Are you thinking of getting a kitten? With kitten season - April to late autumn - well and truly upon us, many people are taking advantage of more time at home to bring a furry friend into their life.
Here at Natusan, we love all cats, from the friskiest kittens to the oldest grimalkin, so we’ve cobbled together our expert’s best advice on kittens and young cats and present them below in the Kitten Checklist.
First things first
Before you start looking for kittens for sale near you, consider adopting a kitten instead…
“The number of pets being given up for rehoming in the UK is at an all-time high, and yet still more animals are being bred for sale and profit. As a result, most rescue centres are full to capacity, with waiting lists of animals needing to be brought in. There are simply not enough homes to go round…”
Taking on a kitten is a big responsibility. Your pet may be with you for up to 14 years on average, and often much longer.
Whether paying for a kitten or taking on a rescue, be it from a homing centre, a fostering service for a cat charity, or from a private home, the same principles of health and behaviour apply.
In this series of blog posts we will be looking at what to do before, during, and after bringing home your little bundle of fuzz.
Before your visit
The first contact for many before getting a kitten is a phone call or an online search. During this time, it's advisable to gather as much information as you can about your prospective adoptee, as once you visit a kitten in the flesh it can be hard to resist adopting it there and then - so it's much better to do your homework first!
Below are a list of questions to ask, and we're going to go into more detail on each of these to understand exactly why it's so important to ask about these details - and the answers you should expect to hear.
Questions to ask
- How old is the kitten?
- What does the kitten's family look like?
- Where did the kitten spend its early days?
- Is the kitten friendly and adjusted to home life?
- What are the kitten’s eating habits?
- Is the kitten a particular breed?
How old is the kitten?
It is very important to find out exactly when the kitten was born. A kitten cannot be homed until it is at least 8 weeks old, but kittens separated from their mothers this early are at risk of related developmental, social, and health issues.
Kittens should ideally remain with their mothers until they are 12-14 weeks old.
What does the kitten's family look like?
You'll want to see the kitten with its mum at least once before bringing it home. This helps to avoid taking on a kitten which may have been farmed or illegally imported.
If your kitten is in someone’s home (ie. not a breeder or shelter) it should stay with its mother until the minimum age of 8 weeks, so seeing a kitten with their mum shouldn’t be an issue. A kitten born to some specialist breeders may stay with its mother until 12 to 13 weeks of age, which can make it easier to see the kitten with its mother.
Things can get a little trickier with homing charities and cat shelters, as there may be kittens without mothers - whether that's because mum was adopted herself, or the shelter never knew the mother cat.
Homing charities usually use foster carers to look after cats with kittens (wherever possible) so they can grow up in a home environment and experience the noises, occasional solitude, and sensations of the average home.
Mum knows best for kittens. Kittens raised with their mothers learn so much about behaviour and adopt positive personality traits, but friendly fathers are more likely to make for friendly kittens, so if possible, try to find out who Dad was too - though this is often more difficult to determine for non-pedigree cats.
A kitten raised in a litter is more likely to have adopted the learned cat behaviours that will serve it later in life. Whether that's learning to play and interact with other kittens (and cats) or with humans, your kitten learns a lot from its brothers and sisters.
Where did the kitten spend its early days?
In an ideal world, all kittens would be born in a home among the sounds, smells and experiences of normal life, helping them adjust to the home environment and making it less likely that they'll experience stress when in a new home.
Without these essential experiences between 2 and 9 weeks old, when kittens are learning about the world around them, a kitten may not be as comfortable living as a pet cat.
Homing centres and responsible breeders know to provide these types of experiences, so be sure to ask what efforts have been made to prepare the kitten for life in a home.
Is the kitten friendly and adjusted to home life?
Ideally, a kitten will have experienced frequent short interactions with a variety of different people - from stroking to picking up and playing - because a kitten gains its confidence around people from these interactions.
Don’t forget that for a kitten, your home has loads of sensory triggers - smells, sounds and sensations that are so normal to you that you may ignore them, but to a new kitten, these can be quite traumatic. Be sure to ask whether the kitten has heard doorbells, hoovers, etc. but also as many new smells as possible - after all, cats can practically smell in HD.
Finally, if you own a dog, or are planning to get one, you will probably want a kitten which has become accustomed to the presence of canines in the first two months of its life, as it will be much less fearful of dogs having been exposed at an earlier age.
The kitten should be fully weaned before it can be taken home. Weaned simply means that the kitten is able to survive without the milk from its mother, this process usually begins at around 4 to 6 weeks of age before a cat can transition to an adult diet.
If the kitten has been hand-reared (fed from a bottle) then it may affect how it behaves as it grows. Hand-reared kittens can be needier, more overexcited and uncontrollable than a kitten which has weaned correctly from its mother.
If the kitten is from pedigree parents (ie. from the same breed) - there may be different levels of care required than for a non-pedigree or moggie kitten.
Some breeds have much thicker coats, which require maintenance and care, some are hairless, which could mean regular bathing, and some breeds are more “active” than others, and can become bored or stressed easily.
Another factor to take into account are any inherited health issues which are associated with certain breeds.
Finding out this information will allow you to properly research which kitten is best for your home.
One last thing...
Whilst everyone loves a kitten, there are hundreds of homing charities around the UK which have thousands of older cats looking for homes, and these cats may even be more appropriate for your lifestyle than young kittens.
Giving a cat a second chance is one of the best things you can do, and for those who may be overlooked due to age or ill health, your care and support can work wonders, and you will be repaid tenfold.
Once you have answered all these questions, you are ready to take those first steps towards pet parenthood.
We will be updating this blog series with lots more information over the coming weeks, so be sure to check out The Cat Guide for all the advice from our team of experts.
21/05/2021 by NatuTeam