What to look for when buying a kitten
When you buy a kitten you are adding a member to your family — one that will hopefully be with you for many years. Although it may sound clinical you should be doing all you can to ensure that the kitten you select will be what you want and not cause you any heartbreak by becoming ill or dying from preventable problems.
Basically the things you need to consider are:
- The breed characteristics
- The health of the cat
- The individual personality
- The training of the cat
- Guarantees of health
- The breeder
1. Breed Characteristics
You can read all about the characteristics of the Maine Coon on this page.
A very important consideration is the health of your kitten. See this page for more health information
There are 2 facets to this:
- Hereditary diseases
- Diseases acquired since birth
Every breed of cat, and even the domestic moggy has some hereditary disease associated with it. Before buying a Maine Coon kitten you should ask whether the cattery tests for diseases known to be in some Maine Coon lines. Most Maine Coon breeders test for Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM) and Hip Dysplasia (HD). These diseases are found in many other breeds (some of them with much higher incidence) but most of our breeders test for them. Some breeders do additional testing for Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD) which is not thought to be a problem in Maine Coons.
Ask if the parents of the kitten have been tested and at what age. Breeders need to test their breeding cats regularly for Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy. One test does not mean the cat has a good heart, things change over time. Don't be afraid to ask to see documents that prove the cats have been tested. Ask if there have been any adverse test results in the background of the kitten; parents grandparents etc. Don't just take it on face value if you are told that "we test for health problems". Ask which problems and what the results were. Don't assume that because a website discusses health testing that it means their cats are actually tested.
If you are looking at other breeds ask what diseases are found in the breed. Be wary if the answer is “none”. Ask other breeders and do some searching on the internet. There are often email groups you can join to learn more about various breeds.
Feline Aids and Feline Leukaemia are fatal diseases that can be passed on to kittens via the mother. Ask if the cattery is clear of these easily tested diseases. Most breeders will test for these.
Ask if there have been any outbreaks of upper respiratory diseases such as Herpes, Calici and Chlamydia. These cause runny eyes, sneezing and congestion and can affect the kittens long term health.
Corona virus is a virus found in up to 97% of breeding catteries and most rescue shelters. Corona virus is not fatal, but in 5-10% of kittens exposed to the virus it mutates to the fatal, untreatable disease FIP—Feline Infectious Peritonitis. Very few catteries are corona virus free. (Our cattery is tested clear of corona and we maintain an ongoing testing program to ensure we remain corona free)
Giardia and Tritrichomonas are parasites commonly found in groups of animals and can be transmitted to humans. Kittens infected with these parasites in the critical early weeks of life can, in the future develop untreatable, chronic sensitive stomach and irritable bowel.
3. Individual Personality
Within a breed individuals have different personalities. When you visit the kittens you can get an idea of which kitten may suit you but sometimes kittens are overwhelmed at first by strangers. Take the breeders advice, an ethical breeder will try to make sure you get the right kitten for you and your family. See if the breeder has a contract and if they allow you to return the kitten if you find you don't get on with it. A shy kitten can blossom around people once it knows and trusts them.
The kitten should be litter box trained before it goes to its new home. Try to make sure you buy from a cattery that raises the kittens in the home rather than in outdoor runs or cages. House reared kittens usually make more sociable and loving pets.
5. Health Guarantees
Kittens should be sold with contracts so you can see what the breeder guarantees. Some breeders will pay a part of vet bills within a time after purchase and refund or replace the kitten under certain conditions. Read carefully to know what you are covered for. If there is no contract ask for health guarantees to be written down and signed.
6. The breeder
You will get a feel for the breeder, whether they care about the kittens or just want to make a sale. Look for things like the type of food they use, what their contract covers, how they communicate with you as well as what testing they do, how the cats are kept and whether they show. A good breeder will show their cats to ensure they are breeding within the breed standard. Even if it doesn't worry you if your kitten isn't show quality the breeder should have knowledge of what makes up a true to type cat. Visit if you can and ask to see all the cats, not just the kittens. Do they look healthy and well cared for? Are they kept caged in poor conditions? Do they seem lethargic or have obvious signs of illness such as runny eyes or diarrhea.
Good luck in finding a kitten, remember cats are not disposable items. When you buy one it is your responsibility for the rest of its life. Choose carefully now and be prepared to wait for the right kitten.
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