Hello, Kitty! What is the best way to obtain a kitten?
January 9, 2012 7:41 PM   Subscribe

CAT PEOPLE: I am about to join your collective. So question #1 is: What's the best way to actually get a kitten? Pound? Pet store? Craigslist? Snare baited with catnip? Also, any other advice appreciated.

My criteria for the kitten are pretty simple:

* Affectionate, loving disposition
* As low maintenance as possible
* Inexpensive

So given these, it doesn't seem like there is any real advantage to paying a lot, but I thought I'd check here first to be sure.

As far as I know I would be perfectly happy with any breed, but perhaps some breeds have advantages over others.

Before I jump into this, I would be grateful for whatever suggestions or advice you may have.
posted by Alaska Jack to Pets & Animals (48 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Please, please, check your local shelter first. They will have LOADS of cats and kittens, probably for the price of a spay/neuter.
posted by kestrel251 at 7:44 PM on January 9, 2012 [11 favorites]

Look for a rescue group in your area. There are always, always, always more cats than people with homes for cats. Rescue cats will have their shots and such, are often already used to living with people in a home-like environment, and give you an "in" with the community of responsible pet owners in your area. Win!
posted by SMPA at 7:46 PM on January 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

Pet store : no
Craigslist : ok, but not ideal
Pound : ok, but heartbreaking
Rescue Organization : perfect

"As low maintenance as possible"

Don't get a kitten, if that's the way you really feel - a nice middle aged cat would be perfect for you and would greatly appreciate a warm home and lap. You can also get a kitten if you feel so inclined, after you get used to having the calm cat around.
posted by HopperFan at 7:48 PM on January 9, 2012 [8 favorites]

Your local SPCA is a fine place to start. Show up; tell them what you want, and play with a bunch to find one you consider acceptably affectionate/loving. They'll all be equally low-maintenance (well, the longhairs will have more to shed) and they'll all be equally cheap.

PLEASE do not go to a store and pay money for a cat. There are hundreds, thousands even, of very adoptable lovable purring cats and kittens at every shelter in the US, all of them in need of warm patches of sunlight to call their very own, and the amount you'll be charged is the minimum the shelters can get away with (eg, you're paying for shots and neutering, not profit).

PROTIP: If you can, get two, and their ability to entertain/annoy each other will make you and your feline(s) that much happier. If you don't think you have room for two, you're probably wrong.

Also, by posting this question you are legally obligated to provide a photo of the kitten once you've acquired the furball. It's in your metafilter contract.
posted by Tomorrowful at 7:49 PM on January 9, 2012 [25 favorites]

Oh, and also, read this.
posted by SMPA at 7:49 PM on January 9, 2012

Oh, and yeah, as HopperFan points out - a non-kitten, or a pair of adults, will be lower-maintenance than a hyper little kitten that'll demand lots of right-now-whatcha-doing-hey-hey-look-at-me attention all the time. You'll also get more Good Person karma points, because shelters generally have an easier time adopting out their kittens than even young adults, and as a bonus, the personality of an adult is easier to judge - an active adult cat is probably going to stay that way, while a bouncy pouncy kitten may well mellow out and become a lazy lump as she grows up.
posted by Tomorrowful at 7:52 PM on January 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

First of all, this is a great idea.

I also agree that going to a shelter is a great place to start. Often the people working there are very knowledgeable not only about cat care, but they want to find the best possible fit for you so that you want to keep your kitten (and yes, they will take it back if things don't work out, but a good match will go a long way to make that a moot issue). A lot of shelters also run promotions, so for example, I got my sweet black kitten Guy Noir for $31 on Halloween (instead of $85). That included all of his shots and was fixed, etc, plus a free vet checkup after a couple weeks. If you don't really click with any of the cats at the shelter don't worry, ask them if there are more still in foster care -- it's like a farm league where the up-and-comers are -- and they can maybe help make a match that way.
posted by lamprey at 7:53 PM on January 9, 2012

On not getting a kitten, but instead an adult cat.

(I whole-heartedly agree with every point raised in the answers here, too.)
posted by SMPA at 7:54 PM on January 9, 2012 [5 favorites]

Agree with the advice to get two. Preferably litter mates or "roommates" at the shelter. It really will be less work than one.

