Once you’ve decided that you would like to have a cat, one of the most important things you need to think about is whether you want a kitten or a fully grown cat. A tiny kitten may seem irresistible, but do you really want the hassle involved in coping with a boisterous, defenceless little animal which will be completely dependent on you? In the end, you will probably have to choose between the sentimental option or the sensible approach.
A pretty little ball of fur is tempting—especially to children —but the attention that it is likely to demand is quite a commitment. Will everyone in the family still be devoted in a year’s time?
An adult cat that arrives in a new home will be bewildered and unsure of itself. You should keep it safely indoors probably shut in one room to prevent accidental escape for the first couple of weeks until it’s used to you and its new surroundings, and then let it out under supervision for another few weeks. It may wander off in order to try to find its previous home and, as a result, get lost. In the meantime, treat it with constant love and attention so that it forms a bond with its new family.
Whether you choose to buy a kitten or an older cat obviously depends, to a large extent, on you and your lifestyle. A kitten needs a lot of attention, rather like any baby, and will need to be fed at regular intervals throughout the day — probably three or four times. It also needs to be taught how to use a litter tray and, later on, how to deal with a cat flap. You will have to be patient as a few ‘accidents’ are more or less inevitable. All in all, a kitten’s constant demands probably mean that it needs someone at home all day. On the plus side, though, a kitten will usually settle down and relate to you more easily than an adult cat.
An adult cat may take time before it responds to its new owners. In fact, there’s always the risk that it may never settle down with you, particularly if it’s been in any way maltreated or neglected before it came to you.
On the other hand, an adult cat is almost bound to be housetrained already, and will probably be familiar with cat flaps.
In general, however, an adult cat is a better choice for an older person, who may find it difficult to cope with a lively and demanding kitten, and for very small children who may sometimes accidentally harm a tiny, vulnerable kitten.
An adult cat that arrives in a new home may show its indignation at not being allowed out by scratching the furniture —treat any misdemeanours with understanding and kindness.
There are serial strays who arrive unexpectedly and set up a new home for a few weeks and then disappear as suddenly as they arrived — so if you take in a stray, beware.
A new kitten will be full of mischief and curiosity, so you must keep a watchful eye on it at all times.
An adult cat is less of a commitment than a tiny kitten, and may be easier for an older person to cope with, but whatever the age of the cat you acquire, it will need loving care for many years to come.