Adopting a new kitten can seem like a daunting responsibility, especially if it’s your first. This guide will help you determine exactly which kitty will be a good match for your lifestyle.

Considering the fact that your prospective feline roommate could be with you for over 15 years, it makes sense that you should put a lot of time and thought into your choice. Do you really want the responsibility of a new kitten? Is now the right time? If so, what kind of kitten really suits your lifestyle? These are the types of questions that you should address before you decide to take the plunge. While it can be tempting to run out and adopt, it’s important that you do your research before you bring your cute kitten home. That way, you can be sure that you’ve got a friend for life.

Consider Your Kitten’s Age

While kittens have usually been weaned before 8 weeks of age, most experts agree that they should stay with their mother and/or littermates until 12 weeks of age. This allows for optimal social development. If a kitten has been taken away from her mother before the weaning process is complete, she may develop troubling behaviors like suckling on fingers and other objects.

Check for Personality

No matter how bad you want that one with tiger stripes on her back, don’t choose your kitten based on looks alone. Instead, watch how the kittens play and interact so you can get a glimpse into each one’s personality. Most kittens get sleepy after a feeding, so try to pick a time to visit the litter when the kittens are active. Here are a few things to keep in mind when watching kittens.

Look for playful, confident kittens if you have young children. A timid kitten may not feel comfortable in a home where young children want to play.

Get down on the floor. See how the kitten reacts to your presence. Well-socialized kittens should be comfortable and unafraid.

Play with the kittens. Using something other than your finger or hand, entice the kitten to play. She should express an interest.

Pick them up. After playtime, try to hold a kitten. A little squirming is perfectly normal, but she shouldn’t bite or hiss.

Ask questions. The way a kitten was raised can have a huge impact on her personality. Learn everything you can about her history. Kittens that weren’t introduced to humans by 7 weeks of age sometimes have trouble bonding with them.

Have Your Vet Check Your Kitten’s Health

To avoid any unpleasant surprises, it’s always best to have a vet check your kitten’s health before you adopt, rather than afterwards. Many kittens have fleas, ear mites or intestinal worms. While this may not prevent you from adopting, it’s important to understand what you’re getting into and what it might cost. Here are a few important spot checks that can help you select a healthy kitten.

Check the skin and coat. A healthy kitten should have soft fur and no bald spots. Her skin should be free of scabs or rashes. Tiny specs of black dirt in the fur and on the skin may be flea dirt (excrement), indicating a flea infestation.

Inspect your kitten’s body. A normal kitten shouldn’t feel particularly fat or skinny. Her ribs should not be visible. Check the kitten’s belly. If it feels hard or swollen, the kitten may have worms.

Check the ears. Clean ears are a good sign. Head-scratching, shaking, or gritty brown or black debris may indicate ear mites.

Watch for runny noses, coughing, or sneezing. These may indicate a respiratory infection that’s treatable, but contagious to other cats.

Do a dental check. A kitten’s teeth should be white and her gums should be pink, but not red or pale. Ask questions about what your kitten has been eating. She should be eating solid food by the time you adopt.

Be wary of dirty rear ends. Your kitten’s anus should be clean and free of any signs of diarrhea. Gauge the kitten’s energy level. If a kitten sleeps constantly or doesn’t want to play, this may be a sign of illness.

Quarantine Your Kitten

Have a vet examine your kitten as soon as possible, preferably before you even bring her home. In addition, it’s important that you keep your kitten separated from other household pets for a quarantine period. This way, you can be sure she’s free of any infectious diseases like feline leukemia before introducing your new kitten to the rest of your pets.

Consider Two Kittens

Many experts recommend adopting two kittens at the same time for a couple of reasons. First, these kittens can continue to socialize and learn from one another after leaving their littermates. Also, it’s important to remember that adult cats can be territorial. So it may be easier to adopt two kittens rather than trying to introduce a new one later down the road. With that under consideration, don’t agree to take home more kittens that you can care for.

Make Special Plans for Special-Needs Kittens

If you decide to adopt a kitten with special needs, it’s important to understand the increased level of time and veterinary care involved. Kittens with health problems may not live as long as healthy cats and can cost exponentially more to care for. Talk to your vet about what to expect if you’re considering a special needs kitten.

Bringing home a kitten can be a wonderful addition to your life, just make sure that you’ve done everything in advance that you can to prepare yourself and make sure that you and the kitten are a good fit.

This article was reviewed by a Veterinarian.