Can you choose a great kitten who will be the excellent companion you’ve always wanted? I think you can if you follow an objective method. That’s easier said than done, we cat lovers being such fools for a cute face. Trusting fate can work OK but you’ll want to avoid the cat who could make your life a living heck (or worse).
What’s best for cat parents is important but the wellbeing of the pet matters too. Cats need forever homes. Each year 25% of them get permanently rejected. Only one third of them live with the same people their entire lives. It’s usually not because the cats were bad; most often the person who adopted them made a hasty choice. The wrong fit can lead to a stressful life and unhealthy behaviors, sort of like bad human-human relationships.
Early kittenhood socialization lasts a lifetime. Between ages 3 and 9 weeks these youngsters’ brains allow them to become accustomed to any species that shares their lives. If that window is missed the result may be a cat who responds in socially inappropriate ways. Those who are handled roughly are more prone to biting and scratching when they’re petted. If a kitten had a lot of gentle affection from different humans as a youngster he or she will likely be a relaxed and friendly pet.
You and your prospective feline partner will benefit greatly if you take the lead before you take the plunge. Keep your emotions in check while patiently temperament testing the candidates. Sit quietly and observe. Those babies will tell you nearly everything you need to know if you watch and wait. Leave your children and the nervous kitten momma and litter owner some other place.
Watch the politics being played out in front of you. Is there a pushy kid who’s in charge of everybody? You don’t want this tough guy (or gal); they may be less amenable to healthy bonding. Is there a runt? We all feel sorry for this underdog (undercat?). But think twice about the little one. Tune in next week for more of the behavioral science on how to pick your great kitty.
Each week Dr. Jeff Nichol makes a short video or podcast to help bring out the best in pets. Sign up at no charge at drjeffnichol.com. Dr. Nichol treats behavior disorders at the Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Centers in Albuquerque and Santa Fe (505-792-5131). You can post pet behavioral or physical questions at facebook.com/drjeffnichol or by US Post to 4000 Montgomery Blvd. NE, Albuq, NM 87109.