Adopting a kitty
July 30, 2013 4:00 PM   Subscribe

Cat vs kitten? Also, advice on prepurring for a furry new addition...

I've always loved animals but thought that owning pets was more responsibility than I cared for. Then I lived with a friend for a couple years and completely fell in love with her kitty--I discovered how totally awesome it is to come home to a furry cat friend.

I recently moved out and started living on my own, and I plan on adopting a cat soon (once I get my place a little more organized). I'm not sure whether to go for a kitten or an older cat. At first I thought I'd just pick up an older cat because they have more set/known personalities, but now I'm really leaning toward a kitten because A) start the bonding when they're younger & B) socialize it/train it so that future claw trimmings, etc aren't as much of a pain. I think all kitties are cute, so "kitten-cuteness" is not a major factor in this decision. My ex-cat roomie was a chubby, chatty Siamese who loved cuddling and was very dog-like. He was older and slept all day, so I wouldn't mind having a cat with a little more energy. I KNOW I will not be adopting the same cat and I'm NOT looking for a copy of him, but I thought he was awesome so I'm a little biased toward the qualities he had.

I live alone and work from 9-6ish, but spend a lot of nights/weekends in. My place is pretty spacious (800sq ft) so there's plenty of room to roam. I plan on keeping the cat indoors. I know that people say it's good to adopt a bonded pair, but my lease only allows for one cat.

So with that in mind, is there any benefit to adopting an older cat vs a kitten? Also, I know about the same day vet visit, having a litterbox ready, keeping the kitty in one room for a little bit...but any other advice on becoming a new cat owner? I'm really excited, but nervous about forgetting things I should do.

Thanks in advance!
posted by sprezzy to Pets & Animals (28 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Kittens are adorable but EXHAUSTING. (Kittens who were abandoned very early also sometimes have weird habits. One of our cats did a lot of attempting to suckle necks and whatnot for a remarkably long time when she was small.) IME they keep even crazier hours than adult cats do, and have sharp spikey little claws.
posted by epersonae at 4:07 PM on July 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

Go for a young adult cat. 2-3 years old.

Cats adapt really well and normally within a few months of changes, from my experience.

Since you can only go with one cat, I do suggest an older one because it will be much less likely that you are breaking up litter mates.
posted by royalsong at 4:08 PM on July 30, 2013 [3 favorites]

I would split the difference and adopt a cat that's around a 1-2 years old. Their personality is developed, and they still have kitten energy. We adopted Aurora from the animal shelter when she was maybe a year and a half old; she is the friendliest cat I've ever owned and purrs like a motorboat.
posted by mogget at 4:09 PM on July 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

Oh, there are so many reasons to adopt an older (shelter) cat and not a kitten! Here are a few:

1. Older cats need you more. It is the kittens people adopt first. But the older cats want. to. go. home. with. you. They know what that means.

2. Older cats are already litter trained. This is a BIG deal.

3. Older cats know who they like. If they bond with you, it's for real.

4. Older cat personalities are indeed clear. And that means you will fall in love with the real animal, not just a pretty kitty face.

5. Older cats are not insane. This is nice if you prefer not coming home to shredded TP and rugs and upholstery from Bonkers Kitty, which is what all kittens are for a time.

6. Older cats do much better on their own without another kitty than kittens do.

As for what to get and do . . . unless you have other animals, let your kitty explore. Have some irresistably fun toys (you can try them out at the shelter) and play with your kitty at least for some time per day. Talk to your cat. Pay attention to its likes and dislikes. Make sure there is a cat scratcher available, and if at all possible, a comfortable high place to stare out at the world from. Be affectionate in the sense of petting your cat where it likes on a regular basis, not in the sense of always grabbing it. And come back to AskMeFi, home of kitty experts galore, for more advice going forward.
posted by bearwife at 4:11 PM on July 30, 2013 [11 favorites]

If you go the kitten route, be advised they will get into EVERYTHING. I'd pre-emptively audit your place by looking for any places they might decide to go hide in that you wouldn't think about. Places like behind the washing machine, in that tiny 2" x 2" hole in that one baseboard, under the couch in that impossibly small space, in the inner workings of the recliner or anything like that. Kittens love to go find a little clubhouse where the big meatbags can't follow and the quicker you find all of them before getting one, the better off you'll be since you'll always be able to find the little fuzzball.