I tried to post a pic of our two, curled up together into a big ol' lump o' cat, but my phone won't cooperate.
posted by kestrel251 at 7:55 PM on January 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

Your name suggests you're in Alaska. Are you near Eagle River Pet Zoo? The Alaska Cat Adoption Team is having an adoption fair this weekend, which sounds like a way you can meet a bunch of kitties at once and talk to their foster parents, who will give you an idea of their temperament, habits, etc. Organizations like these often have programs where you foster-to-adopt, where you have the cat for a month or so without committing to adoption - if the cat works out for you, excellent! And if not, they have had a foster home for one of their cats. It's a win-win.
posted by troika at 7:55 PM on January 9, 2012

Yep, I've had great luck with the local Humane Society. And agreeing that kittens are crazy and a slightly older cat might be a better fit. My cat is a whole lot calmer and lower-maintenance at three than she was at one year old.
posted by beandip at 7:56 PM on January 9, 2012

If you go through a rescue group, the cat will likely have been fostered by someone, which means you can probably get a lot of useful information on the cat's personality and likes/dislikes--whether it's kid friendly, or dog friendly, or prefers to be solitary, or what have you.

My experience is that the cost of adopting a rescue cat seems to be maybe $75-100 dollars, but this gets you a cat that is up to date on shots, fixed, and gives you a chance at understanding the cat's history somewhat.

And nthing that your cat will need its own cat. My first cat made this abundantly clear to the point that our second cat is named Murphy due to the fact that the first cat spent the first year of his life wandering around the house mournfully crying "Murph, murph, murph". A habit he ceased immediately upon Murph's arrival.

Two cats aren't any harder than one, they're not like babies.
posted by padraigin at 7:56 PM on January 9, 2012 [9 favorites]

Nnthing HopperFan and Tomorrowful. Kittens aren't too much of a handful, but teenager cats? They're horrors, believe me, I have two on their 6-7month mark at the moment and they're either sleeping or bouncing around crazily.

I got both my cats for free from nearby families with adult females that, for whatever reason, had become pregnant and well, they were very well socialized from actually living with a family and both were litter trained.

That said, a rescue org. might be the best place to get a cat from.
posted by Trexsock at 7:57 PM on January 9, 2012

When you adopt a rescue animal, whether from a pound, a rescue group or another foster group, you do something wonderful for the world. Straight up: you save a life. Think of it as paying the premium on your karma insurance.

Choosing a older, or even slightly older animal, can go a long way towards removing the mystery of a cat's personality. Simply put, it's easier to see what you're getting. And in some cases getting an older cat is cheaper than a kitten. ONce you get past the initial spay/neuter + vaccinations you can go years and years with nothing more spent than an annual check-up and boosters.
posted by BlahLaLa at 8:09 PM on January 9, 2012

Rescue cat. Older cat's have established personalities and are less work than kittens. Rescues are so desperate to find homes for cats the prices are very reasonable and usually end up cheaper than you'd pay for shots/neutering etc. Oh if you really want a kitten, and they are super cute so who can blame you, rescues usually have kittens too.
posted by wwax at 8:13 PM on January 9, 2012

My friend recently pulled a shivering, mewing kitten out from under a car in near-downtown Chicago, and I ended up with him. I will say this for kittens: wherever they come from, they tend to be extremely adaptable. Show them love and they're yours. They're resilient, and, at that age, just playful balls of fur. Their adult personalities don't really emerge until later. Therefore, there is no reason not to go for a shelter kitten.

I do support going for an adult cat though -- which shelters are more likely to carry. Pay close attention and try to spend some time with the cat before you adopt to determine its personality and find the right fit.

Either way, shelters are less expensive. Cats are inherently pretty low-maintenance, unless you've got a neurotic on your hands, and that can take time to figure out.

Affectionate and loving disposition? That will be up to the individual cat.
posted by aintthattheway at 8:28 PM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Joining the chorus . . . kittens are a handful. If you have your heart set on a kitten, then maybe you should get a kitten (or two), but if you're just assuming that the logical starting point in becoming a cat person is to obtain a kitten, I'd invite you to re-think.

