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Should you get an Adult Cat or a Kitten?
There is absolutely no doubt that kittens are cute and cuddly, and utterly appealing with their big round eyes. If you have children or other pets getting a very young cat or kitten has the advantage that it will be able to adapt quickly to your environment.
Kittens can be very mischeivious and surprising destructive. All kittens seem to have mad half hours, when they will dash around the furniture, up and down the curtains madly for a time until they quieten down again.
Older cats may well have already taken an absolute dislike to dogs, for example, and would not settle in a home where a dog is already resident!
If you adopt an older cat you may find you have to adapt to it, rather than the other way around. If you are tempted to 'rescue' a cat from a sanctuary try and find out why it is there in the first place. Some may have wandered too far from home and could not get home again, some may come from homes which are no longer able to keep them for genuine reasons. But some may have problems which will make them unsuitable as a family pet.
Also try to get an accurate estimate of how old the cat is. An older cat may have expensive health problems.
Young cats and kittens can get up to all sorts - many a Christmas tree has been pulled over (mind you, how is poor kitty to distinguish between a tree with solid roots outside, and a branch in your living room!).
That said, children and kittens usually get along very well together - as long as the child isn't too rough, and can take a lot of delight in the same toys - as long as they have lots of dangly string!
Bringing home your New Cat or Kitten
Before you collect your new pet make sure you have a cat carrying basket to keep it secure when you bring it home. A basket is useful as you will need it for visits to the vet.
Kittens should be at least 8 weeks old before they are separated from their mother. When you bring a kitten home for the first time make sure the house is quiet - and don't invite friends and relatives round to see it until it has had a few days to settle in and find it's way around it's new home.
Check for any hazards around the house - almost as you would for a young child. Make sure you keep an eye on wires hidden behind sofas and curtains as these may be chewed!
Keep children calm around any new cat or kitten otherwise it will become scared and timid. Cats and kittens will soon settle in and become part of the family if treated well from the beginning.
Kittens will need their first vaccination at 9 weeks of age, and the second at 3 months old. It is important that you vaccinate your kitten at these times, and then annually. The vaccinations protect against flu, enteritis and leukaemia - all of which are nasty diseases. If you intend to go on holiday and put your cat into a cattery you will need to have a certificate to prove the vaccinations are up to date.
If you adopt a cat from a rescue then they should be able to tell you if its vaccinations are up to date. If you are unsure ask your vet. You may need to start the whole course again if there is any doubt.
Feeding a new cat or kitten
Especially important for kittens find out what it was being fed before you bring it home. A sudden change of diet can cause nasty stomach upsets, even in an older cat. Special kitten food should be fed at first - this is easily digestable and contains the vitamins and nutrients necessary to give your kitten the best start in life. Kittens should eat little and often. An adult cat can be fed twice a day.
There are many different cat foods on the market at different prices - different flavours and for different types of cat, e.g. Kitten, older cat or cat with particular health problems. You can ask your vet what he recommends, or read reviews on the internet to see what other people recommend, and what would suit your cat and your budget!
Many men in particular are squeamish about neutering, but it really is the most sensible thing you can do for a cat. Neutering is normally performed at around six months of age. Male cats will roam if not neutered, and have a nasty habit of 'spraying' on furniture. A male cat's spray smells particularly pungent and unpleasent. Whilst females do not tend to roam as much as males, an unneutered female will almost definitely become pregnant unless she is kept inside the house, and as with any animal, unplanned breeding is to be avoided.
Firstly you may find yourself with a litter on your hands at a time when you haven't got the time or money to care for the kittens, and secondly you may not find it easy to find homes for them all. Breeding should always be controlled, when you are completely prepared, know what to do and have homes lined up for the kittens.
Insurance for Cats
Cats can get ill, and they can get into fights - with other cats, dogs or even foxes. Vets bills can soon mount up, and always seem to come at the wrong time.
Having insurance means that you can continue to keep to your budget knowing that if anything happens to your cat then you will be able to pay for its treatment.
Do shop around for the best policy - it may be more expensive, for example, to insure your cat at the same place you insure your dog!
If you don't want to take out insurance consider putting money away each month into a savings fund. If anything happens to your cat the money will be there to pay the vet bills, but if it lives a long and happy life you'll get a bonus!