Kittens are cute, (and they know it) but they shouldn’t be judged on that alone. Whether you decide to rescue or buy, getting a kitten is a big, but also exciting commitment and there are lots of things to think about before you get one.
There are lots of healthy, loving kittens and cats available at rescue centres like Battersea right across the country. We'd always encourage you to rehome a kitten or cat from a rescue centre like Battersea but if you're set on buying one, you should do your research and find a reputable breeder where the cats and kittens are properly cared for and looked after.
While it might be tempting, we would not recommend getting a kitten through online listings or adverts. It’s impossible to guarantee that animals listed in these places or on social media are from a reputable source.
Here’s our list of the top 10 things to consider and check before getting a kitten.
1. Be sure a kitten is the right pet for you
Remember, your new kitten won’t be a baby forever. Taking on a young cat is a huge responsibility (very young kittens need feeding four times a day) and they’re likely to be with you for an average of 16 years, maybe even longer. There are lots of cats in need of homes, so consider if an older cat would suit you best – they’re usually a little more relaxed and well-mannered than kittens, and may be happiest snoozing on the sofa rather than playing for hours.
2. Don’t feel pressured to get your kitten on your first visit
It’s likely that your first contact with the owners, or the rescue centre will be a phone conversation. This is a great opportunity to start asking some questions and begin gathering information. You should ask for some more pictures of the kitten. If the advertiser claims the kitten is of a particular breed, you can check whether the picture of the kitten actually corresponds with pictures of that breed. It might not be important to you whether the kitten is a particular breed or a mixture of specific breeds, but you may pay a pedigree rate for a non-pedigree animal, so make sure that you are getting what is being claimed.
It’s a good idea to arrange an initial visit, without the intention of getting the kitten that day. It may be hard to resist, but it can help take the pressure off the visit and give you some time to mull over your decision.
If you’re feeling positive, then arrange a second visit. Continue doing your checks on this visit too; you might spot something important that you missed the first time round.
We've compiled some questions you may want to consider asking.
3. When was the kitten born?
A kitten shouldn’t leave its mother until it is at least eight weeks old. However, some breeders do not adhere to this timeframe, so it’s very important that you be vigilant and check their age as best you can.
Kittens develop and change in appearance week on week, so a good way to check how old they are is by comparing them to photographs of others that are the same age.
4. Is the kitten with its mother and siblings?
Make sure you ask where the mother is & if she’s ready, that you see her. Kittens learn an immense amount from being around their mother and siblings, which will positively influence them in the future and help them develop natural cat behaviours.
By socialising and playing, they’ll learn how to interact with other cats and humans, which will lessen the chances of them biting and scratching.
If mum is present, it’s more likely that the kitten was born in the home and limits the risk that they came from a kitten farm or were illegally imported.
5. Where was the kitten born?
If your kitten is going to be a family pet, you ideally want one that’s been raised in a home environment.
A kitten that has been exposed to the normal goings-on of a home (hoovering, visitors, children, television) is going to be better adapted and less likely to get stressed or panicked in this environment. Responsible breeders and rehoming centres should ensure that they’ve been exposed to these conditions during their sensitive learning period of 2-7/8 weeks old.
Kittens raised outdoors, in pens or in a single room may struggle to adapt to a home environment.
6. Does the kitten appear healthy, happy and approachable?
Before you visit, you should ask if the kitten is nervous or has any health issues. Keep an eye out for anything mentioned and any potential problems when you visit. The kitten should have received worming and flea treatment, in addition to their first vaccination at 9 weeks of age, so you could request a copy of the records.
If a kitten appears very fearful or stressed by the end of your visit, this could be an indication that it hasn’t been properly socialised and will find it harder to adapt to a home environment, especially one with other animals or children.
7. Does the mother appear healthy, friendly and happy to interact with you?
How happy and friendly the mother is could be an indication of how she has been cared for by her owner.
Ask if she has been vaccinated, wormed and treated for fleas, as this could impact the health of her kittens.
Has she undergone any corrective surgery or does she have any hereditary diseases that could have potentially been passed to her offspring?
8. What food is the kitten eating?
It’s important to make sure that the kitten is on solid food before you take it home. This means it’s been weaned from its mother and can survive without her milk.
9. What litter is the kitten using?
The kitten should be trained to use a litter tray by the time you take it home.
It’s worth using the same type of litter they are currently using, to minimise stress and help it recognise where to go to the toilet. If you want to swap to a different type, this should be gradually phased in over time.
10. Is the kitten in a clean environment?
Kittens do tend to be a little messy but you should check the general cleanliness of the area, including bedding, litter trays, and food and water bowls.
A cleaner environment will lessen the chance of the kitten becoming sick and demonstrate that the owners are mindful of their welfare.
The kitten checklist
We would always encourage people to rescue a cat, but for those who have decided to buy a kitten, we would strongly recommend using The Kitten Checklist. It's been designed to help buyers ask the right questions to help them choose a kitten whose breeder has taken care to ensure their kittens have the best chance of a happy, healthy life.
If you visit a kitten and are concerned for its welfare, we understand the temptation to take it home, however each sale made will likely only encourage the breeder or seller to get more animals in to sell them for profit - perpetrating a vicious cycle.
If you suspect cruelty of any kind, we’d urge you to contact the RSPCA so the authorities can take proper action.