on health checks. They can show you that mum is up to date with her vaccinations and worming.
- The kittens have been wormed. This is one of the basics of tiny kitten care as parasites can be passed to the kitten via mum’s milk. If there is no record of worming, this is a breeder to avoid.
- A good home environment. The ideal setup will be a regular home, where mum and kittens have a clean, safe area to play and feed, along with plenty of human interaction. A kitten who already knows what it’s like to live in a regular home with different types of people, visitors, TVs, hoovers and washing machines has a better chance of adapting easily to a new home.
Picking your kitten from the litter
Kittens are usually weaned at about eight weeks of age. Ideally, they’ll stay with their mother up to at least 12 weeks. So ideally, you’ll be looking at a litter of kittens that have reached - or are about to reach - three months of age. By this time, their personalities should have started to have emerged, and you should be able to spot any health issues…
Are they healthy? Signs to look out for…
- Skin and coat. The fur should be soft with no bald spots. Beware of specks of black dirt (a sign of a flea infestation!).
- Neither too fat nor too skinny. You shouldn’t be able to see the ribs - and nor should the belly feel hard or look swollen.
- Ears, eyes and nose. Avoid runniness or discharge. A runny nose, coughing and sneezing might just be a temporary treatable infection - but it might also indicate a bigger respiratory issue.
- Teeth. By this time, the kitten should already be on solid food. Teeth should be nice and white and gums should be pink.
- A clear rear end. No signs of diarrhoea!
Personality goes a long way…
- Get down to their level! If the kitten is already nicely socialised, they should be curious, interested in who you are - and unafraid.
- Willing to be picked up… It’s quite natural for a kitten to be a little wary at first, but if there’s hissing, nipping or trembling, this could indicate issues either with aggression or severe nervousness.
- Playtime! Playfulness with her brothers, sisters - and with you: these are all signs that this little guy is going to get on well with any other cats (or children!) in your home.
So what next?
From worming and keeping up with vaccinations right through to socialisation, browse our All Things Pet section for lots of other hints and tips on ensuring kitty gets the best possible start in their new home.