Should we adopt two adult littermates or two kittens?
August 7, 2007 7:53 AM   Subscribe

We are adopting two cats, but can't decide whether to adopt a pair of kittens or a pair of adult littermates. Could you help us weigh which pair will be helped more if we adopt them?

We have decided to adopt two cats. As we are impartial to cats or kittens, we want to make the adoption choice that will most help the cats we adopt--the most ethical choice. We are looking at two pairs from two different rescue groups: one pair are five-and-a-half year old sisters who have been together all their lives and were dumped by their owners. The other pair are two kittens between the ages of two and three months from the SPCA--and one of the kittens has only one eye (the other was surgically removed for medical reasons of some sort). All four cats are sweet, adorable, and playful. The adults have lived in a home and are well-treated in the shelter, so we're not worried about them being neurotic. The kittens are kittens and haven't had enough time to develop any bad habits. We want to adopt the pair that seems to most need it, but we aren't sure which ones. All of the cats have had their vaccinations and have been spayed/neutered. So please--could you go through this list and offer your input?

Adult Cats
- Adult cats are harder to adopt and the shelter has stipulated the sisters MUST be adopted together, which will make it even less likely others will adopt them. They've been up for adoption since March.
- The shelter, however, is no-kill, so they are ensured a safe place to stay until they are adopted. The shelter also has foster homes where potential adoptees can stay until their adoption
- Each cat will be $85 each

- Kittens are easily adopted. However, one of the kittens has only one eye. This may make it more difficult.
- Despite the best efforts of the volunteers, the nursery of this particular SPCA has been ravaged by colds recently. It's possible the longer the kittens are in there the more likely they are to die of disease.
- SPCA is NOT no-kill, so if these kittens aren't adopted for whatever reason they'll be put down.
- We can get both kittens for $75 total since the SPCA is having a "cat sale" because they're getting so many in this year
- The kittens will have identification tattoos and possibly microchips included in the fee, which is not the case for the adult cats.

Of course, the ideal situation would be adopting two adult cats from the SPCA, but we're worried they could not get along or may have individual personality issues. The cats at the no kill shelter are allowed out of their cages to run around the tiny shelter room (it's in a Pet Smart), interact with other cats, and are placed two to a cage if they get along with the other cat and the cage is a big one. So we know that the two adult sisters get along from watching them, where it's hard to tell at the SPCA, since they're not allowed to interact much, in a cage or otherwise.

Anyway, the point is, we're choosing between two adults that are less likely to be adopted but are in a slightly better shelter situation, and two kittens that may be more likely to adopted (not sure about the one-eyed one), but are in a more dangerous shelter situation. Money is an issue, but not a big enough one to dictate our decision. Who should we pick?
posted by Braeog to Pets & Animals (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I just love that you are doing this and not necessarily going for the cutest kitten or whatever.

I wouldn't worry about getting two kittens and not having them get along. Even if they aren't best buddies, almost all cats are able to live contently with another companion. Since they are both so young, they will probably play together once they get used to each other. Also, cats that are siblings aren't necessarily destined to be best 4-year old cats are littermates and they ignore each other and get pissy if one of them invades the other's space.

I would probably adopt the adult cats in your situation, however. Because they can only be adopted as a pair, and because they are adults, I do think their chances of being adopted are quite low. I also like adult cats because they are usually more mellow than kittens.

I would think even the cyclops kitten has a reasonable chance of adoption. Since it's not really a health issue at this point, it's not really a special needs cat, and I can imagine some people would find it kind of endearing. I have a friend who adopted a 3-legged kitten when presented with several "complete" kittens.
posted by tastybrains at 8:10 AM on August 7, 2007

Get the adult cats. Kittens are adorable but a ton of hassle until they grow up. Kittens will alway be adopted even one with only one eye, adult cats are very hard to get adopted more so when they can't be split up. The adult cats will come into your home and be well behaved cats from day one.
You are to be commended for 1. Adopting and 2. considering adult cats.
Good luck with whatever you chose and let me recommend Clicker training for whatever you choose.
posted by Ferrari328 at 8:10 AM on August 7, 2007

Also, keep in mind that no matter which you choose, you are saving two cats and giving them a loving "forever home". There really is no wrong decision. Because they all need homes, I don't think it would be wrong to be a little selfish and let your personal preferences help you out (for example, if you prefer the mellowness of adult cats or the bouncyness of kittens).
posted by tastybrains at 8:11 AM on August 7, 2007

Assuming similar life spans for all 4 animals, that an adopted life would be superior to unadopted and that you will keep all until natural death then adopting the kittens will mean a longer period of support in superior conditions for 2 animals (higher overall welfare). This would be moot if the animals are replaced immediately at death.
However, more frequent cat death (ie with a long-term cats over kitten policy) would probably mean more frequent periods of sadness for you, and a reduction in your overall welfare.
As already noted, kittens will also require both a short term heavier time commitment and a longer term commitment in terms of lifespan, which may also have welfare implications for you.
posted by biffa at 8:26 AM on August 7, 2007

With biffa, I think net lifespans should be considered, discounted by any effect that a bad hosting experience would have on your willingness to adopt more, or to serve as a model for others.

