Selecting a Healthy Kitten

About 12 weeks is the most ideal age to purchase a new kitten—it is at this age that he should be properly socialized and becoming a bit independent. Before you bring home that little ball of fluff, though, it’s important to check for other aspects of his health to save you money and trouble in the long run. Your Portland veterinarian discusses choosing a healthy kitten below.

Body and Head

Examine the kitten’s head and body. The eyes should be clear and bright, the nose cool and damp, and the ears clean. A lot of brown waxy gunk in the ears probably indicates ear mites. Also take note of the kitten’s coat—it should be glossy, smooth, and not have any tangles or burrs. Bald patches or thin spots could be signs of disease or improper nutrition.


Watch the kitten move for a while and try to determine if it has a sound bone and muscle structure. If the kitten is young, at about 10 or 12 weeks, it should weight about 2 pounds. Make sure the kitten isn’t overly fat or underweight. Also look at the limbs to make sure they seem straight—the kitten should be able to run around and pounce quickly. It’s a red flag if a kitten is limping, swaying, or walking abnormally.


Personality and temperament is another key factor when selecting a new kitten. Just as with medical issues, a behavior issue can likely be costly and time-consuming to correct. Interact with the kitten you’re considering. Does he seem eager for attention and affection? Does he relax when you hold him? Make sure the kitten wants to play—hold a piece of string or any other makeshift toy you may have and see if he goes after it. Any well-socialized, healthy kitten will want attention and want to play.

A kitten who seems to shy away from other cats or people may have socialization issues, or have a health problem. You shouldn’t necessarily rule out that animal, but be aware that it may take more time and money to have a well-socialized cat.

Call your Portland veterinarian to discuss the ins-and-outs of choosing a kitten for your family.


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