Choosing a Kitten From a Litter
If you entered room full of kittens, with their tiny meows and adoring blue eyes, it would be very difficult to choose one over another. All kittens are quite simply adorable. However if you are in the process of looking for and choosing a new kitten, you should only consider taking home a healthy one.
Your heart may go out to the runt of the litter, or the helpless 5 week old kitten abandoned by its mother, but unless you are experienced in the art of cat care, choosing a weak kitten could bring you nothing but heartache over the coming weeks and months.
Ideally a kitten should remain with its mother until the age of 8 weeks. Certainly he or she should not be taken away from their mother’s side before the age of 6 weeks. A kitten is totally dependant on its mother’s milk for the first 4 weeks of its life. This is the best and most natural way for the kitten to gain all the valuable nutrients needed for a healthy adulthood.
From 4 weeks onwards, the kitten may start to take very small amounts of wet and dry kitten food, but it isn’t until the age of 6 – 8 weeks that he or she will be eating independently.
If you can see your new kitten with its mother and siblings before you purchase, you will get an instant overall picture of the state of health of both the mother and her litter. This is a good starting point in assessing how healthy your kitten is generally.
There are, however a number of more specific signs you can and should look out for before you take a kitten home:
• The kitten should be lively, playful and responsive.
• The kitten’s eyes should be bright and clear with no discharge.
• The kitten should respond quickly to sound, even when sleeping. His or her ears should be clean and free of discharge.
• The kitten should have a clean, dry tail with no signs of soreness around the anus.
• Check the kitten is not too thin and that its stomach is not distended or unduly sensitive.
• Check the kitten’s skin for traces of fleas. This can easily be spotted as the kitten will have small black grit like traces along its spine and tummy and around its ears. If the kitten does have fleas, a vet will be able to provide you with the correct treatment for instant administration.
• Check the kitten does not have a runny nose.
• The kitten should be able to pass urine and faeces without pain or effort.
All kittens are sweet little bundles of fluff, but try to see beyond the cute exterior if this is the first time you have owned a kitten. A healthy kitten is more likely to grow into a healthy cat. And generally speaking, a healthy cat will go on to live, and be a valuable member of your family for 15 – 20 years or more.