It is easy to choose a healthy kitten without the need to bring a vet with you, if you know and understand what to look for. In our previous article, we talked about advantages of getting an adult cat versus getting a kitten. Now, we want to teach you how you can easily check a desired kitten, or an adult cat for potential health problems.
Remember, there’s no guarantee that your picked up kitten will be healthy as an adult cat, neither it’s easy to determine if he’s going to be a show winner, as a lot of things in his later life, like health care, diet, environment or even pure luck may impact the outcome. However, using advises below you may guarantee you don’t mess it up directly from the start.
Check the overall appearance of the kitten
To see if a kitten is healthy, it’s easy to start by checking his head, including eyes, ears, mouth and nose. Them move forward and check his overall body. Physically run your fingers through his fur and check for any abnormalities. Here are things you should look for:
- Eyes of the kitten must be clean and bright. Any discharge may suggest to infection or injury. Also, check if the eyes are looking straight.
- Ears must have no specific smell, they must be clean without any discharge. Brown discharge may indicate to ear mites. Ear mites are treatable, however, if the breeder is not aware of this and has not begun the treatment already, it’s not a good sign.
- Mouth must have no specific smell, gums must be pink in color, and teeth should be white with no tartar buildup.
- Nose of the cat must have no discharge from it, and its skin must not be cracked or flaking, as it may indicate to dermatological problems. Despite a popular belief, moisture or dryness of the nose is not a reliable indicator of health or illness.
- Belly of the kitten must not be swollen, as it may indicate either to worms or wrong feeding schedule.
- Coating must be shiny and fluffy, unless specific breed standard require it other way. There should be no bare areas on the skin, as they may point out to several health problems (not only skin related), and stress in cats.
- Perianal area must have clean skin and coat. Avoid bare skin, redness or discharge, as they may indicate to infection, diarrhea or worms.
- Legs of the kitten must be straight, he should walk with no problems at the age when kittens are normally taken home (10 – 12 weeks).
- Behavior of the kitten at the rehoming age must be confident, non aggressive and must not afraid of people, other cats and pets. If the kitten is too scared of anything, or aggressive at the age of 10 to 12 weeks, it may take a huge effort to correct it later. It may be acceptable if he’s a bit protective in the beginning when a strange person comes in. However, if you encourage him to a play, he must respond. If he’s not, kitten may not be socialized properly.
Also, take a quick look at other kittens in the litter for signs noted above. You may not do this as deep as you do with a kitten you chose, but quick overall checkup might be beneficial. Check the queen and other pets in the home well. Any signs of poor health must be seriously evaluated.
Talk to the breeder to get a healthy kitten
Visiting a breeder (or someone who took care for kittens) may also be beneficial because you get to talk and ask questions. But what should you ask him?
- Is the kitten socialized properly? Before the age kittens are able to leave their home, it has to have received a ton of positive experience. Towards humans, towards other cats and pets, towards kids and household environment, like vacuuming rooms or washing machine working. It’s very important as, if it is not carried out properly at early age, it might be very hard (in some cases even impossible) to introduce later. It is extremely important if you have other pets or small children in the house. In example, if you have a dog, ask he breeder, has the kitten seen a dog before.
- Is the kitten vaccinated? At the age when kitten is normally taken to his new home, he should already had his first series of vaccination done. If the breeder, or owner of the queen is not able to provide the record, but swears to god the kittens are vaccinated, don’t trust him. Vets DO NOT vaccinate pets without filling the vaccination record. If the breeder is not providing it to you, you may as well assume the kitten is not vaccinated, and will die from an infectious disease.
- How was the kitten fed? Kitten must be able to eat solid food at the age of rehoming, and the nursing must have been ended completely. Also, ask of the type and the brand of the food and feeding schedule. If possible, at least initially, feed the same food type and brand (some breeders may give a small amount of it with the kitten), and keep the same feeding schedule. Moving to a new house is a large stress for a kitten, and there’s no need to add to it by breaking his eating habits. Later on, you may gradually switch it to your own preferences.
- Is the kitten litter trained? If you plan to keep the kitten indoors, ask a breeder, if the kitten undergo litter training. A serious breeder will answer affirmatively. Ask about the litter box and litter type, as well, and, if possible, get the same yourself, similarly like with the food.
- Contract. If you pay money, you must have a contract with clearly stated how much and when do you pay, when you receive the kitten, when do you receive a pedigree record, whether you must show and breed the kitten, what happens to kitten if at some point you are no longer able to take care of it. In many countries, most of the aspects are regulated by the law. Missing contract, first, may put you at risk being deceived, second, you have no warranties if you have complaints later (even though healthy kitten can not guarantee a healthy adult cat), third, the breeder may potentially be avoiding taxes.
If you think you found a perfect match for yourself, don’t rush. You are not obligated to take the kitten home the same day you visit him at home. No matter how cute he is, or how hard the breeder insists that, if you don’t take him now, someone else will pick him tomorrow. If that is true, why the breeder is so worried?
Give some time to your brain and heart after visiting kittens. Allow them to chew what they saw. Check whether your house is ready, can you get the same food brand the kitten was fed, talk to your vet (if you don’t have one, it’s a good moment to find it and even appoint an initial visit), other family members.
Visit several more litters, it’s easier if you have a comparison, then what you read above will not be as important to you, and you will be already able to tell what is normal, and what is not by yourself. Also, it will help to determine which one seems more reliable to you. Reading our article about signs of good and bad breeders may be helpful to you.
If few days after visiting a kitten you still have no doubts it’s the best choice, congratulations. You are going to have a new life in your life in a form of well behaving and healthy cat.
However, before your new kitten arrives your home, there are still some homework to do. Read our next article about kitten proofing your home, so your new kitten is safe from any trouble.
This article is a part of series about getting your first cat.