Choosing a kitten

Choosing a pedigree kitten

Personalities will vary from one kitten to another, be it a pedigree or a moggy. However, the main advantage of a pedigree kitten is that you will have a pretty good idea of what his appearance and character will be like. With around 40 different cat breeds to choose from, you should be able to ensure his characteristics will suit you, your home and lifestyle.

If you live in a flat, or do not have a garden, you should consider breeds that would be happy to live indoors. If you think a quiet longhair would be for you, consider whether you would be willing to spend every other day grooming him to keep his coat in good condition.If you fancy an extrovert, however, and members of your family are sensitive to cat hair, a curly coated Rex breed might be a good choice.

Check whether the breed is known for mixing well with children and other pets. Breeds such as the Asians, Burmese and Devon Rex are said to get on well with dogs, while the Ragdoll is known to mix well with children.

Reading up about your chosen breed will also stand you in good stead when you visit the breeder. Some breeds can be prone to certain diseases, so ask the breeder if the kitten’s parents have been screened by a vet. Your Cat magazine is a great starting point for reading up about different breeds and most breeders will be happy to chat to you. To find a reputable breeder check out the relevant cat club websites or visit a cat show. Ask to see the whole litter, with the mother, and ask to meet the father if the breeder owns him. Make sure you receive a pedigree certificate, registration documents and vaccination certificates with your kitten. 

Choosing a reliable kitten breeder

Reports of people being sold pedigrees that turn out to be moggies is not uncommon. As the saying goes, if an offer seems too good to be true it probably is! Reputable breeders would not sell kittens at ‘very low prices’, nor would they ‘advertise’ cats for breeding purposes.

If you buy from an unscrupulous breeder not only could you not be getting the pedigree you’re paying for, it may not be registered as it should be, may develop diseases and may suffer from hereditary weaknesses, which would make it totally unsuitable for breeding.

Once you have chosen your desired breed, your first port of call should be the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF), Felis Britannica or The International Cat Association (TICA) who will be able to put you in touch with the relevant breed club. The club secretary should then be able to give you details of breeders with kittens. Reputable breeders will want to meet their kittens’ new owners and make sure they can offer a suitable home, so don’t be tempted to buy from a pet shop or dealer.

There is no licence required to breed cats and no Kitemark for standards but you have rights under the Sale of Goods Acts 1979, just as you would if you had bought a new car. Cat behaviourist Vicky Halls says: “It states that goods should be of ‘satisfactory quality’ and ‘fit for the purpose’ for which they are sold. If your new kitten falls sick, or worse still dies from a problem that is reasonably preventable and that can be traced back to the breeder, you may have recourse of redress against them. 

“However, thinking that irresponsible breeding can be eradicated by the occasional civil action is unrealistic. The problem can only be addressed by promoting good breeders and best practice, and encouraging people to buy from the right sources. If a prospective owner rejects the bad breeding establishments before they even visit, then the demand for poorly-produced kittens will dwindle — and so will the supply chain.” 

Choosing a pedigree kitten for showing

The breeder will be able to tell you about the potential for his or her kittens. Show quality from a breeder with a proven track record are the most expensive because they are the best examples of the breed and will compete well at shows.

Breeder quality may sell for slightly less. They fail to meet the show standard in some small way but can potentially produce quality offspring. Pet quality are usually the most affordable. They may have a minor flaw making them unsuitable for showing or breeding. They are no less healthy or less desirable to own. Breeders may be happy for a pet quality kitten to be shown as a neuter, as long as it has no major faults and the new owner accepts that it will not necessarily be a winner.

When you enquire about a kitten, be honest about what you are looking for. Don’t try to get a cheaper kitten by asking for a pet, as you may find out later that its kittens are ineligible for registration or that it cannot be shown. Many breeders don’t want their male kittens to be used as studs so will only sell them to be pets or show neuters. 

What paperwork should I receive for my pedigree kitten?

You should receive the following from the breeder: 

  • A written receipt for any deposit you make to secure the sale 
  • Registration/transfer slip, which you and the breeder complete 
  • If GCCF registered, a copy of the Code of Ethics
  • Vaccination certificate 
  • Insurance certificate 
  • Diet sheet with any care and dietary requirements 
  • Receipt for payment in full
  • Some breeders may ask you to sign an agreement that if you have to part with the kitten in the future, you will contact them first.

