Updated June 20, 2016.
Before you make that important decision to adopt a kitten, get all the information.
Deciding to adopt a kitten is easy . . .
. . . if you’ve done your homework . . . and if you’re prepared.
It’s worth the time and effort to make the best adoption experience possible for everyone’s benefit, especially for your new kitten.
Are you prepared to be responsible for your new family member for the rest of its life?
From kitten-hood to end of life, cats have been known to live a long time.
See Is Cat Adoption Right for You? for a couple of stories about long-lived cats. You might be surprised at how long cats can live!
Raising a kitten is a lot like raising children; you’re committed from birth through childhood, the teenage years, all the stages of adulthood, and the elderly years.
Life happens. That’s when “commitment” really comes into play. The commitment to adopt a kitten is a lot like marriage vows . . . for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health . . . sounds like the makings for the best kind of friendship, doesn’t it?
Begin your search to adopt a kitten by listing the qualities you would like in your new pet, such as affectionate, quiet, healthy, litter box trained, and willing to please.
Take stock of your expectations, lifestyle and family dynamics, and where you live.
Will your new kitten spend a lot of time alone while you are gone during the day? How will you meet your kitten’s needs while you are gone?
A new kitten alone at home is not much different than a baby. Remember, you are the “mother kitty”, now. Would you abandon a newborn baby, leaving it to fend for itself while you are gone at work all day?
If your new kitten will be spending time outdoors, consider its safety. Is your home located near a busy road or a dangerous highway? Is your yard fenced and large enough to accommodate your kitten’s growing needs?
Do you move a lot? Just like children, moving is very distressful for pets. Relocations can cause disorientation, insecurity and clinginess. Rethink your timing to adopt a kitten if you know you will be moving soon.
Do you have a preference for a certain breed? Check the special characteristics associated with that breed to make sure they are in line with your expectations, lifestyle and family dynamics.
Did you know there are far more domestic house cats than there are purebreds? Consider adopting a domestic house cat; you will find they are just as wonderful.
No matter what your expectations are, keep them realistic when it comes to adopting a kitten.
For more information about cat adoption read, Is Cat Adoption Right for You?
Once your decision is made to adopt a kitten, it’s time to turn you attention to preparing your home for your new family member before they arrive.
Kittens are small and can squeeze into tiny holes and disappear. Get down at “kitten” level and find all the holes, nooks and crannies where your new kitten might hide.
Yes, this means crawling around the floor on your hands and knees. If you were a curious kitten, what small place looks interesting to explore?
Block areas where your new kitten might become stuck and those that are dangerous, especially areas where they might chew on electrical cords behind large appliances, such as washers and dryers.
At our house, Abby found a hole behind a piece of kitchen cabinet molding along the floor that led to a dead space between two cabinets. These cabinets had another hole along the back wall which led behind the built-in dishwasher.
As a small kitten she disappeared into this hole. We heard her scrabbling around and mewling. Luckily we were able to coax her out and didn’t have to disassemble the dishwasher.
Needless to say, she wasn’t happy when we plugged the hole to her intriguing hiding place. It was a couple of years before she stopped trying to open the plug to get into that hole, even though she was too big for it by the time she was six months old.
We’ve had kittens hide in holes in walls and floors, holes so small you wouldn’t think a kitten could squeeze into it. They’ve hidden behind, under, and in furniture and drawers, closets, boxes of all kinds, shoes, clothes . . . you name it . . . if a kitten can squeeze into it and think they’re hiding (even when they are in plain sight) they do it!
As a kitten, Abby loved to bolt through the house and take flying leaps into things. One day as I was sitting at my desk paying bills, Abby took a flying leap, curled herself up in mid-air and cannon balled into the small slot between our paper shredder and its corresponding waste bin.
It was a perfect aim every time. When Abby hit the paper shreds, she trilled with delight.
We keep the paper shredder on an automatic setting so all we have to do is pop in a piece of paper. When the paper hits the electric eye, the machine turns on and shreds it. This machine is always on.
So, when Abby did her first flying leap into the paper shredder, my heart stopped. Never did it occur to me the paper shredder might pose a danger to Abby. I pulled the plug and removed the paper shredder to prevent injury.
