Will this kitten like us?
July 28, 2007 5:21 PM   Subscribe

We're thinking of adopting a particular kitten who we visited today. She's living with her littermates in a good home environment, but they didn't seem too interested in being handled. Is it realistic to expect that a kitten in this situation would approach us, or at least enjoy being handled when we approach her? Or do they tend not to until they're away from their littermates?

I poked around online, where I read that you should pick a kitten who likes being handled. The kitten we're considering wasn't fearful, and she played a bit with her littermates, but mostly she preferred to chill out under the couch, and she'd gently squirm away if we tried to hold her or keep her near enough to pet for a few seconds. We first visited her a few weeks ago, when she was very playful with her littermates, and somewhat more patient with being handled. The breeder says once we get her home, she'll be more apt to seek affection from us to replace her littermates'. She's almost 12 weeks old. Her littermates didn't seem overly interested in handling, either. Her mom was laid back, and ok with patting (though she's not a lap cat, which would be ok).

We're considering this particular kitten because she's a Siberian (a breed thought to be less allergenic) who barely triggered my husband's allergies this time (there are individual differences). And yes, we did try rescues first, but because of the allergies, we need a purebred Siberian with at least a several-day guarantee, and despite establishing several contacts, that hasn't worked out.
posted by daisyace to Pets & Animals (14 answers total)
Her littermates didn't seem overly interested in handling, either.

Why would they? They got mom right there. A human is no match for mom cat.

Kittens are squirmy. I wouldn't worry about it.
posted by desjardins at 5:36 PM on July 28, 2007 [2 favorites]

I wouldn't make too much of it. Kittens are completely obvlivious to anything but their kitten lifestyle. All her fun and affection is mostly coming from other cats. Once you choose one and he/she adjusts to her human-oriented life, the kitten will probably warm up to you considerably.
posted by brain cloud at 6:00 PM on July 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

Yeah, your kitten will get more affectionate when she gets home. Right now she's surrounded by the smell and feel of her littermates and her mom. When you take her back with you she'll be terrified and alone and want to be near you all the time.

In fact, I guarantee after one night you will wish you had anything but an affectionate kitten, because all night it will be "meow meow meow" and "Im on ur face wakin u up" and if you put her out the door there will be scratching and more mewing and wow kittens are cute but man they can be obnoxious. This is when you gotta be careful, because you still have to be nice and friendly and loving towards the kitty during its obnoxious phase otherwise it will not be loving and affectionate when it's older. It's a baby, it doesn't know any better.

So yeah, um, the cat will be fine.
posted by schroedinger at 6:01 PM on July 28, 2007

Our kittens (12 weeks when adopted) weren't too keen on being handled. It took a few weeks for things to get warm and cuddly. They were big squirmers and preferred to be with each other.

We got ours used to the idea by doing very frequent but short holding sessions with lots of stroking. Setting them down before they got pissed, but rewarding them with comfort for the few minutes they were in our arms.

One tip: get two kittens. Their first instinct is to play with each other before playing with our furniture and other precious things of the shop. They also do a fair bit of comforting with each other, so they aren't very whiny/needy. My boyfriend, a serious cat person, says that one kitten is like raising a baby, two kittens is like raising half a cat. That is, except when it comes to the litter box. :)

Don't worry, your kitten will like you.
posted by cior at 6:31 PM on July 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

seconding the two kitten suggestion...really helps indoor-only cats socialize better and they usually develop better personalities if they live with a sibling.
posted by BillBishop at 7:41 PM on July 28, 2007

thirding the two kitten suggestion. I got siblings, and wanted two cats because I'm away at work all day. They seemed to enjoy being together, but also being with me when I came home. I know cats sleep alot during the day, but I'd still feel bad just having one house cat and me being at work 10 hours a day.
posted by la petite marie at 8:47 PM on July 28, 2007

You pretty much just described my (now) 14 week old kitten before I brought her home, although she was a rescue so was probably even more wild. Was much more interested in the other kittens she was fostered with than the foster parents (who were great) and I only got two minutes of holding or so to see if I liked her. She's been with us just over three weeks and she just clambered onto my lap for a cuddle and is now trying to smooch my hands as I type and is standing on my arms to rub her face against mine. So yeah, no problems there.

