Adopting a Kitten or Cat

David McCluggage, D.V.M., C.V.A.

Do you already own a cat? Or, will this be the first cat in your household? If you already have a cat, and are looking at acquiring a second cat, you must make sure the two cats will get along well together. Among other issues is the use of litter boxes among multiple-cat households. See our article on litterbox training. When bringing a new cat into a house with other cats, the local humane society is often a great place to acquire the new cat. They understand that the cats must get along and are usually willing to let you see how they do together before you are committed to keeping the new cat.

When considering a new cat, many people naturally look at acquiring a kitten. Kittens are fun to have, but can also cause lots of mischief in the house. They need to be house trained. They need to be trained to not scratch the furniture. They must learn the "do's and don'ts" of the house. This can take time, but with a dedicated caretaker, all these issues should resolve just fine.

Many people live busy lives and are not home a great deal. For these people, an adult cat is often the best idea. The same is true for households with small children. Children don't understand how delicate a kitten is and can, unintentionally, make a kitten shy or leery of people.

Adult cats are actually a great idea for many people. They will bond just as easily as a kitten with their new caretakers. They are usually house trained, healthy and well behaved. They often adapt to a new home far better than a kitten. We have found that most people end up very pleased that they adopted an adult cat instead of a kitten.

Where to acquire your cat or kitten?

1. Animal rescue shelters/humane societies

  • Animal shelters are the best source when looking for a pet. Not only do they have a great selection of adult animals for adoption, but they often have kittens. Many times you can even find purebred animals if you are looking for a specific breed. Animal shelters have trained staff that can determine the behavior of the cat (especially if it is an adult cat, kittens are far less predictable about what personality they will develop). You will have the added satisfaction of knowing you have given a home to a cat or kitten that needs you very much.
  • You can depend on responsible shelters to screen the animals for sound health as well as temperament. When animals are relinquished by owners, the shelter staff makes every attempt to collect a thorough history of that pet. Then, while caring for the animals, staff and volunteers try to learn as much as they can about them as well as those who come to the shelter as strays. They will run tests for diseases and often supply the kitten with its first set of vaccinations (see our article on vaccinations).
  • Animal shelters are easily found in your local phone book, and can also be found using Internet web search engines.

2. Purebred Rescue Groups

There are many people that have fallen in love with a specific breed, and will set up a network of rescue people for that breed. This is far more common with dogs, but there are some cat purebred rescue groups as well. They are also an excellent place to look for your new cat. Purebred rescue groups are most easily found on the web using search engines such as Google.

3. Pet Stores

  • Pet stores are not good sources for animals, including kittens, even though some stores do try to be extremely reputable and conscientious. Unfortunately, many do not take the care one would hope and often buy cats, birds and dogs from sources you would not, yourself, purchase from if you saw the situation in which the parents and kittens were kept.

4. Buying from a professional breeder

  • If you are sure you want a specific breed, you may wish to consider a private, professional breeder. The benefit of buying a pure bred cat is that you will tend to know what the basic personality will be and the basic look your new kitten will have when mature.
  • Breeders tend to be more reputable than pet stores, but this if far from a sure thing. Some breeders are in it only for the money and do not breed to enhance the breed and don't try to match the kitten with the new household he or she will be going to.
  • Good breeders will actually "interview" you to make sure that you are a person that is likely to provide their kitten with a good home. Don't be offended with this approach as they love their babies and want only the best for them.
  • The best place to find a good breeder is a personal referral from satisfied customers of the breeder.

5. Finally, it is best for most people to not purchase a cat that has physically challenging characteristics (dystrophic breeds). Long haired cats and cats that have "flat" faces do have more potential for problems and are harder to keep well groomed and healthy. Good breeders of these breeds (for example, Persian cats) will explain the care, grooming, and upkeep of their breed. They will explain that the breed is not for everyone. And, they will try to breed for kittens that are not excessively flat faced ("brachycephalic"), as these cats tend to have breathing and eye problems throughout their life.

After you have adopted your new kitten, look at our information on feeding, vaccinations, nutritional supplements, and other articles found on our cat page and links found on that page.