More generally, while I applaud the fact that you're thinking about this, I'm really not sure what you're asking. You seem to be asking about what's most ethical or what will be more helpful (not necessarily the same thing), but at the same time noting cost (you could donate the difference, if you want to maximize social expenditure!) and other matters of personal benefit. That's totally reasonable, but may not get you a targeted response.

Also -- not to fight the question endlessly -- the choice is a little artificial. We have had great success in adopting one adult (chosen for some of the reasons that concern you, from a kill-capable shelter) and one kitten simultaneously. So if for some reason you don't go with the sisters, you can yet get one kitten and one adult. This may be ethically superior and insurance-justified cat-averaging.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 8:48 AM on August 7, 2007

I would get the adults. I think Cyclops kitty will get adopted by a sympathetic person.
posted by Mavri at 9:24 AM on August 7, 2007

The difference between two cats and four cats is marginal in terms of time involved.... get them all?

We've got 5 at home, two sets of siblings and one who lost his brother a few years ago... Having two would be nowhere near as much fun as the interaction of the five of them... there is always something amusing going on in cat land.

But, if that isn't possible for you... I would vote for the adult cats...

And...good for you! whichever you choose, have fun enjoying the new additions to the family...
posted by HuronBob at 9:52 AM on August 7, 2007

I do work for a no-kill cat shelter, and my wife worked there for a year, taking care of the critters. Best advice:

Adopt adults. Preferably black ones if possible.

Kittens are very easy for shelters to adopt out. More people come looking for kittens, both for the cute factor and the "I wanna raise it right" factor, among other things. Adults, on the other hand, are much more difficult to find homes for. They get passed over for the cute little kittens.

But black cats are the hardest to find homes for. People often see them as too plain, and a few actually do let superstitions affect their choice. (We have two black cats, and we consider it good luck when one crosses our path. YMMV.) Most shelters have more black cats than anything, and they tend to languish there the longest (or in the case of a lot of shelters, the ones that put animals down if they can't find a home, black cats tend to be put down more since they aren't getting homes.)

Good luck on your search!
posted by azpenguin at 10:20 AM on August 7, 2007

I would adopt the adults. Remember that not only are you helping them, you're freeing up space at the no-kill nice shelter, which will help more cats.
posted by anaelith at 10:23 AM on August 7, 2007

I would note that as long as cats have plenty of room and toys, fighting is usually not an issue. I was in a situation similar to yours and ended up with four cats. They don't love each other, but they don't fight unless they are really really bored.

I'd go for the adults though. They'd bee 100% more likely to get along and their behavior is predictable.
posted by melissam at 10:43 AM on August 7, 2007

I'd get the adults AND the one-eyed kitten if you can swing it. No reason for the kitten litter-mates to be adopted together.
posted by hazyjane at 11:43 AM on August 7, 2007

I volunteered at an animal shelter for several months nearly full time, working mostly with the cats.

You might be surprised, but the more disfigured an animal, the quicker it gets adopted. For example, we frequently got long-haired cats that were solid mats of fur, and required full-body shaves. So imagine this nearly naked little cat body, with a fully-long-haired head. They adopted out faster than anything. I sometimes joked that we should just take a longtime unadopted cat and shave it, just to increase its chances of getting a home.

My point in all of this is that the one-eyed cat will likely have no trouble getting a home.

I'd urge you to adopt the adults.
posted by yesster at 12:10 PM on August 7, 2007

Adopt the adults. A normal pair of healthy adults will have a much harder time finding a home.
I don't believe in God, but god bless you for wanting to give a good home to these orphan kitties.
I wish you all the best with your new soon-to-be family members.
posted by BillBishop at 12:18 PM on August 7, 2007

I would choose the adults and take a kitten as well. Unlike dogs, cats aren't as high maintenance when you have more than one of them (I have four, previously five). You play with them, they play with each other, you feed them together, they eat together, sleep together, groom each other, and keep each other company. The older cats will teach the younger cats what's up with the world. And all is well in Cat Land.

If you're just looking to stick to the two cat minimum (because I know a lot of rental places don't like more than that), my thinking behind adopting the adult pair is based on the obstacles they might have in being adopted when it comes to less discerning potential owners. If you're only focusing on giving an animal a good home, this should be your route.
posted by saturnine at 1:52 PM on August 7, 2007

I also vote for adopting the adult siblings who -- if you don't rescue them -- may face more months of shelter life. After years of adopting only kittens, spouse and I rescued a 10-year-old calico who had been given up by her nursing home-bound "owner". Despite the fact that our adorable, loving, beautiful Sweet Pea died only 3 years later of cancer, we never regretted getting this senior cat instead of one of the cute kittens available. She died 2 years ago and I still miss her terribly. I'd also adopt another adult cat in a New York minute. And if I could get sibling cats? Wow, double your joy!
posted by Smalltown Girl at 4:53 PM on August 7, 2007

Another vote for adopting the adult cats due to them being harder to place than kittens.
posted by deborah at 8:30 PM on August 8, 2007

hey braeog, so which pair did you end up adopting?? please post pictures too!
posted by ceesbees at 7:47 AM on August 9, 2007

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