This page gives you practical advice on how to choose a kitten.
Let’s set the scene… you’re looking at five 8-week old cute fuzzy kittens. They’re all adorable and you can choose any one you like. What a dilemma! How on earth do you decide? And no, you can’t take all of them however tempted you may feel!
There are two key things I believe need to be taken into consideration when deciding how to choose a kitten. One’s its health. The other is its personality. Let’s look at both of these in turn.
How To Recognize A Healthy Kitten
Signs of a healthy kitten:
- Lively and active
- Well-nourished. Feel the kitten gently – the ribs shouldn’t stick out and it shouldn’t have a pot belly
- Soft, shiny coat
- Clean ears with no discharge or foul smell
- Clean, bright eyes with no discharge
- No evidence of runny nose or excessive sneezing
- Milk teeth should all be there, and mouth should look healthy
- Straight legs (not bowed)
- Clean butt – no evidence of diarrhea
When you’re deciding how to choose a kitten, it’s really important to pick a healthy one if you want a trouble-free, healthy pet. It can be very tempting to pick the runt of the litter because you feel sorry for it, but this kitten may need much more care and veterinary treatment than a healthy one – not just as a kitten but potentially all of its life.
If you do want to adopt a kitten with obvious health problems, I strongly recommend getting it checked over by a vet first, so you’ll get a better idea of the extent (and potential cost) of the problems. And then only go ahead if you’ve got the time, money and expertise to be able to deal with the problems.
If you have any doubts about a kitten’s health, ask the seller if you can get it checked over by a vet first. A responsible seller shouldn’t have a problem with this.
How To Recognize Different Personalities
Before you visit the seller, ask in advance if you can see the whole litter together. When you first see them, observe which ones are alert and playful. Sit down beside them and see how comfortable (or frightened) they are with a person nearby.
If they’re all very wary, look frightened, back off or even hiss at you, this suggests they’ve not been handled enough. It’s best not to adopt kittens like this unless you’re able to spend a lot of time socializing them.
If the kittens are alert and playful, and seem to respond to your presence with interest rather than fear, so far so good.
The kitten that approaches you first is likely to be the dominant character of the bunch. On the plus side, he’ll probably be adaptable and confident. On the down side, he may be strong-willed and independent and may try to rule the roost in a multi-cat household.
At the other extreme, any kittens that shy away are likely to be sensitive, and will need to be raised gently. These kittens are likely to be less adaptable and not too happy around young children and other animals.
You should take time to handle the kittens individually, not only to check they’re healthy, but also to see how they react to being handled. A good choice will be a kitten that doesn’t become fearful or aggressive when you pick him up, but is friendly and confident.
If you do decide to adopt a fearful or aggressive kitten, the page on taming a feral kitten may be useful to you.
When I’m deciding how to choose a kitten, I find if I stay with the litter for long enough, at some point I’ll just “gel” with one. I believe that kittens (and cats) like to choose their owners as much as we like to choose them.