There are many factors to take into consideration when choosing a new kitten, but one of the most important that often gets overlooked, is how to choose the ‘right’ kitten. Although it can be difficult not to spontaneously take home the first cute kitten you meet, it is extremely important to take time and consideration, to ensure that the next 15-18 years results in a happy and enjoyable relationship between cat and owner.
Kittens require good socialisation and exposure to life experiences very early on in life, between 3-9 weeks, to ensure that they turn in to well-rounded adults. Below is some information and advice on how to choose the right kitten, from a behaviour standpoint. Which kitten? Choosing the correct type of kitten for your household and home environment is essential for helping towards a happy household. The importance of choosing a healthy kitten, with a confident and relaxed personality is often overlooked when in the presence of a cute ball of fur. The personality of your kitten needs to be suited to your household i.e. a quiet, shy kitten may not do well in a busy household with children, but may be more suited to a quiet, single owner home.
The personality of a kitten can depend on its genetics (ask to see the mother), its early socialisation experiences (choose a kitten that has been bought up in a good domestic setting, with lots of handling and interaction with humans) and its future experiences. Whilst domestic short hairs (or moggies) have a varying range of personalities, there are selective personality traits seen in some pedigree breeds e.g. Persians tend to be gentle and undemanding, whereas Siamese are vocal, busy and sensitive cats (but of course there are many exceptions to the rule).
Before going to meet a litter of kittens, it is important to research the breed you are interested in. When you first go to see a litter, there are several questions you should ask: What have the kittens experienced in the first 8 weeks of life? Has the kitten met dogs or children? Can I see where the kittens sleep? Can I see the whole litter? Can I hold the kitten? How old is the kitten? What sex is it? Watch the kitten carefully when he is interacting with the queen and litter mates (he should be playful and relaxed, not hiding or being too quiet). The kitten should be healthy, clean, playful and bright (try to avoid kittens that you feel sorry for, although we know this is easier said than done).
The premises where the kitten is kept should be clean, fresh smelling and dry (avoid premises where there are lots of other kittens, cats and pets for sale/rehoming). Ideally, the kittens should have access to normal domestic household life (i.e. bought up in a home environment, unless In a rehoming centre), where they can be exposed to all of the daily activities they will encounter in your home (the vacuum cleaner, washing machine, traffic noises, telephone ringing, banging of doors etc..). A good test of a kitten’s confidence is to throw a small ball or toy along the floor – hopefully the kitten will pounce and chase it!