Are you ready to take on the responsibility of a new pet? Learning how to raise a kitten can be challenging—but it will definitely also be a lot of fun! Before getting a kitten, you need to make sure you’re ready to care for one for the rest of his life. Here are six signs you’re ready for the adventure.
You Understand a Kitten’s Personality Takes Time to Develop
While that cute pet kitten will eventually turn into an adult cat, adopting a young feline comes with its own set of difficulties. For starters, it’s hard to tell what your cute ball of fur’s personality will be like when he grows up.
“When it comes to personality, you usually know what you are getting when you adopt an adult cat, but that is not always the case when adopting a kitten,” says Dr. Julie Brinker, DVM, a veterinarian at the Humane Society of Missouri.
Do you want a cuddler, or do you prefer an independent cat? Personalities take time to develop, which means that you won’t know what kind of personality your kitten will have until he gets a bit older.
“As a kitten grows and matures, his or her personality develops, too,” Dr. Brinker says. “Sometimes you will find a kitten to be very affectionate and cuddly, but by the time he reaches a year old, he becomes more aloof. Or just the opposite could happen: You might have a timid kitten who really comes out of his shell as he grows and becomes comfortable in your home.”
You’re Ready for the Additional Medical Requirements of a Kitten
“Not only do adopters need to be ready to provide a home for years to come, but also to provide medical care and companionship,” Dr. Brinker says.
Most cats and kittens adopted from a shelter or rescue organization will be up-to-date on vaccinations, and most shelters spay or neuter cats before they are adopted, according to Dr. Brinker. While adult cats may not need vaccines until the following year after adoptions, kittens will need to visit the vet much sooner than that.
“Kittens need a series of booster vaccinations and deworming before they are a year old,” Dr. Brinker says. “When the kitten is 4 months old, he or she will need a rabies vaccination, and if the kitten isn’t spayed or neutered by 4 to 6 months of age, that will need to be done as well.”
If you’re going to adopt a kitten, keep in mind that he will need follow-up veterinary care to ensure he is fully protected from common diseases and health issues. And as Dr. Brinker points out, this can get quite expensive.
You’re Aware That Kittens Are More Fragile (in Every Sense of the Word)
Don’t worry, your kitten isn’t likely to break any more than your adult cat is, but kittens are more likely to get into trouble and, as a result, get injured.
In addition, Dr. Brinker points out that kittens don’t have as strong of an immune system as adult cats. They also haven’t received all of their vaccinations yet. That means kittens are more likely to get sick if exposed to a viral or bacterial infection.
“But adult cats, especially those who are not up-to-date on their vaccinations, can still get sick,” Dr. Brinker says. “It’s important to take your new kitten or cat to the veterinarian, even if vaccines aren’t needed at that time. The veterinarian will do a thorough examination, administer any necessary blood tests and will let you know the vaccine schedule that best suits your new pet.”
You Don’t Mind Tons of Energy and Mischief
A lot of potential adopters don’t realize how much energy kittens have—especially in the middle of the night or early in the morning. It’s important that you have ways to keep your kitten entertained and help him to burn off his energy. Otherwise, you are going to end up with a mischievous kitten that finds ways to entertain himself, like destroying a roll of toilet paper.
One way to ensure you are providing an outlet for your kitten’s energy is to stick to a consistent schedule and include a play session just before bedtime.
“Give your kitten a chance to burn off energy before it’s lights out,” Dr. Brinker says. “Throughout the day, make sure your kitten has plenty of toys, scratching posts and places to run and play.”
Dr. Brinker also suggests purchasing a food puzzle or other interactive toys to help him stay busy. Interactive toys like cat tunnels, catnip toys and scratching posts are great options for keeping your kitten busy so they can burn off all that youthful energy.
You’ll also want to be sure to provide your kitten with hiding spaces and climbing opportunities. Cat trees are a great choice because they provide cats and kittens with everything they need for play or nap time.
“You may even think about adopting two kittens at the same time,” Dr. Brinker says. “There are many great reasons why two is better than one, including that they can play and keep each other company.”
If you do choose to adopt two kittens, it’s important to spend some quality time bonding with each of them so that they don’t bond only to each other. One way to do that is to get toys that allow you to play with them, like a cat wand. These toys allow you to spend quality time with your kitten or kittens and really develop a strong bond.
You’re Ready for the Long-Term Commitment
All things considered, cats tend to live longer than dogs, so if you’re going to adopt a kitten, you’re looking at roughly a decade and a half of commitment.
“On average, indoor cats can live to be around 15 years old, but many live to their late teens and even early twenties,” Dr. Brinker says.
Adopting any pet is a lifetime commitment, and there is more to responsible pet ownership than just providing a roof over their heads.
“Pet parents must commit to meeting their pet’s physical and emotional needs for the pet’s entire life,” Dr. Brinker says. “That means always providing medical care, a nutritious diet and plenty of exercise.”
You Have a Plan in Place for the Future
The prospect of adopting a cute, little kitten can be all-consuming. But it’s not a decision that should be made impulsively. You need to remember that a kitten might fit perfectly into your current living situation, but what about your future plans? Are you graduating from college? Are you planning on having a child? It’s important to think about what your future plans are before bringing a new furry feline into your family, that way you can make sure you can commit to providing them their fur-ever home.
According to Dr. Brinker, “one of the most common reasons people surrender cats to shelters is because they are moving and can’t take the cat with them.” If you’re going to adopt a kitten, Dr. Brinker suggests asking yourself the following questions early on:
• If you anticipate moving in the next 15-20 years, will you be able to take your cat with you?
• Can you provide exercise and mental stimulation for your cat, even when you are tired or busy?
• Can you afford routine and emergency veterinary care?
• Do you have someone who can take care of your cat when you are out of town?
If the answer is no for any of these, then you might not be ready to adopt a kitten.
“But, if the answer is yes, check your local shelter,” Dr. Brinker says. “Many wonderful kittens are in shelters right now waiting for their forever homes!”
Diana Bocco is a full-time writer and adventurer who has written for National Geographic, DiscoveryChannel.com, Yahoo! and Marie Claire. Diana has lived in five countries and taken her rescued dogs along to each one of them.