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Choosing A Kitten

[The Character of The Cat]  [Choosing A Kitten]  [Care And Grooming Of Cats]  [Keeping Your Cat Well]  [More Cat Articles] 

( Originally Published 1938 )

Choosing a kitten for a pet is a question that often settles itself when some cat family youngster comes to your door, unbidden, and meows to be let inside.

But whether a young cat adopts you, or you procure one by purchase from a reliable dealer, there are rules you should follow to determine whether your choice is good. Here is a kitten yardstick:

1. The eyes should be bright and clear.

2. Make sure that its first teeth are cut-the kitten should be able to eat solid food.

3. Its legs should be sturdy, its bones well knit.

4. Its shape should be normal for its breed.

5. The kitten should be active, ready to romp.

6. Its breath must be inoflensive.

7. Choose a kitten with a live coat (not animal life), refuse a kitten with loose hair tufts. A dull coat is a signal that the animal is ailing.

8. A healthy kitten has clean hind parts. If the kitten has dirty "pantaloons" its health needs improvement.

9. Examine the ears for excess discharge, and signs of canker. A cankerous condition in the kitten's ears generally betrays a system that will produce mange.

10. Runny nostrils point to a cold in the kitten's head, or is an advance symptom of distemper.

11. Up to about six months, a kitten will usually gain a pound a month. So a four-month kitten should weigh about four pounds.

Rule No. 4 of this yardstick states that a kitten's shape should be normal for its breed. Here are breed points to watch:


HEAD: broad and round, good width between ears, short nose and face, ears small and tufted.

BODY: cobby, breadth of chest, low on the legs. TAIL: short and full, with no taper. Domestic

HEAD: slightly oval in shape and more pointed, fairly long nose, ears more upright.

BODY: well knit, long body with good breadth of chest. TAIL: thick at base, tapering toward tip.


HEAD: long and narrow. Neatly defined ears, broad at base and small at the top.

BODY: medium size, lithe, and well muscled. Forelegs a trifle shorter than back legs. Has thinner legs than other cat varieties, and smaller feet.

TAIL: thin and tapering, fairly short.


HEAD: large and round, not snubby. Nose medium length, ears taper from a broad base. Prominent cheeks.

BODY: short arched back, higher hindquarters, round rump, deep flanks and flat sides, shorter well-knit forelegs. TAIL: THE MANX CAT SHOULDN'T HAVE ONE.

Whether you bring your young kitten in a box from a pet shop or pluck it off a back-yard fence, plan to give your future cat satisfactory care. To begin with, don't bring home a cat that is less than eight weeks old. Cats younger than this can't get along on solid food. Be careful how you handle the youngster. Many people seem to believe that a kitten is made out of rubber. Well, a small cat is probably a little tougher than a small human being-but not much. Follow these rules when handling the kitten:

1. Put one hand under the kitten's stomach, supporting the fore-part of the body well. Use the other hand to support the rest of the body-THEN LIFT.

2. Lifting by the tail is forbidden. The tail is part of the spine and wasn't designed to be a handle.

3. Lifting by the neck is wrong. This action may hurt the kitten's intestines.

4. Don't lift a kitten by a leg. It looks awkward, it doesn't do the kitten any good, and you probably will get scratched or nipped (and you will deserve it).

5. Approach the kitten gently; avoid frightening it. Coax it to do what you want it to do. Persuasion is more effective with a cat than force.

Caution children against squeezing the kitten. They may squash the life out of it. Inside the little barrel of ribs are sensitive organs: a heart, a stomach, lungs, and a liver; remember them. Your love for a kitten is better shown in ways that will enable it to grow into a healthy, friendly cat.

Kittens are housebroken in much the same general way as puppies, but there are a few differences. Follow these rules:

1. Provide a pan; place it in a secluded, permanent spot. For a young kitten the sides of the pan should not be more than an inch high.

2. Keep a folded newspaper in the pan. Shavings, sand, ashes, sawdust, or shredded newspaper are sometimes used, but remember these loose fillers will adhere to the kitten's paws and be tracked all over the house. A folded newspaper filler can be disposed of easily. It is true that a young kitten may make the mistake of thinking any newspaper that is on the floor has been placed for it, but with careful training the kitten will soon understand that it is the pan, not the paper, it is to use.

TRAINING ROUTINE: 1. When you bring the new kitten home take it to the pan immediately and place it on top of the paper. Even though this first step is not successful, it is worth while to make the effort, because it is the beginning of training.

2. If the kitten does not understand the pan's purpose, be patient. Place it on the pan at frequent intervals.

3. Shouting, shaming, or spanking will have good effect in scaring the kitten, but so far as practical results go you can give yourself zero for these exertions.

4. Rely on the fact that the kitten is a cleanly animal. As soon as it gets the idea behind the pan, it will co-operate always. There are some kitty toilets on the market which are well designed for cleanliness and convenience.

Remember to be patient with a young kitten. It may be breaking the sanitation rules because it is in panic over its presence in a strange house, with strange people. If you watch your kitten when it wanders off to dark corners you may be able to prevent accidents by hurrying it to the pan.

Clean the kitten's pan thoroughly once a day with scalding water. An occasional treatment with a disinfectant and deodorant is advisable.

If your cat went partly through kittenhood in a fence cor- 0000 ner, the next piece of advice won't help you much. Whenever it is possible to do so, learn what your kitten has been ~ having to eat. Then the first days you have it, feed it the

same food at regular mealtimes. Do NoT feed the kitten immediately after you bring it home. Like a new pup (only more so) a kitten should be fasted for the first several hours after arrival. A good indication of the proper time to offer food is when it quiets down and starts to purr.

