Keeping a few simple things in mind when choosing a kitten can not only insure that you bring home a healthy pet, but may also help you to avoid future adult cat behavior problems.
Often, our kitten chooses us, and sometimes that works out great, but these basic tips will help you evaluate your potential new kittens health, personality and trainability.
Yes, there are clues you can look for that will help you in choosing a kitten whose behavior indicates that they might adapt more smoothly to a busy house with many family members, would be more content in your one cat, quiet home, or which kitten would adjust best to being alone for long periods while you are out earning the catnip. Read on...
Enjoy the journey and always remember.......Cats Rule!
Ideally you should think about how your kitten will fit in your life and understand not just what you want, but what you need in your new cat. If you have a working household where the kitten will be alone for long periods, you need one who will be satisfied with lots of solitude. But when you get home do you want her to be ready to play, or would you prefer she join you on the sofa for some TIVO time?
If you are a one person house, do you want a dog-like companion who will follow you around, or do you need your space?
If you have multiple human family members but no other pets, you probably want an out-going cat who will love everybody equally.
And if you have pets as well as people, you need a cat who will go with the flow- not too pushy, but not too timid.
If you are choosing a kitten from a litter, or from a group of kittens at a shelter, you want to look for three main indicators of kitten personality:
When picking a kitten, being able to watch the group for a while without interfering is ideal. If you notice one kitten leading in exploration and play make a mental note. If you notice a kitten who lags behind, remember that too. If nothing seems to stand out, see if you can introduce a new toy.
Now watch the group with the new toy. Is the same leader you noted before dominating the toy as well? Is the kitten who was lagging suddenly perking up?
The kitten who is not assertive in a group but is charged up by the toy might be a good fit for a working household. Why? Because the ability to entertain oneself with toys and solitary games will keep a cat busy till you get home. On the other hand, the kitten who is focused on interactive play, and still determined to wrestle with another warm body even after the toy is introduced would be the choice for a busy household with lots of attention.
Now enter the fray yourself. Get down low and make note of who approaches and how. Shyness does not mean lack of affection, and the kitten who rushes up may not be the "friendliest", just the most curious. If the same cat is leading with all of these things you may have what some call an alpha personality. This kitten probably won't be a cuddler, but may follow you around the house and involve itself in everything. You may find many Siamese cats and Abyssinians with this personality. This cat probably will prefer to be the center of attention and not like being alone. He also might be more inclined to wrestle than cuddle. Now how does that fit with your lifestyle?
If the second kitten who approaches gets up into your lap, plays with your fingers, looks right into your face and settles in, this is more of a beta personality with social stimulation being the main drive. Pick this kitten up, or best yet, go from sitting to standing while holding the kitten in your arms. This can be a tough test for a shelter kitty who may not have had a lot of human socialization, but the more comfortable and unconcerned the kitten is with you holding it and making a big move at the same time, the more likely it is that you have a beta. This kitten will work well in many situations, particularly a busy house with multiple house mates. This kitty is not the best choice for being left alone, and if you want to be left alone neither one of you will be happy. This is probably a social cuddler, treat accordingly.
Now there are two things to look for if you know your cat will be alone for long periods, an independent nature, and a healthy interest in toys. You are looking for the kitten who might be off in a corner quietly exploring. Your kitten should be the third or fourth to arrive when you enter the area, maybe even the last, but should approach you eventually, or happily engage with you when you approach and handle him, because you will not have the time to work with a timid kitten.
Your kitten should be very engaged in all the toys, including, and most importantly, the static toys. The rabbit fur mouse or catnip banana that just lies there until your cat turns it into fun time. If you come home from a long day and see three different toys in three different areas of the house, you won't be so worried that your cat is bored or lonely.
Finally, the kitten who is shy and not particularly interested in any of the toys, may be a nice fit for someone who wants a close companion, but doesn't want to be pestered. As long as the kitten enjoys being handled once you draw her out, a close relationship in a quiet house where someone is home allot may be just the place for a gamma personality to shine. Purring on your lap when you want her there, dozing in the sun on the windowsill while you're doing your taxes. Peaceful.
Naturally there are no certainties here. Can a timid kitten become an alpha adult cat? Of course, but why not try to outsmart nature a little. These thoughts come after decades of watching entire litters grow into adult cats. Allot of the adult personality is hidden in that little kitten, and choosing a kitten with these clues can really work.
A properly socialized kitten between the ages of 7 and 12 weeks will be playful and relatively easy to handle. As they get a little older they may become a bit less kittenish around strangers so judge accordingly.
But if any kitten trembles, hisses, hides, or bites and scratches with intent, don't take him home with you unless you really know what you're doing. Feeling sorry is not a good reason to get a feral or poorly socialized kitten, and is a big reason why cats are put up for adoption when they get older- they couldn't be changed.
There are only a few short weeks while they are still with their mother in which a kitten can be fully socialized, after that the chances of having a really satisfying relationship go downhill fast. Always think about the long term. There are many lovely kittens that would make excellent pets available all the time, and so many are euthanized annually, why not save a friendly, properly socialized kitten and have a great time doing it too.
On the other hand, there is certainly room in many peoples hearts for a feral cat.
Most of this is just common sense. If the place is not clean and well kept, the kittens may not be either.
A runny nose is never o.k. and the younger the kitten, the more dangerous it could be. A simple cold? Yes, very possible. Respiratory infection, distemper or worse? Also possible.
You don't know what it is, so don't take a chance, and definitely don't leave a breeder with a kitten and a big bag of medication.
I will say it again, a runny nose is not normal, and it is never o.k. Do not take the cat.
On the other hand, kittens often have what appears to be dull fur. If everything else seems o.k. and the fur is not dirty, falling out, or thinning in areas, the kitten is probably fine. Folks who tell you to look for a shiny coat are thinking about adult cats, not kittens.
Naturally, the sooner you take him to the vet the better.
Close to 2 million deserving cats and kittens are adopted from state and local animal shelters every single year in the U.S.A. Hopefully the new owners use a New kitten checklist to help things run smooth!