I adopted two young adult cats (around 2 years old) from a local shelter and I think it was a great choice. When I got them, they were old enough to have settled down a bit and learned some common sense, but young enough to have many years of life ahead of them.

On the topic of personality: of course your new cat(s) will come with a factory-installed personality, but their behavior can also be malleable, so please don't assume that if the cat isn't purring in your lap from day one that it won't work out over the long haul. Mine didn't go from zero to CUDDLE! the instant I brought them home, but over time they grew to trust and love me more, and now they're very affectionate and cute. They follow me around the house, curl up next to me or on my lap when I sit on the couch, and usually go to bed with me at night. We also have various "petting stations" around the house where they know they can pose to ask for petting and neck-scritches if I am nearby. I've trained them to do a few semi-useful tricks, such as run to the window to watch wildlife on command and request food by scratching on their cardboard scratching blocks (which prevents them from feeling the need to scratch elsewhere). I also trained them early on to tolerate being picked up and snuggled in my arms; once they were trained to tolerate it, they figured out they could actually enjoy it. In recent weeks I've been training one of my boyfriend's cats, who "doesn't like to be picked up," to let me pick her up. The other night she calmly let me hold her for about three minutes, and even started purring a tiny bit.

Come back to AskMe after you bring your new cat(s) or kitten(s) home and we can talk more about training. I have found it very rewarding to figure out what motivates my cats and how to use that motivation to shape their behavior.
posted by Orinda at 8:36 PM on January 9, 2012

www.petfinder.com and www.adoptapet.com will show you hundreds/thousands of available kitties in your area. Lots of them will have personality descriptions by the shelter or fosterer. Often, they get litters of kittens coming in with a mom, so they'll be able to tell you what the mom is like, too, which might give you a clue about what the baby could grow up to be like. For older cats, sometimes there are LONG and really extensive descriptions by someone who knows the cat really well, since in so many cases cats wait around in the shelter or in foster for years and years.

No matter what kind of cat you are looking for, there's one in a shelter. One of my current dogs is a rare purebreed that typically costs upward of $500 at a breeder. I got him for $25 a few days before they were going to put him down.
posted by cairdeas at 8:37 PM on January 9, 2012

Pro tip: post your location. Probably someone nearby will read this post and contact you, with a sweet kitty who needs needs a new home for some reason. If you're in Alaska, I guess it could be trickier.

I think you can tell something about a cat's personality from meeting it as a kitten -- if you meet a lot of kittens and can see the differences between them, and if you have some experience with cats in general.

Double pro tip: get a book about cats; read it.

Contact a good rescue agency and probably someone in the organization can help you find a perfect new friend.

Also, the ASPCA web site has lots of information resources.

Finally - please play with your cat :) It's good for you.
posted by amtho at 8:40 PM on January 9, 2012

We adopted two kittens that a friend rescued on the street. Although I would never give up my two cats, I don't recommend this. Go to the shelter instead.

This is because the shelter cats will have their shots and, often, will already be neutered if they're old enough, and this will all be covered at cost (and waaay below retail). Our cats cost us a *fortune* the first year in shots, etc. plus our unscrupulous (former) vet actually charged us more than he should have for the neutering. All in all it came out to a few hundred dollars for our kitties. Or we could have paid around $25-50 each for kittens that already had this taken care of.

There's something marvelous about having kittens; they're so cute and tiny. But grown-up cats can still be very very fun and lovable and they're much less likely to get adopted than kittens so if you fall in love with an adult cat at the shelter don't hesitate to go for it! I recommend getting two siblings from the same litter as people have mentioned above. Don't get one cat and then another cat. That is just a recipe for days and days (or longer) of growling and fighting.

Kitty litter advice: chicken feed. It really works, and it's very cheap, and it's nearly identical to the World's Best Kitty Litter (which is aptly named -- if you can't get chicken feed, you should still get the World's Best Kitty Litter even though it's 4 times as much as clay litter, because it lasts forever, doesn't stink, and is also better/safer for cats and especially little kittens).
posted by Deathalicious at 9:02 PM on January 9, 2012 [3 favorites]

If this is your first cat, I would also suggest that an adult would be better than a kitten -- kittens are only tiny and cute for a few months. After that, they are larger and high-energy and destroy everything for another couple of years. It's also hard to tell what kind of temperament a kitten will have when it grows up.

