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Five things to consider when choosing your kitten or cat

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Everything you need to know to help you choose your new kitten or cat.

Choosing a new kitten or cat is a big responsibility – after all, you could be sharing your life with your new feline friend for up to twenty years or more. But how do you choose which kitten or cat to bring into your home? Here we provide some handy tips to help you choose.
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1. Consider your circumstances
Cats are wonderfully adaptable, independent creatures, and will fit themselves seamlessly into your life…right? Unfortunately, this isn’t quite true. There are a number of important things to consider before choosing your cat, such as: will she have access to a garden or outside space? Will someone always be at home to keep her company, or will she need to be on her own from time to time? Are there (or will there be) children in the house? How old are they? What about dogs or other pets?

Certain breeds of cat are better suited to being indoor cats, and some don’t like to be left alone. Others get on better with children and toddlers – and even dogs! So it’s worth doing your research to make sure you’re getting a cat that suits your lifestyle and circumstances.

2. Pure breed or mixed breed?
Getting a particular breed of cat – for example a Persian or a Bengal – has certain advantages. You know exactly what the cat will look like, and you get a good deal of insight into what their personality might be, and how they’ll suit your circumstances.

However, cat breeds are often expensive – particularly if you buy them from a breeder. Pure breeds can also be prone to hereditary health problems, which are bad for your cat, and your wallet (insurance is a must!). The good old-fashioned moggy, or mixed breed cat, has the advantage of being both cheap and pretty robust when it comes to health. You also won’t have to travel too far to find one!

3. Cat or kitten?
Kittens are unbelievably cute and great fun to be around; helping them learn to navigate the world is one of the joys of cat ownership. But let’s face it, kittens are basically babies, and consequently need a lot of time, care and attention. If you don’t have that time, then adopting an adult cat who already knows the ropes when it comes to living with humans could be the right choice for you. An adult cat is also a known quantity – the rescue centre or previous owner will be able to tell you a lot about her personality and foibles, helping you decide if you’re a good match. With a kitten, who knows what they’ll grow up like? And while certain breeds do have recognised personality traits, you can never be completely sure how any individual kitten will turn out.

4. Cat rescue centre or breeder?
Cat rescue centres are full of cats and kittens looking for a loving home. There are many advantages to getting a cat or kitten from a rescue centre, not least the warm feeling that comes with being a ‘rescuer’. On a more prosaic level, all cats and kittens from rescue centres will be properly health-checked and treated for parasites, and the staff there will spend time with you to help you find your purr-fect match.

If you have your heart set on a particular breed of kitten, then a breeder might be the best option for you. Unfortunately, not all breeders are responsible, so here’s a handy checklist to help you identify the best options in your area:

  1. Compile a shortlist of breeders near you (or at least not too far!), based on online reviews or – if possible – word-of-mouth recommendations from other owners of your chosen breed
  2. Check that the breeders on the shortlist are registered with the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF) – membership doesn’t guarantee a responsible breeder, but it can help inform your decision
  3. Visit each of the breeders on your shortlist to get a feel for what they’re like. Look out for signs of distress in their cats, a dirty environment and any other potential warning signs
  4. Meet the parents – at the very least you should be able to meet the mother of the litter you’ll be choosing from, so you can see what your kitten might be like as an adult. Ask about both parents’ health and whether they’ve been screened for any hereditary health problems associated with the breed
  5. Talk to them – a good breeder won’t just be trying to sell a kitten; they’ll be trying to find it a good home. So if they don’t ask you any questions, or show any interest in your circumstances, then this might be another red flag

Once you’ve done your research, you will hopefully identify at least one good quality option in your area. Now all you have to do is choose which kitten to give a home to…

5. Listen to your heart!
Whether you go to a cat rescue centre or a breeder, the chances are you’ll have a number of cats or kittens to choose from. No doubt each will be adorable in its own way, but you may find that one in particular steals your heart away, perhaps in the way she looks at you, or because she naturally comes to you for affection. If it’s love at first sight, go with your heart!

But if you’re finding it hard to decide, particularly among a single litter of kittens, then take a closer look at the personalities on display. If one of the kittens is showing signs of aggression, then this may be an indication of how she’ll turn out later in life. Similarly, a shy kitten that won’t make eye contact may always retain these traits. Look for a kitten that’s confident and playful with its litter mates, without being overly rough. And most importantly, look for one who shows interest in interacting with you!

Whichever cat or kitten you choose – congratulations! Bringing a new cat into your home is a joyful, exciting time – your life will never be the same again. And remember that, while a cat makes a wonderful companion, there’s a lot to learn about how to meet her needs and provide her with the best possible environment. Good luck!

Teach your new kitten to use her toilet with our guide to cat litter training.