Planning to adopt a kitten? It surely is a great idea and contribution since some estimates suggest there are 70 million homeless cats in the United States alone. But what is the right way and age for kittens to shift into a new and permanent home? When can kittens be adopted?
Read on as we delve into the details below.
When Can Kittens Be Adopted?
Right Age for Kittens
According to Dr. Hassan, it is recommended not to separate kittens from their mother unless they have learned some vital behavioral actions and the weaning process is completed. Boiling down to figures, kittens can be adopted only after they have reached the age of ten weeks, though the best period to separate them from their mothers is 12 weeks.
He further explains that the role of the mama cat and feline community is remarkable and irreplaceable simultaneously. The environment teaches the babies how to speak, hunt preys, bury their waste, and several other valuable life lessons.
Likewise, weaning also completes within the first few weeks of life, giving kittens vital antibodies obtained solely from their mother’s milk. Based on these requirements, adopting a kitten before it reaches an appropriate age can be counterproductive – it might not inherit furry social skills and would grow up to be aggressive or fearful.
Did You Know?Cats that are fearful or under mental stress might end up eating their own babies. Adopting a female kitten too early can add fuel to the fire as she would grow anxious over time due to lacking feline social skills, increasing the chances of cannibalism when motherhood kicks in.
Right Age for Cat Parents
Several experts suggest children are not fully mature to handle a pet until the age of six years though some sources also state that you can get yourself a cat as soon as you celebrate your third birthday.
Although the saying “if the dog is the best friend of a grown-up person, the cat is the best buddy of a child” is true, children need enough mental development to make sure they do not inadvertently harm a cat and are responsible enough to cater to their needs. If a child poses a risk, the cat too might react aggressively.
Gentle and Friendly Cat Breeds for a Child
How to Judge the Age of a Kitten Correctly?
Consulting a kitten growth chart is the key: Knowing what weight kittens usually have at different ages as they grow can easily tell how much time has elapsed since a kitten’s birth. For instance, at the age of eight weeks – an appropriate time to adopt a kitten – it should weigh around one-and-a-half to two pounds. Similarly, if it weighs about three pounds, know that it has already reached 12 weeks of age.
However, note that the above formula only applies if the kitten is in a good state of health. If you choose to adopt a frail or sick kitten, you might need to check if it can walk, has teeth, and can open its eyes.
How to Know a Kitten Was Adopted Too Early?
Continuing to state the drawbacks of separating a kitten from the mother too soon, Dr. Hassan says if early adoption occurs, several problems might arise in a kitten.
Some of them are:
Newborn kitties get their complete nutrition and antibodies from their mother’s milk. Lacking any of those vital parts makes them prone to sickness and various health complications that are not only restricted to their physical well-being but their mental state is also impacted hard.
However, bottle feeding can be a solution, but still, it does not cover all necessary nutrients.
Anger and aggressive behavior develop in kittens that are not properly socialized. Not knowing how to interact with their feline pals, kittens might become shy and fearful as they age. Resultantly, they might get triggered easily by even a slight misunderstanding.
Dr. Hassan retrieves an old memory in which a cat was brought to his clinic who was occasionally being overly aggressive. Upon the checkup, nothing bad showed up regarding ill physical conditions. However, her condition started making sense when the owner disclosed that the kitty was an orphan and never had enough time to interact with other animals.
3. Fear and Anxiety
Kittens not having enough time with their mother become overly protective of themselves, sometimes resulting in being afraid of minor stimuli—light, scent, touch, etc. Upon seeing other animals or even people, they might retreat to a hidden place timidly to feel safe and secure. Nevertheless, the behavior is correctable, and much depends upon the owner’s calm composure and continuous struggle.
4. Behavioral Issues
Since kittens are not able to learn vital lessons when separated early from their mother, they face several behavioral issues as they grow up. Some common problems are not knowing how to groom themselves properly and sucking on unwanted places with the hope of getting milk from them.
Perhaps the biggest drawback would be not using the litter box. Mama cats play a big role in teaching kittens how to defecate; her absence makes a lasting impact. However, this issue too is reversible if proper potty training is ensured.
Some Tips for Adopting Kittens
To make sure you navigate smoothly through the kitten adoption process, stick to the followings:
- Avoid Milk: If your kitten is too young, avoid feeding her standard milk. Tiny kitten stomachs cannot digest it and may cause diarrhea. While it may not replace the mother’s milk, kitten milk replacers are recommended, as they are designed exclusively for kittens.
- Bathe Your Kitten Only After 16 Weeks Age: Unfortunately, kittens cannot regulate their body temperature until they reach the age of four weeks. However, various experts recommend that age be multiplied by four, i.e., 16 weeks. However, if bathing is necessary, use safe products and keep your cat calm during the bath.
- Get Your Kitten Through Introductions Smoothly: Initially, restrain the movement of your kitten only to a single room. Though knowing other pets earlier is better for your kitten, take your time and do it only gradually to ensure no problem pops up.
- Make Your Home Safe: Newbie kittens in a home can cause several difficulties. For instance, they might end up scratching unwanted objects. Similarly, if she ends up scratching an electric wire, she might jeopardize her life – be vigilant of such incidents.
- Spay or Neuter Your Kitten: ‘Neutralizing’ your kitten can prevent several problems such as unwanted pregnancy and territory marking as she ages. While getting yourself a kitten, check if she is already spayed. If not, make sure you do it early, or she might become pregnant as soon as she hits four months of age. Apart from unwanted pregnancy, spaying is also better for their health and longer lifespan.
- Take Your Kitten to a Vet: As soon as you get a kitten for adoption, take it to an animal hospital for a complete medical checkup. As a preventive step, you might know the health issues your kitty is suffering from. Furthermore, vaccinations such as those against fleas and worms can give a boost to their well-being.
- Train Soon: As soon as you bring your kitten home, start its training. Begin with easy tasks and move toward difficult ones. Just do not forget positive reinforcements and kitten treats.
A Checklist for Adopting a Kitten
- Is my kitten at least eight weeks old?
- Am I getting my kitten from a reputable source?
- Does my house provide a healthy and safe environment for cats?
- Can I provide both wet and dry food to my kitten twice a day?
- Do I have enough fresh water supply?
- Is my kitten okay with litter box training?
- Do I have a trustable vet?
Rounding Up: When Can Kittens Be Adopted?
The ideal age for adopting kittens is between eight and 12 weeks. Since cats need enough time to learn several things from their mother and feline siblings, they should not be separated from their community very soon, or several problems might show up. For human beings, the appropriate age to get a kitten is six years, at least. While going for kitten adoption, ensure it is healthy and you can cater to its needs well.