Getting a kitten
Now for the really exciting bit - it's time to pick your perfect kitten! The first step in choosing a kitten is to find a responsible animal shelter/rescue centre or breeder.
Kitten adoption from a shelter or rescue centre
Animal shelters and rescue centres across the country are always searching for loving homes for cats of all varieties and ages, including kittens. If you’re thinking about adopting a rescue kitten, there are a number of things to bear in mind, and look out for, when researching the right shelter or rescue centre.
For example, shelters should be warm and clean, and staff should be just as interested in you as you are in the animals – it shows they’re genuinely interested in finding the best home for the animals they care for.
For more information on adopting a rescue kitten, read our guide on adopting a cat
Buying a kitten from a breeder
If you’d prefer to purchase a kitten from a breeder, have a good think about the breed that would best suit your family and, remember, pure breeds don’t come cheap! There are a number of things to thinking about when deciding where to buy a kitten.
The first thing to do is to contact breed-club secretaries for the breed you’re interested in. The Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF), www.gccfcats.org, can give you a comprehensive list of breeds recognised in the UK, with links to their official breed clubs. Breed clubs may have a list of litters available, or they can put you in contact with breeders in your area. Pedigree kittens are generally available all year round.
It’s a good idea to check that your breeder and potential kitten are eligible for GCCF registration, as this indicates the breeder is following a code of ethics for responsible breeding.
If you’re thinking about buying a kitten from a breeder, you might want to do some additional homework by reading a publication such as Your Cat or taking a look at their website www.yourcat.co.uk. Cat shows are also great places to meets breeders and owners.
For information on buying a kitten, and advice on kitten care, www.icatcare.org.
Once you’ve researched breeders and have found one that you think is right for you, arrange to speak to them to ask any questions that you may have. The following questions provide a useful checklist when deciding if a particular breeder or seller is right for you:
- Are their kittens registered with the GCCF?
- Do they show them, breed regularly or are they just pets? Their answers will give you an idea of how much attention they might give their kittens in preparing them for life as a pet.
- How long have they been breeding for? Experienced breeders will have greater knowledge of their chosen breed.
- Which cat breeds do they focus on? A breeder with multiple breeds may be producing litters solely for profit rather than being interested in their welfare.
- How many litters do they produce each year? Responsible breeders will only produce one litter per female cat per year.
- How many litters has this particular cat produced?
- In what environment will the kittens be raised before they go to their new homes? Ideally you want your kitten to be raised in a busy household, with other cats, dogs, children and lots of visitors. This will make them better socialised than those reared in a quieter home or in a cattery.
- Do they offer to take the kitten/cat back in the event of any problems during the cat’s entire life (e.g. health problems, behavioural problems or change in your circumstances)?
- Are the cats health-tested for any genetic problems in the breed? You should research this before contacting the breeder so you’re aware of any tests available.
- Are their kittens covered with pet insurance when you take them home?
- What contact are they prepared to have with you after you’ve taken your kitten home? Responsible breeders will offer advice and support for life of the cat.
- Are their kittens micro chipped?
- Are their kittens vaccinated, wormed and treated for fleas before re-homing? Responsible breeders will treat kittens appropriately at an early age.
Don't be surprised, or offended, if the breeder asks you as many questions as you ask them when you’re getting a kitten. This is a very good sign and shows they’re genuinely interested in finding the best homes for their kittens. They want to make sure you’re prepared and your circumstances are suited to their type of kitten.
If you're happy with the answers given by the breeder - and they’re happy that you can provide a suitable home for one of their kittens - then it's time for a face-to-face meeting.
Whether you’re buying a kitten from a registered breeder or a reputable source, such as a friend, it’s important to see the conditions the kittens are kept in. It should look and smell clean, and be warm and dry. Mum and kittens should have their own space, preferably away from other adult cats, and there shouldn’t be any signs of overcrowding.
