How to choose a kitten
When choosing a kitten, the most important thing to look for is good health. Buying a healthy kitten should ensure that you get many years of pleasure and companionship from your feline friend. Another important point to consider is whether you want a kitten as a family pet, or whether you are thinking of showing/breeding your kitten in the future, as this will play a large part in the selection process. It always helps if you can see the kitten's mother when going to view any kittens, particularly in the case of a pedigree, as this will show you exactly what the kittens will look like when they are fully grown.
It can, however, be quite difficult to decide what type of cat will suit you best, as there is such a wide variety of cute kittens to choose from. This is where a trip to the library or a thorough search on the Web will help you to come to the right decision. Long-haired or semi-long-haired varieties, such as a Persian or ragdoll kittens, will require more grooming than shorthaired varieties, like Siamese kittens and Bengal kittens. Some kittens can also be more demanding by nature than others, and it could be that a cross-breed may provide you with just the right balance.
Signs of a Healthy Kitten
Before going to view any kittens, it's best to make a list of all the places you are going to try first. It's a good idea to stick to reputable breeders where pedigree kittens are concerned, and pet shops are best avoided altogether as many of them will not be able to tell you anything about the kitten's background. Make notes at each place you visit, and don't be tempted to buy the first pretty kitten you see. Look for the following qualities:
- Bright, shiny eyes with no discharge or excessive tearing, as this could indicate infection.
- Clean healthy ears, as any pus or tar-like discharge could be a sign of ear-mite infestation or other infection.
- Pale pink gums and mouth with no sign of ulcers or sores.
- A damp and cool nose with no discharge or signs of sneezing.
- A clean bottom with no staining of the fur or other possible signs of diarrhea.
- A clean and glossy coat with no dry flaking skin or bare patches.
- A bright, friendly and alert manner. Healthy kittens are generally very playful and inquisitive. Although many kittens may be a little shy at first, a friendly kitten that comes up to you willingly may make a better pet.
It is worth pointing out that if any kitten in a litter does appear to have any signs of ill health, even if the rest of the litter appear to be quite healthy, then it would be wise to avoid that litter altogether unless they have been checked out by a vet first.
Vaccinations are very important for a new kitten, as their immune system is still growing. Cat vaccinations help to boost the immune system and protect your kitten from potentially fatal diseases.
It's best to acquire a kitten when it is around 8 to 12 weeks old, by which time it should have already received at least one vaccination and checked for feline worms. A second vaccination will then be due at 12 weeks and thereafter at regular yearly intervals. Vaccinations are available to guard against a number of diseases, such as cat flu, feline enteritis and feline leukemia.
Adequate flea control will also be necessary and, once your kitten reaches six months of age, it will require neutering/spaying unless you wish to breed from it.
Helping Your Kitten Adjust to its New Home
When your kitten first arrives home, it is bound to feel a little nervous. You should place it in a quiet room in its carrier so that it can come out when it feels ready to do so. Provide fresh water, food, a few cat toys, a cat bed and a litter tray (placed well away from food and water). If you have any other pets in the house, you will need to keep them away from your kitten and take introductions slowly.
It may take as long as several weeks for your kitten to get used to you and its new home, but eventually it will begin to settle down and get to know you. Do not, however, let your kitten roam around outside until it is fully vaccinated and able to take care of itself. If you are going to be out at work all day, you may want to consider getting two cats at the same time so that they will be company for one another.
By Jane Grimshaw