I'd go to a local cat rescue, tell them what kind of cat you're looking for in terms of size and temperament, and then spend some time with the cats they have there. There's less of a demand for older cats, so you'll probably have a wide selection to hang out with and choose from. And if it's a no-kill rescue, then you won't have as much pressure on you when you're making your decision.

I say this as a lady who's raised three cats from kittenhood, and recently adopted a two-year-old adult. I am probably never going to get another kitten unless my as-yet-unborn children thrown an absolute fit over it, because they're just too much of a pain in the ass to deal with in a house full of cords to chew and curtains to climb and objects to knock off of tables.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 9:08 PM on January 9, 2012

Unless you have experience with cats before, I would say no to a kitten. Get an adult cat instead (and younger 'adult' cats can still be very 'kittenish' in terms of playfulness and disposition; they're not all Garfields at 24 months or something). There are tons of adult cats available from shelters and rescue groups. Plus, true kittens do best with other cats they can socialize with, or at least littermates. If you only want one cat, go for an adult who is used to just living with people. (You really, really don't want a cat who panics and cries every time it is left alone because that has never happened to it before; you will never leave the house.)

I see a lot of people are recommending the rescue group route, and that's awesome, but I'll toss a word in for the municipal shelter (at least in my area). Although they vary hugely from place to place, my local one is staffed mostly by loving volunteers who do everything to help pair people with the right animal companions. My household contains one cat from the local shelter and the adoption experience was great. (He was adopted by my SO, who at the time was a first-time "cat parent", and they did a tremendous job walking her through the process, letting her spend time with the cat in a cage-free visiting area prior to bringing him home, making sure she had all the right supplies, etc.)

Anyway, I would not assume that the local shelter is going to be a horrible experience. Yes, you will probably want to ADOPT ALL THE CATS!!!11! but that is just the mark of a decent person. (And they won't let you take them all anyway. Trust me.)
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:10 PM on January 9, 2012

Agreeing with the adopt an adult cat advice from a lot of people here. Young full grown animals are still pretty playful. You should go and visit and see what personalities appeal to you. Also want to put it a good word for municipal shelters. We got our pair from a municipal shelter where they had been for almost 2 months. Around here the municipal shelters are the only open door ones - where they have to take animals people bring them. The amount of interviewing required and costs can vary tremendously so call around. Also many shelters have sponsored adoption events or can cut the adoption fees on animals who have been there longer.
posted by oneear at 9:23 PM on January 9, 2012

Never buy an animal from a "pet store", ever, for any reason. At any moment in time there are hundreds of thousands of animals requiring loving homes, and they are stuck in pounds or at rescue places. Even your local vet will sometimes have animals available for adoption. And the trick is, I'll wager a fair chunk - indeed, probably the vast majority - of those abandoned animals were purchased from a pet store at some point.

Also, consider an older (or even "elderly") cat that nobody wants - they will have personality coming out of their ears and are going to be very mellow and loving (unless they have been abused, in which case...still consider it, but be prepared to put in a lot of work [for amazing rewards!]).

We're all rooting for you to do the right thing and look forward to hearing about your new family member in the near future. Pics or it didn't happen! :P
posted by tumid dahlia at 9:35 PM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

I would say where ever you decide to get a older cat or even a kitten should have no problem with you really getting a feel for the cat's personality. Reason being? I've had cats in many different ways-- I think I've had about a dozen cats over my lifetime, and really, it all depends on that cat him/herself.

Right now, I have 2 cats... one is 8 and one is around 3.The older cat I got through the classifieds. She was around 6 weeks old when I got her-- and she's been the best cat I've ever had. She's very loving and cuddly and mostly just wants to be petted. The younger cat I got through a shelter-- unfortunately, no one really knew his story. He's been unruly at times. He tore my boyfriend's ear after being picked up, we had to break him of getting into the trash, etc. We love him, but in short, he's a pain in our ass!

