6 Things to Know Before Adopting a Kitten

Kittens require special care to foster a long, healthy life.

Feb 7, 2024By Maya Keith
things to know before adopting kitten

Bringing any animal into your home merits some level of research, and even kittens have some surprising things to consider before bringing them home. While their cuteness makes it worthwhile, understanding how kitten care differs from cat care ensures they get the best start in life.

From the perfect age for adoption to planning for the future, we explore these issues. Keep reading to make sure you’re adequately prepared!

Age Matters

kittens with older cat
Image Credit: Broc, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Most places ban the sale or adoption of kittens under a certain age (usually 6 or 8 weeks), but even this may be too early. Studies show that early weaning increases aggression in cats, and that kittens weaned after 14 weeks are less likely to engage in aggressive behavior.

Kittens learn a lot about acceptable social behavior from their mom and littermates, and early weaning often interrupts this sensitive period. Kittens who develop without their mother behave differently from those who do because they lack the effective communication of a feline parent.

This shouldn’t ward you off from adopting bottle-fed or younger-weaned kittens, but it’s something to look out for.

Two Kittens are Usually Better than One

two kittens are usually better than one
Image Credit: Park Jonghan, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

If you can afford it, adopting two kittens usually works out better than just one. While puppies suffer from issues like littermate syndrome, kittens are more likely to form healthy relationships with one another when raised together.

Two kittens mean more responsibility, but it alleviates some pressure for play and socialization. The two will teach each other how to play gently (saving your hand from many scratches) and limit destructive behavior due to boredom.

Cats are only semi-solitary, meaning they appreciate companionship as much as alone time. Adopting two kittens accommodates their social needs.

Everything You Need for a Kitten

gray kitten with toy
Image Credit: Kopa, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Most of what you need for a kitten is straightforward, including toys, food and water bowls, flea medication, beds, cat trees, and scratchers. Some of these items require special consideration.

Kittens should eat life-stage-specific food until they’re about one year old. Kitten formulas are usually more nutrient-dense to meet the needs of a rapidly growing feline, particularly when it comes to protein. It’s also easier for their small mouths and teething gums to handle.

You should also take care when choosing litter for young kittens. Until you’re sure they won’t eat it, avoid clumping varieties. Set up at least 2 litter boxes for your kitten, and consider one in each room to accommodate their tiny bladders.

You Need to Kitten Proof

kitten on computer case
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Cats are notoriously curious, kittens more so. If they can get into it and make a mess, chances are they will. It’s important to keep an eye on them whenever possible and secure as much as possible.

While unconventional for felines, there are plenty of benefits to crate training your cat. Keeping them out of trouble is just one.

Even if you crate train your kitten, make sure you keep cabinets locked and doors closed. Chemicals should remain in a secure location, and you should pick up small clutter (especially rubber bands) as soon as possible.

If you’re in an apartment and want to let your kitten on the balcony, make sure you net up the balustrade. Triple-check whether plants are poisonous before bringing them home, and put food away before your kitten can get into it.

You Should Start Training Them Early

tuxedo kitten on two legs
Image Credit: Eirik Newth from Oslo, Oslo, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Many people are surprised to find you can train them just like you would a dog. In fact, studies show traditional methods like clicker training are actually beneficial to our feline friends.

Before you get into neat tricks to show off at your next house party, you should teach your cat basics like:

  • Coming when called
  • Going into a carrier
  • Brushing teeth
  • Sitting through a physical exam

Beyond this, kittens can learn tricks like spinning or jumping into your arms. These training sessions provide mental stimulation, but they also increase your bond with your kitten.

Purchase Pet Insurance or Start Saving ASAP

Sick cream colored kitten
Image Credit: Jarrod Lombardo, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Pet insurance is widely debated, despite its growing popularity. Regardless of the opinion on the subject, it’s agreed that an emergency financial plan is important.

If you plan on purchasing insurance, starting early usually locks in a lower premium. Because there are so many options, it’s best to start your search as soon as possible.

Setting up an emergency fund for your kitten is a popular alternative. An emergency visit can cost anywhere from $100 to $1,000 or more, not considering follow-up appointments. It’s a long way off, but there are plenty of costly chronic conditions your kitten may develop, and the emergency fund can go a long way.

Planning ahead gives your kitten (and you) the best chance at minimal surprises in the future. If these details don’t sit right with you, you may want to look into adopting an older cat instead.

Maya Keith
By Maya Keith

Maya is a lifelong animal lover. While she switched from studying veterinary medicine to English, she continues to help by fostering animals in her community. Her permanent residents include 3 dogs, 2 cats, 5 quail, 19 chickens, and a small colony of Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches.