Finding a cat - What to look for

Checking the health of any cat or kitten purchase can help prevent problems later, and ensures your money goes to the right place

Cat with looking glass

Making sure the cat(s) or kitten(s) you take home are healthy and well-balanced is of course essential but can also be difficult, especially if you are not a cat expert. Here are some simple things to look for.

Does the seller seem reputable?

Without knowing how breeders operate, it can be awkward to judge, but you should never feel pressured into buying a cat or kitten, and certainly should never buy a kitten because you feel 'sorry' for it.
The list of warning markers below may not on their own indicate a bad breeder, but will give you some idea of what things to look for:
  • Strong smells of urine or faeces may indicate a lack of care
  • Check that litter trays, feeding bowls and bedding is clean and there is access to water
  • Kittens are best raised in the home, be wary if they are not kept in the house
  • Make sure you get to see the mother
  • Pedigree cats should have official documentation
  • A good breeder will be knowledgeable about the breed, including any defects

Does the cat have a vets record card?

Virtually all vets provide a record card with the dates and types of vaccination along with any other treatment the cat has had. If you are getting your new cat from a rescue center it should be up to date, but purchases from individuals are often behind. In either case, it is a good idea to book your new cat into a local vet for a general health checkup. Kittens should be vaccinated by 12 weeks.
Lone kitten looks sickly
Can you identify a healthy cat?, or bring someone who can

Has the cat been spayed or neutered (fixing)?

Also known as fixing, these processes are explained in another article and are required to stop your cat from either having kittens (female), or spraying urine (male). Depending on the breed, a female may be able to reproduce from a very young age so it is best to have a cat spayed at around 4-6 months. Neutering for males can be done at any age, but should be done before 6 months.

Are the kittens ready to leave?

Kittens are normally weaned at about three months, at which point they can eat solid foods and can be removed from the mother. It is very important they are not removed before this time, which is vital for proper health as well as social development.

Healthy kittens

A healthy kitten will be alert, recognise movement in its surroundings, have a clean coat, and be actively interacting with other kittens. Of course, kittens need to rest as well so don't confuse a tired, sleepy kitten with an ill kitten. If a particular kitten seems to be less active, or acting differently, to the rest of the litter then it might be wise to avoid it.

Healthy Adults

Adult cats behave differently to kittens and since cats spend the vast majority of their time sleeping, it is not so easy to recognise any problems. You should try and see an adult cat when it is awake and active so that you can try out some interactions such as playing or petting. As with kittens, you should look for a clean coat, bright eyes, and a responsive nature.

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