What To Consider Before You Adopt a Kitten

Key Points

  • You shouldn't adopt a kitten that's younger than eight weeks.

  • There's a list of items you must acquire before adopting a kitten, even if you already have a cat.

  • If you get a kitten less than six months old, it's best to use non-clumping litter.

  • If you have a senior cat, adopting two kittens may be a better idea than getting one.

There's nothing cuter than a kitten; they're lively, entertaining, and playful! They're also more than fun and games. Caring for a pet is a serious responsibility. When you adopt a kitten, you make a long-term commitment. With advancements in veterinary healthcare, cats may live 20 years or more.

Perhaps you have a senior cat slowing down in their old age. Maybe they lost a companion, and you think they may liven up when you adopt a kitten. Several considerations need your attention before making that decision.

The Best Age To Adopt a Kitten

Four kittens snoozing on a white pillow.

Kittens need their mother's milk after they're born, and they also learn socialization and other behaviors in their first few weeks of life. You shouldn't take a kitten away from their mother before eight weeks of age. After that, if their mother weans them properly and they eat solid food, they may be apart from their mother and littermates.

Taking a kitten away too early may lead to health and behavioral issues, and they may develop separation anxiety or other neurotic behaviors.

A kitten that lost their mother needs a milk replacer, and you must feed them from a bottle. If you foster or adopt a kitten this young, ask your vet how much and how often to feed them.

Prepare for Your New Kitten

If you don't already own a cat or haven't had one before, there are tasks you need to do before bringing home a kitten. Even if you already have a cat, making them share food bowls or other items isn't a good idea.

Safety

Before bringing a kitten into your home, you may need to cat-proof your house. Do you have indoor plants? Check to see if they're poisonous to cats. Among others, lilies and poinsettias are toxic.

You may think you can keep your pet away from these plants, but it's not worth taking the risk. Cats are resourceful; if they know they shouldn't do something, they take it as a challenge.

Put away cleaners and other toxic chemicals and use cabinet locks since cats can learn to open cabinets and drawers. Watch out for table runners or other hanging items that may tempt them to pull on them, causing objects to topple down.

If you have a flat-screen TV on a stand, think about anchoring it more securely. Objects on the screen may entice your kitten to go after them, knocking over the TV.

Keeping your kitten indoors is advisable because they're vulnerable to predators and traffic outside. Get them a collar and ID tag in case they venture out without your knowledge.

Food

If your kitten is less than a year old, they need specially formulated food. Kitten food is typically higher in protein to provide additional energy for younger felines, and it provides the necessary nutrients for healthy growth.

Kitten food comes in both dry and wet varieties. Most cats love wet food, many vets recommend it over its dry counterpart, and some cats eat a combination. Certain cats may refuse to transition to dry food if you start with wet or canned food.

Whatever food you choose, follow the feeding guide on the back of the package.

Water Source

Kitten playing with water from faucet.

All pets need access to a water source, and an automatic waterer helps if you tend to forget to refill the bowl. Cats usually prefer to drink fresh water, so many cats jump up on the kitchen or bathroom sink to get a drink from the faucet.

To prevent this unwanted behavior, try using a pet fountain. Cats love the running water and see it as a fresh source. Fountains require as much refilling as large bowls or dishes, and the filter needs regular replacements.

Litter Box

Most cats don't need potty training. Give them a soft place to dig, and they do it instinctually. There are various litter options, from clumping to clay, scented or unscented, made from recycled newspaper, or even wood pellets.

Whatever kind you choose, it's best to stay with the same type if it works for your kitten. Changing it up may result in your cat going outside the litter box. If it's necessary, make changes gradually.

The Ontario SPCA and Humane Society says, "If you adopted a kitten less than six months old, use only non-clumping cat litter. Kittens are cute, but they're also messy. Litter often sticks to their fur and feet. That could lead to digestive and intestinal problems if your kitten ingests any litter while cleaning themselves."

A litter mat outside the litter box may help remove excess litter from their feet, and some have holes that the litter drops into for easy cleanup.

There are also various kinds of litter boxes, including open designs, hooded boxes, and some that automatically scoop the litter! Some creative brands even design their products to look like pieces of furniture.

Cats don't like to eat their food near their litter boxes, so put their bowl in a separate room if possible. At the very least, keep them on opposite sides of the room.

Scratchers

Kittens learn early on how to use their tiny claws. They don't hurt much on your skin, but they still cause damage to furniture. Prevent furniture damage by investing in posts and other types of scratchers that are appropriate for them to use.

Furniture covers are another option, but it's best to teach your kitten not to scratch the furniture in the first place. If they still insist on using the couch as their scratching post, there are products similar to double-sided tape that go on the side of the furniture and discourage cats from touching it.

