Oh they’re cute, alright, but before you fall in love with the first available kitten you hear about, make sure you know how to enter into this long-term commitment well informed. Little and new as they are, kittens can come with lots of baggage.
If you adopt a kitten from a shelter, many potential problems have already been eliminated. Before you adopt a shelter kitten, shelters in our area will have already tested the kittens (or their mothers) for FIV and Feline Leukemia, and started a series of vaccines to protect the kitten from distemper and other feline diseases. The kitten will have been treated for parasites and spayed or neutered. Shelters and their foster volunteers will have done their best to socialize the kitten so they’re prepared for their new life as a house cat. Shelter staff will be able to tell you any medical or behavioral issues you should be aware of as a new owner. The adoption fee for a kitten is well worth all of this. There’s simply no such thing as a free kitten if you intend to care for it properly. Start-up vet costs would easily be double or triple the adoption fee if you took the kitten to your own vet.
If you have found out about a kitten that needs a home from social media or a friend, you’ll probably want to know a few things before you make a decision to adopt it.
First, kittens should be with their mothers for at least eight weeks. This is so mom can continue to nurture, feed, and teach them. If there’s no mom in the picture for the full eight weeks, it’s best for kitten siblings to stay with each other for some of those same reasons. Kittens who have this good foundation have a much better chance of growing up to be healthy, well-adjusted cats. Go on line and find a picture of what an eight-week-old kitten looks like. Make sure the kitten you are considering looks at least eight weeks old. If you bring a scale, weigh the kitten; at eight weeks old, it should weigh about two pounds. Not all people who are finding homes for kittens know their age, and not all of them are honest about the kittens in their charge.
If you adopt a kitten from someone, ask if they have had the mother cat tested for FIV and Feline Leukemia. Testing the mother is the most reliable way to determine if the kittens have either of these diseases. Testing the kitten is not completely reliable until they are over six months old. If the owner of the mother cat hasn’t had her tested, you’ll be taking a bit of a risk. The risk is greater if you already have felines.
If a kitten hasn’t gotten the right kind of care early on, they may need to be nursed back to health with the help of your veterinarian. There are many issues including anemia from fleabites, upper respiratory infection, parasites, viruses, and inadequate nutrition. It’s a kind thing to take on a kitten that isn’t the picture of health, but only if you plan to seek veterinary help to get the kitten back on track.
Kittens need socialization. It’s important to know how much interaction the kitten has had with people in the first eight weeks of their lives. If they haven’t had regular human contact between the ages of four and eight weeks, it will be much harder to socialize them after that. You may have visions of a kitten running up to you begging to play, or curled up purring on your lap. A kitten who was not socialized during those four crucial weeks may be skittish around people well into adulthood. Those kittens also need homes, but make sure you have realistic expectations of the kitten you choose.
If you aren’t aware of the big feline picture, here it is; There are too many cats. Cat overpopulation causes a great deal of suffering for felines; we see it every day at Animal Dreams, and shelters see it too. If you are adopting an unfixed kitten, be part of the solution and get it spayed or neutered. Even those who intend to keep the cat inside will find that a cat in heat, or a male cat ‘looking for love’ will get out and board the cat-populating train. If you can afford to take the kitten to your vet to be fixed, do so; it’s a great way to establish a lifelong relationship between your new feline and your vet. If you can’t afford that, call Berkshire Humane Society and ask about their Catsnip program. Dakin Spay and Neuter Clinic also offers a low-cost spay and neuter program.
If you adopt a kitten, you can expect to have this new companion in your life for 15 or so years. Take your time and make sure it’s a good experience for you and the new feline you are welcoming into your family.