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Choosing the Right Kitten: 3 Things to Know & Look For (Vet Reviewed)

Kristin Hitchcock

By Kristin Hitchcock

Little Neva Masquerade kitten

Vet approved

Dr. Paola Cuevas Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Paola Cuevas

MVZ (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Choosing a new kitten for your home is always exciting. However, it is essential not to rush into the process. After all, you don’t just want a kitten–you want the right kitten for your home and lifestyle.

There is a lot that goes into choosing the right kitten for your family. Not only do you want to choose a suitable breed, but you also want to ensure that you choose a healthy and well-socialized kitten.

Here, we’ve listed some of the most vital factors to consider when bringing a kitten home.

The 3 Things to Know When Choosing a Kitten

1. The Type of Cat

Firstly, you need to decide what sort of cat you want to adopt. There are many cat breeds with their own characteristics and temperaments. Preferably, you want to choose a kitten that matches your needs.

If you’re home much of the day, you can likely adopt a kitten that requires more affection and attention. However, if you have a long workday, you probably want a breed that’s a bit more independent.

Sometimes, you may need a kitten that is good with other cats, dogs, or children. Certain breeds are predisposed to be good with other pets, though socialization does have a significant impact as well.

Many people have a specific temperament in mind. Perhaps you’re looking for an active and playful cat? Or maybe you want one that will spend hours lying in your lap?

However, in many cases, you may just be looking for an average cat. Your priority might be to help a kitten in need of a loving companion. In these cases, you may not need to adopt a cat from a specific breed.

stray kittens near a fence
Image Credit: Büşra Ülker, Pexels

2. Where Will You Adopt

Next, you’ll need to decide where you want to adopt your cat. If you’re adopting a purebred cat, you’ll need to adopt from a breeder in most cases. Usually, purebred kittens cannot be found at rescues or animal shelters. Not only are they rarer than mixed breed cats, but most breeders take back kittens they bred if their owners are unable to keep them. For this reason, they are usually not found at shelters.

With that said, shelters are often much cheaper than a breeder. Adopting a kitten from a shelter often costs between $20 and $100. On the other hand, adopting a kitten from a breeder costs between $500 to $1,000.

When you adopt from a breeder, you’re paying for the kitten’s health care, genetic tests, vaccinations, and other expenses. Raising kittens is not cheap in the least.

Shelters do often provide basic vaccinations and health checks. But they don’t have to care for the mother during birth and usually don’t do genetic testing. Therefore, their cost basis is much lower.

If price is a major factor for you or if your heart is with helping an animal in need, you may decide that adopting from a shelter is the best course of action. Otherwise, be sure that you choose a qualified breeder.

Choosing a Breeder

Often, choosing a shelter or rescue is pretty straightforward. However, choosing a breeder is a bit more complicated. After all, there are some unscrupulous people out there who are simply trying to make a quick buck off of some poor kittens.

Therefore, it is essential that you do your research so that you purchase from a qualified breeder, not someone who simply bred two cats together quickly in an attempt to make some money.

First, you should find breeders in your area who specialize in the kittens you’re looking for. Beware of breeders that have lots of different cat breeds. Typically, most experienced breeders will only breed one or two breeds.

You should then check to see if the breeder is registered at any larger cat organization. While this isn’t necessarily a sign that the kittens are high-quality, it is a sign that the breeder probably isn’t a one-time breeder.

Most organizations do not check out the breeders before they register them. Instead, the breeders only have to promise that they will refrain from doing certain unethical practices (though they usually don’t check).

Second, you should ask the breeder about any genetic testing they perform on their cats. While this isn’t necessary for every breed, those who do perform genetic testing likely have the breed’s health in mind and therefore, produce better kittens.

Of course, you should also see if the kitten is registered. However, this isn’t necessarily a sign that the kitten is high-quality. Registering kittens is often as easy as sending in the necessary paperwork. It isn’t a sign that the cat is high-quality or even purebred.

In the end, a cat with “papers” doesn’t necessarily mean that they will make a better pet.

cat being adopted
Image Credit: Anika Moritz, Shutterstock

3. Visiting the Kitten in Person

While you can do a lot of legwork before even leaving your chair, it is vital to actually visit the kitten before purchasing or adopting them. In many cases, fraud occurs because the adopter didn’t visit the kitten before paying.

Preferably, you should visit the rescue or breeder and see where the kitten was raised. Ask to see the kitten and the mother if possible. Don’t just allow the kitten to be brought out to you. You want to see “in the back,” so to speak.

If the breeder or rescue won’t let you see where the animals are kept, it can be a major warning sign. After all, there is probably a reason they don’t want you in the back.

When you see the kitten, we recommend giving them a quick once-over to ensure that they are healthy. A healthy kitten should be clean and responsive. Preferably, they should not be fearful, though some kittens might be less open to strangers than others.

Check their coat condition. It should be clean and even, without any redness or hairless spots. If it isn’t, you should have a discussion about the kitten’s health with the breeder.

Furthermore, the kitten’s eyes should be bright and wide open, without any dry crusts around them or visible discharge. They shouldn’t be runny or cloudy. Give the ears a quick inspection to ensure that they are clean. Built-up earwax or redness is a bad sign.

hepper cat paw divider


Choosing a new kitten is about as exciting as it gets. However, it is essential to do the necessary research to ensure that your kitten is happy and healthy. Otherwise, you may end up with a sickly kitten–or one that isn’t the breed you were looking for at all.

Adopting from a rescue or shelter is always a cheaper option than a breeder. However, if you do adopt from a breeder, we recommend researching them thoroughly. Be extra cautious of any overly cheap kittens.

Luckily, there are a lot of steps you can take to ensure a breeder is legitimate. For instance, asking to see the facility and checking for registration at cat organizations is always a good place to start. You can also ask for information on parental lines’ genetic testing, which is often a sign that they care about the health and well-being of the kittens and the future of the breed.

Of course, you should also ensure that you’re purchasing a kitten that fits in with your lifestyle and needs. Research breeds and interacting with the kitten will often provide you with information on their temperament.

Featured Image Credit: Antonov Serg, Shutterstock

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