Adopting an Adult Cat vs. a Kitten

There are advantages to both, give each some consideration

Many people, when ready to adopt the family cat, don’t give the question much thought: their initial impulse is to adopt an adorable kitten. Very hard not to love the cartoon-like aspect of a stout little bugger with big eyes and ears and all around fuzz. I miss that of my most recent shelter adoptee: almost one and a half years later, she is now an elegant and stately cat with just a bit of crazy and silly in her. Not too long ago, she was only crazy and silly (and even a bit comical).

If you already have a cat at home, please consider adopting in the same age range. It would be wrong to think that getting a kitten will give your senior cat more life — in fact, you’re likely in for more grief than happy times as they truly seems to appreciate cats of their own age (and can get very annoyed at the energy level of young ones). Still, I’ve worked through that situation myself as I currently have: a senior male kitty, a middle-age female and this very recent junior. It was the characters of the first two that made me dare to bring the kitten into the picture, but I can attest that they needed a lot of cordoning-off from time to time, even after a slow and methodical introduction.

Left: most recent adoptee. Right: the two lovebugs she joined. These cats are 1, 8 and 15 yrs old left to right.

Overall, I’ve adopted more adult cats than kittens but I can give good reasons for doing both.

Benefits of adopting a kitten

· You can enjoy an earlier and longer (and potentially stronger) bond 
· You will delight in their antics
· Kittens can often adapt to children more easily than adult cats can
· You’ll be able to provide a peaceful, loving environment from day one(see my disadvantages of adopting adult cats for more)

Disadvantages of adopting a kitten

· Litter training
· Curtain climbing training
· Scratch training
· It’s not advisable to adopt a kitten alone, they truly need a companion kitty
· You cannot truly know what their character will be like at an early age

All totaled, when you are prepared and patient and can live through the disadvantages, the only big thing to consider is that while kittens are very fun and lovable, adult cats can show very strong personality traits. You cannot change this and it will be hard to calm a boisterous cat or make a calm one boisterous. If you have a strong feeling of the type of cat you want to interact with for the rest of their life, I don’t recommend starting with kittens, start with a known (i.e adult) personality.

Advantages of adopting an adult cat

· (Most often) there is no litter, curtain climbing or scratch training needed
· You can choose a personality: do you want a lap cat or a very independent cat? Stay with them at the shelter a bit and find out from your interactions and the organization
· You’re doing an amazing service to both shelters (God bless them) and kitties as adult cats are much harder to adopt out than kittens

Disadvantages of adopting an adult cat

· You will likely have them in your life less time than you would with a kitten
· You cannot ever know all that a grown cat has gone through and anxieties can be very entrenched and hard to do much about

I have an 8 year old female cat that has the biggest heart, but she truly must have been maltreated in the three years before I adopted her. She’ll occasionally cower when we raise a hand to pet her. No matter how much love she has had from us, these anxieties are nothing I can prevent. her behaviour has no bearing on my love for her, but not understanding cats can be a challenge to some and a source of frustration if all you do seems to still result in the same fears. The rewards of her trust increasing with us regularly are enormous and worth all the patient work.

Having adopted both her and the senior cat in the house late in their lives (I lost out on the first 3–4 years), my only regret is wanting more time with them! But I’d think that no matter how little time I had with even a kitten through adult life — I wish they’d live forever and there’s never enough time no matter what.

If you consider all your needs and desires for your family and the cat, you’ll know the answer to adopt an adult cat or kitten. I’ve never regretted the decision to go either way.

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