Health Topics

Choosing a Kitten

(This article was originally published in the January/February 2009 Issue of Pets Magazine and is reproduced here with the permission of the publisher.)

There is a lot more to choosing a pet than basing your decision on looks, breed or personality. Here are some key things to look for, and a few thoughts on what to consider before you bring your new friend home.

There's no question about it - cats make excellent companions. They are affectionate, laid-back, somewhat independent and generally congenial. While dogs may be "man's best friend," cats are popular in large part because of the differences between the two animals; cats are generally considered to be lower maintenance and more independent than dogs.

However, the decision to have a cat is not to be taken lightly. Cats acquired on a whim or at the spur of the moment are often abandoned later. Pet ownership is an important responsibility. The pros and cons should be carefully weighed beforehand, not when it is too late.

There are essentially two broad categories of domestic cat: the mixed breed (non-pedigree or mongrel) and the purebred (pedigree). There are over 30 recognized breeds, but the most common feline pet by a wide margin is a mixed breed - the domestic short-hair. It can be found in a variety of colours and sizes.

Prospective cat owners should look for the following:

  • An alert, responsive kitten who does not mind being stroked and handled.
  • Its fur, eyes, ears, nose and throat should be clean and healthy.
  • Skinny, pot-bellied kittens should be avoided.
  • Also avoid kittens whose nose or eyes produce significant discharge.
  • Gums should be a healthy, gleaming pink.
  • Pale, grey gums could be a sign of anemia.

Choosing a kitten should go hand in hand with a veterinarian's approval. Kittens are usually acquired when they are eight to ten weeks old. By this time, they are usually accustomed to solid food and using a litter box. A veterinarian can provide recommendations for specific cat food and can administer the first series of vaccinations.