A new kitten is a wonderful and exciting time for everyone involved. However, it is easy to make mistakes, so this is our quick guide to buying or adopting a new kitten.
Are you ready?
Everyone loves kittens and it is easy to get caught up in the excitement. However, kittens are hard work – they take time and dedication, and it may be difficult to find the time if you are already stretched. Also, even if not expensive to buy, they are expensive to care for – remember about food, bedding, toys, cattery boarding fees, vaccinations, insurance, worming, vet fees…..
We hope you are ready, but if not, it is better to wait than have a kitten not properly cared for. Also, remember there are many adult cats up for adoption if a kitten is not quite right for you.
Buying or adopting
Most kittens either come through a friend or a charity organisation and are of no particular breed – domestic shorthairs and domestic longhairs (moggies).
The advantages of buying a kitten is that often they will be pedigree and registered, and by buying a known breed from a known breeder, you have more advanced warning about what to expect from your kitten when he or she grows up. All these advantages may also be present in an adopted kitten, as well as knowing you are giving a home to an otherwise unwanted pet. Remember, not all breeders are responsible breeders, so buying a kitten is no guarantee of “quality”.
What are the potential problems?
Kittens may be sold underage, unwell or may not even be the correct breed. Good charities and breeders will want to meet you and will not be put off by you asking questions, and they will often have a long waiting list.
What is the correct breed for me?
Cats in general have very individual personalities – some are noisy, some are active, others are very laid back. However, there are some breeds where some aspects of personality are likely to come through – Siamese cats for example are known for their talkative nature and some breeds are quite demanding of attention. It is best to ascertain what you might be taking on or what you want your cat to do – there is no guarantee it will happen, but it is more likely where this behaviour is seen among this group or breed of cats.
The big physical choice is longhair or shorthair. Remember long haired cats have increased grooming needs.
Please also remember different breeds of cat have different health problems. There are significant variations in how long different breeds of cat live for, and some breeds do have significant health problems. Think about how much you want to risk having an unhealthy cat.
What to ask yourself and the breeder:
- How old are the kittens?
They must be at least seven to eight weeks old to leave their mother.
- Are the kittens weaned?
At seven weeks they should be fully weaned. If they are not, they could be younger than the breeder claimed.
- How old is mum/ how many litters has mum had?
In a breeding situation, mum should be a young adult, but not under the age of one. When rehoming from a charity, less information may be available as many kittens are abandoned, but if mum is known, responsible charities should provide you with information.
- Have the kittens been wormed?
All kittens have worms at birth. Worming should start with the breeder or charity at about two weeks old, be repeated every two weeks and be continued by you.
- Have the kittens had any vaccinations? If so, when is the next dose due?
Kittens should be vaccinated at 8-9 weeks of age and then again at 10-12 weeks. They will become fully protected one week after the second vaccination. You will need to do this if the breeder or charity has not.
- Does the kitten look healthy – clean eyes, ears and bottom?
If the kitten is unwell, collect him another day. If he’s still ill then, do not take him and try another breeder/ charity.
- What should I feed my kitten? Do you have a diet sheet to take away?
A good breeder or charity will give you enough food to continue exactly the same diet for a couple of days. They should also give you a diet sheet that shows how feeding should change as your kitten grows.
- What sort of socialisation or experiences has my kitten had so far?
Kittens should preferably be raised in a home environment with all the noise and through traffic of a normal home. Those raised in environments away from the house will need more intensive socialisation training to ensure they can cope with daily life as a pet. If kittens have already met other pets and people they will have more confidence than those that have not.
- Can I return the kitten if there are any healthy problems?
You should take your new kitten to a vet for a health check within 48 hours. A good breeder or charity will offer to take the kitten back at any point should you be unable to keep him.