Where Should I Get My New Cat?
If you do decide that a cat is right for your lifestyle, the next consideration is where you might get your cat from.
If you do decide you definitely want a cat, the next consideration is where you might get your cat from. While your mind might immediately think of breeders, don’t forget that rescue centres can also many kittens and older cats that need homes. Often the number of kittens in rescue centres is much lower than adult cats and kittens tend to get rehomed quickly. If you rescuing a kitten is something you would consider, it may be worth contacting your local shelters. Even if they don’t currently have any kittens in, they may have a waiting list you can be put on. Don’t forget those adult cats that need a new home too, they can be a fantastic addition to a home – a visit can’t hurt!
Rescue vs Breeder
Online rehoming can be a minefield. Although some lovely and well-cared for kittens are sold through website sellers, many come from cats that are bred in poor conditions, or pushed to have early and multiple litters which can cause health problems. These adult cats may also be discarded or sold when they are no longer good for breeding or become poorly. Both kittens and adult cats homed online may have a higher chance of being unwell or sickly.
If you are looking for a pedigree online you may also find that cats are being passed off as a certain breed, when they are actually not pedigreed animals. There is less regulation around pedigree cats than pedigree dogs, which can make managing this difficult. If you are looking online here are some top tops about what to watch out for:
- ‘Pedigree’ kittens or cats being sold without any paperwork. No paperwork, especially for ‘pedigree’ pets, should be a red flag. Although pedigrees are less regulated in cats than dogs, good breeders should be registering their cats and kittens. Although registration with a pedigree association is no guarantee of health, it does provide some reassurance that breeder is committed. Don’t forget though, paperwork can be forged. If you aren’t sure, always contact whoever allegedly issued the paperwork, to make sure it is legitimate. Photocopied or handwritten documentation is unlikely to be above board.
- Kittens that have been recently bathed, or have soiling or staining on their coat. Cats are very meticulous animals, and will go to great lengths to keep themselves and their kittens clean. A soiled or matted coat, or evidence of having to be bathed, can indicate poor normal living conditions, even if the room you view them in is clean.
- Kittens being handed over in a neutral location, such as a car park or petrol station. This should make you suspicious about the conditions the cats are being kept in at home.
- The breeder can’t answer your questions. Good breeders live and breathe their cats and will be able to answer everything you want to know about the specific cats, the breed itself, and this particular litter. If the breeder can’t do that, this should raise concerns.
- The breeder isn’t interested in you. Good breeders want their kittens to go to the right home, so will generally ask a whole raft of questions. If a breeder seems more concerned about selling you a kitten, rather than making sure the kitten is right for you, walk away.
- The kitten either seems very cheap, or very expensive, or the seller seems to have lots of ‘discounted’ kittens or cats.
- ‘Pedigree’ cats that don’t look right. Either through ignorance (such as the belief that ‘large fluffy cats are Maine Coons’) or sadly through wilful deception, sellers can mislead buyers into purchasing a ‘pedigree’ cat that actually isn’t a pedigree at all. If you don’t think the cat you are viewing looks like the breed advertised, try someone or somewhere else.
If you do find yourself in a situation where you are dealing with someone you feel is an unscrupulous breeder it can be difficult to walk away. Many people say they felt compelled to ‘rescue’ a kitten, or that they didn’t feel comfortable leaving.
Although it can be difficult, especially to leave a kitten behind, it is the best action in the long run if you do not think the breeder is legitimate. Kittens born in poor conditions are often chronically ill throughout their lives or have difficult behavioural problems. Purchasing from these people or places also funds and supports the industry, meaning more kittens will be raised in this way. If you take one home, rest assured there will be another one to fill their place.
A quick internet search will usually reveal lots of adoption centre options in your area, and further afield. While most are great, it is important to make sure you are happy that the cats there are being well looked after – cats should have clean pens, somewhere high to sit on, shelter and have access to fresh water and food.
A good rescue centre will know about the cats in their care, and will also ask you lots of questions too. Don’t be surprised if you feel a little quizzed! You may also be required to have a home visit from staff at the rehoming facility. Be patient. All rehoming centres will have experience of failed rehoming, and this is hugely disappointing to all parties, not least the cat or cats involved. Everyone wants what is best for the cats, and this involves finding them the most suitable home environment. Getting the right cat for your home will also benefit you too!
Good rescue centres will also usually microchip, vaccinate, neuter and provide initial flea and worm treatments for cats in their care. This can save you money, as although rescue centres usually charge a rehoming fee, it is often less than the sum total of getting these procedures done.
