Thursday, December 30, 2010

Choosing a Kitten

Finding the right kitten for you and your family is not simply a matter of walking into the nearest pet shop and picking the cutest one. At least, it shouldn’t be. No two kittens are alike, so you have to take into consideration the needs of the individual kitten, and whether or not those needs are compatible with you and your existing life.

You have to first decide if you’d like to adopt a kitten or purchase a purebred. Read about the characteristics of each breed so you know what to expect, but don’t discount the mixed breeds to be found at your local animal shelter. If you do choose a purebred, research the breeder carefully.

Though cats have a reputation for aloofness, they are in truth loving and affectionate, not to mention amusing. They are also clean and very self-sufficient. Most cats are more than happy to lounge in the sun all day waiting for you to return home from work. They are also supremely adaptable, and can, in general, fit into the busy schedules of the modern-day family. However, just because they can be left at home for hours at a time doesn’t mean they should be. Ideally, you should be able to spend at least a few hours a day with your new friend.

Kittens, just like people, come in many different personalities. There are kittens who are painfully shy, kittens who are clowns, and kittens who want nothing more than to sit on your lap all evening. When choosing a kitten, you should observe it closely. Watch how it plays with its littermates. A kitten who is right in the middle of the fun, bounding and tumbling with the others, is likely in good health and developing as any kitten should. The kitten who hangs back and watches might be feeling ill, or it might have the kind of personality that requires a little more patience and nurturing from its new family.

It’s a good idea to wiggle a couple fingers in front of a kitten, or dangle a toy or piece of string just about its head. Does the kitten scamper over to investigate, or does it back away? A confident, happy kitten will be eager to examine anything new. A kitten who is nervous or timid will not.

If you have other pets or children at home, the curious kitten is a better choice. This kitten will adjust more quickly and be more likely to get along with the other family members. The timid kitten will likely hide under the nearest sofa, stressing everyone involved.

Regardless of temperament, the only suitable kitten is a healthy kitten. Observe the health and general demeanor of the kitten. Are its eyes bright, shiny, and clear? Does the kitten follow the toy that was waved in front of him? Is the nose cool and slightly damp? Is the tail area clean? Are the gums a nice, healthy pink and free of inflammation?

Avoid any kitten with a dry, warm nose, as this is probably a sign of poor health. Likewise for teary eyes. Inflamed gums may indicate gingivitis, and pale gums are never a good thing. Dirt or wetness around the tail may signify diarrhea, and this could easily herald ill health.

Check the ears carefully. They should be clean and free of any dirt or wax. The body of any healthy kitten should be soft and smooth. Maybe the kitten will be slightly lean, but it should not be skinny. If you see any bald patches, scabs, or scratches, the kitten may have ringworm. Flea dirt always means fleas.

Even if the kitten appears healthy, you should get a health guarantee. Take the kitten to the vet within five business days. The veterinarian will examine the kitten in detail, checking its temperature, weighing the kitten, and hopefully testing for worms, leukemia, and any other diseases. If the vet discovers anything serious, you should take the kitten back.

In general, kittens should not be separated from their mothers until they are at least ten weeks of age, and preferably closer to twelve weeks. This ensures they’ve been properly weaned and have begun to make the transition from dependent kitten to independent cat. Kittens which are younger than this are still just babies, and babies, no matter how cute, still need their mother. If it is at all possible, wait until the kitten is ten to twelve weeks old before bringing it home.

A cat can easily live for fourteen years, perhaps even longer. They are a commitment, requiring years of love, attention, food and veterinary care. If you can commit to this, you might be ready to choose your kitten.

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