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Choosing a kitten

You may have decided that you'd like a kitten, but which will suit your lifestyle?

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. Read all about the different cat breeds available using our cat breed profiles. 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. Read our advice on introducing a kitten to an existing 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. Read our advice on adopting a rescue kitten.

Pick up a copy of The Your Cat Kitten Guide, published by the team behind Your Cat magazine, for lots of information on choosing a new kitten. You can also browse our online kitten advice for tips of nutrition, kitten socialisation, litter training, what to buy for a new kitten and much more.

Choosing a pedigree kitten

Each cat breed offers a different appearance and character. For instance, an Oriental Shorthair is more likely to suit someone who wants a lively kitten, while a quieter longhaired breed, such as the Persian, will need an owner with lots of time and patience for grooming. If you live in a flat or do not have a garden you should also consider which breeds would be suited to an indoor-only lifestyle (such as the Australian Mist and LaPerm) — and which ones would tear the house down! You may have to be patient and willing to travel to find your dream kitten.

How much for a pedigree kitten?

Price will vary according to breed and colour, as well as region. You can expect to pay from around £300 to as much as £900 depending on your chosen cat breed. The Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF) says: “A kitten must be correctly bred and registered if you plan to buy him for breeding or showing.”

Make sure that there are no ‘hidden’ extras in the price you are given — for vaccinations for example. If you are buying the kitten as a pet you should still ensure that you are paying for a proper pedigree kitten and the breeder has adhered to the Code of Ethics.

Meet the parents of your pedigree kitten

A pedigree kitten should be seen with mum (and dad too, if possible) and both should be healthy, alert, clean and happy. Ask if the kitten has any health problems and check he has started his vaccination course for cat diseases. Read our advice on how to choose a healthy kitten. If possible, this should be done at least a week before he leaves the breeder to keep stress to a minimum and ensure he is fully protected on arrival with you. You’ll also want to know if he has been socialised and is used to children, other pets and household noises, and how much he has been handled. Read on our advice on how to socialise a kitten.

Read up on your chosen breed so you are aware of any genetic health conditions within the breed, such as Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) — be sure to ask the breeder whether their cats have been tested for these diseases, and ask for documentation to prove it. 

Alan Edwards, GCCF judge and author of ‘How to Look After Your Cat’, offers the following advice: “It is vital that you see the kitten interacting with his littermates and mother. If you are lucky you may also be able to see the father, but it is frequently the case that breeders take their females away to stud rather than keep a male themselves.”

Look out for the breeder who sits you in a room and then brings the kitten to you. This could mean it’s the only healthy one and this is the key to the next stage of observation. Watching the whole litter at rest and play, it is easy to see if the litter is healthy. The kittens should be of an even size and weight. Their ears should be clean and eyes alert and bright. “Beware lethargic kittens with swollen bellies and ‘staring’, harsh and open coats,” warns Alan. “This is often a sign of intestinal worms or could be the first stages of Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP).”

If you want to breed or show your kitten he must be registered with either the GCCF, Felis Britannica (FIFE) or The International Cat Association (TICA). If not, you should receive a mating certificate so you can register him.

The pedigree cat purchase agreement

If buying a pedigree kitten you should receive the following documentation:

  • A pedigree — showing the kitten’s registered name, his breed number, his registration number and date of birth
  • A registration/transfer slip completed by you and the breeder to offi cially transfer the kitten into your ownership
  • If GCCF-registered, the Code of Ethics
  • Vaccination certificate — so your own vet can continue with boosters
  • Insurance certificate (if the kitten is covered)
  • Diet sheet — indicating precisely what the kitten has been fed since he was weaned and advice on how to continue as he grows
  • Receipt for payment.

Remember...

ASK: for as much information as possible about how much socialisation the kitten has had — including interaction with strangers, dogs and children — as this will affect his adult behaviour and personality.

Don't buy to breed

Tempting though it may be to buy a pedigree female kitten with a view to breeding, it’s not something that anyone should go into without thinking long and hard. Your Cat magazine spoke to one breeder who estimated it cost her a whopping £1,866.83 to breed and raise a litter of four Oriental kittens. Each kitten then sold for £450 each, so she was left with a loss of £86.63. Apart from the money, the breeder said she spent on average ten hours a day looking after the kittens. "Breeding cats is a labour of love, a hobby not a business. These are little lives, not commodities" she said. Read our advice on breeding from a pedigree kitten

More advice about pedigree kittens

Pick up a copy of The Your Cat Kitten Guide for expert advice about kitten ownership. If you're adopting a pedigree kitten of giving a rescue kitten the chance to have a happy life, this guide will lead you through the process of choosing a kitten, preparing your home, providing the perfect diet for healthy growth and understanding your kitten's behaviour. Buy a copy of The Your Cat Kitten Guide for just £5.99.

Subscribe to Your Cat magazine for the most up-to-date expert advice about pedigree cat breeds (we feature a different breed every month), kitten advice and top tips for kitten owners.

Your Cat is the must-have magazine for all cat lovers and owners — if you have feline friends, or know someone who is cat crazy, then a subscription is essential! Buy a Your Cat magazine subscription, with prices starting at just £12.50!