Buying a kitten or cat
Buying a kitten or cat is a big decision and you will need to make sure that you’ve thought about whether you have the time and energy to settle them into your family.
Blue Cross rehomes unwanted and abandoned pets, including cats and kittens, every year, so we would always encourage anyone looking to add a cat of any age to their family to visit a rehoming centre first.
But we know many people buy a cat for many different reasons, so we’ve put together a top guide to help you avoid common pitfalls and make the best decision for your family.
Things to think about before buying a cat
Firstly, you’ll need to think about whether owning a cat is right for you.
- Does everyone in your home want a cat? If one person has serious doubts, please talk about this with each other first before diving in to cat ownership. Owning a kitten or cat can be hard work. If you can’t resolve the issue, right now probably isn’t the best time.
- Will your cat have access to a garden? Cats love adventure and exploring the outdoors, so being cooped up in a flat with no access to a garden isn’t ideal. Although cats can live an indoor-only life, they will need lots of activities to prevent boredom setting in. An indoor cat will need you to play with them at least 2 to 3 times a day and provide lots of enrichment, such as climbing areas and scratching posts.
- Is the area you live in safe for your cat to be outside? Having a garden for your cat is vital, but most cats like to explore beyond their own garden. If you have a busy road right by your house you will need to think about whether this is safe for your cat. If you do have a busy road by you and are still set on getting a cat, be sure to take extra safety measures, like keeping your cat in at night.
- Can you afford a cat? Cats need to eat, they will need to visit a vet if they become sick or injured and for annual check-ups and vaccinations. So we highly recommend getting pet insurance for your cat, they’ll also need to be cared for if you go away, they need toys to keep them mentally stimulated, a collar and a tag. The costs of cat ownership add up, so do your sums.
Rehoming a kitten
Rehoming centres are a good place to start your search for a new kitten or cat. We make sure our pets are well looked after and match them with the right family for their personality when the time comes to find them a new home.
Blue Cross pets come with:
- a full vet check
- lifetime behavioural support
- one month free pet insurance
How to spot a good cat breeder
From 6 April 2020 it will be illegal to sell a puppy or kitten under six months old that you haven’t bred yourself. This doesn’t apply to animal rehoming charities, like Blue Cross, who will continue to be there for animals who need us.
If you decide that you are looking for a particular breed/pedigree cat, there are things that you will need to look out for when choosing a breeder.
- give lots of information and have photos of the litter in an advert for selling kittens
- have a waiting list for kittens
- encourage you to meet your kitten several times before taking them home
- have a clean and safe area in their home for kittens and their mum
- be happy for you to meet the kitten’s mother
- make sure kittens and their mum are happy in the environment they are in with adequate space for mum to have peace and quiet if she needs it
- only let you take the kitten home when they’re old enough to leave mum, at least eight weeks old
- tell you about the socialisation they’ve been doing, eg meeting other animals, introducing them to different sounds within the household
- have their kittens vaccinated and wormed with a general health check before going to their new homes
- be registered with GCCF or Felis Britannica if you are looking for a pedigree kitten
Things to look out for when visiting and picking up your kitten to take them home
- Bright eyes. No weeping or discharge.
- Clean nose. No discharge or sign of sores.
- Shiny and clean coat, with no sign of flea dirt. They shouldn’t smell bad.
- Clean teeth
- Clean ears. No redness, discharge or dirty, thick wax.
- Clean bottom. No sign of diarrhoea or worms.
- Neither skinny, with the bones visible or easy to feel, or too fat
- Happy and playful kitten that’s not lethargic or seems depressed
Meeting your kitten
- You should see the kitten with their littermates and their mother at least twice before you take your pet home
- Watch mum and kittens interacting together to make sure they are happy. If they don’t appear happy, or if you’re not allowed to see the litter with mum, walk away.
- Is the mum a happy relaxed cat, not fearful, and comfortable in the presence of people? Parental influences have a big effect on future character.
- Pick up and play with the kitten. This is great socialisation.
- Taking your children with you the first time you meet a kitten will make it harder to say no if it's not the right fit. We recommend taking your children on the second meet, once you've committed.
