Should I adopt a cat or buy a kitten?

A number of things are likely to influence your decision to get a kitten or adult cat. Both experiences can be rewarding, doing some research will help to ensure your pet becomes a happy and well adjusted member of the household.
Adult cat standing next to a kitten licking its ear.

There’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to deciding whether to adopt an adult cat or a kitten. What is important, is that you research your choices thoroughly and go to a responsible breeder or shelters that can offer you information, advice and support.

A number of things are likely to influence your decision, for example, if you want a particular breed of cat and whether you have time to house train a kitten. Both experiences can be rewarding but both are very different.

Adopting an adult cat

While most people think about getting a kitten when they decide to add a cat to their family, adopting an adult has a number of benefits. Shelters across the country are full of cats of all ages looking for new homes, some of which are pure breeds.

Pros to adopting an adult cat

  • Giving a home to an adult cat is a responsible choice and can be very rewarding
  • You will be able to choose from a wide variety of cats of every different appearance, age and temperament
  • Shelter staff will know each cat well and help you find the right pet for you
  • Adult cats will usually have been trained to use a litter box
  • Fully grown cats may be quieter than kittens
  • Shelter cats are usually treated for parasites, examined by a vet and are possibly sterilised and vaccinated before you take them home
  • Any behavioural traits and temperaments may already be determined in an adult cat, and so you can find a pet who already holds any desired characteristics

Challenges with adopting an adult cat

  • Many rescue cats have an uncertain history and some may require a little extra care to settle in their new home
  • An adult cat may already have bad habits that will be difficult to change
  • An adult cat’s key socialisation period will have taken place a long time ago, however there is still room for some behavioural adaptation

Where to adopt a cat

There are a number of places you can go to adopt a cat, however the most common is a shelter. When choosing a shelter it is important to visit and ask plenty of questions about their policies, care and hygiene measures.

A good shelter will also have made an effort with any cats to socialise them and accustom them to the normal aspects of life in a family home.

Other places you may rescue a cat include:

  • Friends, neighbours or acquaintances may have cats they can no longer take care of.
  • Your local vets. It is worth asking your local vet as often unwanted or abandoned cats and kittens are taken there.
Kitten grey and white standing indoors playing with a red ball.

Choosing a kitten

For many, the perfect cat means having a particular breed, and choosing to get a kitten rather than an adult cat from a shelter may be the best way to ensure you get what you want.

There are many different breeds of cat, all of which have their own distinct physical and behavioural characteristics. So it's important to do your research and choose a breed that suits your lifestyle.

Most responsible breeders prefer not to let their pedigree kittens leave home and their mother until they are over 12 weeks old so they can make sure they are ready for separation and have been properly vaccinated. The key socialisation period for kittens also happens in that time frame, so it’s crucial to talk to the breeder and ask what measures have been taken to support the kitten’s development.

Kittens may also be acquired from a shelter. In these cases it may be a little harder to be certain of their parentage. That being said, workers at the shelter may be able to recognise personality traits in the kittens and help you choose the one which will be best suited to your home environment. While they may be able to spot some defining characteristics in kittens, a lot may be up to chance, but as many fans of moggies will say, this is all part of their charm.

Pros to acquiring a kitten

  • Kittens are very playful and lively, making them entertaining additions to the home
  • You can often choose the breed you want
  • You can get a full medical background from the breeder

Challenges acquiring a kitten

  • Kittens will initially be a lot more dependent than an adult cat
  • With a kitten you will need to take the time to house train it

Where to acquire a kitten

There are a lot of places where you can acquire kittens, whether they are from a registered breeder, a shelter, or a family who have had an accidental litter. The important thing is to make sure the kittens and their mother are healthy and well looked after before you take one home.

It is strongly recommended that you go to a reputable breeder or seller. You may choose to ask your vet for advice about breeders or shelters in the local area.

  • If you have chosen a breed and identified a breeder, visit them to observe the environment that the kittens are raised in
  • Kittens born into homes with lots of people around, and where they experience the usual day-to-day household happenings such as visitors, vacuum cleaners, washing machines and other pets, will adapt to your household much more easily than those kittens raised outside of the house or isolated from people
  • If possible, ask about the temperament of the tom and queen, and what measures they take to ensure their kittens are well-socialised, as well as their attention to hygiene, healthcare, wellbeing and good nutrition

Whether you choose a kitten or an adult cat, active research will help to ensure your pet will be happy with you and that you will be a caring, responsible owner.

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Maine Coon adult standing in black and white on a white background