You may also find that cats up for rehoming are being housed with foster families. A stable and loving foster family is great for the cats, as it gives them a less stressful atmosphere, as well as giving you the chance to visit them in a home environment.
If you aren’t sure about your local rescue centre options, your vet may be able to advise you of any they have worked with, or you can have a look at the charity Support Adoption, which has a list to explore. Here at Vets4Pets we also work closely with Battersea, who have amazingly re-homed over three million pets! Cats Protection League, and smaller charities such as the Cinnamon Trust can also be great start points. As part of our work with Battersea, every cat or dog rehomed from Battersea goes home with a completely free Vac4Life package, helping their new owners give them the very best health care.
If you want to get a kitten from a breeder remember that there are plenty of breeders available. This means you don’t have to get a kitten from the first breeder you speak to – in fact, speaking to several breeders before you even start looking at kittens can give you a good idea of what you are looking for and the range of breeders that are out there. Choosing your breeder should be like an interview process, and just like an interview, the process should be two-way.
You should expect a breeder to be:
- Open and easily contactable
- Have a good knowledge of the breed and be able to answer all your questions
- Happy to provide references from people who have purchased kittens from them in the past
- Only selling one breed of cat, except in unusual circumstances
- Happy to provide information on how long they have been breeding and their queen’s/tom’s history
- Breeding from their queens only once they are 18 months - two years old, only using healthy queens and not breeding from a queen too frequently
- Interested in you and your home environment
- Happy to take back a kitten if there is a need, and available to provide support and advice once a kitten has been rehomed
- Happy to provide or sign any appropriate documentation you require (more information on ‘kitten paperwork’ is available later in this article)
- Unwilling to let kittens go to new homes too young – while there is debate about the correct time for kittens to move to a new home, many breeders will keep kittens until they have had their second vaccinations at 12-13 weeks.
- Right for you. No-one can put a price on intuition. If for any reason you have doubts about a breeder, move on and meet another.
- Happy to answer all your questions about the kitten and his/her parentage, and happy to let you meet the kitten’s parents and siblings – a list of what to ask your breeder is included next.
Selecting a breeder is important, as they will have a huge impact on your kitten’s start in life, from their genetics, to their personal and physical development and vet care. A good breeder will make you feel part of the family. Again, if you have any doubts at all, it’s better to move on.
Finding a breeder that you trust is only half the battle – you still need to make sure that the kittens in the litter that you are looking at will meet the needs of you and your family, and have the best chance of being both happy and healthy.
A good breeder will expect you to come armed with questions – don’t be afraid to ask! Having lots of questions shows you care and, as most breeders want the best homes for their kittens, this will actually endear you to them rather than being seen as irritating or annoying. If you do feel that your questions are being brushed off or you are being seen as pushy, it might be time to look for a different litter to pick from.
Questions to ask include:
- In what environment are the kittens being raised? The busier the household and the more interaction they receive the most socialised a kitten will be. Even if you don’t have children or other pets at home yourself, having a cat that is open to both of these will make your life easier in the long run, and getting a kitten from an active household can really help with this. This is especially important for kittens, as their world view is generally quite fixed from seven weeks old, so these early experiences will have a huge impact on their adult personality.
- Have the parents been tested for any genetic health problems in the breed? Some breeds are predisposed to diseases which can be tested for. For ‘at risk’ breeds, testing can screen parents and provide some indication of the level of risk in any kittens.
- Can I meet the mother? You should always meet the mother of any kitten you choose to bring home – a refusal should ring alarm bells, even if there is a seemingly legitimate excuse. This can help you see how healthy she looks, and promotes responsible breeding and sale of kittens.
- Can I meet the father? You may not be able to – many breeders use stud cats, so he might no longer be on site[LD1], but even if you can’t the breeder should have information about him, including his personality and health, as well as a photo.
- Did you breed the kittens yourself? If not, this begs the question about where the kittens have come from and would be a red flag.
- What vet checks or procedures will be done before I pick up my kitten? Although it is not a legal requirement for kittens to be microchipped, many breeders will make sure this is done before kittens got to their new home. Good breeders will also start worming the kittens and may start flea prevention – sadly, even kittens that have never been outside are at risk from
- Are there any known health problems with the parents or the kittens? Although some of the more common heritable traits can be tested for, others cannot be and it is important to know of any potential health risks for the kittens in the future. Checking the kittens themselves have been healthy and have passed a vet check is also important, as is making sure mum is up-to-date with her flea and worm treatments.
- When can I bring my kitten home? There is some dispute about when kittens can go to their new homes, but most breeders will not let them until they have had their second vaccinations, around 12-13 weeks. It is important that kittens stay with their mothers until they are at least eight weeks old for their development.