You'll know you failed the day you go looking for the cat, cannot find it ANYWHERE and are firmly convinced it must have ducked out the door when you were bringing groceries in or something and then 3 hours later it just appears seemingly out of thin air and looks over at you with a "Hey, what's goin' on?" look on its face.

I speak from experience. Worth noting that older cats don't do this nearly as much. They instead just claim whole areas of horizontal surface as their domain and expect you to abide by their rule.
posted by barc0001 at 4:11 PM on July 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

I live alone and work from 9-6ish

Unless you can get a pair of kittens, you want an older cat. A kitten cannot be expected to stay alone for that amount of time without causing major damage and acquiring some weird habits. You want an older cat so you get one with a personality suited for being an only cat that is alone for long periods of the day.

I went through the dilemma last year, and ended up with a 4 year old female black cat. I told the shelter my living circumstances (I was only allowed one cat) and they found the perfect cat for me. She's good as an only cat, playful and energetic but also chill and a great lap cat. She's smart, but very well behaved.

Also -- black cats are the absolute best :)
posted by DoubleLune at 4:13 PM on July 30, 2013 [6 favorites]

We got our first cat when she was about 18 months old, which was great. She was still very playful but mature enough not to be crazy all the time. When we got her brother, he was only 5 months, and was a LOT more work.

The nice thing about adopting an older cat, too, is that the are harder to adopt because so many people won't adopt a cat older than 12 months. So older cats are often extra lovey.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 4:16 PM on July 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

I would add that I would not have ever expected to have good experiences adopting adult cats (did it once in college & that went poorly), but of the 6 cats I've owned over the last 15 years, 3 came to us as adults, and they've been great. (Maddy, RIP; Trixie, and Creamsicle. Orange boy cats are pretty sweet, BTW.)
posted by epersonae at 4:18 PM on July 30, 2013

We adopted two kittens last year, and they are awesome. However, I would say that if you only have room/finances for one cat, get an adult (at least a year old) instead - kittens have So Much Energy. Ours would wrestle for 5+ hours a day, and I was very glad they were able to entertain each other instead of destroying the house.
posted by insectosaurus at 4:37 PM on July 30, 2013

If you can only adopt one cat then go for the older cat. The kitten will be a nightmare. I found my first cat on the street when she was a few months old. The first month it was just her and she got into everything, climbed over everything, knocked crap off my desk, she was a huge pain in the ass. I adopted a second cat and the troublemaking dropped down a lot. I have friends who have single kittens and the poor things are so attention-starved by the end of the day all they do is cry at their owners. It's cute but after an hour or two when you just want to sit down and watch TV it wears on you.

An older cat could very well be happy as a clam on its own. When you go to the shelter visit with the cats. Ask which cats are more loners and prefer to be on their own. Then make sure you get a chance to hold them and try to play with them. Though remember, they may be a little traumatized by the shelter so don't take a lack of playfulness as indicative of how they'd be at your place. If you're concerned about claw trimmings, then when you hold them play with their paws. Try to hold the paws and splay their claws. The more OK they are with you touching their claws, the more likely it is you can get them to adjust to trimmings.
posted by schroedinger at 4:37 PM on July 30, 2013

Definitely a cat! Clean out the room where you're going to put kitty, remove breakables and stuff that shouldn't get chewed. They may drive you nuts for the first day or two bouncing around and exploring but it should calm down a bit after that. Cats being larger are harder to lose than kittens.
posted by oneear at 4:38 PM on July 30, 2013

I really wanted another kitten and then I got one, and I didn't sleep through the night for almost two months. (And my older cat has still not forgiven me seven years later.)

But I have two cats that I raised from wee kittenhood, and they have totally different personalities - the amount of influence *I* had on them is very much debatable. They're just different critters. You won't miss out by getting an adult cat whose personality is already clear - the socialization is the big thing, and you can tell really damned fast if an adult cat is adequately human-socialized or not.
posted by restless_nomad at 4:42 PM on July 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

There is nothing more adorable than being climbed by a kitten. Those li'l claws!

