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Ask A Vet: Is It Better to Adopt a Kitten or Older Cat?

Welcome to our weekly 'Ask a Vet from the SF SPCA' feature on 7x7.com. Dr. Jeannine Berger, DVM, DACVB is a board certified veterinary behaviorist who counsels guardians whose pets’ issues are beyond the scope of training. Think of her as a pet shrink…at your service. Ask your own questions in the comments!

Q: I just lost my older cat. Should I adopt a kitten or an adult cat? Friends have told me to get a kitten – if the cat is young, it will bond better. Is that true?

A: So very sorry for your loss. Although it is true that there is nothing cuter in the universe than a kitten, you also need to be realistic about the needs of a young cat and your lifestyle. When clients with kittens come in for their routine vaccination appointments, they often ask when their rambunctious kitten will chill out. The truth is, probably not for a year or two. Many people who have just lost an older cat don’t remember how energetic a kitten can be. You need to ask yourself if your family and your home environment is ready for the challenge of a new kitten. If you can answer “yes” to all the questions below, a kitten might be a good fit for you.

That being said, either a kitten or an older cat will bond with you and become part of your family, to the extent that the cat or kitten’s personality is apt to do so. In other words, age has no bearing. Ultimately, it is all about personality.

1. Can you provide confinement until the kitten is ready to have free reign of your home?

2. Can you provide appropriate litterbox training?

3. Can you provide ample mental and physical enrichment?

4. Are you an early morning person? Chances are your kitten will want to play at dawn.

5. Can you provide interesting indoor space or even re-arrange your home environment so your cat has a variety of appropriate climbing, scratching and hiding opportunities? Of course, only if you don’t mind your kitten climbing your curtains and scratching your furniture.

6. Do you have enough time and enjoy playing with your kitten, even after a long day at work?

7. Do you have room for two kittens? Oftentimes, it is nice to adopt two kittens so they can have company

8. Are you ready for the expenses such as new toys, food dispensing tools, litter boxes, cat trees, and scratching posts, in addition to the veterinary care a younger cat might need?

If you answered “no” to any of the above questions, you might enjoy getting an older cat. Older cats typically hang around in shelters longer than kittens, so are craving to bond with a new human. Kittens find homes easier and you are truly saving a cats life when adopting an older cat. You will reap the benefits of living with a “responsible adult.”  An older cat is comfortable hanging around waiting for you during the day and then loves to spend the evening next to you on the couch when you have dinner or watch TV. An older cat will bond just fine with you, if you provide her with the love and devotion she deserves. It might be so much easier to love a calm and relaxed older cat, than to deal with the first year of the challenges of a playful kitten. Either way, a kitten or cat will enrich your life! Choose wisely and have fun!