When getting a kitten, you should always meet the kitten's mother (the father is unlikely to still be on the scene) and other kittens so you can check that they’re happy and friendly as well as comfortable with the breeder. It's natural for mum to be a little wary of people viewing her litter, but she should be attentive rather than nervous or aggressive. If the kittens are old enough, ask the breeder if you’re allowed to pick them up.
Look at mum’s size– and ask about both parents’ health and temperament – as this may affect your kitten when it grows up.
Once you’ve met the breeder and are happy with everything, you can pick your perfect pet! You’ll usually meet your new kitten for the first time when they’re 6 weeks old but, if possible, try to visit them from as early as 3-4 weeks so they can start to get to know you. Visit a few times if you can and take your family so the kitten can become used to you all. A lot of new people can be overwhelming for a tiny kitten, so try to visit in smaller groups if possible.
By six weeks, your tiny kitten should be showing interest in you and their environment. They’ll be keen to investigate you and explore the world around them. Expect them to be playful, outgoing and mischievous.
When deciding which one you’re going to take home, avoid the smallest (known as the runt of the litter). Even if they are the cutest – which they often are - they often have health problems. By spending a bit of time with the litter you’ll also begin to notice individual personalities. The nervous or withdrawn kittens are likely to need more socialisation, or may be unwell, so best to avoid them. Ideally you want your kitten to be confident but not too independent.
If a particular kitten has caught your eye, pick them up and cuddle them gently. Talk to them in a soft, soothing voice. They should wriggle and be keen to play and purr.
The kittens should be plump, but not be fat, and free of any lumps or bumps. In particular look for a potbelly. It may sound cute but this could be a sign of an underlying disease (including a parasite infection). Also check the umbilical area on their tummy for any swellings that could indicate a hernia.
Their eyes should be clean, bright, open and clear; ears clean and not red or smelly, and their bottom should also be clean. Their coat should be soft and clean, with no bald or sore patches, scabs or black flecks. These could indicate a flea infestation, particularly if the kitten is scratching.
It’s hard to tell if your kitten has problems with their hearing, but if you know your breed is at risk (white cats are particularly prone), you could try putting the kitten on the floor and making a noise to try and see if you can attract their attention. If the kitten fails to respond you can ask the breeder about further hearing testing.
The wait for your kitten can seem endless, especially when you’re so excited! However it’s important that they’re given plenty of time with mum and their brothers and sisters. In these crucial first weekskittens learn how to communicate with other cats through play. They’re taught how to be litter-trained and how to hunt. If they’re taken away from their family too soon, a kitten can end up being nervous and shy.
The general rule of thumb is that you should pick up your kitten at around eight weeks old (pedigree owners may extend this to nine weeks) to allow them time to socialise and develop their understanding of a bustling family home. If your kitten is a lot older than that, be even more careful. There may be a reason why the breeder has held them back, so ask why. Late re-homing can affect how easily they bond with you and how quickly they settle into your home.
Sometimes a breeder will ask you to wait until 12 weeks to allow them to have all their vaccinations. So long as the kitten has been raised in a busy household where they’ve been well socialised e.g. a home with children if you have children yourself, this shouldn’t be a problem.
Bear in mind that the age that you take your kitten home will affect which vaccinations your kitten will have received. Check with the breeder, who should be able to give you a list of vaccinations, worming and flea treatments that the kitten has had and any that they still need.
Finally, before you bring your new bundle of joy home, make sure you chat to the breeder about their feeding regime so you can continue this at home, at least until they’re fully settled.
If you have space in your heart to give a cat or kitten a new loving home, you may wish to consider rehoming a pet from rescue centres as an alternative to buying from a breeder. There are rescue shelters all across the country, filled with felines who would love to be a part of your family.
When researching for a rescue home to rescue a cat from, make sure you know what to look for. Shelters should be warm, roomy and clean, with staff on hand to answer any questions that you may have.
To understand the process involved when rehoming a cat, read through our helpful guide on adopting a cat.
However your kitten comes into your life, whether as a rescue or from a breeder, you can look forward to a fulfilling future of fun together!