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Adopting a Kitten or Adult Cat: Which is Better for You?

Adult cat and kitten
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  • Americans own more than 90 million cats.
  • Approximately 4 million homeless pets (cats and dogs) are euthanized each year. Adopting your cat from a local animal shelter will help save a life.
  • Choosing the right cat for you will create a happy, healthy relationship for both you and your cat.

What Do I Need to Know About Adopting a Cat?

Adopting a cat or a kitten is an important decision that can affect the next 15 to 20 years of your life. Adequate time should be taken to decide whether a cat or a kitten is right for you and your lifestyle.

A new cat should be obtained from either a reputable breeder or an adoption shelter. Ask your veterinarian for recommendations on breeders or shelters in your area.

How Do I Choose Between a Kitten or Adult Cat?

Mother cat and kitten

While adopting a kitten may seem like your first answer, further thought should be given to adopting a cat. A kitten requires more time for socialization and generally more veterinary care during his or her first year of life. If you are a busy, working family, an adult cat may be the right choice for you. An adult cat can provide the love and companionship you are looking for from your cat, but with less work.

Novice cat owners may want to steer away from high-maintenance cats that may require more grooming and socialization (such as shy or aggressive cats).

While an adult cat may require less work during that first year, kittens can provide hours of entertainment as they chase their tail or play with their shadow. If you have small children, special attention should be given to not leave them alone with the new pet. For senior citizens, a mature cat may be a better option than a kitten. Often, seniors are looking more for companionship than for the high energy and high maintenance that a kitten introduces into a new home.

Before you adopt, consider your lifestyle and how much time, effort, and money you are prepared to invest in a new cat or kitten. Your veterinary team can discuss these issues with you and help you consider your options.

Why Not Two Cats?

Cats generally like to have a furry companion in their lives, too. Many shelters have siblings or a mother and her baby available for adoption. If you are considering having two cats in the future, it is generally easier to get both cats at the same time—especially if they are already friends. This will avoid possible conflict from introducing a new cat down the road.

What Should I Know About Bringing My New Cat Home?

Adult cat getting head rubbed

Once you have decided to adopt a cat or kitten, make sure to set up a special room or area for your new pet. Whether it’s a cat or a kitten, your new pet will require an adjustment period, the length of which depends on the personality of your cat. It’s important to set up a space where the cat can eat, drink, use the litter box, and have a quiet area away from other pets or members of the family.

Once you feel your cat is adjusting to his or her new household, you can gradually increase free roaming time around the house. Kittens should be contained in a bedroom or bathroom at night for the first couple of months in their new home. This will prevent misbehavior from occurring while you are asleep.

What Should I Know About My Cat’s Lifelong Care?

Kitten in blanket

Any new kitten or cat being introduced into the home should be examined by a veterinarian as soon as possible and separated from all other household pets for a quarantine period of at least a few weeks. During that time, the new cat should be tested for parasites and infectious diseases such as feline leukemia virus (FeLV), especially if this testing was not performed before you obtained the cat. New cats or kittens should be observed closely for any signs of illness. Any problems should be reported to your veterinarian before introducing the new cat to your other pets.

Your veterinarian will also be able to recommend a vaccination schedule and determine if your cat has any health issues that need to be addressed. Vaccinations, spaying/neutering, and yearly wellness visits will help keep your cat healthy and happy for years to come.