Tips for Choosing a Kitten That Is Happy, Healthy & Right for You

Dr. Ragen T.S. McGowan, PhD
By Dr. Ragen T.S. McGowan, PhD
Updated: 5/17/20242-4 minutes
How to Choose a Kitten

Bringing a kitten home  is an exciting experience that you will never forget. Making sure you know how to choose a kitten that’s happy, healthy and compatible with your personality and lifestyle takes some planning, however. If you take the right steps before you adopt your new kitten, you’ll greatly increase the chances of making cat ownership a rewarding experience for you and your new kitten.  

How to Choose a Kitten That Fits Your Lifestyle & Home

The first step when deciding to get a kitten to share your life with is to ask yourself “Should I get a kitten?” If the answer is yes, it becomes a matter of figuring out how to pick the right kitten to fit in with your personality and lifestyle.  

Before you set out to choose your new kitten, consider where and how you live as well as the type of kitten you’d like to have. If your home already has other pets, do you know how to introduce a new cat to your current cat or how to introduce cats and dogs? Could you take in multiple littermates? Will you be away from home often? Can you handle the frequent brushing required for grooming long-haired kittens?  

Personality-wise, are you looking for a laid-back lap kitten, or would a more energetic personality be better for you?  

If other family members are part of the decision-making process, get their input as well.  

Learn a Kitten’s Personality

The pre-adoption time is also the perfect time to decide how to choose a kitten whose personality will fit with yours. While adult cats have defined personalities, with some being outgoing while others are shy, kittens are much more behaviorally flexible. This is one of the advantages of adopting a kitten. Nonetheless, be aware that young kittens may take a little bit of time adjusting to a busy household or one with young children or other pets, so take things slow and be patient.  

Make note that if the kitten seems energetic, it may mean that it may require more exercise, and kitten-proofing the house may be more of a challenge.  

If you prefer a lap cat, choose a kitten that settles down quickly when they’re picked up and is very responsive to petting. 

Know How to Evaluate a Healthy Appearance 

Picking a healthy kitten starts with evaluating its appearance. Healthy kittens will have bright eyes that are free of discharge.  

Another thing to look for is that a coat that’s clean and shiny and ears that are free of dirt. Healthy kittens won’t be sneezing, squinting or appear to have cold-like symptoms. 

Also, be on the lookout for excessive scratching or licking, as that may be a sign of fleas or other parasites. Neither fleas or external parasites need to be a reason for you not to adopt a kitten, but if either are present, they should be taken to the veterinarian immediately for an adoption checkup. DO NOT use dog flea products when treating fleas in cats, as this can pose serious health risks for cats and may even result in death. 

Observe Kitten Behaviors

Kittens should live in a clean and healthy environment with plenty of space to play and socialize with other kittens and people. Often, potential pet owners will get the opportunity to spend some time with a kitten before they make any adoption decision. Spending time with a kitten helps potential pet owners decide if the kitten has a temperament that fits well with their expectations (e.g., playful, cuddly, inquisitive.) Signs of a healthy kitten are alertness and curiosity, as opposed to listlessness or lethargy. The kitten should be approachable and easy to handle.  

If anything seems amiss, make the people or place you are adopting your kitten from aware of it.  

Know What Steps to Take After the Adoption  

During your kitten’s first few days at home, schedule a visit to the veterinarian and ask any questions you have regarding their health, decoding kitten behavior, as well as any questions about choosing the right kitten food.   

We hope these tips for choosing a kitten will help you pick a cat that you will enjoy throughout its entire life. Remember, these tips are simply guidelines and recommendations. You may find that the kitten that you select—or the one that picks you first—is not at all what you had in mind.  

If you still have questions about cat ownership, search our Pet Expertise page and get valuable insights from our pet experts

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