Moral of the story being really try to spend some time with your cat before buying or promising you'll take care of him/her. It's worth the research and time!
posted by camylanded at 9:38 PM on January 9, 2012

I am going to disagree and quibble a bit about the "no pet store" thing. A lot of rescue orgs do their adoptions at pet stores because they can't afford their own space. I use to volunteer for a no-kill rescue that had full-time use of the adoption center at a local Petsmart. I just adopted two kittens from the back of a family run pet store that doubles as a rescue org. These were not shady kitten mill breeders looking to make a buck.

In other words, don't write off all stores. Do your research, and find out where the cats are coming from. Realize there's a lot of family run rescue orgs that don't have te marketing money and power of the humane society, yet their acts are just as great.

Also, give yourself time to meet a lot of cats and try muliple places. Their personality can be heavily influenced by the atmosphere of the shelter. I visited the local humane society and every single cat was cranky and very unaffectionate, but going to a few other shelters I found much sweeter dispositions.
posted by joan_holloway at 10:14 PM on January 9, 2012 [3 favorites]

Just nthing joan_holloway, my local Petco's cats are rescues so I wouldn't rule them out. When I went in last week, they had a brother and sister that they said should be adopted together.

I have a big, giant dog that's never been around cats so I'm afraid to get a one but I miss having a kitty. Kittens are cute but a pain. Cats are low maintenance, which is something I miss with having a dog, which are a LOT more work. And getting two is a good idea as well; the only downside is the litter box.
posted by shoesietart at 10:33 PM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

WOW! What a bunch of great, thoughtful answers! I never expected this many -- I'll have to sift through them more carefully tomorrow, as I have to get to bed now. In the meantime, I can throw out a couple more data points:

* I've actually owned a few cats before, long ago. But I "inherited" them as relatively young adults. I've never actually gone out *looking* for a cat, which is what makes this different. Also, never had a kitten before, and would like to try it.

* I'm in Anchorage.

* I actually wanted to get the cat around Easter time. But if there is an adoption fair in Eagle River this weekend, I would consider speeding up that timetable. In fact, I think I will head over to the fair, if for no reason than to get into "cat mode" and kind of give me a starting point for this whole endeavor.

Everyone, thank you again! I will go through all this advice tomorrow, when I have time to actually sit and think about it.
posted by Alaska Jack at 11:18 PM on January 9, 2012

Where in Alaska are you? I got a great 1 year-old cat from the Anchorage Animal Shelter eight or nine years ago (because my cat needed a cat), and she is still lovely, affectionate and low-maintenance. The adoption process was painless and cheap (you even get financially rewarded for adopting older and spayed/neutered pets there), the facilities were clean, the people were helpful and I got to play with a million kitties one at a time before I chose her.

I also went to the Alaska Humane Society to look but kind of got overwhelmed; it's a warm and fuzzy (and smelly) no-kill/no-cage shelter, and cats were running all over the place and it was really hard to focus and interact with just one cat. However, they have been working hard to revamp their facilities and it seems like they do good things and would be a decent place to check out and support.
posted by charmedimsure at 11:19 PM on January 9, 2012

I had the most amazing luck when I got a pair of kittens many many years ago. Someday, when I get kittens again, I plan to find a way to do it again.

Two things:

#1 - I managed to find kittens that had been manhandled from day one, and I think that made all the difference in the world.

#2 - I got a pair of kittens from the same litter. I'm a huge believer in getting two cats instead of one. Everybody deserves a best friend :)

They were super loving to people and they were also their own little kitty support system for each other.

Best of luck to you!!!
posted by 2oh1 at 11:34 PM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

As the keeper of two adopted adult cats, I agree with everyone above.

Something to think about...select a cat that matches your clothes. A dark cat if you favor dark colors, lighter cat if you wear lighter colors, especially the pant color. I wear navy blue uniform pants and my second cat is a creamy Persian.
posted by JujuB at 11:48 PM on January 9, 2012 [3 favorites]

I will also say a word for adopting an adult cat from the pound. Two years ago we were thinking of getting a cat, we got in touch with a local cat sanctuary and even looked at a couple of young cats, but didn't take to them. We sometimes had a little black cat visit us from a garden further along, one evening I stuck my head out to see if she wanted to play and this bruiser of a cat came out of the bushes and walked up to be stroked and never left (we didn't feed him until he had been staring at us through out glass back door for 48 hours!). Two years later he is still with us. We did our best to find out if he belonged to anyone (had him checked for a chip, put up posters in local streets, flyers in doors) but no-one came forward. We nearly put him in the shelter but they didn't have space. He grew on us and for many of the reasons that are the advantage of older cats.

