Kitten Adoption from Animal Shelters: a Health Checklist

Adopting kittens from animal shelters not only helps you find a new feline companion, but it also gives your kitten a wonderful new life with you.

Any adoption should involve a healthy pet, so let’s go nose to tail to see what a healthy kitten looks like:

The Head

Nose: A healthy kitten’s nose is damp and cool. No discharge is running from it, and she does not sneeze frequently. The kitten should also have a full set of whiskers on her muzzle.

Eyes: The kitten’s eyes should be bright and clear. She should not paw at them, and there should be no crust or discharge in the corners. You should not be able to see the nictitating membrane or third eyelid that helps the kitten clear foreign debris from her eyes.

Ears: The kitten should have clean, dry ears. She should not scratch at them excessively, and you should not see a lot of ear wax built up in them. If you do see wax buildup, this could indicate ear mites.

Mouth: A healthy kitten has pink gums and white teeth. She should not have bad breath or crooked or missing teeth.

The Body

Paws: A healthy kitten should paw and play with things in her environment. She should not limp or favor one or more paws. She should have her claws, and her nails should be of average length.

Fur: The kitten should have a smooth, soft coat that’s free of bald spots. She should not scratch excessively, and her coat should be free of fleas and ticks.

Breathing: The kitten should breathe easily without gasping, coughing or wheezing. She should not sound congested or make any rattling noises in her throat or chest.

Belly: A healthy kitten has a slightly rounded tummy. She should not have a swollen or distended abdomen because these could indicate internal parasites.

Bottom: The kitten’s rear end should be clean and free of stains or fecal matter. Stains or stuck-on feces could indicate diarrhea, which can quickly become a serious health condition in kittens due to the associated side effect of dehydration.

The Big Picture

Curiosity: A healthy kitten is curious and eager to play. If the kitten isn’t interested in playing, it could indicate a health or behavior problem.

Interest in you: If one kitten takes a particular interest in you, your work is done because your new pet has chosen you, rather than you choosing her. Pay attention to any kitten that comes over to you, rubs against you or marks you with the scent glands on her head and face.

Playmates: If you already have a cat at home, you won’t need to adopt a playmate for your new kitten. If you don’t, you may want to consider adopting two cats because they will entertain each other during the day while you’re at work or school.

After you’ve selected your kitten (or kittens), be sure to have her examined by a veterinarian to ensure she’s in good health. This will help get your kitten started on a path to maintaining her good health and will help you prevent unexpected veterinary costs down the road.