Acquiring A New Cat Or Kitten

The decision to introduce a new cat or kitten into your home is a very important commitment, whether you are thinking of having one for the very first time, or maybe considering an additional family pet. Think about how your new addition will fit in with your lifestyle - and despite the image of cats as very solitary animals, many prefer to have a feline companion, especially if you are out at work during the day. Two cats are no more trouble than one, and are more than double the entertainment - although you will need to bear in mind that the costs will be double with food, vaccinations and veterinary care.

You may have decided that you would like a particular breed of pedigree kitten, but have you ever thought about adopting a mature cat of your chosen breed? Sometimes pedigree cats are looking for a new home because their previous owner has died, or perhaps they have moved home and were unable to take their pets with them. If you are not looking for a cat to show or breed with, why not consider giving a fresh start to a slightly older cat? Kittens do not stay as kittens for very long - though many breeds are still very playful throughout their lives. Most breed clubs keep details of cats of their breed needing a new loving home - you can find details of clubs on the website of the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF), and the Club Secretary will be only too pleased to put you in touch with club members who are taking care of such cats until the right home comes along. And breeders sometimes advertise older cats for sale if maybe a particular cat isn't getting on well with some of its housemates, which can sometimes happen with ex-breeding cats after they have been neutered. You may find two cats that have always lived together, which would be ideal if you were hoping to adopt a pair to keep each other company.

If you have decided that you would definitely prefer to have one or two kittens of a particular breed, you will probably find a number advertised - although not always exactly when you want one, and you may have to be prepared to wait a little while. The GCCF recommends that kittens do not go to their new homes until they are at least 13 weeks old, by which time they will have had their full course of vaccinations, as well as being completely weaned and litter trained. Breeders will be very happy to let you visit to see their kittens, ideally with the mother cat, so that you can maybe book one for when they are old enough to leave home. You will probably be asked to pay a small non-refundable deposit (for which you should be given a receipt) so that both you and the breeder have agreed that this kitten is yours! A good breeder will keep you up to date with the progress of your future companion, and will probably send you pictures, as well as being very happy for you to visit again or phone to ask for an update.

You may decide that you would like to adopt a cat or kitten from one of the many cat sanctuaries or adoption centres - these will usually be non-pedigree cats, although occasionally a pedigree is taken in for re-homing. This might represent a harder decision, as you may not know what type of cat you are looking for, or indeed, even if you have an idea, there is no guarantee you will find exactly what you thought you were looking for - but you will almost certainly come across a bundle of fur and affection that would love to come and live with you! At most rescue centres, you will need to have an informal chat with the staff first so that you can see whether the cat you would like to adopt is suitable for you, and you may be asked to have a home visit too. A cat or kitten from an officially regulated cat sanctuary will always be fully vaccinated, wormed and neutered, and you will generally be asked if you will make a contribution towards these costs.

Wherever you choose your new cat or kitten from, there are a few important things to bear in mind:

  • Take your time in deciding the right sort of cat for you, and don't acquire one on impulse. This will be your cat and close companion for many years to come.
  • Always check that they look healthy, with clean ears, nose and eyes (which should also be bright and not sore), and check under the tail to make sure that there are no signs of diarrhoea, which might indicate some other stomach/bowel disorder.
  • Look at the surroundings from which you are getting your new pet - is it clean, does it smell very strongly of faeces or urine, or worse still, can you see any on the floor or anywhere else? You could be introducing problems into your own household, which might transfer to other pets, or your cat or kitten might already have an infection that will be impossible to treat.
  • If you are choosing a cat from a sanctuary, does it seem fairly sociable after a couple of visits? A cat may well be slightly wary of strangers, but any signs of hissing, spitting, attempts to bite or scratch you, or running away, may indicate that this cat will not make a good pet for you.
  • If you answer an advert in the paper or from a website for non-pedigree kittens for sale, make sure that they are properly weaned and old enough to leave their mother. They cannot be vaccinated until 9-10 weeks of age, so if you acquire one at this age you would probably be well advised to keep them separate from your other pets when you get home until you have had chance to get your Vet to check them over - and don't forget to buy pet insurance as soon as possible.
  • If you are buying a pedigree kitten from a breeder, try and buy one that has been reared in the breeder's home, rather than in an outside cattery where it may not have had the opportunity acquire the social skills necessary to live in a human-orientated environment.
  • And NEVER take on a cat or kitten because it looks ill and you feel sorry for it - you could be introducing all kinds of problems and heartbreak for yourself, and both your human and your pet household. It's sometimes a good idea to take a family member or trusted friend with you to look at a potential addition to your home, so that your heart does not run away with your head. If you are not happy with what you find, thank the person you have come to see and say you have not found what you are looking for.

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