How to choose a kitten from a litter

Getting ready to meet a litter of kittens is an exciting time — but how do you choose a healthy kitten and your family’s perfect match? Petplan shares our top tips for what to consider when deciding how to select which kitten to take home.

You’ve decided that you and your family would like to offer a home to a kitten and have considered what to think about before bringing a new pet home. This is an exciting time, but remember, it’s also a long-term commitment. Some cats live for over 20 years, so examine your decision carefully.

You may wonder how to pick a kitten from a litter. For some, the perfect kitten is a pedigree breed, such as a British Shorthair, Persian, Maine Coon or a Siamese. Others want a moggy (a non-pedigree cat). Whatever you choose, be aware that some pedigree breeds have specific and potential health problems. Make sure to research your preferred breed to find out more about their individual requirements.

You could also choose to adopt a kitten from a rescue centre, or buy from a private seller. Choosing the best place to buy your new kitten responsibly can take some time, so make sure you do your research.

Whether you’re buying or adopting your new cat, you’ll want to know how to choose the best kitten for you in a litter. Here are some questions to ask before you commit:

  • How have the kittens been treated? Have they been used to meeting people, animals, children and exposed to a variety of noises and smells?
  • What are the parents like? Ask if the mother (and father if known) is friendly and sociable.
  • What are the characteristics of the breed? Some breeds have distinct personalities, so find out as much as you to see if they’d be a good fit for your family.
  • Does the kitten have health problems? If the kitten or its mother has been ill, it may not be a deal-breaker but you do need to know. Some breeds suffer from congenital conditions that a breeder should talk you through.
  • How should I care for this cat and how much attention will it need? Your kitten’s seller should be an expert, so take their advice on the kitten’s care, diet, activity levels, and temperament.

Once you’ve arranged a time to meet a litter of kittens and their mother, make sure you know what to look for. There are several ways to check a kitten is healthy – and don’t be taken in by being told that problems have ‘just happened’. Make sure their eyes, nose and ears are clear, with no dirt or discharge. The mouth should have white, well-grown teeth and pink gums. Look around their bottom – if there are sore places, the kitten may have had diarrhoea. Their coat should be clean and well-groomed and they should not have fleas.

Once you have found your litter, choose a kitten that seems happy and confident and that wants to meet and be cuddled by you keeping an eye out for aggressive or timid behaviour.

If you’ve had pets before, you’ll know they come with their own patterns of behaviour. Much of that is shaped before they leave their mum, so if they come from a home where they are loved, petted and well cared-for, they are more likely to have placid temperaments and be happy around people.

If you suspect a breeder is unethical, or operating a kitten farm, it’s best to walk away. If their home is dirty or the animals are badly kept, step away and don’t hand over any money. You should always be able to meet the kittens in their own home. The breeder should be happy for you to meet and handle the kittens and the mother cat. Find out how to spot an unethical breeder with this helpful guide.

Lucy's law states that people cannot sell kittens under six months of age unless they are the breeder themselves. By law, you should be able to meet your potential kitten at their own home, with their mother and siblings.

Charities are often overwhelmed with cats and kittens. It is very worthwhile to adopt as long as you’re aware of potential problems. You’re less likely to know the kitten’s or its mother’s medical history and it may not have been well socialised with other animals or people. However, there are massive benefits in offering a rescue kitten a good, loving home and many shelters will have the kitten inoculated, neutered and flea-treated before you take them home.

Before collecting your new kitten, take steps to ensure they will be happily integrated into your home and learn the best ways to settle your new kitten into your home.

Good cat insurance can help to cover health conditions and give you peace of mind as your kitten grows up. Breeders and rescue charities covered by Petplan will offer you four weeks’ free insurance, but don’t forget to organise your own insurance before this expires.

Do you have any tips about how to choose the perfect kitten for your family? Let us know on social media by using the #Pethood Stories tag.

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