How to choose a healthy kitten

When you adopt or buy a kitten, you want to pick a good one. Foremost, you want to check if the kitten is healthy. Is it possible to do so without bringing a vet with you? It certainly is, but you have to pay close attention and know what to look for.

a healthy kitten
Photo by Carolina Barría Kemp, cc

Remember, there is no guarantee that a cat will grow up healthy or be a show winner. However, the kitten must be well at the time you bring him home. There is a lot to do when introducing a kitten to his new home and taking him to a hospital is not what you need right now. You also do not need contagious diseases for your existing pets.

ABOVE ALL: Always visit kittens at home. Don’t buy them on the corner of the street, at pet shows, shops, or agree to delivery to your door. You must see the environment where the kitten has been raised. The house must be clean and in any way that we understand as normal.

Check the overall appearance of the kitten

To see if a kitten is healthy, you can apply a technique that vets do at regular checkups. It does not require a medical degree, look at your kitten’s body for healthy appearance:

  • Eyes must be clean, without discharge, and bright, not foggy. Also, check if the eyes are looking straight.
  • Ears must have no specific smell. They will be a little waxy. Brown discharge may indicate to ear mites, and though they are treatable, its an indicator of poor upbringing.
  • The mouth must have no specific smell. Gums must be pink, and teeth should be white with no brownish tartar on them.
  • The nose must have no discharge around it, and its skin must be not be cracked or flaking. Dryness or moisture of the nose, despite a popular belief, doesn’t tell about the health of a cat.
  • Belly must not be swollen. It could indicate to worms or poor diet.
  • The coat must be shiny and fluffy. For bald breeds, the coat must be soft and not flaky. There should be no bare areas patches in between the fur.
  • The perianal area must have clean skin and coat. Avoid bare skin, redness, or discharge. They may indicate infection, diarrhea or worms.
  • Check if the kitten plays with his littermatesLegs of the kitten must be straight; he should walk without problems at the age when kittens are normally taken home (10 – 12 weeks).
  • The behavior must be confident, non-aggressive, and the kitten must not be afraid of people, other cats and pets. Shyness or caution is okay, but the kitten should respond to encouragement to play.

Also, take a quick look at other kittens in the litter and their mom for signs noted above. You should not do this as deep as you do with a kitten you chose, but a quick peek goes a long way.

Things to look for and ask the breeder

We mentioned that you should visit kittens at home and not buy them at the gas station. It lets to check the environment and ask to talk to the breeder more casually.

  • Is the kitten appropriately socialized? Early experience forms adult cats’ behavior. Most importantly, the kitten must have had a positive experience with people. It makes a massive difference whether the kitten grew up in an apartment or caged cattery. Also, if you have a dog, you might want to get a kitten from a home that had dogs, too.
  • Is the kitten vaccinated? Kittens should never change homes without the initial series of vaccinations. Without asking, the breeder should provide you a vaccination record and explain when the next shots are due.
  • How was the kitten fed? The kitten must be able to eat solid food at the age of rehoming and must have stopped nursing. Also, ask what type and brand of feed did the kitten eat. If possible, get the same food at least initially.
  • What about litter training? If you plan to keep the kitten indoors, ask if the kitten knows how to use the box. See the box yourself and ask about the type and brand of litter that is inside them.

If you think you found a perfect match for yourself, don’t rush. Go home and clear your head. You are not under obligation to make a decision right away. We even encourage you to step back and make a decision the next morning.

If you want to get a healthy kitten - do not rush!

We also suggest you visit several more litters. All kittens look cute and perfect at first glance. If you visit several, you will be able to compare and understand what’s normal and what’s not for yourself. You will be more likely to choose a healthy kitten. You will also learn to recognize good a good cat breeder once you see one.

If, after thinking it through, you still have no doubts that this kitten (or even a pair of kittens) is the best for you, congratulations! You are going to have a new life in your life.

Check the whole series about getting and caring for your first cat.
Up Next: How to kitten-proof your home
Previous: Should you get an adult cat or kitten

Scroll to Top