Should I get a cat or a kitten?
When re-homing cats aged between 8 weeks old and one year, we refer to all of them as "kittens"; they are still growing and developing and need a "kitten" diet (unless advised otherwise by your vet).
Tiny, big-eyed, round-faced kittens grow up to look like any of the grown-up cats you might see. Some will have wonderful temperaments but some will grow up to be quite independent!
Young kittens are like little 'surprise packages'; if you feel that you need to know about your companion's personality before you give him or her a home, give a home to an older, neutered kitten or an adult cat rather than a young kitten.
Young kittens need constant vigilance; they can dart into, through and out of tiny spaces in a moment and could encounter dangers or get lost easily. They often lack caution and will need watching carefully; it is just like having a toddler to watch over!
Young kittens are frequently lost because they travel long distances in oblivion, quickly distracted by anything around them. It is largely because of this and the risk of early mating, that it is a condition of adoption that you undertake to keep a kitten indoors until after it has been neutered at 6 months old. Therefore, if you take an 8 week old kitten, that usually means for 4 months.
In any and every case, we ask that all cats and older, neutered kittens are kept indoors for a minimum of 4 weeks after they are adopted from our homing centre. (You should do the same thing if you move house during the cat's life).
All cats and kittens need to learn that the place where they live is "home", to orientate themselves by land marks and by the position of the sun and the stars (observed out of the windows over these 4 weeks) as well as the familiar scents and sights at ground level!
An older cat will generally be quieter and more sensible than a kitten or a young cat. They are usually used to household life and know the ground rules of living with people. Instead of becoming bored and needing to let off steam in your absence, they are more likely to doze whilst leaving your furnishings intact.
An older cat will, in general, be house-trained and all adult cats adopted from Caring For Cats will be neutered. As cats grow older, they are more home-orientated and settled, making them excellent companions. If you enjoy pampering your cats, an older cat will be much more appreciative than a kitten.
Cats are at their most companionable in their later years. They enjoy fuss and attention, but will not pester you for games and will enjoy being with you, taking things easy. An older cat provides calm companionship and most owners find caring for such cats a very rewarding experience.
These wonderful pets are used to human attention and enjoy the love and security that a caring cat owner can provide. If you are looking for a new cat to share your home, consider adopting an older cat or, even better, two that can keep each other company if you are out.
These are real considerations:
Cats are all individuals! They each have a unique personality which they will reveal to you when you treat them with care and respect. Please do not expect to find "one with a personality just like Tiddles"; you are most unlikely to, "Tiddles" was as unique as all the cats are.
Cats will have various needs, for example, those with white ears will need factor 40 sunscreen on their ears in sunny weather - and will have dirty grey ears by noon! Long-haired cats will need careful and regular grooming, some will love it and there will be those who just don't! Some older cats might need raised dishes and lowered beds to help their "creaky bits" cope with everyday living. The list is endless, every cat will have their own needs.
Going away will mean you have to find suitable care for your cat because left-at-home pussies often wander off looking for their family or for company.
Being carnivores, if your cat goes outside, it will naturally catch mice and possibly birds. Growing to recognise you as its family might mean that your cat will bring little carcasses to the house; this is natural and part of being in your cat's family.
There will be a financial cost. There could be unexpected vet bills or regular pet insurance to pay, in addition there will always be vaccination boosters to pay for every year since these are essential to protect your cat from fatal diseases. They are necessary throughout your cat's life. There will be food bills because cats need a special, nutritionally-balanced diet with high levels of protein; even higher under 1 year ("kitten") and lower after 7 years ("senior"). Absolutely no cow's milk at any age - cats are usually lactose intolerant and although they enjoy the taste of milk, it can really upset their tummies.
Of course there is the knowledge that the best chair in the house will no longer be yours and, unless you are really quick with a vacuum, guests will leave your home with a rosette of fur on their behind!
Christmas trees will never again have baubles on the bottom branches and flower arrangements will need a low centre of gravity and no grassy bits! Putting objects high, thinking they are out of reach may just mean that your cat has more to knock over in an attempt to inspect them! This is a CAT, it will have its own ideas about situations and the word 'no' only means 'Not until my back's turned'! Blown vinyl wall paper shreds so much better than others and cuddling your cat will put fur on your jacket!
If you can read all of this without feeling anxious, then you are a true cat-lover; read on!
Before you decide to have a cat or kitten
Please be aware that you are making a commitment for the whole of the cat's life; not just the next few days or weeks so, please reflect on how it will affect your life for the next few years. A well-cared for cat who is fortunate enough to avoid accidents, can live into its late teens and even early twenties.
You will become a very important part of the cat's life; in behaviour terms, cats see us (or, often the person who feeds them,) as 'parents' and the bond between a cat and its human companion can be very strong. Can you make that commitment?