WARNING: One of the ways to kill a cat is to feed it to death. Curb your generosity. Remember your new kitten has a small stomach. Several little feedings throughout the day are better for the youngster than one or two large feedings.

1. How often should the kitten be fed?

Up to the age of three months, the kitten should be fed four times a day.

2. What should be fed to the kitten?

Food for a cat varies sharply with its age. Here is an ideal age-food chart:

UP To FOUR OR FIVE WEEKS: Milk and cream, cooked cereal, prepared barley, infant food, custard.

FIVE WEEKS To SEVEN WEEKS: Milk and cream, scraped beef, cooked cereal, custard, canned salmon, fish flakes. SEVEN WEEKS TO ELEVEN WEEKS: Any of the above, rabbit (cooked), lamb kidney (raw), chicken (cooked), whole wheat toast (crumbled).

ELEVEN WEEKS TO OLD AGE: Milk and cream, chopped or sliced raw beef, cooked meat (no pork), cooked fowl or game, vegetables (no starchy ones), cooked cereal.

3. How much should be fed to a kitten?

Feedings must be suited to the individual, as to amount, kind, and frequency. Between a kitten and a two-year-old cat there is a range of stomach sizes graded all the way up from one ounce capacity to seven or eight ounces. The kitten should not be fed more than its stomach can hold. Up to ten weeks, feedings should be about one ounce or under. If the kitten leaves food in its dish after a feeding, remove both the food and the dish.

4. Should the diet be varied?

Yes, as much as possible, but foods chosen should be kept within the correct food list. Pleasing variation keeps the cat's appetite keen, and gives you an opportunity to feed it foods that will build its body. While there isn't opportunity to change the menu much up to five weeks, after that you should experiment. Try giving your cat a little beef jelly, or replace cooked cereal with bits of whole-wheat toast and milk.

5. What about meat?

When a cat is between five and seven weeks old it becomes a meat eater; start it with scraped fresh beef. Cats are meat eaters, as dogs are, and will do best on a diet that is largely made up of meat. The meat should be chiefly raw beef. I have said that the cat is a fastidious pet about grooming; it is also fastidious about food. Ordinary ground beef may displease your cat; remember it is a light eater and odor conscious. It is better to buy fresh beef and have your butcher grind it, or you may bring the beef home whole and cut it with a scissors.

Raw liver is a welcome addition to the cat's diet about once a week. A useful variation is to cut the meat in long strips, across the grain, which makes the cat chew its food before swallowing. Often a cat prefers chunks of meat to too much ground meat. Other meats which are permitted in the cat's diet should be broiled, boiled, or roasted.

6. How many times does a cat eat a day?

Up to three months a cat eats four times a day. Then feedings diminish to three meals. Here is a model day:

BREAKFAST: Meat or fish, cereals, toast.

LUNCHEON: A full meal of milk and cream. >p> DINNER: Meat in which vegetables are mixed.

(If it seems necessary, a small amount of milk may be given the cat at bedtime.)

Starting at about five months of age, place your kitten on a two-meal-a-day schedule:

BREAKFAST: Meat, fish mixed with vegetables, toast. DINNER: Meat.

(A cat may be given a small saucer of milk at noontime. The full meal of the day should be served in the evening.) 7. Should you feed your cat grass?

GRASS? Yes, grass! The stuff that grows on lawns. The average cat system demands green grass almost daily. This is a need that may be cared for easily in the summer. In winter plant a few pots or tin pans with oats, so the cat may nibble at greens when it wants to.

8. What vegetables may be fed?

Green spinach, green beans, celery, asparagus, tomato (strained), carrots. All vegetables should be completely cooked and chopped.

9. Should prepared foods be fed?

Yes, canned cat foods, and cat biscuits are useful adjuncts to the menu. However, make certain the product you choose has the right nourishment value. If the canned food is made from fresh meat products, or fresh fish, it should be satisfactory: Use canned cat food occasionally, but don't use it as a permanent substitute for raw meat.

Note There is no rule as to the exact amount of food a cat needs, nor is there any positive way of determining just what a cat will eat. In matters of food, the cat has a mind of its own. In using my feeding rules, take into consideration the fact that the outdoor cat will need more food than one that leads a quiet life; remember that some cats are greedy and some are not; be willing to alter the model diet to suit your particular (often really particular) cat.

Up to the time the kitten cuts its second teeth (about seven Aim months), its diet should include an extra supply of the ~ chemicals that build sturdy bones and prevent rickets.

1. LIME FOR BONES: One-fourth teaspoonful lime-water to every ounce of milk.

2. CALCIUM FOR TEETH: One-fourth teaspoonful of calcium lactate daily, mixed into its solid food.

3. HALIVER OIL: Two drops a day, dripped into the food, or raw cod liver oil at the rate of 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoonful daily. NOTE: Mix a pinch of kelp or "vitality" product with food every day. Brewer's yeast is also valuable.

When a kitten is seven months old, these health foods may be dropped, because its diversified adult diet will provide sufficient minerals.

Always remember that raw beef contains just about everything that a cat needs to live on healthfully. But be certain that the beef is fresh.

Clean fresh water is a necessary part of your pet's diet. Water Milk is NOT a substitute for water. See that the cat has water available at all times. The water bowl should be rinsed and refilled several times a day.

Cats sometimes resemble goats in their attraction to strange foods. Some owners follow their pet's craving for astonishing foods, and feed them wholly on diet oddities. These owners may be unwilling to follow the simple diets I have suggested, but by not doing so they shorten the lives of their pets. Simple, correct foods will help a cat live for about twelve years.

Establish a kitten in sensible food habits. If you feed a young cat balanced, nourishing meals from the start, there is little danger that it will develop a craving for everything from string to Gorgonzola.

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