Kitten vs adult cat: Would an older cat suit you better?
Adding an adult cat to the family will suit some people better than taking on a kitten. If you’re not happy with a little chaos in your life, then a kitten probably isn’t right for you.
In fact, if you’re completely new to cat ownership, an adult cat may give you the best introduction.
Young kittens can’t be left alone for a whole day because they need socialisation so, for working families, an older cat might be a better choice.
Adult cats’ personalities are already formed and, depending on their age, older cats will be out of the crazy kitten phase.
That’s not to say that all adults cats will fit into your home life immediately with no issues, but the benefit of rehoming an older cat from a rescue organisation like Blue Cross is that experienced people who have assessed the cat can give you a much clearer idea of your pet’s personality and the type of home that would suit them best.
We will also give you top advice on how your cat may react in certain situations which will help you in managing your day-to-day cat ownership. Plus, you’ll be giving a much-needed home to an unwanted pet.
What type of cat should I get?
Choosing a cat is an exciting time for a family. When considering which cat you would like, you may think about the differences between getting a pedigree cat versus a moggy and which is most likely to suit your lifestyle.
What is a moggy cat?
The term ‘moggy’ is slang for a non-pedigree cat. These are the most common cats that you’ll see around the UK and can easily be found at rehoming centres.
Moggies, in general, tend to have less health issues than pedigree cats.
What is a pedigree cat?
Pedigree cats are bred to look a certain way. Some are bred for their personality traits and others for the way they look.
Mating cats of the same breed means that the genetic pool is small. This can increase the risk of the cat having health problems. This isn’t helped by breeding cats that look cute because of a disability, such as short legs, or flat faces.
Common issues with pedigree cats:
- Persian: Brachycephalic cats (short-nosed breeds) struggle to breathe and sometimes need medical help from a vet to widen their airways. These felines also need daily grooming to keep their long coat free of tangles - something they can’t do themselves.
- Burmese: Higher chance of diabetes, low levels of blood potassium causing muscle weakness and some have problems with the head and brain development
- Bengal: Can be prone to suffer with a lack of pyruvate kinase, which is something in the red blood cells that produces the energy they need to survive. This then causes anaemia. Getting a Bengal is not a good idea if you live in an area with lots of other cats.
- Munchkin: Short legs may look cute, but the characteristics of the munchkin cat cause them pain and makes it harder for them to do things that other cats find easy, like jumping from one place to another
- Siamese: Asthma, lymphoma between the lungs and in the chest, cross-eyed and tumours in the small intestines
- Scottish fold: Given their name because of the way their ears fold over, this breed have been created to look cute. The reality is that they have been born with a flaw which affects the development of their cartilage. This extends to their bone cartilage, so their bones don’t develop properly and leads to very painful arthritis.
- Sphynx: Being hairless means these cats need extra attention when it comes to daily care, needing a bath to reduce the oil build-up on their skin. They also need sun protection in the heat and don’t do well in cold weather either.
- Ragdoll: This breed can be born with a gene that leads to heart disease and can cause heart failure. They are also more at risk of kidney disease.
Like dogs, cats can suffer from genetic diseases that can be passed on from parents to offspring. In some cases tests are available to detect these diseases, so it’s worth asking the breeder if they have had the kittens checked by a vet.
Do cats need company?
Cats have very different social needs compared to dogs and people. Although they are capable of forming friendships with their own kind, they are unlikely to feel the need for a companion and are often happy being the only cat in the home. This is not to say that they can’t get along with other cats – as long as there is no competition for important resources such as food, litter trays or sleeping areas, then many cats can learn to accept each other peacefully and some will even form close bonds.
How you introduce a new cat or kitten into your home can, however, make a big difference.
How long do cats live?
Cats may not really have nine lives, but factors such as diet, healthcare and environment can have an impact on how long a cat can live. Neutered cats tend to live longer because neutering prevents reproductive diseases and neutered cats are less likely to roam.
While dependent on many things, some domestic cats can live to up to 20 years old. During their life they will go through key life stages which may help owners understand certain health/behavioural problems that could arise and things to keep an eye on.