Instead, we introduced a similar sized box and filled it with crinkled brown paper so she could continue to enjoy her flying leap experiences and burrow in.
To this day, her favorite toy is a cardboard box filled with crinkly brown paper.
My point is, never underestimate your kitten. Do your best to kitten proof your house before you adopt a kitten, and then be very alert as to where your kitten is at all times.
Getting your new kitten off to a great start in its new home is important. In all the years we’ve brought home new baby pets, not one was healthy. In fact, all of them needed round the clock nursing due to potentially fatal conditions.
After talking with other pet owners, my personal conclusion is this is more the norm rather than the exception.
We always, always, always take our newly adopted kittens to see our favorite veterinarian first, before taking them home. We don’t want our new kitten to pass along any diseases or parasites to our other pets or to human family members.
Moreover, this action on our part has saved the life of more than one baby animal we’ve adopted. Sickness in baby pets is not always apparent to the untrained eye, and often only revealed with veterinary testing.
Do you need help finding a veterinary professional for your new kitten?
Consult How to Choose the Best Veterinarian for your Cat. If you have any questions, you might find the following article helpful, What are your Veterinary Questions? Get Answers and Advice.
Kittens need special nutrition, the kind that will help them grow into health strong adult cats. While I’m no expert on kitten nutrition, I do know the best pet food for cats is wild and raw. Read, Best Pet Food—The Ultimate Guide to Feeding Cats for more information.
Also, consult with your veterinary professional about choosing the best pet food to meet your kitten’s nutrition needs.
Have pet food on hand before you bring your new kitten home, and make sure you have a variety from which your new kitten can choose from. Most cats are finicky eaters with strong preferences and dislikes. I’ve had cats choose to hunger strike rather than eat something they don’t like, healthy food or not!
Before you bring your kitten home, purchase a small cat litter box and two or three cat litter choices. Save bulk litter purchases until you know what your kitten’s litter preference is. Avoid litters with fragrance added.
Strong fragrances overwhelm kittens’ fragile olfactory senses (sense of smell) and can interfere with litterbox training. Kittens need to be able to smell their own urine and fecal scents to develop good litter box habits. If you keep the litter box clean, you won’t have any odor problems.
Choose a cat litter appropriate for your new kitten’s paw size. For guidance, ask what litter the kitten has been using and purchase the same litter to use at home. You kitten will welcome something familiar in its new home and a familiar cat litter will help with litter box training.
Like children who are required to use a safety car seat when traveling in vehicles, so too, should your new kitten be safely contained while transporting.
Purchase a good pet carrier to bring your new kitten home in. Consider making this a one-time purchase; choose a carrier big enough to comfortably transport an adult cat.
Likely, your cat carrier will also serve as a “safe” place in the event your cat might have to stay overnight at a pet hospital.
So, make your pet carrier soft and inviting for your new kitten.
Line the interior with cushiony fabric, such as a large fluffy bath towel. Place a small shoe box inside, also lined with a fluffy towel, smaller in size. Add a small toy, such as a soft felt mouse, something the kitten can call its own, much like a security blanket, or a special stuffed toy, small children might cling to.
Your kitten will feel more secure if it has a special place all its own to curl up in, both on the ride to its new residence and as a sleeping place and cozy retreat in its new home.
Carry extra towels along with a sealable plastic bag in case your new kitten has an accident enroute.
All cats have a natural instinct to scratch and scent-mark their territory. To prevent interior damage to your house, accommodate your kitten’s natural behavior by providing a scratching post and pad.
Each kitten’s scratching needs will be different. While one kitten may prefer a high stretch scratch, another may prefer scratching at a flat floor level.
Then, there’s Abby. She likes to scratch a hard cedar post and a flat carpet lined scratcher.
Check your local library for books and information about kittens.
Great resources can be found online, too. My favorite website is Petfinder.com, a Shelter Pet Project partner. There you will find some of the most reputable information to help you make a successful leap to adopt a kitten.
When you finalize your cat adoption, think about sending an e-card announcement to let those you love know about your special new family member.
Let us know, too! Share your joy in the comment section below.