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How to Decide Between Adopting a Kitten or an Older Cat

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By Tim Falk

Published: 06/03/2021, edited: 03/29/2022

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No matter how old they are, cats are adorable. They’re gorgeous, loving creatures and can bring so much joy and special companionship into any home.

But if you’re thinking of adopting a kitty, should you choose a playful young kitten or a more relaxed older cat? There are plenty of reasons why either option may be the right choice for you, so let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons of adopting a kitten vs. adopting an older cat.

orange kitten lying on a white blanket

Adopting a kitten

Okay, let’s address the most obvious benefit of adopting a kitten first: kittens are ridiculously cute! They’re tiny, they’re cuddly, and they’re full of curiosity, so it’s impossible not to fall in love with a kitten at first sight.

This inquisitive nature means kittens tend to be very playful and a whole lot of fun. They’re often keen to explore and interact with the world around them, which can result in plenty of adorable adventures.

The other main advantage of adopting a kitten is that you get to raise them from the early weeks of their life right through to old age. Not only does this give you a chance to form a lifelong bond with your feline friend, but it also means that you don’t have to worry about any problem behaviors that an older cat might develop prior to being adopted.

But raising a kitten isn’t all snuggles and playtime. The first thing you need to remember is that your pet won’t be a cute little kitten forever — in fact, you’ll be surprised how quickly your little bundle of fur grows into an adult. The second downside is that curious kittens have a knack for getting themselves into trouble, so you’ll need to make sure your home is kitten-proof (plus supervise them closely) to ensure that they stay safe.

You’ll also need to take care of vaccinations and spaying/neutering for a kitten, so keep in mind that you will have your work cut out for you.


Adopting an older cat

Kittens may be cute, but there are lots of good reasons why adopting an older cat may be a better choice. Older cats can be much more settled than kittens, while you also know what you’re getting. You should have a much better idea of the temperament and personality of the cat before you adopt them, plus know what sort of grooming requirements they have.

Another benefit is that an older cat is likely to need less in terms of constant supervision than a kitten. While every cat is curious, older felines are generally less likely to get themselves into trouble than their younger counterparts.

Finally, there’s also something undeniably rewarding about giving an older animal a second chance at a happy life. The cat you adopt will be grateful to you for opening your home and your heart to them, and you’ll be rewarded with a lifelong companion.

Of course, the downside is that you miss out on the cuteness of raising a kitten and experiences like watching your kids grow up alongside the family pet.

Related: 8 Reasons Why You Should Adopt an Adult Cat

gray older cat with orange eyes lying on orange blanket

Is a kitten or an older cat right for me?

The best person to answer this question is you. Whether you should adopt a kitten or an older cat really depends on what you’re looking for in a pet, your lifestyle, and how your new kitty will fit into your home.

For some people, the fun and downright adorableness of a kitten is the “pawfect” match, while others will prefer to welcome a slightly more sedate and mellow older cat into the family.

So before you adopt, think long and hard about the type of pet you want. Chat with shelter staff and interact with the kitty as much as possible to find out whether they’ll be a good fit for your home. 


What to look for when adopting a pet

Okay, so you’ve made your choice and decided whether you want a kitten or an older cat. Once you've prepared yourself and your home for the realities of adopting a cat, it’s time to decide on the right shelter cat for you — but how do you do that? Of course, there are plenty of different places where you can adopt a cat, including online, so it's worth searching various sources to find adoptable cats near you.

Start by wandering through the shelter to meet the cats in their care. Are there any you’d like to spend some more time with? If your answer is “all of them”, you can narrow things down a bit by chatting with shelter staff about your home, your lifestyle, and the type of cat you’re looking for. The staff will then be able to point you in the direction of cats they think will be a suitable match for you, while you may also want to consider adopting multiple cats if you think your new pet could benefit from having a "fur-iend".

You can also do some research yourself about the personalities and care needs of different breeds. Ragdolls, for example, tend to be laid-back and affectionate, while Siamese are intelligent and full of energy. Some breeds do well with children, while others are better suited to quieter homes. Whether a cat has long or short hair can affect how much grooming and maintenance their coat requires, so this is another factor worth considering.

Finally, before adopting any cat, take some time to assess their overall health and personality. For example:

  • Is the cat friendly and curious? 
  • Are they comfortable interacting with people? 
  • Is their coat in good condition? 
  • Do they have any health issues you should be aware of?
  • Are all their vaccinations up to date?

Make sure you spend some quality one-on-one time with a cat before deciding whether they’re the right feline for you. It might be love at first sight, or you might take a little while to develop a special bond — the only thing that matters is that you end up with a kitten or cat you’re willing to care for and love for the rest of their life.

Insuring your new kitten or adult cat as soon as “pawssible” is essential for preventing high vet care costs. Start comparing insurance plans from leading insurers like Healthy Paws and Embrace and save over $270 a year.

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