- Can I visit several times? Breeders should be happy for you to visit your kitten while they are still with their littermates, to encourage bonding and allow you to ask any more questions you may have.
- What have you been feeding the kittens? Although the choice of long-term diet will be up to you, moving house can be a daunting experience for a kitten. Keeping some things the same, such as diet, will help with familiarity at first, and then you can slowly
- What paperwork do you provide? Although getting a kitten is a hugely emotional experience, it is important to remember it is still a transaction and needs to be supported. You should get paperwork to back up everything your breeder has claimed, as well as a financial receipt. For more information, look at the ‘kitten paperwork’ section later in the article.
- Can I bring the kitten back if it doesn’t work out? A good breeder should always offer to take back a kitten if it doesn’t work out. Part of this should be health – even if your kitten has seen a vet with the breeder, getting them registered at your local vets and popping in for a health check and a chat can help you check that your new addition is definitely right for you.
A rescue organisation will likely have access to much less information than a breeder with regard the kittens or the cat you are interested in. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask, and actually it may be surprising how much information is available.
Questions to consider include:
- What do you know about this cat or kitten? Although history might be limited, any information about their past experiences, such as the type of home they have been in, can give you an insight into their personality. The team at the centre will also have spent time with your possible new addition, and should be happy to talk frankly to you about how they have coped – do they hide away a lot? Are they more confident once they get to know you?
- In what environment are the kittens being raised or is the cat being housed? While life in a rehoming centre, or even at a foster carers, is a far cry from being in a stable and long-term household, rehoming centre volunteers and staff usually make great efforts to socialise cats and kittens as much as possible. This is especially important for young kittens as they are in their socialisation perioduntil seven weeks old, which is a key part of their development.
- Are there any known health problems? While it is, in most cases, not possible or relevant to check parents for genetic disease, any rescue organisation should be able to give you as much medical history as they have for their cats or kittens, including details of any vet visits they have had during their time there.
- Can I meet the mother? If you are getting a kitten from a rescue organisation this may or may not be possible, depending on if the mother is present at the centre or foster home herself. If the mother can be met you should insist on doing so – just like humans, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree!
- What vet checks or procedures will be done before I pick up my kitten or adult cat? Most rescue centres provide great veterinary care for cats and kittens in their care, and your new addition will likely come microchipped and flea and worm treated, as well as vaccinated and neutered if they are old enough. Always make sure you know what vet visits and checks your cat or kitten will have, and get paperwork for these.
- When can I bring my new addition home? Kittens should be at least eight weeks old to leave their mother, so it is important that the centre are happy to keep them until they are at least this age. Depending on policy, kittens may stay longer, sometimes until they are 12-13 weeks old. Rescue centres may also keep cats until they have had all the veterinary procedures and checks required for rehoming by that charity/organisation, and may need to do a home visit first. Agreeing a timeline in advance will help keep everyone on the right track and avoid disappointment.
- What have you been feeding? Although the choice of long-term diet will be up to you, moving house can be a daunting experience for any cat. Keeping some things the same, such as diet, will help with familiarity at first, and then you can slowly change the diet as they settle in.
- What paperwork do you provide? Most rescue centres will provide you with a pack of information on the organisation, your cat’s history, a vet health certificate, microchip information and a vaccination certificate. For more information on paperwork you might receive or want to ask for, have a look at our kitten paperwork section.
- Can I bring him or her back if it doesn’t work out? Sadly, even the best laid plans don’t always work out. It is important to make sure that a rescue centre will take a kitten or adult cat back from you if, for any reason, they don’t fit in at your house.
You may choose to rehome an adult cat from someone who can no longer look after them. While this can be a very kind thing to do, and can save cats from being placed with rehoming charities or even from euthanasia, it is important that each situation is judged carefully. Unscrupulous cat breeders can use rehoming sites to get rid of cats once their breeding life is over, or palm off cats with health problems – these cats can still come with a hefty price tag too!
If you do choose to rehome from someone directly, here are some questions to ask:
- Why are you rehoming your cat? While this can seem like a very personal question, it is important to at least try and find out if the rehoming is due to a change in personal circumstance, or if there is an issue with the cat’s health or behaviour. Don’t forget, you may not always get an honest answer to this question!
- Can I have a copy of your cat’s medical records? Getting a copy of the medical records from their vet can be a good way to see if they are up-to-date on their vaccinations and if they have any health problems or concerns. If the cat isn’t registered with a vet, this is a red flag, as annual visits should be part of standard healthcare.
