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Ask a Vet: What to Consider When Adopting a Kitten

Photo by Mathias Erhart, via Flickr. 

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: What do I need to consider before adopting a kitten?

A: No matter where you go to adopt, whether from the San Francisco SPCA, another rescue group, or from a friend, a kitten should never be taken away from its mother until it has been weaned at about six or seven weeks of age. A mother cat is a powerful role model for her kittens, and keeping litters together for the first two months gives them time to develop healthy socialization through play as well as healthy little bodies. If, unfortunately, the mother isn’t around, we have foster programs where very caring volunteers fill in the role of nurturing the kittens until they are healthy enough and large enough to be spayed or neutered which is usually about 2 lbs or 8 weeks.

Q: What should I expect when adopting a kitten?

A: Kittens, like all pets, are a commitment, but one that is well worth the effort. If you adopt from us, you’ll be sent home with a lot of information about play, feeding, litterbox behaviors, and more. And if you adopt from somewhere else, you can always refer to the resources we have about cat behavior on our website. And like all young animals, they are energetic and playful, so you may want to take down your very expensive silk curtains for a few months until your kittens mature a bit. And consider adopting more than one kitten, maybe littermates. Cats are social creatures and they tend to be able to fully express their natures when they have a feline friend.