The best time to acquire a kitten is when he is about 12 weeks old. At this
age, kittens are well socialized and are starting to become self-reliant. Good
sources for random-bred kittens are shelters, animal welfare organizations, and
veterinary offices. For a pedigreed cat,
it is best to go to an experienced breeder.
Whether you’re buying a show prospect or adopting a kitten at a shelter,
healthy kittens all have the same attributes. First, examine the kitten
head-on. The nose should be cool and damp, the eyes bright and clear. Nasal or
discharge may indicate respiratory infection. A prominent third
eyelid indicates a chronic eye ailment or poor health.
Cats are supreme tree-climbing hunters, with strongly muscled backs and hindquarters that give them tremendous power to jump-either horizontally or vertically. It’s normal for cats to jump and climb to high places as they explore their environment. They have sharp, protractile (extendable) claws that serve as useful crampons for climbing.
The eyes should look straight ahead. A cross-eyed look is undesirable. This
occurs most often in the Siamese breed. A kitten with a blue iris and a white
coat has the potential for congenital deafness (although not all white,
blue-eyed cats are deaf).
The ears should be clean and sweet smelling. A dark brown, waxy discharge in
the ear canals indicates ear mites. Their presence does
not necessarily disqualify a kitten, but it does tell you something about the
way the kittens are being kept.
A swollen stomach indicates poor feeding or possibly worms. A bulge at the navel is
most likely an umbilical hernia. The skin around the anus and vulva should be
clean and healthy looking. Redness, discharge, and hair
loss indicate infection, chronic diarrhea, or worms.
The coat should be fluffy, glossy, and free of mats. Moth-eaten bare areas
are characteristic of ringworm and mange.
Next, examine the kitten for structure and soundness. The legs should be
straight and well formed, the feet cupped, and the toes well arched. The kitten
should be able to jump and pounce with ease. It is abnormal for a kitten to
limp, stumble, sway, or exhibit uncoordinated movement when reaching with his
Kittens at 10 weeks should weigh about 2 pounds (907 g). A thin, bony,
underweight kitten is not desirable; nor is one who is overly fat.
These 4-week-old kittens are learning to interact successfully with members
of their own species. Kittens removed from their mother and littermates too
early lack crucial social skills.