Hoping to bring a rescue kitten into your home? Follow our essential advice.
With cat rescue centres filled to capacity, charities are struggling to cope with the constant influx of cats coming into their care who need new homes.
You can help by adopting one of the many rescued kittens and giving them the loving new home they deserve. But how do you make sure the kitten you've found is right for you, or vice versa?
Choosing a rescue kitten
Although you might be tempted to choose your kitten purely on how adorable he looks, it's important to resist choosing the cutest kitten and instead take home the one which really suits you and your home best.
Beverley Street, deputy cat welfare manager at Wood Green, says: "Think about the type of home you have and what type of kitten will be most suitable. It is also worth thinking about the amount of time you have to spend at home with the kitten during the initial few months, taking into account that you will need to provide socialisation and regular small meals. We suggest that you spend time with any available kittens at the rehoming centre so you can pick your new arrival based on personality and temperament."
Karen Bessant of International Cat Care warns against choosing a subdued, withdrawn kitten: "This kitten is not likely to be the best choice in terms of health and socialisation. Likewise, kittens kept in communal runs at some rescue centres are likely to carry viruses and parasites caught from other cats in close proximity. Having to nurse a kitten who is highly stressed is not recommended."
What to expect
Remember that rescued kittens will have come to be in the charity's care for many different reasons, and some of their early experiences might have had an impact on their personality.
Beverley explains: "Many kittens have been reared in a domestic environment and others will have previously lived outside - this can tell you a lot about the type of cat he may well grow up to be. Kittens that have not been adequately socialised, or were feral, in the early weeks are unlikely to ever make good family pets as they will almost always fear human contact. Each kitten is very much an individual, so talk to staff at the centre about the personality of your kitten and what to expect in the home."
The first few days
Bringing a new kitten into your home can be a very exciting time, but remember it will also be a very new experience for the kitten.
Beverley advises: "We usually recommend that you settle the kitten into one room to start with and place all his resources within that room. Get members of the family to sit on the floor and encourage the kitten to interact with them using the odd treat or a wand toy. Once you feel the kitten has settled, gradually introduce him to the rest of the house and other pets."
The rehoming process
Settling a rescue kitten into your home takes time and patience, and there should be plenty of advice on hand from the rescue centre.
"We ask that the family visit the Wood Green centre, tell us a little bit about themselves and then they can meet any potential kittens. All of our kittens who are up for rehoming are neutered, vaccinated, microchipped, up-to-date with their flea/worm treatment and come with four weeks' free pet insurance," says Beverley.
Wood Green's experienced volunteers will foster feral or unsocialised kittens so they can start the socialisation process. They only become available for rehoming once their behaviour progresses, and the new owner is given information on how to continue this.
Karen says that the quality of the rescue centre is vital: "Before adopting, check how the kitten has been cared for, if he has been socialised, if he's had his vaccinations, and whether he has been treated for fleas and worms.
"A good quality rescue centre will only keep littermates together, will take time to socialise the kittens and will have carried out health checks and treated any parasites. Kittens from a good rescue centre may already have been vaccinated and neutered."