Been toying with the idea of sharing your life with a cute and furry kitten? Fasten your seatbelt–you’re in for an adventure! Kittens are a party waiting to happen, which can be both entertaining and exhausting.
Vet assistants talk to a lot of first-time cat owners and can attest to the pleasures and pitfalls of opening your home to a future cat. In their profession, veterinary assistants get an earful of kitten tales every day, from the comical to the disastrous. For better or worse, though, kittenhood does not last long.
Weigh the Pros and Cons of Getting a Kitten
Before you bring that little fluff ball home you need to consider the pros and cons. It’s always good to go into these things with your eyes wide open.
The pros on the kitten side are strong and play to our emotions.
- Kittens are certifiably adorable. It’s pretty much a fact. Under “cute” in the dictionary it should read: see kittens. Only a real Grinch would deny this.
- Kittens are the most entertaining creatures on the planet. How else can you explain the millions of hours people spend watching videos of them on social media?
- Kittens don’t require a lot of expensive furniture or toys. They’ll sleep in a cardboard box lined with an old towel and play with the contents of your recycling bin.
Those pros are hard to dispute, but anyone thinking of getting a kitten needs to understand every single one of the cons.
- Kittens need frequent veterinary visits during the first few months of life. When you first get a kitten, it should be examined by a veterinarian for any signs of disease or parasites. A series of four vaccinations needs to be scheduled during a kitten’s first 20 weeks. Then around six months, spaying or neutering should take place.
- You know how adult cats are always sleeping? Yeah, kittens don’t do that. New cat owners should be ready for their new little friend to be a ball of energy. Kittens will usually have spurts of energy and need a lot of play time and attention, broken up by approximately an hour or so power nap in between play sessions.
- Kittens are small but fierce. They are learning all about their new world and if there is anything that they can get into, destroy or attack with their newfound claws, it is fair game. Coupling this with the fact that kittens have ‘no fear’ means that new cat parents should be ready to monitor and protect their curious baby at all times.
- Kittens have sensitive stomachs and can be prone to diarrhea.
- Teething happens from about 3 to 6 months as kittens lose their baby teeth and get their adult teeth.
- Like all cats, kittens need to sharpen their claws. And they will. On anything.
- Kittens and small children are not a great pairing.
- Some cat breeds are higher maintenance than others and will require frequent grooming. Make sure you do your homework and consider if you have time to devote to grooming your cat whether that means dematting long coated fur or weekly bathing for hairless cats.
Is It Better to Adopt an Adult Cat?
If you’re okay spending a few months of your life with a feline version of the Tasmanian Devil from a Looney Toons cartoon, kitten ownership may be for you. Otherwise, here are some reasons to think about skipping the shenanigans and adopting a full-grown cat.
- Grown cats will still play, but for the most part they’re pretty chill.
- Petting your adult cat has health benefits, such as reducing loneliness and lowering stress. Studies also suggest that cat owners exhibit better cardiovascular health.
- An adult cat is a largely independent animal and does not require a big time commitment, although they will still need the essential requirements like food, water, attention and veterinary visits.
- Older cats are better at cleaning themselves. They also tend to have cleaner “bathroom” habits than kittens do.
- If you have children in the household, adult cats are a better fit. More delicate than mature cats, kittens can be easily injured when a child plays too roughly or steps on them. Adult cats are physically stronger and able to withstand the attention of enthusiastic children. They are also more adept at fleeing for their lives.
- Animal shelters have a harder time adopting out adult cats as opposed to kittens, so giving a home to a full-grown cat fulfills a greater need.
Be Prepared for Anything
And by anything, we mean anything. But if you are bound and determined to acquire a kitten, you must be prepared. If you think baby-proofing a home is hard, just try anticipating the trouble a kitten can get into.
- If it’s breakable and can be batted off a shelf or table, it’s going to be.
- If it’s a dangling drape, bedspread, or a tablecloth, it’s going to be shredded as the kitten climbs it.
- If it’s in an uncovered trash can, it’s fair game.
The above list really only focuses on things that are more inconvenient than dangerous. There’s a whole other list of life-threatening hazards that could seriously hurt a kitten.
- An open window or door invites escape.
- Like human babies, kittens will put anything in their mouths. Sometimes this requires surgery to remove a dangerous object from the animal’s intestines.
- Kittens can find their way into high, small spaces or holes and not be able to extricate themselves. This includes squeezing behind furniture or large dangerous appliances.
- Blind cords are an irresistible invitation to play and also a strangulation hazard.
- Yarn, string, and ribbon can possibly cause trouble if swallowed.
- Toilet lids left up tempt kittens to drink. Very small kittens have drowned by falling in.
- Dryer doors and washer lids should stay closed at all times to avoid trapping a kitten.
- Kittens will chew on your houseplants. Do you know which are poisonous?
- Ant traps need to go. Any pesticide, used inside or outside your home, should be animal friendly.
Truly, kittens need all nine of their lives to reach adulthood. The good news is that cats are pretty smart and can be trained.
As crazy as this sounds, adopting two kittens can be better than adopting just one. Instead of being double the trouble, two kittens will amuse each other and be less likely to get into mischief out of boredom. Since they will have each other to socialize with and learn from, less time and effort will be required on your part.
Kittens that are siblings or that have become “friends” (aka bonded) at a shelter will help each other transition into a new home. And kittens adopted together will bond for life. If you think you eventually want to have two cats, it’s far better to go ahead and adopt two kittens at the same time. Introducing a kitten or a new adult cat to a cat that’s been in your home for a long time can be a more difficult scenario. If you already have an adult cat at home who has established their hierarchy, you will need to do your research on how to appropriately, safely, and slowly introduce the new kitten into the home environment.
Enjoy the Ride!
If you’ve read this far and haven’t gotten discouraged, get out there and find your kitten(s) and enjoy the ride! The kitten you bring into your home now will grow into a wonderful companion to accompany you through life’s ups and downs for years to come. The effort is worth the reward but patience and understanding will help. Having cats as a part of your family can be funny, rewarding and great for all concerned. In fact, a feline/human relationship can develop into a beautiful friendship!