Cats aren’t like any other pet – they’re independent but affectionate. They choose when they want to be with you yet can judge when you need a purring face nudging your hand. They make great family pets, requiring daily care and interaction, which can be perfect for committed children. Adult cats never lose the mischievous streak of youth although they often delight in snoozing until the next play session starts. You should be warned however, their chosen bed is usually your freshly ironed washing! Taking the plunge… Before committing what could possibly be the next 20 years to a kitten, you should consider that:
- The cost of your cat doesn’t stop at the initial purchase, so be realistic and make sure pet ownership is within your budget.The cat is wanted by every member of the family and not sought just because a child wants one. The novelty can wear off leaving just a parent to look after the pet.
- If you live in rented accommodation your landlord may not allow pets. It is important to ask first. If you live in a council house your local authority will tell you how many pets you are allowed to have.
- A cat will fit into your daily routine. If you’re out all day, or keep irregular hours, you will ideally need to provide a cat flap so he can come and go as he pleases and provide things to interest him – such as scratching posts, toys and climbing frames.
- A new pet needs lots of time in a daily routine including play, attention and food to help him settle into his new home. Choose a quiet period in your own life so you can devote time to your newcomer. Check your lifestyle Before you even consider kitten hunting, make sure cat ownership really is for you. Yzanne Briggs of charity Wizz Catz Rescue in Sheffield says: “Kittens are only kittens for a few months. He could be with you for the next 20 years. This is not a situation to take lightly. You must make time. If you don’t have time – don’t take on a pet. “If you are planning to keep your cat indoors, perhaps because you consider it the safer option due to a busy road or risk of theft for example, your kitten will need plenty of stimulation through interaction and time from you, places to call his own including perches, scratch posts, and litter trays. Despite their reputation for being independent, cats need daily care and affection, whether you choose a longhair, semi-longhair, shorthair or curly-coated cat. However, some will need more than others, for instance a longhaired . Persian cat will need a daily groom. Do not choose your kitten on looks alone; it is vital to take temperament into account too.
With over 40 different cat breeds and thousands of adorable non-pedigrees in need of homes you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to selecting a kitten. Basing your decision on looks alone will not help your chances of compatibility. Most cat owners become attached to their cat’s personality and this is much more important in building a lasting relationship. You should, also, be aware that personality is not fixed for life and may be influenced from experiences during adolescence and young adulthood. Buying a kitten is a huge responsibility – and is not to be rushed into without some thought.
First, decide if you would like a pedigree or a non-pedigree. Pedigree kittens are mini versions of their parents, so you can tell how they will look and, to some extent, behave as adults. Non-pedigree kittens are the result of a mating between cats of unknown origin so you can’t be certain of how they will behave as they grow. Your choice will depend on personal taste, budget, time, lifestyle and location.
Pedigrees cost more, probably require more care and attention and may need to live indoors. If you work during the day you may want to get two kittens to keep each other company – assuming of course that you don’t already have a cat. The good old British moggy, as it is sometimes called, generally makes a wonderful family pet, being hardy, easy to care for and available in many different colours, shapes and sizes.
Unlike a pedigree, you should not have to travel far to get one. Charities and rescue associations often have kittens needing good homes. Find out as much as you can about the kitten, choose one that looks happy, healthy and lively. It is difficult to predict exactly how a non-pedigree kitten will look and behave in later life, but if you can see the mother this should give you a good indication.
Learn from mum
Kittens leave home at eight to 13 weeks, when fully weaned and, depending on age, vaccinated too. Animal behaviourists say the first seven to eight weeks of a kitten’s life are the most formative, kittens kept isolated during this time are less friendly so try to find one from a family home which has been regularly handled, especially if your kitten will encounter children and other pets as he grows up. It’s crucial that kittens don’t leave mum too early. Yzanne explains: “It is important to take a kitten that is well socialised and has been exposed to everyday household noises like washing machines, stereos, TVs etc, otherwise you will end up with a very nervous kitten. “Kittens learn everything from their mother – how to use the litter tray, what to eat and manners!” While some kittens may be wary at first, a well-socialised kitten will soon approach you. This is particularly important if you have a young family. Yzanne warns:
“It is unwise to think that the frightened little soul in the corner of the room will ‘come out of his shell’ in your home with four rowdy boys in a constant war zone! It isn’t going to happen – he will remain terrified and his life will be a misery. “Better to find a kitten who’s lived in his own ‘war zone’ and takes loud noise and boisterous behaviour in his stride.”
How much does it cost for a kitten ?
The initial cost of a kitten will depend on many factors, including:
Non-pedigree kittens are often advertised free to good homes, but most animal charities expect and welcome a donation. You may also be required to get a kitten vaccinated, neutered and microchipped by the charity. What to ask Whether he’s a pedigree or a moggy – from a breeder or a charity – there are a few questions you should ask before selecting your kitten. Be prepared with a list of questions before you visit a breeder or charity. Neither one should hesitate in allowing you to view their premises so that you can perhaps meet your prospective kitten’s relatives and see that the cats are kept in good condition. Some breeders will prefer you view and handle kittens after they have had their first vaccination, others will allow you to view but not handle them from an earlier age. Pedigree kittens will not usually leave their mothers until they are at least 13 weeks old whereas non-pedigrees will leave mum around eight weeks.
Questions to ask
- How old is he? Kittens should at least be weaned and old enough to leave his siblings and mother (at least six weeks) but preferably older.
- What is his temperament? You don’t want a very shy kitten but you don’t want one that’s overly extrovert either.
- What has he been fed? Any sudden food changes you make could lead to an upset stomach. > Is he litter trained and what type of litter does he use? The mother cat is the best teacher of litter training but to continue this at home you ideally need to use the same litter.
- Has he been vet checked, vaccinated, neutered (dependent on age), microchipped, treated for fleas and worms, blood tested for FIV and FeLV? If so when? For cost reasons not all rescue organisations will provide this but you should at least know what has or hasn’t been done so that you can continue particular health programmes.
- Is he eating properly? Inappetence may indicate digestive problems.
- Has he had any other medical treatment? If so what for? You should be made aware of any pre-existing condition.
- Will the kitten be insured? If so what sort of cover and how long for?
- Is it possible to see the mother and/or littermates? You should be able to see the family interacting.
- If you have other pets, is he used to other animals? The earlier a kitten meets other pets the better to help him socialise.
- How well socialised is he? Has he been introduced to the vacuum cleaner, radio, dishwasher, TV?
All kittens should be raised indoors and properly socialised so they have lots of experience.
- What is the recommended donation for homing a kitten from the rescue centre? This will vary between charities.
- Will the rescue organisation/breeder take the kitten back if he doesn’t settle well or your circumstances change? Most reputable breeders and organisations will be able to help find a new home for your kitten should your circumstances change.
- What recommendations do they give about successfully settling the kitten into his new home? A good breeder or charity will always be on hand to offer advice even after the kittens have gone to their new homes.
- What paperwork will I receive? When buying a pedigree kitten you should be given a transfer of registration paper, a pedigree certificate, vaccination certificate, kitten diet and care sheet and a kitten sales agreement (if the breeder uses one). If…