How wonderful! You are thinking about adopting a cat or kitten. Even more wonderful is that you’re doing your research (by reading this article!) before making a big decision, one that will last up to 20 years or so! There’s no denying that kittens are absolutely adorable. Their baby faces, tiny paws and noses, and silly antics seem specifically designed to make us swoon in their presence. Adult cats though, well they have lots of seduction techniques too! So how do you decide which is better for you, your lifestyle now and possibly decades into the future? Here are some questions you can ask yourself and your family or housemates to help you decide.
1. Are you okay with kitten messes?
Kittens are babies. They make messes! They naturally want to play and explore and in doing so, they tend to knock things over and get into things they shouldn’t, like that potted plant you forgot to give to your neighbor when you got a kitten! They sometimes haven’t quite figured out how to eat or drink out of a water bowl without spreading it all around the floor, and they sometimes get really enthusiastic when digging in their cat litter — combine the water activity and the litter activity and you can imagine the cleanup! Young adult cats can get into things too, but kittens really excel at making messes! If you want to adopt a kitten, you and everyone else in your home should be willing to laugh at how creative they were with the potting soil, and don’t mind the clean-up and constant kitten-proofing of your home.
Kittens and cats are stress sponges: if cleaning up a mess makes you or your roommate/partner upset, the cat will get upset. Stress can cause behavior and health problems in both cats and humans! Go for an adult already-trained more mellow cat if you’re not good with messes.
2. Are you okay with kitten scratching?
…Or being diligent about keeping soft plastic nail caps on every one of your kitten’s 18 claws? That means checking them every day since kittens can occasionally chew off one or more of the tiny caps that fit their tiny nails. Adult cats can scratch too, but they are often easier to train to use scratching posts, Kittens can be trained too! It may just take longer, just like it takes a human baby longer. Also, since adult cat’s nails are bigger, there is more surface for the soft vinyl nail caps to be glued on to, and their nails don’t grow as fast as kittens, so the caps last longer.
3. Are you okay with the kitten midnight zoomies?
If you’ve been owned by a kitten or two, you know what we’re talking about! You can read all about the kitten midnight zoomies here, and then decide if you’ll be happy giving your kitten enough play time during the day so you can get some sleep at night. (Hint: this is one reason why a pair of kittens close in age are SO MUCH easier than just one kitten!)
Adult cats, while they may still be more active at dawn and dusk (a genetic trait from when they were wild hunting cats), tend to sleep through the night, though sometimes it takes a week or so for a new cat to get adjusted to their new household’s sleeping and feeding schedule.
4. Are you okay with kitten training and socialization?
To become a well-adjusted, friendly adult cat, kittens need constant training and socialization. If you adopt a single kitten and leave him along while you go to work all day, you are very likely training that kitten to be either aloof and withdrawn, or to be overly clingy and needy since they are starving for attention. Two kittens or a kitten with an adult feline friend will do better in that setup, but kittens really need humans around while they are growing up. You can use the months = hours alone guideline as a general rule. So if the kitten is 2 months old, he can be left alone for 2 hours at a time. If you have a pair of kittens, you can double that, so 2 kittens who are 2 months old can be left for 4 hours at a time — in a kitten-proofed safe indoor room of course! So a working family who wants to adopt two kittens would arrange it so someone would visit the kittens for lunchtime, to break up the day, make sure they haven’t tipped over all their water dishes or gotten stuck somewhere!
5. How old are your children and pets?
Young kittens haven’t learned social skills yet. They may accidentally bite a person or other pet too hard, scratch them, hide from them, or be curious what happens when they pounce on top of the sleeping pet’s or child’s head! If you have young children or older pets in your home, getting a baby kitten may not be the best fit. (Imagine great-grandpa having to be the full-time caretaker and playmate for a toddler, and you can imagine the stress and difficulty that would mean for the older pet, and the frustration and boredom that would mean for the younger one.) Your home will be happiest if you pick a good fit to adopt for everyone in your home.
FOSTERING LETS YOU GET YOUR KITTEN FIX…
After reading this, are you wishing you could get a kitten, but not sure you’re ready for months and months of the above? Fostering may be the perfect match for you! Many shelters get in kittens that are too young to be adopted, and so use foster home volunteers to care for them… usually from when they are about 5 weeks old (eating on their own, not requiring bottle feeding) to 8 or 9 weeks old when they can be fixed and adopted out. That’s just 3 to 4 weeks of kitten fun and messes and zoomies! Plus you usually keep tiny baby kittens in a separate safe room, minimizing the mess and stress on other pets. You can help save kitten lives by contacting your local shelter and rescue to see if they have a baby kitten foster program, and also signing up to be a kitten foster volunteer here.