Sunday, 1 September 2013

Choosing a Kitten

Cats and kittens make great pets. They can live for over twenty years so choose carefully as your cat will be around for many years to come. Cats are usually very healthy but vet bills can be pricey.

Moggy cat or pedigree cat?
Although fewer than 20% of all the cats in the UK are pedigrees, there are 32 different breeds registered in Britain by The Governing Council of the Cat Fancy. A pedigree cat, will be born of selected parents by a breeder and well socialised, A pedigree offers the guarantee of meeting the looks set out in the breed standard. The same goes for many aspects of their personality. Beware of breeders who are in the business just to make money and don’t socialise their kittens. Ideally choose a breeder who raises the kittens inside their home, not in rows of outside breeding sheds. Buying a pedigree cat isn’t a cheap option and can cost £250 upwards.

The other 80% of UK cats are moggies: cats that do not belong to any recognised feline breed, but that can be just as beautiful and full of character as their pedigree cousins especially if the owner of the mother cat is a caring owner. Moggies are certainly kinder to the wallet! Beware of owners who just let their cat have litter after litter because they don’t want to afford to have their cat neutered. Most people will find their moggy via a friend, neighbour or a local rescue shelter. Some rescue kittens be cautious as some have had a bad start in life and a poor introduction to humans and poor socialising this can scar them for life. Be advised by the rescue centre, a good one will tell you all they know about the kittens past and will only want to re-home to a suitable home.

The kitten’s socialisation, takes place between the 2nd and the 7th week of age, this is a very important stage in development. To a large extend, it conditions, their future behaviour and personality as an adult. Never take a kitten away from it’s mother before it is eight weeks old. Ten or twelve weeks is even better as the mother will teach the kitten more social skills but most owners want to get rid of the kittens much sooner than this.

Kittens and young children?
Some breeds of cat, or kittens who've had a troubled start in life may not be suitable to live in a home with children, so be sure to check on the breed characteristics and the kitten's background before taking them home. Ideally take your child with you to meet your prospective kitten to see how they react: look for a sociable, energetic kitten that doesn't seem nervous or frightened meeting new people or being handled.

Once your kitten is home, remember that even a small kitten will have sharp claws and little needle-like teeth, and they may bite and scratch as part of their boisterous kitten-play or if they feel threatened. Young children will need help understanding that your new kitten isn't a toy, but is a little living animal who needs feeding and can easily get hurt or upset too: initially, your children will need to be supervised with the kitten and taught how to safely handle and play with them.
How many cats?

Cats are often happy being the only feline in the home, but if you have sufficient space at home, raising two kittens together can be immensely enjoyable: If you are out a lot two cats good company for each other. They'll have a playmate to help keep them both entertained and a friend with whom to explore or snuggle up with. It is a good idea to raise two kittens from the same litter, as they'll already be familiar with each other and are more likely to have similar personalities.

Male or female?

It is sometimes said that females are cuddlier and males more distant, and sometimes you hear exactly the opposite! Neutering considerably reduces behavioural differences between males and females. Unneutered Toms can be more likely to stray and get into fights with other cats, and intact females can be unpredictable when they're in heat.

Grooming and Hair length
Long-haired cats will need daily grooming to keep their coats healthy and free of tangles, and help reduce hairballs. If you're looking for a cat that needs a little less maintenance, then opt for a shorter-haired cat: a healthy short-hair cat will be able to look after their own grooming needs, but helping them out now and then is a great way to bond with your cat and help keep hairballs to a minimum.

A Healthy Kitten

It's really important to pick a healthy kitten if you want a trouble-free, healthy pet. It can be very tempting to pick the runt of the litter because you feel sorry for it, but this kitten may need much more care and veterinary treatment, which is expensive and heartbreaking when the kitten can’t be helped back to health.

Signs of a healthy kitten:

Lively and active

Well-nourished. Feel the kitten gently - the ribs shouldn't stick out and it shouldn't have a pot belly.

Soft, shiny coat
Clean ears with no discharge or foul smell
Clean, bright eyes with no discharge
No evidence of runny nose or excessive sneezing
Milk teeth should all be there, and mouth should look healthy
Straight legs (not bowed)
Clean butt - no evidence of diarrhoea

Different Personalities
Before you visit the seller, ask in advance if you can see the whole litter together. When you first see them, observe which ones are alert and playful. Sit down beside them and see how comfortable (or frightened) they are with a person nearby. If the kittens are very wary, look frightened, back off or even hiss at you, this suggests they've not been handled enough. It's best not to adopt kittens like this unless you're able to spend a lot of time socialising them. If the kittens are alert and playful, and seem to respond to your presence with interest rather than fear, that is a good sign. The kitten that approaches you first is likely to be the dominant character of the bunch. On the plus side, he/she will probably be adaptable and confident. On the down side, he/she may be strong-willed and independent and may try to dominate other animals in the household and may never be a lap cat. At the other extreme, any kittens that shy away are likely to be sensitive, and will need to be raised gently. These kittens are likely to be less adaptable and not too happy around young children and other animals. You should take time to handle the kittens individually, not only to check they're healthy, but also to see how they react to being handled. A good choice will be a kitten that doesn't become fearful or aggressive when you pick him up, but is friendly and confident. Stay with the litter for long enough, at some point you may just "gel" with one. I believe that kittens like to choose their owners as much as we like to choose them.

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