Choosing a new kitten is an exciting moment — but it can also be a nerve-wracking one. You want to bring home a British Shorthair kitten who’s fit, healthy and has the configuration you want — but you also want to select a kitten who’ll be a good fit for you and your household in terms of personality. In this article, we’ll take an in-depth look into finding and choosing the young British Shorthair who’s a perfect fit for your household.
How to choose a British Shorthair kitten? Look for a properly registered breeder. Make sure your kitten has a checkable pedigree as well as the kind of colouring and configuration you’re after, as well as appropriate medical care (de-sexing, vaccinations etc). Check that the kitten has been properly socialised and is over 12 weeks old.
You’re looking for the perfect British Shorthair kitten and that’s why you’ve come to this page. You probably have any number of questions.
- How can you identify a reputable breeder — and avoid less scrupulous sellers?
- Will this kitten be right for your household?
- How do you spot a kitten who’ll grow up to be a prize-winning champion show cat or a perfect household companion?
- How can you find a kitten who’ll get on with your children or your other pets?
Keep reading, because we’ve got answers for you.
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What you need to know about finding and selecting your kitten
If you’re wondering “how to choose a British Shorthair kitten?”, you probably know a thing or two about this charming breed already. British Shorthairs are wonderful cats — they have the pedigree to become prize-winning show animals but they also possess the ideal disposition for an animal companion. if you’re looking for a pet, you really cannot make a better choice than a British Shorthair cat: sweet-natured, tractable, loyal and very easy to take care of.
In this article we’ll be covering three main elements: finding a quality breeder, identifying a potential show animal and also explaining how you can determine whether a kitten will be good a fit in your particular home.
It’s vital to secure your kitten from a really good breeder, whether you want to show her or just enjoy her company. Kittens from less scrupulous breeders may be inexpensive and look lovely — but they may also prove to have health and behavioural issues that cause you a lot of heartbreak down the line. Buying a kitten with a hidden medical condition can very quickly erase any savings you might have made on the original price as you are forced to stump up additional vet bills.
In cases of extreme behavioural problems or serious ill-health, you may be left with no alternative but to have the cat re-homed. Then there’s the matter of identifying a potential show animal. If you plan to show your cat once she’s old enough, it’s important that you know what kind of colouring and configuration is acceptable — some colour patterns and physical traits will disqualify your British Shorthair from shows.
You also need to be able to identify whether the kitten you are considering is healthy, has a correct weight for his age, and has been cared for properly; this isn’t usually an issue if you’ve taken steps to find a good cat but even reputable breeders can sometimes suffer an unexpected decline in standards. You need to be fully aware of any potential warning signs before you take your kitten home.
Personality and socialisation are also tremendously important, whether you plan to show your cat or make a pet of her (your cat’s disposition is bound to affect the way she’s perceived by judges on the show circuit). These last two factors are absolutely paramount if you plan on bringing your British Shorthair kitten into a household which already has resident cats or dogs, or where younger children are present. A kitten who is aggressive, overly skittish or too shy may struggle to fit in and could be made very unhappy by the presence of animals or people she doesn’t connect with. To learn more, read on.
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Finding a British Shorthair breeder
First, identify the primary registration bodies in your region. In the UK these are the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF) and The International Cat Association (TICA), which is rather smaller. If you live outside the UK, you’ll need to research the equivalent organisation for your part of the world. These registration authorities confirm the pedigree of the cats registered with them and also issue codes of conduct that breeders must adhere to in order to register their cats with that authority.
You can find breeders online; many people nowadays have a web presence. Some breeders advertise through listings such as Pets4Homes but quality breeders often don’t bother with these. Word of mouth is sufficient to tie up a really good breeder’s kitten waiting list for years, in some cases. You can ask other British Shorthair owners, visit a cat show and meet breeders there or check in specialist cat magazines for advertisements.
Once you’ve identified a potential breeder, check them against the lists of de-registered breeders held by the GCCF and TICA or equivalent. These breeders have violated the associations’ rules and are no longer allowed to claim that their British Shorthair kittens are “pedigree”. Be very wary of a breeder who does any of the following: offers you a kitten very cheaply, offers you a kitten that has not been de-sexed, offers you a kitten under the age of 12 weeks or won’t allow you to look over their cattery before you buy.
You should also be extremely suspicious of a breeder who guarantees that your kitten will be free from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. This is not actually possible to guarantee and such a claim indicates that your breeder is up to no good.
Age at adoption
The age at which you should adopt a new kitten can be something of a hot-button topic. Everyone has an opinion on what the right age is, with times ranging from as young as eight weeks to as old as 16. I suppose eight weeks might be fine for a mixed-breed domestic kitten but in the case of pedigree kittens, where socialisation and proper development are so very important, I would absolutely never take on a kitten at younger than 12 weeks.
Some breeders like to hang onto their babies a bit longer, 14 or even 16 weeks. This makes some potential buyers impatient but it’s a reasonable timescale. My personal opinion is that under no circumstances should you accept a kitten who is under the age of 12 weeks.
Kittens are generally weaned by eight weeks and will get along more or less okay without their mother, physically speaking. In my opinion as a long-time cat fancier, “more or less okay” is not enough. In the first weeks of life, a kitten doesn’t just graduate to solid food. She also learns how to get along with other cats, how to care for herself and gains the confidence to embark on her new life as an independent pet. Kittens who leave before this almost always seem to struggle. A good breeder knows when a kitten is ready and when she needs a bit more time. Trust their expertise. Pure-bred British Shorthair kittens are well worth the wait.
A note on “entire kittens”
It’s very easy to fall so head-over-heels in love with this gorgeous breed that you immediately want to start breeding your own British Shorthairs. This is an emotion with which I am entirely sympathetic. That said, I’d strongly advise you to hold your horses.