He is totally house trained - he doesn't even like to go in the dirtbox unless he is desperate.

He has been disciplined at some point, so doesn't beg aggressively (unless we are eating mackerel), doesn't climb up to get food.

He was already neutered.

He is sociable and friendly without being mental and tearing up the house. He can't jump due to a back problem which is very good for not having him on surfaces (though this is not easily replicable obviously).

The one weird thing is he won't drink out of his water bowl, he will only drink from the bathroom sink, which is odd but only adds to his adorableness. (I have been told this is not that unusual in cats who have been neglected as sinks become the only sourve of water.)

So there are upsides to getting an adult and we feel lucky we ended up with a cat this way instead of a manic kitten, plus we get the warm feelings of knowing kitty has a warm bed each night.

One thing though, our kitty does not play well with others, he is very territorial, something for you to ask about when getting your first cat if you think you might want to get a second one later.
posted by biffa at 2:23 AM on January 10, 2012

On the "kitten vs. cat" issue --

Zach was already grown when I adopted him -- about a year or two old -- and he was pretty messed up. He'd spent his kittenhood with a woman whose roommate had abandoned him when she suddenly moved out; this woman already had two dogs, and figured she could leave the whole menagerie out in her back yard while she was at work, and so every day he was a kitten he was being chased by these two dogs for hours, for a year, before the woman finally figured out that maybe she shouldn't have a cat after all. When I first got him, Zach refused to be held, would not sit on laps, and would sometimes outright attack me.

Within a year, the attacking stopped, and he started occasionally sitting on laps. Within three years, the biting (mostly) stopped (sometimes when he was playing he still got mouthy). In another two years he could tolerate being held. Year by year he warmed up to me more and more (he'd sit on anyone's lap, but I was the one who got the most head-butts and lap sits, and I was the only one who could hold him for an extended period of time), and so by the 18th and final year of his life he was an affectionate and loveable guy (I don't know if I'd go so far as "friendly" so much as I'd call him "attention-whore" - he'd come out and meet people when they came over, but it wasn't quite because he wanted to make friends, it was more because he wanted to parade around so they could admire him. I think he was a reincarnated male model.) And even at age 18 he was still lively and playful (so, SO lively, as my downstairs neighbors who got to hear his thundering footfalls every evening will attest).

The moral: kittens' personalities are easier to mold, yes; but you can do so with adult cats too. Cats are just kittens that got a little older.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:45 AM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

We're all pretty much on the same page here. And welcome (back) to the cat mafia.

On Halloween, I went from zero cats to two cats. Both came from the same street cat rescue network—one to the Humane Society, and one to the local pet store, which works with the rescue outfits here. (You won't have a lot of street cats in Anchorage; down here in the south, we have them everywhere. But you will have rescues, who are doomed to spend their lives in cages without YOU!)

Some advice:

• Take your time. Get to know some cats. Hang out. Visit repeatedly. TAKE. YOUR. TIME. The wrong cat is a nightmare.

• The cat(s) you want might not be the cat you spent the most time with, and might not be the cat you were initially most attracted to. We thought we were totally getting a different cat--thank God we took our time.

• Our favorite cat (yes we have a favorite of the two, because he is magic) was a mangled mess when he was first rescued; the shelter patched him up over a series of months, and by the time we got there, he was the MOST HANDSOME AND MAGICAL CAT IN MAGICAL CAT TOWN. Like, we sit around and stare at him and ask him "HOW WERE YOU IN A CAGE, UNWANTED?" But if we'd seen him two months earlier, with bald spots and fleas and bite marks, would we have known? Maybe not!

• In praise of two: Our un-favorite cat is so good for our favorite cat. (Ahem.) Without her, he'd be bored and restless and fat and too human-identified.