Treats

Treats are suitable for training purposes. The best training uses positive reinforcement for performing desired behaviors and uses treats as a reward or motivation.

Buy treats made for cats; don't use a bowl of milk or table scraps. Even though cats like to drink milk, it may upset their bowels.

Bed

A calico kitten and an orange tabby kitten snuggling in a cat bed.

Cats sleep almost anywhere, but they tend to have favorite spots. Give them a comfortable bed in a room or corner that they always go to feel safe. Aim for a space that's out of high-traffic areas.

Cats usually like to be inside small, enclosed spaces so a cave bed might work well. They may also want a bed on a tall cat tower or dresser if they have access.

Carrier

Your kitten needs regular vaccinations. If you get your kitten from a shelter, they will typically receive their first round of vaccinations prior to adoption. For yearly updated vaccinations and regular checkups, you need to transport them, so invest in a carrier; letting your kitten loose in your car isn't a good idea. Many vet offices also require you to keep small pets in a carrier.

There are different styles to consider if you're a frequent traveler, from soft-sided to hard plastic. It's also worth considering whether or not a carrier meets airline guidelines.

Before transporting your kitten in a carrier, leave the door open so they can explore it independently. They may even enjoy sleeping in it occasionally.

If you don't have room to leave the carrier out all the time, at least bring it out a week before you need it so your kitten can get used to it.

Toys

Kitten gnawing on feather cat toy.

A kitten wants to play a lot. If you don't get them toys, they'll find something else, which may be hazardous.

Young cats should have toys that are small enough to handle but not too small to swallow. Kittens are easily entertained, but buy various toys to see what they respond to best. Rotate their toys so they don't get bored.

Put all toys away before bedtime so they're not tempted to play during the night. It's also best not to play with them in their sleeping area. If they see that as a place for play, they may keep you up at night, playing with their toys or going after your feet.

Should You Adopt a Kitten as a Companion for a Senior Cat?

There's not a straightforward answer to this question because every cat has their own temperament and personality; some are more easygoing than others and may accept a new addition. Most, however, need an adjustment period.

Never force an introduction, and keep contact to a minimum for a while. Let the two cats get used to one another's presence. If you have the space, put the kitten's bed in a different room from the one your senior cat typically uses.

Get a separate litter box for your kitten, or you may see your senior cat going somewhere other than the litter box. Feed them in the same room but with different dishes. Put them far enough away from each other that they don't fight over one another's food. Gradually move the food dishes closer as they become used to each other.

Understandably, you want to spend a lot of time with the new addition to your family. If your senior cat feels neglected, they may act out. Be conscious of their emotions and divide your attention equally.

Double the Fun

Two kittens gazing intently with their heads titled.

There may be a better idea than adopting a kitten as a companion for your senior cat. That's to adopt two kittens; the second kitten creates a buffer.

The Humane Society of Huron Valley says your senior cat isn't likely to engage with a kitten due to their rambunctious style of play. Two kittens play together, giving your senior cat the space they need.

Your kitten isn't as likely to vie for your attention as much if they have another playmate. They're also less likely to develop separation anxiety. Kittens become used to being with their littermates. When you take one away, they look to another cat for comfort. A senior cat accustomed to being alone may not be entirely welcoming at first, but two kittens comfort each other.

Two kittens are better at eating next to each other than a kitten and an older cat are, and they may also share a litter box if it's large enough and you keep it clean.

Where To Find a Kitten (or Two)?

Your local animal shelter is always a great place to start searching for a new kitten. However, it's more likely that you'll find adult cats. Kittens go quickly, so you have to pounce on them immediately.

For other listings, use Petfinder. For instance, if you type in Sarasota, FL, a list of 382 cats shows up within 50 miles. Limit your search if you want to choose from different breeds, sizes, genders, coat lengths, and more.

Adopt a Kitten, Save a Life

Orange tabby kitten with blue eyes in a wicker basket.

Many benefits come from adopting a kitten. The entertainment value is obvious, but the love you receive from this little ball of fur is amazing. It's not all about you, though.

When you give a kitten a new home, you provide a better life than what they know. No pet should be in a cage all the time. The shelter workers and volunteers do what they can, but there are limitations to what they can provide.

On June 10, 2023, KC Pet Project has its first 5K run/walk to help support the homeless pets that come through their shelters. The race takes place in Swope Park in Kansas City, Missouri. All registrants receive a race bib and commemorative race shirt. An estimated 15,000 pets are coming through the shelter this year.

With so many homeless pets, not all of them find homes. You can decrease that number by adopting one or two kittens.

Subscribe to CattitudeDaily for more information on feline health, cat adoption tips, behaviors, and even gift ideas.

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