The Ultimate Guide to Adopting a Kitten or Cat

The Ultimate Guide to Adopting a Kitten or Cat

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Thinking about adopting a kitten or cat?

If it’s the right time for you to add a kitten or a cat to your household, you’re probably pretty excited. Nothing beats bringing home a new friend who will be part of your family for years to come.

Before you make your decision, there’s a lot to consider. First, you want to make sure you, your family or roommates and your home are all ready for the fun – and potential challenges – your new cat will bring. But once you get into the actual process of deciding what kind of cat or kitten you should bring home, you’ll want to closely analyze if you want to rescue an older cat or purchase a kitten. From there, you may want some more information on how to do either. We’ve put together this guide to give you a deeper look into what goes into adopting a cat or kitten.

Adopting a Kitten or Cat — What You Need to Know

Kitten or adult: which is right for you?. Bringing home a new kitten ensures you’ll have a bundle of joy to watch and years to enjoy his growth. Adopting or rescuing an adult cat lets you save a life and bring home a truly grateful companion. Both come with benefits and challenges.

There is usually very little guesswork with an adult cat. He is full grown, and you don’t have to guess whether he is a shorthair or longhair. Additionally, he usually comes litter-box trained and has outgrown the impulse to chew on everything. Although he may still like to play, he won’t be running in a high gear all the time. An older cat is also more likely to meld into the existing hierarchy established by your other dogs and cats. If he is healthy, an adult cat should not need as many trips to the veterinarian as a kitten.

However, with most rescue pets you are unsure of your cat’s previous environment. Depending on his personality and experiences, an adult cat may take longer to bond with you. There could be a reason why the adult cat was put up for adoption in the first place. He may suffer from serious behavioral problems, and he might prove to be a difficult pet.

Meanwhile, a kitten is a clean slate. His habits haven’t been set, and you get to teach him and watch him grow. Adopting a kitten also gives you the advantage of developing a strong, priceless bond.

But even with your best guess, you are not really sure of the kitten’s final haircoat length. This can cause problems if your kitten ends up with long hair, and you don’t have the time to brush him daily. Kittens are also famous for their non-stop energy and desire to play – especially at night. Without another kitten to play with, you become the target. They have sharp teeth and claws, and they can play pretty rough. Kittens also can be destructive to your couch, plants, carpet and whatever else you may treasure.

Where Should You Find a New Cat or Kitten?

If this is your first cat, or if you’re new to your neighborhood, you might wonder where you should go find your pet. Shelters, rescue groups, breeders and other resources are available in most cities with a quick web search. Every outlet offers its own benefits, and some have some red flags you should watch for.

Here is a general overview of where you can purchase or adopt a cat or kitten:

  • Shelters – Shelters are often a great place to rescue an adult cat, and many of them have time to work with them to give you some insight on their personality and fit into your home.
  • Rescue Groups – Rescue organizations generally place animals without operating a facility to house them. Organization members will provide foster care in their homes to cats until they can be permanently placed.
  • Breeders – If you want a purebred cat, find breeders in the national cat magazines, visit a cat show or surf the Internet. Like good shelters, breeders will interview you to make certain you will provide a good home and ask you to sign a contract.
  • Internet – Finding the right cat may be only a mouse click away. Many shelters have sites where they post photos of cats available for adoption. The “cybershelter” available from the American Society of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and makes it easy for you view adoptable cats in your area.
  • Breed Rescue – Purebred cats occasionally turn up at shelters or in newspapers. Groups have sprung up to rescue purebred cats from shelter situations and find them homes with people who would prefer a breed. Listings of purebred cat rescue groups can be found at Eden Publications’ or the Internet Cat Club’s Web site at, among other locations.
  • Newspapers – Yes, the newspaper classified section still does the trick! Be very careful when adopting from an individual you don’t know; ask the owner for the name of the cat’s veterinarian and vaccination certificates.
  • Pet stores – Pet store pets are often obtained through kitten mills – breeders who care only about making money rather than the health and well-being of the animals produced. Forward-thinking pet stores have become off-site adoption agencies for local shelters and animal organizations. If you are hesitant to go to a shelter to adopt, visit a pet store that has shelter animals available in the store.
  • Strays – There is no shortage of free-roaming cats in the world. They may find you instead of the other way around. Many of these cats are grateful for being brought indoors, and saving a cat from a life on the street carries its own reward.

As you look to adopt or rescue your new pet, be smart. Always make sure you’re on the lookout for kitten mills and even online scams targeted at taking money without ever having an animal for your to adopt.

Should You Adopt or Purchase Your Cat?

So, knowing all of the places you can go to find a new cat, should you be looking to adopt your new cat or purchase him?

Adopting a cat from a local animal shelter or rescue organization is a very fulfilling experience. It is one of those standstill moments that remain etched in your memory forever. After all, you just saved a life.

While you are saving a life when you adopt from a shelter, what you see is not necessarily what you get. In the case of kittens, you will probably not get to meet the parents – so you probably won’t know anything about the kitten’s genetic legacy. You will also know little about his early life experiences.

When you purchase a purebred kitten, the chances are that you will be getting him from a breeder and he will be young. At least one of the parents should be nearby, so you can check that parent’s temperament and condition. The cleanliness of the facility, the breeder’s knowledge of the breed, the stage at which he is willing to let kittens go (it should never be before eight weeks of age), and the kitten’s socialization skills should be tip-offs to the quality of the kennel.

Deciding if Your New Pet is an Indoor or Outdoor Cat

Today cats live longer than ever. Just 20 years ago the life expectancy of a cat was four to six years; today they live 15 years or more. Life expectancy in cats depends on many things, but the most important factor is whether he is an indoor-only cat or an outdoor cat. Life expectancy varies significantly between the two.

Indoor cats generally live from 12-18 years of age. Many may live to their early 20s. The oldest reported cat was 28 years old at the time of death.

Outdoor cats generally live to be around four to five years of age. Their deaths are typically due to traumas such as being hit by a car or dog attacks. Outdoor cats are also more susceptible to several deadly viruses that are spread by fighting or prolonged intimate contact with an infected cat.

While indoor cats may deal with more behavioral issues around being bored and they will likely need more help from you to lead an enriched life, they will generally be around for a longer, healthier life with you and your family.

Are You at Your Cat Limit?

If you’re looking to add another cat to your house, it’s worth considering if that’s the best move. There is a limit to how many cats one should have.

So, how many cats are too many? Even with just two cats there can be issues getting them to be friends. For most people, two to three cats are a lot to handle. For others, 5 to 10 might be manageable. But don’t fall into the collector trap. Individuals who collect great numbers of cats think that they are doing the right thing, but this often isn’t true. As the number of cats in the household increases, the incidence of behavior problems rises. Once you get to more than five or six cats, you can almost guarantee problems with fighting and inappropriate urination.

Picking a Name for Your Cat or Kitten

Ready to do this? OK. We have some help with one last, important step: Naming your new friend! The PetPlace team has done numerous articles on cat name suggestions over the years, and we compiled them all in a list that includes everything from names based on haircoat to Marvel Universe-themed names.

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