You'll just need to give her some time to get used to the change when you bring her home, and be around to reassure her as much as possible. Try to handle her as much as you can without freaking her out and always respond when she comes to you. It will only be a day or two before she's coming to you for love and careful cuddles.

And yeah, everything schroedinger said about the annoying cuteness.
posted by shelleycat at 9:28 PM on July 28, 2007

Having grown up with multiple kitten litters as a youth, I noticed that they tended not to be that friendly early on. It was important to handle them and get them used to being around people, but they tended not to be very interested in being friendly at the time.

Then, suddenly, like a little switch gots thrown, they'd get friendly. I don't remember exactly when it happened... maybe eight weeks? All of a sudden they figured out that they really liked being petted, and suddenly they were super friendly and stayed that way.

As long as the kitten isn't panicky or hissy about being handled, I wouldn't worry about it much. The little switch hasn't flipped yet. :)

If they're friendly early, that's extra-good.
posted by Malor at 10:50 PM on July 28, 2007

We got Imogene at about 10 weeks from the SPCA. She had been a wild kitten with little or no human contact and was utterly terrified of us when we got her. Why we were attracted to a neurotic, twitchy kitten in a room full of perky, pleasant kittens, I'll never know. They warned us that she might never bond with us and that she would very likely dislike everyone forever.

After a couple of odd days, Imogene bonded with us hard. She's still a little weird and a touch clingy, but she's quite social and a bit of an attention slut around people. I tend to think that, for a kitten, the world is a pretty scary place. Just because they aren't super cuddly right away doesn't mean they won't ever love you. A cat's personality is part nature and part nurture after all.
posted by mostlymartha at 11:30 PM on July 28, 2007

They do have their own personalities just like people. Some cats are 'people persons' right from word go. She sounds like she was hiding and catching up on a bit of 'me' time. She'll probably appreciate the breathing space and rather enjoy the peace and quiet :)
posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 7:15 AM on July 29, 2007

My father adopted a kitten who was birthed by a stray mommy-cat in his garage several years ago. Her first two or three months of life involved running around wild in his fields and storage building, and she didn't really socialize with people. Even today she's ridiculously jumpy -- you can touch her head or the back of her neck, but touching her anywhere else (or, heaven forbid, picking her up) results in CLAWS OF DEATH. I'm not sure exactly what stimulus lead to this reaction, but be aware that cats CAN get like that. I think it may be an indoor-outdoor hybrid cat issue, though -- she still hunts for her dinner sometimes and is generally less domesticated than your average housecat.
posted by Alterscape at 9:34 AM on July 29, 2007

Thanks very much! It especially helped to hear about the couple of cases that were pretty parallel to ours. If anyone else has more of those, either with it working out or not, I'd still love to hear more. Also, in case you were wondering, here's a picture.
posted by daisyace at 2:38 PM on July 29, 2007

Be sure to give her time, too. We adopted three kittens last summer and the most skittish of the three actually turned out to be the biggest love-pig of all of them. I made sure to let her come to me first and gave her lots of space.

After they hit around 8 months old, they really started to warm up to us. They're litter mates, but they all have their own ways of showing affection.
posted by robabroad at 9:03 AM on July 30, 2007

The kind of kitten to pick depends on what kind of cat you want, which depends on your own temperament and expectations.

I picked the kitten who purred when I picked him up. He turned into one of the most sociable, affectionate, human-bonded cats I've ever known. (He's at my side, purring, as I write this.) But he also needs a lot of petting and attention, and gets sad and cranky when I go out of town.

So if you want a purrmonster lapcat, pick the kitten who purrs when you pick him up. If you're OK with a more independent cat, just look for active and curious.

Just don't do what a friend did, and pick the shy reclusive kitten because she felt sorry for him. That cat turned out to be one of the few sociopathic cats I've ever known.
posted by ottereroticist at 10:33 AM on July 30, 2007

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