• Cats are extremely trainable. MOST cats. Keep an eye out for cats that communicate, make eye contact, are interested and chatty. (Cats use their voices to talk to people, but use their bodies to communicate most regularly. We all know what "ears back" means, but look at tail position (erect tails are lively, chatty; swishy tails are playful or threatening) and belly exposure; cats come at you sideways when they are being friendly and want to interact, etc. Learn to speak a bit of cat as you get to know potential cats.

• Finally, when you do bring a critter home, consider feeding them like dogs, with mealtimes (though cats under a year should be able to graze food a little). It keeps them energetic, excited and sleek. Then we will all talk to you about HOW CATS ARE WILD ANIMALS AND SHOULDN'T EAT GRAIN and you'll be so sick of cat people that you can't believe you are one.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 5:39 AM on January 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

Straight up: you save a life

Something that will be a perennial source of extra-deep joy to you after you fall in love with the critter(s).

Shelter cats FTW.
posted by Trurl at 5:43 AM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Welcome to the cat club, which I joined last October when I got my two. The eldest is almost two years old, the younger almost one, and they're both still very "kittenish" in the way they play and interact. So if you choose a youngish adult cat, you're not missing out on the fun part.

If you like a cat or kitten, talk to a volunteer who knows them well. I was lucky in that I went to a small shelter where all the cats got lots of attention and the volunteers knew all about their personalities, so they were able to advise me on which would suit my situation best. An experienced shelter volunteer will be able to make a good guess at a kitten's future personality from the way it acts now, though a kitten is always more of a gamble than an older cat.
posted by Pallas Athena at 7:40 AM on January 10, 2012

Great advice here, and I just want to offer one more suggestion. If the kitty/cat you adopt isn't declawed, please consider trimming rather than declawing. The vet will tell you it's painless, and perhaps it is, but cats have front claws for a reason. Trimming is no big deal once you get used to it. Just pick a time when the cat is mellow and drowsy and give lots of love while trimming.
posted by tr33hggr at 7:50 AM on January 10, 2012

So glad for you. Not adding to the chorus about how to acquire cat(s) except seconding I'd do a shelter/rescue and consider adapting two who already like each other, but some care and feeding thoughts:

1. Set up the litter box before bringing the kitty home, after putting some thought into where it will be and how you will clean it. You MUST clean litter box daily, maybe twice daily if two cats.

2. Cats are interactive and affectionate. And they grown more affectionate as they receive it from you. Plan to spend time petting, playing with, and training your cat.

3. Have kitty toys already too. No need to spend on toys. Cats generally love paper bags, empty boxes, crumpled crunchy bits of paper than can be batted about, and anything feathery or fabric cord-like which a willing human is willing to drag around corners for the cat to chase. (Be aware your cat will need time to contemplate the disappearance of the item, what it may be doing, and when to make its sudden burst in pursuit.) And if your cat(s) is/are fond of catnip, which not all cats are, anything rubbed with fresh catnip. Catnip is cheap to buy and grows readily in a window (which had better be inaccessible to kitties.)

4. I too strongly recommend a set feeding time, preferably in the evening so your cat does not move your wake up time to 4 am, and meat only. For our household, that means about a can of cat food daily. And also I would buy some cat grass. That too is cheap and easy to grow, and most pet stores have seed.

5. Most cats train very readily with a positive reinforcer like tiny pieces of meat or cheese. Karen Pryor's website on clicker training is a great place to pick up pointers for free, as is You Tube.

6. Here's where you do have to spend and should: vet. Please make an early appointment to get your cat(s) checked out, get any necessary shots, etc. And plan for at least yearly checkups.

Welcome to cat land!!!
posted by bearwife at 9:10 AM on January 10, 2012

This may seem counter-intuitive but if you want low maintenance you might get 2 cats instead of one. They will keep each other company and play with each other. I adopted mine from a friend whose cat had kittens but going through a shelter could be a better idea because you might get a voucher for spay/neuter.
posted by fromageball at 9:23 AM on January 10, 2012

Nthing adopting two adults. We had to rehome one of our kitties a couple of months ago. Our current cat has transformed from Mellowest Cat In The World to Needy, Meowy Cat Who Wants To Cuddle 24/7. And with a kitten, you'll be getting an unknown personality and a high-maintenance little thing.
posted by moira at 10:00 AM on January 10, 2012

1) Younger is better. The 2 I got as freshly weaned kittens were (and are) great; the one I got as a 4-month-old was/is a terror. (But all kittens are pretty destructive for a while.)

