Cute, Gorgeous, Cuddly! - Kittens are all those things but they grow up and are a significant and long term commitment that demand time, attention, money and veterinary care. So while cute photos of kittens on the internet are tempting, make sure you understand the commitment you and your family are undertaking before jumping in paws first! Better yet, why not foster a kitten or cat for a few weeks? The DSPCA renewed their appeal for Christmas fosters here. If you are outside Dublin, check out your local animal shelters. Whether you decide to foster or adopt, here are some great points to consider.
If you have young kids or dogs in the house, you may wonder if bringing a new fluffy little friend into the house is a good idea? In fact, most cats will integrate perfectly but there are a few things you should be on the lookout for when choosing your cat to ensure they gel well with everyone in the household. Some breeds of cat can be nervous or skittish and easily upset by sudden and continuing loud noises so do some research online about different cat breeds.
Most cats, if socialised from a young age, and your children understand to be gentle around them, should fit in in no time. If there are dogs already in the house, care may need to be taken with introducing the kitten and there are lots of videos on YouTube with advice on how to go about it. Lots of dogs and cats become best buddies and even curl up and snooze together!
There are certainly benefits to both styles of cat ownership, so both must be considered when deciding how your cat should spend its time. Some breeds are much more suited to being indoors while some like nothing more than to have the freedom of the outdoors.
Indoor cats are more likely to lead a less physically taxing and demanding life, and do not have to cope with the sometimes stressful urban environment which can make them feel that their territory is under threat. Indeed, indoor cats tend to live longer than outdoor cats. However if you do opt to keep your cat indoors, it is essential to ensure your cat has enough stimulation so they don't get bored when occupying the same space all the time. You need to provide plenty of opportunities for them to run, jump, climb and play. You also need to think about how you will ensure they remain indoors - will the kids leave the back door open? - can they get out through windows?!
On the other hand, outdoor cats have much more opportunity to express their natural behaviours in hunting and exploring. Instinctive behaviours like this should be considered properly, as they are a natural part of a cat being a cat. Outdoor cats can experience more stress than indoor cats, and if the feline population of your area is particularly dense, it is likely they will not get along with every other cat or animal with which they cross paths. The risk of injury towards your cat depends on their environment. If your house is located on a busy road, then there is a higher risk of your cat being struck by a car. Owners who live in the countryside may not have to worry about cars, but should be aware of larger predators, such as foxes or birds of prey posing a risk to their cats.
There are a number of ways to find the perfect kitten for your home. One option is to consider a 'rescue' kitten or cat from an animal shelter such as the ISPCA, DSPCA or Phibsboro Cat Rescue. Many cats or kittens from shelters will be vaccinated, neutered, treated for worms and fleas and litter trained. They will usually only seek a very small fee or donation. Contrary to popular belief, most rescue cats are exceedingly normal! There tends to be a perception that rescues can be nervous and aggressive, and although that is often the case with animals who have seen abuse in their past, the vast majority of cats rescued from shelters are well mannered and adjusted cats!
There are also many free/low cost kittens available from private cat owners online who are just looking for homes for 'unexpected' kittens. If you opt for one of these, make sure to take your new kitty to a vet for a checkup as soon as you can to ensure that the kitten is healthy and that their vaccines are administered.
Another option is through a private cat breeder. If you have your sights set on a particular breed of cat such as a Persian or Bengal, you may find that a private breeder is the only option to source the kitten you want. These kittens can be very expensive so it is important to do your research to ensure that they are a proper breeder and that you will receive papers outlining the lineage of your kitten. Make sure that you see the home/conditions where the kitten was raised and try to meet the mother and father of your kitten. The breeder should also be able to provide medical records of your cats vaccinations and health checks.
When cats play, they are practicing natural behaviours, and receiving visual and physical stimulation that helps them develop. It is particularly important for a kitten's development and socialisation to play with them regularly, in short intervals of 10-15 minutes a few times each day.
All cats love to play, but it is particularly important, as mentioned earlier in this article, that 'indoor cats' have plenty to occupy them with lots of opportunities to run, jump, climb and play.
There are plenty of toys which will allow your cat to play when you are not around like climbing toys, chasing and running toys, and treat based toys, all of which can be a great way to keep your kitten active!