December 9, 2013 Updated: December 9, 2013 at 7:30 am
Dear Ms. Kitty,
We've never had a cat, and my daughter, Stephanie, wants a kitten for Christmas. What do we need to know before making this important decision? - Wishing for Whiskers
Kittens are cute, furry balls of love that most likely will grow into wonderful companion cats for years to come. However, kittens also require patience and training, so you need to be sure that you are prepared for both the responsibilities and lifestyle changes this purring creature will bring.
Before heading to your local rescue or shelter and being faced with all of those adoring eyes, take some time to think about the type of kitten that will be the best fit for your household. Do you prefer short hair or will you have time to groom a long-haired breed? Ragdolls and Maine Coons often make more tolerant pets, but you'll have to contend with their hair. Calicos and torties have beautiful colorings, but they can be more demanding than your typical tabbies or blacks. Do some research at cattime.com/cat-breeds.
Please keep in mind that kittens are not puppies. A 12-week-old kitten will be more fragile than her puppy counterpart. So be sure Stephanie is old enough to handle a kitten safely and responsible enough to spend the time needed supervising its play. Accidental scratches or bites can ruin their relationship and can be avoided by proper play training.
Before you bring home a kitten, ask yourself this question: Do I have the time and patience it takes to raise a kitten? Although it is true that kittens take up less time than puppies, you must be able to feed them twice a day (on a regular schedule), scoop their litter box as needed and provide some much-needed playtime before bed. Also, take a close look around your house. If there is something that would pique the interest of or could hurt an infant, it likely will have the same effect on a kitten.
It is best to choose a kitten from a litter raised by a momma cat with lots of opportunities for socialization. Your chance of having a friendly kitten will increase if the parents get along well with people. In selecting a specific kitten, watch how the kittens interact. A kitten should be playful but not too aggressive. Avoid kittens that hide in the corner or appear to be rough with their siblings. And expect some temporary behavior changes (shyness or hiding) when going from the rescue (where they knew everyone) to your home (where you and everything around them is new).
Signs of a healthy kitten are clear eyes and a clean nose and ears. Its gums should be pink with no odor to their breath. Its belly should not protrude unnaturally and the area around its buttocks should be clean with no matting or discoloration. Additionally, its fur should be soft with no signs of dandruff or tiny granules (which could mean parasites).
Adding a kitten to your child's life will mean she benefits from a snuggly, caring friend for years to come. I hope your family finds much happiness.
Do you have question? Email AskingMsKitty@gmail.com and your question might be featured. Albertson co-manages Happy Cats Haven at 1412 S. 21st St. Learn more at happycatshaven.org or call 635-5000.