2) Agree that 2 is better than 1 -- less work, more fun.
posted by coolguymichael at 11:14 AM on January 10, 2012

Oh yes definitely (as others have said) get two cats if you can! Ask whatever shelter / rescue org you end up inquiring with about "bonded pairs" (which are often, but not exclusively, siblings). Kitties raised with at least one other cat not only have a built-in playmate, but (in my experience) seem to grow up to be way more easygoing about things like "omg neighbor cat is looking in the window!" and having to share the couch, etc.

I'd especially recommend this if you live alone and/or in a household where all the humans work long hours as cats can and do get bored, lonely, and destructive without an adequately stimulating environment (and there are few things as stimulating as other animals -- human, feline, or otherwise). Plus, there are seriously few things in life more fun to watch than a pair of cats who like each other playing, wrestling, snuggling, etc.

All that said...you do realize that "low-maintenance kitten" is an oxymoron, right? :P Kittens under the age of six months are little chaos-generators, and when my three younger cats (ex-feral siblings, now two years old) were under five months of age it was seriously like having a house full of half-crazed squirrels. Totally worth it, of course, but still something to be aware of if you've never had baby kitties in residence.

Finally, whichever age or type of cat you end up with, it's important to remember that cats take time to settle into a new home and won't necessarily act all lovey toward you instantly. I've found that interactive toys (e.g. a feather on a string attached to a stick) make awesome "icebreakers" with most cats, and that play is a great way to befriend even a shy or timid kitty. It helps to think of getting to know a new cat as a process of giving the cat good reasons to like you -- e.g., you want them to see you as a source of goodness and fun, and you're much more likely to achieve that by doing things they find interesting than by, say, trying to pick up or pet them as much as possible.
posted by aecorwin at 12:24 PM on January 10, 2012

OH and one more tip -- if your kitty isn't already spayed/neutered when you adopt her or him, this is something you want to get over with ASAP. My female kitten Coraline went into heat at *four months old* and even my vet was surprised by that, though apparently it's common enough. There is absolutely no reason to wait eight months or a year before getting kitty fixed; most vets these days can S/N any cat who weighs at least four pounds, and younger patients tend to bounce back faster after surgery anyway.
posted by aecorwin at 12:29 PM on January 10, 2012

Strongly second aecorwin on the importance of spay/neutering, and as a shelter supporter want to add that one of the nice things about adopting from one is that they will already have done this.
posted by bearwife at 12:47 PM on January 10, 2012

Ask around.

Shelters and rescue groups are overloaded so plenty of people pick up cats, take them to cheap-o shots and pay for the spay/neuter and then just wait for someone who wants a cat. If I was in Alaska, I could recommend a couple of a cats right now, although one hasn't been spayed and the friend who has her wouldn't adopt her out until after she's good to go.

(If you become a cat junkie, picking up stray litters at strip malls would be a good way to feed your kitten jones, although the mothers are often difficult to deal with and the home cats can be fussy about the fosters once you lift quarantine.)
posted by Lesser Shrew at 4:43 PM on January 11, 2012

THANK YOU EVERYONE! (And sorry for the delay -- A separate family crisis came up I had to deal with.) I wrote down all the best advice, and armed with that, went out cat hunting. I looked at a lot of little kittens without finding the one that I thought was perfect.

Then I met Captain Sisko.

Thanks so much. REALLY helpful stuff!

- aj
posted by Alaska Jack at 12:37 PM on January 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

Wait, I don't think that link worked. Maybe this one.

- aj
posted by Alaska Jack at 12:48 PM on January 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

He's so lovely! What a beautiful little black fluffmonster. I hope you have many happy years together.

(It is my profound belief that black cats are the best cats.)
posted by Pallas Athena at 3:16 PM on January 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

« Older Help cure my foot smell!   |   Wait, have we met that character before? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.