Your pedigree kitten should: 

  • Be seen in their home environment with mum and the rest of the litter. They should look clean and healthy. Male cats from other breeders are often used so don’t be suspicious if dad isn’t around Have been reared inside the breeder’s home with constant attention and be well socialized and friendly. Kittens kept outside in a cattery may find it difficult to adapt to a normal household environment 
  • Have a temperament that suits your lifestyle. If you are away from home during the day you may like to consider having two for company 
  • Be aged 13 weeks or over when you collect him 
  • Be vaccinated against FIE (feline infectious enteritis) and cat ‘flu at least a week before he leaves the breeder. You should receive a certificate of vaccination signed by a vet 
  • Have been wormed 
  • A few breeders will have their pet quality kittens neutered before they sell them — otherwise, he should be neutered at around four to six months of age.
  • Be used to being groomed and generally being handled
  • Be free of the feline leukaemia virus (FeLV) and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV). Responsible breeders will have had their cats tested for these diseases 
  • Be registered with one of the registration bodies (ie GCCF). This will prove that the kitten’s parents are registered cats 
  • Have a pedigree — a record of his ancestors. It should show the names of the kitten’s parents, grandparents, great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents, together with all their breed numbers and registration numbers. Ask if the kitten is registered or is able to be registered; if either parent is registered on the non-active register with the GCCF for example, the kitten cannot be registered with either organization. This is particularly important if you plan to show or breed from your kitten 
  • Have been screened for hereditary diseases for which the breed is prone, polycystic kidney disease (PKD) for example. Ask to see veterinary certificates by way of proof
  • Be of an acceptable price for that breed. If you are in doubt, double check with the breed club secretary 
  • Be insured to cover any early problems during the stressful moving home period. 

Choosing a rescue kitten

Adopting a cat from a rescue centre is a great way of giving a kitten in need a loving home. Litters are often given up because people can’t cope, which is one of the reasons why animal charities recommend neutering.

When it comes to choosing a charity, there are some key things to look out for:

  • The cats should be relaxed and healthy, although some may be recovering from injury or may be nervous or feral
  • Staff should be well-informed and organised
  • Cats should be housed individually, but in small groups if they came in with other cats. If the facility is dirty and the cats are kept together in large groups, chances are you will get a kitten that is ill or is not used to people
  • Before you make your decision, find out as much as you can about the kitten’s background. Ask staff how often he has been handled; most organisations understand the importance of socialisation. It’s a good idea to choose the one with the best personality — ideally, you want the kitten who shows a little bit of interest in everything rather than the one who is hiding in the corner or who pounces on you straight away.
  • Feral kittens, if given plenty of socialising during their time at a rescue centre, can be successfully adopted into a normal household. Those who remain extremely wary of humans cannot be homed as pets but are ideal for anyone in need of an environmentally-friendly pest control service. Anywhere there is room to roam and rodents to catch, such as stables, farm shops, garden centres, and even golf clubs, could provide a suitable home.
  • You may be willing to take on an ill kitten and help him to recuperate but be prepared for the cost and effort involved
  • Expect the charity to carry out an interview, a home visit and a post-adoption visit to ensure the kitten you choose is going to the right home.

Choosing the right kitten for you

Talk in depth with two or three breeders or rescue homes, to ensure you get the right kitten. He will need your care and protection for the rest of his life, which could be up to 20 years or more, so it’s important you are suitably matched. You’ll need to make sure your new kitten is healthy and will suit your lifestyle, as well as your pocket.

Check that his coat is in good condition and that he has a clean bottom and ears and bright, clean eyes. Be wary if he sneezes or if his nose is runny. He should also be free from fleas and worms.

As for cost, a pedigree kitten will cost from £350 to £900 depending on the breed, whereas a charity will expect a donation to help cover some of the expense incurred in caring for the animal, including vaccination.

Remember, the cost doesn’t stop at purchase — you’ll need to take into consideration food, litter, veterinary and cattery or pet sitter costs, so be realistic and make sure cat ownership is within your budget.

If you don’t have another pet and are likely to leave your kitten alone for more than a few hours a day, it may be kinder to have two for company. However, make sure they will not have to compete for space and that you will be able to provide them with a litter tray each, their own beds, scratch posts, food and water bowls and a choice of hiding places. It’s also best to get them from the same litter if possible, to help ensure compatibility.