- How is your cat with other cats/children/cats etc? The better your potential new cat is with a range of situations, the easier you will find them to care for. A good way to get an honest look at this is to ask to see the cat at home – that way you can get a feel for them and how they interact, although cats are notorious for never ‘performing’ when you need them to!
- Can I see their paperwork? Ask to see, and keep if you do rehome, any paperwork including vaccination certificates, microchip details and any pedigree documentation they may have. Do not accept photocopies, and if you are unsure, contact the organisation that issued the paperwork for confirmation.
- How much does your cat cost? Many owners who are forced to rehome their cat are most bothered about finding the right home, and will ask for only a small financial donation, if any. If a cat is being offered with a large price tag, this may raise a red flag about if this owner has the best interests of their cat at heart.
- Can I have a receipt and a contract? Although this is not a business transaction, you may still be handing over money and it is a good idea to get a signed document from both of you that outlines the money that has been exchanged, and what is expected from both parties going forward. Changing the microchip details is also an important part of this handover, as this will register your new cat to you legally. Finally, getting the previous owner to sign to say that the owner details for your cat can be changed with their vet can also make sure you have access to all their records.
As exciting and magical a time as getting a new cat is, it is important to remember that getting a new pet is a transaction, and you need to make sure everything is above board. This means exchanging paperwork which, while not very glamorous, is the best way to protect you and the breeder or rescue organisation if there are any problems.
Here are some of the paperwork items you might want for your new cat:
Heath certificates for parents of your kitten. While this may not be possible for rescued kittens or adult cats, any kittens from a breeder should come with health information on both parents.
Vet check certification for your kitten. Your kitten should have had a vet check before you bring them home. The breeder may have a printout of the notes, or the vet may have written any results of their examination in the vaccination card. However the information is presented, it is important that you have proof your kitten has been fully checked by a vet.
Results of any hereditary diseases tests done on the parents of your kitten. For breeds which are prone to specific problems, both parents can have tests done which can indicate the level of risk in the kitten. If you aren’t sure what the results mean, your vet can help you.
Pedigree certification. If you are buying a pedigree cat make sure you have any available paperwork for them. This shouldn’t be handwritten or photocopied – make sure to get the original. If you have any concerns, you can always check with the registration authority directly. Don’t forget, this isn’t related to their health, just their pedigree status. The Governing Council of the Cat Fancy is the cat equivalent of the Kennel Club, and will issue most pedigrees.
Vaccination certificate. If your kitten has had any vaccinations with the breeder or rescue centre, then they should come with their vaccination certificate. This will contain details of the vaccines they have received and also which vet gave them.
Microchip information. If your kitten has already been microchipped, you will need the microchip details in order to change your kittens registered details from the breeders to your own. Rescue centres will also microchip cats in their care.
Insurance. Many kittens, and some adult cats, come with a short term insurance policy, check with the breeder or rescue centre how long this lasts for.
A receipt. Just like any monetary exchange, it is best to have documentation of the money you have paid, signed by both you and the breeder. If you get a cat from a rescue centre, you should receive a receipt for any fees paid just as you normally would.
An agreement. Anything you agree verbally with the breeder, rescue centre or previous owner should be documented and signed. This includes if they have agreed to take the cat back if there are any problems, and any other commitments either of you have made. Some breeders, for example, insist that you have your pet neutered.
Once you are satisfied with wherever or whoever you are getting your kitten, and are happy that the kittens are healthy, it is time for the fun part – choosing which of the kittens is going to be a part of your family! This is a huge decision; don’t forget, cats live on average 15-17 years, and some have been reported to go well beyond this!
You’ll want to spend at least an hour observing and interacting with the kittens – this will give them time to get used to you, and you’ll get more chance to see all the aspects of their behaviour and interactions. While things like colour might endear you to a specific kitten, don’t forget you have a long time to live together and personality match is by far the most important thing! Don’t let colour put you off either – black cats for example are often found in greater numbers in shelters, and can find it harder to get a home.
Here are some things to keep an eye out for:
- Let the kittens come to you rather than picking up the kittens or approaching them. That way you can see how interested they are in you, and who is the bravest!
- Inquisitive kittens are good. Shy kittens may seem cute, but if they are afraid of human interactions this can be a sign of poor social skills which they will likely take into adulthood.
- Got down! Getting down on the floor can be a good test – confident kittens will likely come and take a look. Hissing or hiding might show poor socialisation.
- Think about your home situation. If you have a busy household, a more confident kitten might thrive better than a shyer individual.
- Play. Using a toy, play with the kittens. Kittens should take an interest in play, and be interested in what you have to offer.