How do I choose a healthy kitten?

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What should you look for when adopting a kitten? Read our guide to choosing a healthy kitten to ensure that he grows into a happy and healthy cat.

Once the exciting decision to share your life with a new kitten has been made, there are a few things you need to consider to make sure your new kitten grows up healthy and happy.

The first consideration is where you will get your cat from, with rehoming charities, friends or private breeders all providing choices, will you choose to adopt a rescue or buy a pedigree kitten? Before you decide where to get your kitten, ask yourself a few questions. Has the kitten been properly socialised and experienced normal family sights and sounds in the first eight weeks of life? What are the kitten's parents like - are they friendly and outgoing or nervous and shy? It's ideal to see both parents, but often that's difficult if you adopt a pet. Are you purchasing your kitten from a responsible, good breeder

When you go and meet a litter of kittens they should have bright and shiny eyes and a clean, cool nose - free from any discharge. Check that their ears and bottoms are clean and make sure that they can move around easily. It's important to make sure they are alert and active. Good hygiene is essential in keeping kitten bright eyed and bushy tailed, so make sure their environment is also clean.

Ask to handle the kittens so you can see how friendly each one is. You should also ask questions such as will they have long hair, which will need daily grooming, what are they currently being fed on and what sex are they?


Choosing a pedigree kitten

When choosing the right pedigree kitten it's important to be prepared and do your research about any possible breed-related conditions such as Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. For example, some flat-faced cats, such as the Persian, may have problems with their eyes that can cause their tears to overflow, causing stained fur or skin problems and you may have to clean the cat's eyes and face frequently. If you're looking to adopt a pedigree cat, and would like to know more about the different breed, take a look at our Cat Breed Profiles.

It's also important to obtain the correct health certificates from the breeder and ask for any existing medical history, including records of vaccinations, worming and flea treatments. If the kitten has been microchipped, remember to make sure you update the microchip company with your details. Some kittens even come with a few weeks of insurance cover that you might want to extend - but make sure you check what the insurance actually covers before deciding to do this. Insurance is a good idea, but you want to make sure it fits you and your cat's needs.

If he is a pedigree, ask about any breed-related problems, and check that both of his parents have tested negative for such conditions (the breeder should be able to provide evidence of this). A caring, knowledgeable breeder will not allow a kitten to go to his new home until he has had his vaccinations. This will be at around 12 to 13 weeks.

Pedigree Kitten

We would strongly recommend against buying kittens from newspaper adverts or over the internet, as you will be unable to make these vital checks to ensure the health and history of the animals. Go through reputable channels to find litters and by following these simple steps, you and your new kitten should both enjoy a happy and healthy relationship for many years to come!


Kitten health checklist

Here's a checklist of what to look for in a healthy kitten:

  • Eyes should be clear and bright with no discharge and no sign of the third eyelid.
  • Nose should be slightly damp but no discharge.
  • Teeth should be straight and meet at the top and bottom.
  • Ears should be clean and free from discharge or black debris (a possible sign of ear mites).
  • Coat glossy with no signs of dandruff or flea dirt.
  • Bottom should be clean with no signs of diarrhoea.
  • Tummy should be slightly rounded, but not bloated or hard.

The kitten should be alert, friendly and happy to be handled. Follow these steps, spot the signs, and you should be well on your way to owning a happy and healthy kitten.