Monday, February 6, 2017

Do you really want a kitten?

Fergus the Siamese kitten

"I'm looking for a new cat, but I don't want an animal that's older than 1 year. I want to be able to watch it grow and inform its personality. I don't want an adult cat that's been broken by someone else."

People who walk into animal shelters often say things just like this. On the one hand, I applaud them for coming to a shelter to get a new baby. Anyone who rescues a shelter cat is a bit of a hero in my mind. But, in my animal shelter, I've seen cats adopted from the shelter as tiny babies, and then returned to the shelter at the 10-month mark for things like:
  • Disobedience
  • Rambunctious play
  • Night antics 
  • Bullying behaviors
I wonder if some people who adopt a kitten are just not prepared for the misery that is cat adolescence. When cats grow a little older and a little more coordinated, they start to investigate hunting behaviors that can make their parents crazy.

Take Fergus, here. Our morning consists of feeding him, removing him from the counters 3 times while we're trying to eat, removing him from the recycling 2 times while we're trying to clean up breakfast and then stopping him from pouncing on his siblings 3 times before we go to work.

He has structured play sessions lasting 15 minutes about 6 times per day. He walks on a leash in the afternoons. He has access to a zillion toys. But he gets into things. He gets into trouble. He is busy.

And you know what? All that is normal. Every little bit of it. Seeing him through this stage takes a combination of grit, compassion, planning and time. People who don't have those components shouldn't get a kitten.

But that doesn't mean they can't get a cat.

Consider Popoki. She's just a year older than Fergus, so she's a young cat with a lot of life left in her. But all that kitten crap? She has no time for it.

Popoki the cat looking out the window

Popoki enjoys a good play session. She likes to "hunt" for birds she will never reach in her catio. She takes leash walks around the yard. She runs up and down her cat stairs. If I am doing a project, her big head is in my way much of the time.

But she listens to commands and is willing to obey if I make a good case. She settles down for cuddles a lot faster than a kitten would. She prefers to observe, rather than attack, her roommates. In short, she is very close to the perfection people look for in a cat.

And when she was in the shelter, she was about 1.5 years old. For some, that's too old. For me, that's about perfect.

I know some of you would say this is a false equivalency, as I am comparing two very different breeds of cats. And the gender thing might play a role. I get that. But it's been my experience that 99.999999% of cats go through a mellowing process around age 2 that makes them loving and sweet. And that persists throughout life. I know kittens get there. I have no doubt Fergus will mellow with time.

But if I can convince even one adopter, someone who is pressed for time or new to cats or not that patient, to take an adult over a kitten? That's a great thing. If this post helps, I'll be happy.

What do you think? Did your cats mellow at 2, or was there another time in which they grew into great companions that took a little less work? Leave me a note in the comments and let me know!


  1. Daiquiri finally grew a brain about the time she hit 2 years old. She still has her moments, but for a while there is wasn't a sure thing - hahaha. Tiny kittens are ok, teenagers are hilarious (but you need to know what you are getting into), and adult cats are settled. Nothing broken about them.

  2. It is sad that many senior cats wait longer to be rehomed. When I adopted Athena in 2011 she was only 10 weeks old. I hadn't had a cat for a long time and I really wanted a kitten. And because I could only adopt one cat at the time, I wanted her straight away. But if I could afford to have another cat I would definitely consider an older cat too. All cats young and old deserve a loving forever home.

  3. That's crazy what people sometimes say ! Kittens are like toddlers and you have to be patient. And each cat has his own character I have four and they are all very different.

  4. You make an excellent point. Shelters are literally overflowing with cats - the older ones, especially the seniors, are consistently by-passed time and time again. You have a better inclination of a cat's behavior at one or two years, so it's easier to determine if the cat will be a cuddler, or mellow, or playful, etc. Great article! Purrs from Deb and the Zee/Zoey gang

  5. Oh, this post speaks volumes. I wish more people were like you and realized that kittens are kittens, and you have to give them time to grow into cats. It is so true that kittens are more active, because that's the time in their life when they're still growing and learning. If they didn't get into mischief, how would they learn what's right and wrong? My Eddy sounds so much like your Fergus, active and happy and simply into everything. But she's just 1 year old (not to mention just being a cat!), so how can I fault her? On the other hand, my Thimble and Evan are 2 and 3 and far more settled. Like you said, it just takes time for them to grow out of the active kitten stage, and there's nothing wrong with that! Thank you so much for sharing this and bringing attention to it!

  6. Consider your own age too. I am 71 and have several cats - right now the youngest is going on 4 and the oldest going on 10. My older two - Buddy-16, and Snarky-17, both passed over a year ago. All my cats are rescues, but I am hoping we balance out our lives together.

  7. We adopted 2 seniors and most of us were at least 9 months old when we were adopted. Now we have 2 newbies.

  8. My cat is 8 years old and still gets into trouble all the time. He doesn't seem to have slowed down at all. But I still love him :)

  9. Malou and Levon are now six years old and are still mischievous and getting into trouble! Mitalee has never really been a "troublemaker" and seems more like Popoki in temperament and Esme was a little terror but at eleven years of age she is now mellow and easy going! They were all wonderful to me at any given age even if they did have their high energy kitten antics. I find it odd how people view animals at times...a young animal is alive and new to the world in much the same way a youngster is and like a young person new to the world...there is usually more energy and crazy to be had when in their company. But of course! :D Great post!

    the critters in the cottage xo