Your first British Shorthair should not be a breeder. Just for starters, you’re not going to get an un-neutered pedigree kitten without a lot of preparation — especially not a queen cat. Some people look at the £1200 price tag that comes attached to a show-quality British Shorthair kitten and assume that cat breeding is a goldmine, an assumption that’s laughable to most breeders. In general, a cattery costs money rather than generating income.
Registered breeders are in the cat fancy for love, not for money. They want to breed healthy kittens for happy homes. An irresponsible backyard breeder is something of a nightmare for a reputable one; not only is such a person likely to over-breed the original cat to the grave detriment of her well-being but they will be producing any number of poorly cared-for, unhealthy, ill-socialised kittens. Even a well-intentioned backyard breeder can rapidly run into unforeseen problems as they bite off more than they can chew. For this reason, the entire (un-neutered/spayed) kittens available to you will have to come from backyard breeders themselves; the kittens may have all kinds of problems and they certainly won’t have proper pedigrees.
Before you think seriously about going into breeding, get used to being a British Shorthair owner first. Make connections and build your reputation up in the community; get your house set up so that it’s ready to become a cattery. Give it time and make sure you’re good and ready before you take the plunge into breeding.
Identifying a potential show kitten
If you plan to show your British Shorthair, discuss this with the breeder before you make your choice. No breeder can say for certain that the kitten you buy is certain to become a successful show cat; what they can do, however, is find you a kitten from a lineage that has produced show cats in the past and ensure that your prospective adoptee has no disqualifying features.
It’s up to you to do your due diligence here and learn as much about the breed standard as you can before you choose a kitten. That way, you will know how well a given kitten conforms to the standard. For example, if you’re looking for a classic British Blue kitten, the animal must have no white anywhere nor any tabby markings. You might chance your arm on a kitten with minor flaws that may be outgrown but your breeder shouldn’t oversell this as a possibility.
One exception I might make to this rule is a kitten’s eyes; these often don’t finish changing colour until the cat is several months old and may continue to develop until she’s had her first birthday. In the case of the British Blue, for instance, it’s very common for a kitten to have flat brown eyes which only gradually take on the famous copper-amber shade.
As I say, refer to the official breed standard and talk things over with the people you’re buying from. Understand that there is absolutely no way for a breeder to give you a 100% guaranteed show cat; the best they can do is sell you a kitten with show potential. The kitten should also be well-socialised and in good general health. In the following section, we’ll discuss how you can make sure your kitten doesn’t have any sickness or behavioural issues.
Identifying a healthy kitten
The following section applies to both show cats and kittens who are intended as house pets.
- When you visit the cattery, look around to make sure the space the cats are in is clean and free from excessive clutter.
- The kittens themselves should be lively and alert, with no signs of pain or lethargy.
- Check their coats for signs of a flea infestation (dried blood, bits of black dirt in the fur).
- Check the eyes, nose and ears for inflammation or mucus.
- The kitten’s eyes should be clear and bright, without any sign of redness or cloudiness.
- The nose should be clean and show no signs of dryness or blood.
- Look under the tail and make sure the kitten’s rear end is clean, with no evidence of diarrhoea or matted fur.
- A quality breeder will be able to show you vaccination records and a clean bill of health from the vet. In particular, confirm that the kitten does not have FIV or any infectious conditions.
It’s also wise to take your kitten for her first vet visit not more than a day or two after you take her home, just to check that the medical records you have are fully accurate. Even if the breeder was completely honest, the original vet may have missed something.
Meeting the parents
If your breeders are on the up-and-up, they will be happy to let you set up an appointment to meet your prospective kitten’s parents — or at least the mother.
The stud tom may not live with them, as studs are often hired out to multiple catteries; you might want to try and visit him too if you can, although this can be trickier as stud toms may live a long way from the queens they impregnate. You should at least be able to see photographs of your kitten’s dad and maybe speak to his owners.
A breeder who refuses to let you meet the queen cat for any reason is likely to be hiding something and you should look elsewhere for your British Shorthair kitten. The mother (and the father if he’s on the premises) should be happy and healthy, with no symptoms of a disease. Her colours and configuration should be good — although her colouration doesn’t have to be absolutely perfect, she should have the classic British Shorthair features.
She should be amicable and sociable, with a nice disposition; while these traits aren’t necessarily heritable, kittens are socialised in a large part by their mothers and if she’s cold or skittish it’s a bad sign. The kittens may have inherited or learned her attitude. An unfriendly British Shorthair also suggests some problems in the cattery.
Identifying a friendly, well-socialised kitten
The best way to assess a kitten’s personality is simply to get down on the floor and play with her. When offered a string, a piece of ribbon or a teaser toy, the kitten should respond playfully and give chase. Look for a kitten who’s curious and interested in meeting you.
The kitten should seem friendly and fairly social; while some may be a little coy, they should at least not panic or respond fearfully when approached. If the kittens run away at the mere sight of you or panic when handled, you should probably look elsewhere as this would indicate that they haven’t really been socialised to be around humans.
A good breeder will spend plenty of time with their kittens so they get used to human company, petting and playing with them. A bad one will ignore the babies and leave training up to the mother, who may be poorly socialised herself. If your kitten will eventually be sharing a home with a dog or child, it may be helpful if she’s been introduced to dogs and children during kittenhood. This isn’t a deal-breaker but it can be a big help.
Ultimately, go with your instincts as to the “right kitten” for you. You’ll know her when you meet her. Don’t be too surprised if you went in determined to settle for nothing less than a perfect show-quality kitten and walk away with the one you can’t show — but couldn’t imagine living without.