Should I Adopt a Kitten?
If you’re considering bringing a kitten home, it’s important to remember that caring for a cat is a long-term commitment.
Cat ownership means being committed to caring for your cat for 15 to 20 years, as it’s possible you’ll be together that long. Getting a kitten means making sure you’ll be able to help them live their best life from day one through their senior years.
Whether it’s choosing the right kitten food, making sure you can keep up with your cat’s healthcare needs or committing to give them the love and affection they deserve throughout their lives, cat ownership requires some forethought.
Questions to Ask Yourself Before Getting a Kitten
Once you’ve answered the question “Should I get a kitten?”, you need to take steps to ensure you and your home are prepared and set up for success.
Is Your Home Pet-Friendly & Can You Kitten-Proof It?
Kittens and adult cats are curious creatures and have little problem hopping up on shelves, countertops or just about anywhere they want to go. While their natural athleticism is impressive and fun to watch, take steps to protect them and keep them from places you don’t want them to go, such as:
- Keep electrical cords covered or out of reach: One activity cats enjoy is chewing, so you need to make sure they don’t have access to electrical cords and computer and phone charger cables.
- Remove hazardous plants: Research which plants are toxic for cats and remove them from your household.
- Use child-proof latches on cabinets: Cats usually have little trouble opening cabinets, where they can have all kinds of adventures and potentially discover foods or chemicals that might be harmful to them. Childhood latches are great for keeping your cat safe.
- Check your home for small places, holes, nooks or other enclosed spaces: Kittens and cats love to explore small places and may even jump into washing machines and dryers. Block access to these places. It’s also a good idea to look inside the washer or dryer before turning it on. Also, cover all heating and air vents.
- Remove all dangling cords: Dangling cords, like ones from lamps and blinds can be a tempting play toy for cats but may also get them into trouble. Be sure to keep them out of reach.
How Do I Choose a Kitten that Fits My Lifestyle & Home?
Before you set out to find the perfect kitten, consider where and how you live as well as the type of kitten you’d like to have. If your home already has other pets, do you know how to introduce a new cat to your current cat or how to introduce cats and dogs?
Could you take in multiple littermates? Will you be away from home often? Can you handle the frequent brushing required for grooming long-haired kittens?
Personality-wise, are you looking for a laid-back lap cat, or would a more energetic personality be better for you?
If other family members are part of the decision-making process, get their input as well.
How Can I Assess a Kitten’s Personality?
The pre-adoption time is the perfect time to decide how to choose a kitten whose personality will fit with yours. Like people, some kittens are outgoing, while others will be shy and may not be the best choice for a busy household with one or more young children or other pets.
Note that if a kitten seems energetic, it may mean they may require more exercise, and kitten-proofing the house may be more of a challenge.
If you prefer a lap cat, choose a kitten that settles down quickly when they’re picked up and is responsive to petting.
How Do I Evaluate a Healthy Appearance?
Picking a healthy kitten starts with evaluating their appearance. Healthy kittens will have bright eyes free of discharge.
Another thing to look for is a clean and shiny coat and ears free of dirt. Healthy kittens won’t be sneezing, squinting or appear to have cold-like symptoms.
Also, be on the lookout for excessive scratching or licking, as that may be a sign of fleas or other parasites.
How Do I Know How to Choose the Best Cat Food & Litter?
Proper cat nutrition is an essential part of helping your kitten’s health thrive, and this requires high-quality cat food. You also need to know when to switch cat food for different life stages, for example, when to switch from kitten food to cat food.
Knowing what cat food ingredients are essential, how to read cat food labels, how much to feed your cat and if a personalized cat food is the way to go is important, so be sure to consult your veterinarian.
Before buying cat litter, it’s important to note that not all litters are the same. Cat litter quality varies, and so does type. There’s scooping/clumping litter, clay litter, crystal base/silica gel litter and plant-derived biodegradable litter. You may need to try a few kinds of cat litter to find one your cat prefers.
An odor-absorbing litter will help keep the house smelling fresh. Cats are sensitive to the waste and urine clumps in their litterbox, so be sure to scoop it at least once a day and wash once a week. This should ensure they don’t find alternate places to do their business. Also, litter with tinier particles is often preferred by cats. You may also want to look out for dust from clay litter, which can cause allergic reaction for both cats and people.
Is There a Veterinarian in My Area?
Bringing home a new kitten means they will likely need a thorough check up and a series of vaccinations. These vaccinations will help protect them against rabies, upper respiratory infections, distemper and possibly feline leukemia virus and potentially others. The veterinarian will also likely check for internal parasites and any other viruses they could have, like FeLV and FIV.
Throughout your cat’s life, it will be necessary to ensure they’ve received their scheduled annual vaccines. Whether they’re due for a vaccine or not, cat owners should bring them in for an exam at least once a year. Being diligent about annual visits, even if their cat seems in excellent health can help detect possible health problems before they become problematic for the cat.
Since cats age faster than humans, cat owners need to keep a close eye on their health with one or two visits to the veterinarian per year. Some feline health conditions are easy to overlook, so it’s vital to allow a pet health professional to check on your cat regularly to ensure they’re in good health.
Parasite control is also important—even if they’re indoor only. Fleas and ticks can “hitchhike” on pet owners and then jump on an unprotected pet. Mosquitoes can also come indoors and can infect cats with heartworms. Having them on a consistent flea, tick and heartworm prevention program will help them avoid health risks associated with these parasites.
Can I Keep Up With Litterbox Cleaning & Grooming?
Litterbox cleaning is another must-do in caring for your cat. A dirty litterbox can potentially lead to health problems for your cat or inspire your cat to find other places to use as a bathroom. Scooping the litter box once or twice a day and cleaning the box once a week should be the norm in your household. If you have more than one cat, you should use multiple litter boxes. There should be at least one box per cat.
Depending on factors like hair length and breed, cat grooming may be something you need to do occasionally or regularly. Some shorthaired cat breeds might need brushing every four weeks or so, unless they have thicker coats, which might make it necessary to brush them multiple times a week. Longhaired breeds may need extra attention to help cut down on shedding and reduce the risk of hairballs from self-grooming and may need to be brushed daily. Nails need to be inspected weekly, and trimmed as necessary. Cats need to be provided with scratchers, which are good for the cat and help protect them from using your furniture.
Can I Give My Kitten the Attention & Direction They Need?
Each cat has their own personality and some of them may require more attention than others. However, especially at the beginning, it’s crucial that you have the time to spend on training your kitten and giving them the love and attention they need to grow up to be a well-balanced and happy cat.
What Should I Do After the Adoption?
During your new kitten’s first few days at home, schedule a visit to the veterinarian and ask any questions you have regarding their health, decoding kitten behavior, as well as any questions about choosing the right kitten food.
Once you know if a commitment to a kitten makes sense for you and your lifestyle, you can begin your search for a new companion and soon enjoy sharing a life together.
Want to know more about kitten and cat ownership? Get more tips from our experts on our Pet Expertise page.