Both of my cats were tiny kittens, and I wouldn't have had it any other way.
posted by themanwho at 4:53 PM on July 30, 2013

Your friend the Siamese cat is among the most talkative breeds. My first two cats (adult strays who adopted me) were Siamese-mixes and very vocal.

With that said, though, I currently have two tuxedo cats, one of whom likes to have conversations. She talks, I talk, she talks, I talk. And my last cat, also a tuxedo, was the same way.

Of all of my cats (seven total over the course of about 25 years), the most affectionate are my current pair. The talky girl loves to sleep under the covers and sit next to me on my armchair, and the quieter girl sleeps in my arms.
posted by janey47 at 5:05 PM on July 30, 2013

I think the conventional wisdom is that you should only get a kitten when there is another cat (or littermate) for them to play with. Grown up cats can deal with alone time, but kittens can't.
posted by gjc at 5:08 PM on July 30, 2013

Jumping in to say if you willy only have one cat, get one that is 1 or 2 year old (or older). They're still adorable. We have two cats (just over one year old now) that we got as kittens. They had *so much energy* and would go bonkers *all night long* and wake us up randomly. It was cute and adorable and so EXHAUSTING. This is after they chased and wrestled each other up and down stairs the whole day. Now they are older and they actually sleep at the foot of our bed at night and don't bother us anymore, and are just cute and cuddly.
posted by ethidda at 5:27 PM on July 30, 2013

FWIW, I got 1 kitten at around 2 months old and is now 5 months old. I'm at work 7-4:30pm daily, and while the comments about energy and getting everywhere are true, I wonder if there's also something to raising a cat from so young so she also knows me. Generally speaking, she knows to ignore me while working, but the instant I go for her toys cart, she goes bonkers. She knows my habits. She's also been trained from the day she came home to use the litter box, and has never once not used it. I love having had her as a young kitten.

That said, whenever I or a friend go out of town, our two kittens stay with each other and are definitely a lot less PSYCHO KITTEN ENERGY POUNCE ON HUMAN AND POUNCE SOME MORE ESPECIALLY WHILE SLEEPING!!! when paired together.
posted by jmd82 at 5:35 PM on July 30, 2013

I also work full-time. Seven years ago I was in a similar situation, and got a kitten for basically the same reasons you're thinking of getting a kitten.

As she matured, it became clear that she had a MUCH MUCH needier-than-average personality. I tried to socialize her attentively and well, but nevertheless, she gets super bored and unhappy when I'm off at work and she's home alone all day. (It also turns out she expresses displeasure by peeing on things! Yay!)

I've restructured my life substantially to try to make her happier - got her a companion cat, made a lot of difficult housing compromises, etc. She's happier than she used to be, but it has been a major source of stress to try to overcome the mismatch between her personality and my schedule.

Moral of the story: get an older cat. You will be much more able to screen for one that is compatible with you, and you'll both likely be happier for it.
posted by introcosm at 5:40 PM on July 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

Getting a six month old cat was like getting an adorable roommate who doesn't pay rent and poops in a box. Getting a six week old kitten was like having a baby and being told you can't have maternity leave. You will not sleep for three months, you will find that about 1/2 your decorative furnishings are not cat friendly, and you will spend all your time at home desperately trying to tire out the devil so he won't attack your feet at night.
posted by politikitty at 6:11 PM on July 30, 2013

As a good friend who works at a shelter has told me, it is kitten season, so the older cats are having a tough time getting adopted. So please do a mitzvah and get an older kitteh.

Oh, and, grey tabbies are the best!
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 6:28 PM on July 30, 2013 [3 favorites]

Adult kitties are where it's at! Kittens are so cute, but it's a crapshoot as far as personality goes. In my experience, shelter staff are really helpful with finding a cat that fits your lifestyle. The folks at the shelter where we got our (awesome) 18-month-old kitty had little cheat sheets on the cat's personality, whether it likes kids or other cats, et cetera.
posted by Nibbly Fang at 7:01 PM on July 30, 2013

An adult cat! I recently adopted a 6 year old kitty and he is honestly the best cat I've ever had. Often they've been in a shelter for a long time because people prefer kittens and they are so grateful to get out of a cage and into a house. I've only had him for half a year and I think he's bonded really well (but he is a very affectionate dude by nature). It really breaks my heart that so many older kitties spend years in shelters without finding homes, so I've been kinda evangelical about adult cat ownership, haha.

