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How to buy a cat

Now might be the purr-fect time to buy a new cat, but do you know the right questions to ask? Find out more...

We're certainly a nation of cat lovers, with our feline friends proving the most popular four-legged pets in the UK.

It is estimated that there are about 8.9 million cats in the country, compared to about 6.7 million dogs.[1]

In fact, the only pet more popular is the fish, with more than 40 million being kept in tanks and ponds in the UK.

Cats are known for their independence, which can lead some owners to think that they don't need much care.

But there is a great deal to owning a cat, including having the right food, toys, litter and pet insurance for your kitty, as well as enough space.Cat

So it's important to do your research before you buy or adopt a cat, to make sure the pet you choose suits you and your lifestyle.

Our guide to buying a cat answers some of the questions you might have and points you in the right direction for further advice and support.

Buying a kitten

Cute kittens can prove irresistible - but, of course, they don't stay that way forever. According to the RSPCA, the average lifespan of a cat is 14, with some living more than 20 years.

Given the expense of owning a cat, you must remember that you may have to lay out a small fortune by the time your fluffy kitten is a grand old man or lady.

When choosing a kitten, it's advisable to go to a cat adoption centre or a reputable breeder, or to find out if any of your neighbours' or friends' cats have had a litter.

There are lots of benefits to owning an older cat - kittens, after all, can be very hard work!

Buying from a pet shop should be avoided, particularly if the kitten is not kept with its mum or the rest of the litter.

Noisy shops can be stressful places for newborn animals and there is an increased risk of infection, particularly if kittens from more than one litter are being kept in the same place.

When choosing your kitten, make sure there are no signs of illness. The feline's eyes should be bright and clear; runny eyes or nose could indicate that something's wrong.

Check there is no sore area under the tail, that the ears are clean and that the coat is in good condition.

You should ask to handle the kitten. Ideally, they should be brought up for at least the first eight weeks in a home environment where they get a lot of attention.

If the seller seems reluctant to let you pick the kitten up, it could suggest that the feline has not got used to being handled, and it might be time to walk away.

Buying an older cat

At any one time, there are more than 6,200 cats and kittens in the care of the Cats Protection charity alone. Many of these are older cats, who need to be rehomed for all sorts of reasons.

There are lots of benefits to owning an older cat - kittens, after all, can be very hard work! An older cat is more likely to be calmer, as well as litter trained.

And, as having a cat is as much about what they need as what you want, your lifestyle might simply be better suited to an adult cat.

If, for example, you live on your own or in a quiet household without young children or other animals, you can offer a lot to a cat who has had a difficult start to life and is a little timid.

When choosing an adult cat, follow the same steps as with a kitten in terms of checking its fur, eyes, nose and ears.

Ask the seller or rescue centre if the cat has been vaccinated, neutered or spayed, microchipped, wormed and treated for fleas - there's a strong chance it has if it's being rehomed from a cat centre.

Your older cat might need medication for an ongoing condition, so find out how to give things such as eye drops or tablets.

And ask what type of food the cat eats; you can switch a cat's diet from, for example, wet food to dry food, but this should be done gradually.

Buying a moggie

When it comes to cats, we do love our moggies. Nearly three quarters of the quotes for cat insurance completed by Gocompare.com are for cats of no particular breed.[2]Cat

There are lots of advantages to getting a domestic cat. For a start, they tend to require less care than some pedigrees, particularly long-haired breeds.

They cost less to buy in the first place and vet bills can also be lower, because they tend not to be prone to the kinds of health problems affecting pedigrees.

If you take on a mixed breed kitten or cat, it's essential to find out as much about him or her as you would a pedigree.

Ask questions about their health and that of their parents, as well as the conditions they have been living in since they were born.

Some sellers will be prepared to take a cat back if he or she develops a serious illness within a certain timescale, such as a month, and some provide insurance for the first few weeks, to allow you time to compare quotes for your own.

Be prepared to answer as many questions as you ask, as a reputable seller will want to make sure the cat is going to a good home.

Buying a pedigree

Different pedigrees tend to have their own personality traits, so do your research carefully into each to find out which might suit you and your circumstances.

Don't forget to update the microchip contact details to your own and to register the cat in your name

But remember that personalities are shaped by early experiences as well as by breed and that, just because a cat is a pedigree, it doesn't necessarily mean that he or she has been raised in good conditions.

When asking about the cat's parentage and characteristics, don't forget more general questions about how it has been cared for, and make sure you see pedigree kittens with their mum and any siblings.

Pedigree cat breeders should provide certain things when the sale has been agreed.

One of these is the pedigree certificate, which shows the cat's ancestry going back four generations and states if a parent or grandparent is a champion.

You should also get a registration certificate - known as the pink slip - which shows that the cat is registered with the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF). This is necessary if you plan to show him or her.

The breeder should also supply medical papers showing which inoculations and other treatments have been given, plus a microchip certificate.

Don't forget to update the microchip contact details to your own and to register the cat in your name.

Bringing your cat home

When you have brought your cat home, make sure you give him or her plenty of time to settle in and become used to the new surroundings.

It's wise to keep your new cat indoors for a couple of weeks at least, to reduce the risk of him or her running away or getting lost.

Make sure your new pet has toys to play with, a comfortable bed and a scratching post, and show children how to handle him or her properly.

By Rebecca Lees