Credit: chelle @ morgueFile...so its best not to choose one just because you think it is cute. In fact, unless you are a certified breeder, it's not a good idea to choose a kitten based on its looks at all. You should choose a kitten based on his personality and your lifestyle. If you don't have any idea which kitten best matches your life, choose an ugly one. Here is why.
They Aren't Cute When They Are Born
When kittens are born, they come out looking very strange. Until their mother cleans them off, they look as though they are encased in a liver wrap. Even after she licks them clean, they look like half-drowned rats for a while. Around the time that their eyes open, which is when they are anywhere from seven to eleven days old, they resemble a strange alien cat experiment. Even though you can see all the mini stripes and colorings from birth, they only start to develop their endearing looks as they figure out that they can use their sharp little claws to climb the sides of couches.
The good news is that mom doesn't prefer her good-looking babies over her, erm, well, ugly ones. She just submits herself to the job of nursing them, despite their claws and their teeth. She licks them clean and teaches them the manners of the house. She protects them from perceived threats and generally just gloats over her gorgeous litter of kittens, even if they aren't that cute.
Two grey stripey cats can have the most ridiculous looking litter you have ever seen. The first kitten can turn out as a long-haired black cat, the second as a light grey striped cat, the third as a blond, the fourth as a darker grey striped cat, the fifth as a ginger, with the sixth kitten taking all the pieces the other kittens left behind. True story. Oddly enough, some of the funnier looking kittens have the best mix of playfulness and couch time.
So if all that can come out of one litter with two grey stripey parents (okay, mom does have a little ginger in her), can you imagine the recessive personality traits that can be brought out? Will they be adventurous hunters who love terrorizing the dog or will they be the lap kittens your grandmother needs as companions? Believe it or not, these personality traits come out fairly early, around five weeks of age, and it has nothing to do with how cute the kitten is.
Domestication Doesn't Trump Survival of the Fittest
Domesticated cats have just evolved to know what they have to do to survive. In this case, the most likely kittens to get homes are the ones that can make the big eyes. The ones that get you to pick them out of the box. But oh my can they let that go to their heads. Take grey stripey dad, for example, he is fairly certain he owns the house. Sure he is snuggly and enjoys the laser pointer game as much as the next cat, but there is nothing that comes between him and what he wants. This is generally just more food. Mom on the other hand was chosen simply because she played nicely with him, not because she was cute. Now that they are grown-ups, guess which cat everyone likes more. It isn't the fat slob, it's the funny looking one.
By choosing the ugly cat, you are allowing people who don't know better to take home the cute kitten, while you get the one who doesn't destroy your curtains. He will have been nurtured, but passed over, so he won't have the annoying personality trait of thinking he is the best thing that ever happened to you.
So Where Do You Get an Ugly Looking Kitten?
If you are serious about having a cat (and they are good for more than eating, reproducing and scaling curtains), then the best place to get your ugly kitten is from the family they were born to. Those are the people in the know. They know which kitten was the first to venture out of the box. They also know which one likes their tummy rubbed, which ones should be homed as a pair, and who is going to snuggle with you on the couch.
This does mean you need to search for a family who waited too long to have their cats fixed in your area by trawling websites and classifieds. However, this is significantly easier than your alternative, which is to offer your local shelter to foster kittens until they reach a certain age. This way you can pick and choose which one you want, while working on your marketing tactics for the other kittens. You won't need to do too much of this however, because survival of the fittest means the most kittens will spend their time working on their big eyes.
Credit: marykbaird @ morgueFileIf you really feel strongly about your local pet shop, then choose one where one employee or another has spent some time with the kittens outside of their cage, or better yet, one who will give you the number of the irresponsible person who accidentally bred mixed breed domestic short-haired kittens. Call and have a chat about the kitten you are considering. More than anyone, they will want these kittens to have the right home.
If your heart (and budget) falls somewhere in the middle of these options, then your best bet is to visit your local animal shelter. Just go in and find the ugliest looking kitten that you can. If you are very concerned, check with the shelter that they aren't prone to clawing anyone who comes near them. If the answer is no, then you have a winner.
When you get your new pet home, just remember, your kitten doesn't know if it is ugly. You don't need to tell him; not unless the guilt makes you bring out the expensive food and the laser pointer. In which case, your kitten won't care.