Like other people said, it really is best for kittens to have a playmate, so since you can't get 2 on your lease, I'd really recommend going a bit older.

2nding grey tabbies!
posted by sonmi at 7:14 PM on July 30, 2013

Echoing the adult cat chorus, especially since your lease only allows you to have one. I was given a kitten about 13 years ago by some friends and had never been the primary feline caretaker before. Although I love my kitty dearly, I think if I had it to do over (as I may well in a few years' time) I would prefer to have an adult cat whose personality was actually formed. What with me spending a lot of time at work, she's been alone a lot and is a bit neurotic. This was exacerbated when I had to move to a flat which made her indoors-only.

As extra anecdotal evidence, a friend of mine who's an experienced feline caretaker got a kitten late last year. He was so full of energy and was uncontainable, plus desperately needy for attention (probably partly due to separation from litter-mates, as she only took the one). He got into everything, destroyed things in his kitten tornado ways and mewed pathetically rather a lot. Lovely kitten really, but they really didn't suit each other. She gave him up and got a 18-month old (ish) cat who is much calmer and more independent. Meanwhile the kitten was snapped up by someone else, so everyone was happy.
posted by Athanassiel at 8:44 PM on July 30, 2013

Get a cat! And a black one, nobody likes black cats :(
posted by Teakettle at 8:44 PM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

Get a cat! And a black one, nobody likes black cats :(

Get a Black kitty because he can be your house panther!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:35 AM on July 31, 2013

I recently adopted a beautiful black and white cat, she is just stunning. But she was at the shelter for months and months because:

1 - She was black & white and nobody likes black & white kitties
2 - She was not a kitten and everybody wants a kitten
3 - she was very shy and scared and did like random people touching her etc.

Anyway, I just fell in love with her immediately and we adopted her the very next day.

Fast forward 2 years and she is just the best darn cat you could ever imagine. The shyness she showed at the shelter just dissipated after about a month, once she got used to her new surroundings. She sleeps in bed with me on cold nights curled up next to my torso, she jumps into my lap to snuggle when i'm least expecting it, she's just a ball of delight and i'm soo soo glad that she's all mine!

But to answer your question, here's the benefit I found of adopting a cat vs. a kitten. (and I say all this as someone who actually wanted to get a kitten!!)

1 - She was already trained to use her litterbox - Massive Plus - considering you work 9am-6pm
2 - She has just the right balance between being playful enough that we get to play with her regularly, but she's not so full of energy that she keeps us up all night
3 - She knows how to use a scratching post and ONLY a scratching post
4 - I felt good knowing that I had "saved" a cat that no-one wanted, and when she crawls into bed with me and gives me kitty kisses, I smugly remember how no-one wanted her and only I get to enjoy these private one-on-one moments of kitty love
5 - She had been spayed, de-flead, de-wormed and was up to date with all of her shots prior to us adopting her
6 - TV Cables, indoor-plants and other non-kitten friendly items in my house are all safe because my cat was already trained that it's rude to jump on the counter-top

In essence, Kittens are fantastic but they are a lot of work. You'll be so happy if you adopt an older cat, even one that's maybe 1 or 2 years old.... they have a LOT of love to give, and in my opinion, bond even more with their owners because they have "known" hardship, i.e. living in a shelter.
I really believe that my kitteh knows that she's lucky to have been rescued and she rewards us every day because of that fact.

Good Luck making the right choice for you - I know you'll be SO happy to have a little ball of fluff in your life!
posted by JenThePro at 8:40 AM on July 31, 2013 [2 favorites]

What did you decide, sprezzy? And -- picture please when the lucky kitty comes home with you?
posted by bearwife at 12:34 PM on August 1, 2013

Response by poster: After reading all of this I think I'm going for a younger cat 1-2 years, but not a kitten. :) I not going to adopt for a couple more weeks (until my work deadline is past) but when I do I'll be sure to update with pics! Thank you all so much for your advice
posted by sprezzy at 5:25 PM on August 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

« Older I'm looking for videos that induce frisson and...   |   Deisel and sustainability Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.