Before picking a cat, there's lots to consider.
If you are choosing a kitten as your new pet, it's important to consider what kind of lifestyle you want it to have, as well as what type of personality you are looking for.
For example, will the kitten be left alone for long periods of time whilst you work? If so, then it's perhaps better to consider getting a pair of kittens so they can keep each other company.
It's also important to decide if you plan to keep the cat indoors, or if it will be allowed outside. Farm kittens for example, may not adapt well to a totally indoor lifestyle, whilst other pure-bred cats can be better suited to an indoor life.
Which breed of cat should I get?
If you are considering a pure-bred kitten, have a look into the different breeds and remember that pedigree cats are usually kept indoors. You may be drawn to a particular breed on the basis of appearance, but we always say to consider things like personality, energy levels and whether they are long or short haired.
Some breeds have particular health concerns, so fully research your chosen breed and ask the breeder if the appropriate health screens have been carried out. For example, Maine Coons and Ragdoll cats can suffer from a heart condition called Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy, and this is easily screened for using a DNA test.
Pedigree kittens are not usually re-homed until they are a little older than their domestic cousins - 13 weeks of age is usual. By that age, they should be vet checked, fully vaccinated and registered with one of the cat registration bodies – either the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF) or The International Cat Association (TICA).
Make sure you get your pedigree kitten from a registered breeder as it helps ensure that appropriate health screens have been conducted, and that the kittens have been reared according to set guidelines. It also means you will get the kitten that you have paid for. Pedigree kittens can be very expensive, and sadly here at the Pets'n'Vets Family we have seen moggies being passed off as pedigrees.
Visiting your kitten for the first time
When visiting a litter of kittens, it's important to see “Mum”. Make sure she appears happy and healthy, and get a feel for her personality. Ideally, you will see where the kittens have spent their lives so far - their environment should be clean and tidy, and the kittens should appear happy and healthy too.
Look at the whole litter, not just one kitten; even if your kitten appears healthy, others in the litter showing signs of illness may be an early warning sign. It's human nature to want to look after the smallest or sickly-looking kitten, but we would advise against this. It's the breeder’s obligation, and in doing so, you will save yourself a great deal of heart ache. Signs to look out for include:
Sickness / diarrhoea / sticky eyes / runny nose / coughing / sneezing. Look out for fleas as well. Ask the breeder if mum and the kittens have been checked by a vet, as well as if they have been flea and worm treated.
Handling the kittens, and playing with them, is also important to see if they are well socialised. Ask for evidence of a birth date, as a kitten should not be re-homed prior to 8 weeks of age. This is to make sure that they have been fully weaned and litter trained, and helps avoid problems once they go to their new homes.
Here at the Pets’n’Vets Family, we occasionally see kittens that appear to be much younger than the new owner was told at the time of purchase. If you think a kitten looks younger than you are being told, be wary – people are often keen to sell kittens as soon as they start eating solid food, but the kitten may not yet be fully weaned. This can lead to sickness and diarrhoea, and the kitten may take longer to settle into its new home with you.
Ask what type of food the kitten has been eating. It's useful to know what a kitten’s delicate digestive system is used to so you can feed it the same type, at least to begin with. You can always change the food after a few weeks once the kitten is fully settled in.
Choosing an adult cat
There are always lots of older cats at animal rescue centres and cat charities looking for a home. Many pedigree cat breeders will also rehome breeding cats, after they have been retired from breeding. As an adult cat already has a distinct personality, it's important that the personality fits with the lifestyle you intend the cat to have.
If the cat is used to going outdoors and roaming around, then it's very unlikely it will adjust to living in a flat. Also find out if the cat is used to being handled, and living with children. If you already own cats, a cat which has always lived alone may not be easy to introduce into the household.
Most animal rescue centres and cat charities will have vaccinated the cat for you, and have had them vet checked and you should be given paperwork noting all of this.
If you decide to take an older cat, be aware that older animals are more likely to require veterinary treatment, so it can be more difficult and expensive to get Pet Insurance for older cats. Some rescue centres will help with the costs of ongoing health problems, and sometimes cats will come with insurance policies that can be transferred into your name, but if not, it is worth asking yourself if you're able to cover the costs of veterinary treatment if insurance cover is not available.
If you need any advice on choosing or caring for a cat, please pop into one of our practices or give us a call.
We are proud be accredited as an ISFM Cat Friendly Clinic.