Kittens For Dummies
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When people think about adding a cat to their lives, they seem to automatically think "kitten." And why not? A kitten seems to make perfect sense, a little fluffball who'll grow into your household and your heart. For some people, though, an adult cat is a better option. And even if you're perfectly set up for a kitten, you ought to consider an adult as well, for you can find many wonderful pets among the ranks of grown cats, and most never get a second chance to show how perfect they can be.

Don't rule out either before you consider each fairly.

Everyone loves kittens!

Even people who don't really like cats can't look at a kitten without saying "awwwwwww." Maybe it's those large eyes, following every movement intently; or their oversized ears, twitching to and fro. Maybe it's the playfulness, chasing and pouncing on everything that moves, or the uncontrollable tousled fur. A kitten is all these things — and more.

What many people don't think about is that a kitten can be a lot of work and aggravation. They can mean a lot of expense, too, because many kittens seem to use nearly all a cat's nine lives, which means you may end up seeing the nice people at the emergency veterinary clinic a time or two in the first year. With a kitten, you also need to put more effort into training, from making sure the tiny baby understands what's expected regarding the litter box to helping your kitten learn to stay off the counters. You also need to kitten-proof your home — or keep your baby confined in a safe part of the house whenever you're not watching him — and then spend a few months picking your little baby off the drapes, off the kids, off the back of the couch, or off your slippers.

A kitten may be a poor choice for families with very young children or for someone who's handicapped by advanced age or illness. For all their spunk, kittens are fragile and may accidentally be hurt by young children who don't understand the concept of "gentle." Similarly, a kitten isn't the best choice for anyone who's a little unsteady on his feet or isn't able to chase or otherwise keep up with an energetic feline baby.

On the other hand, a kitten can be perfect for a family with older, more responsible children, or a source of delightful amusement to an active older adult. You just need to look carefully at your living situation and consider the problems and pleasures a kitten will bring.

Finally, consider the matter of time. An adult cat does quite well on her own alone in the house while you work — most of the time she's sleeping anyway. A kitten needs your time, for raising her and for watching over her to keep her out of trouble.

Adult cat considerations

Adult cats offer some compelling advantages and few disadvantages — the most serious disadvantage being simply that they aren't as "baby cute" as kittens!

Kittens get away with their goofiness because they're so adorable, but if you suspect you're going to get tired of having your feet attacked, if you worry about your children not being gentle enough, or if you don't want to be figuring out what your little baby is into every second of the day and night, an adult cat is a better option for you.

If you adopt an adult cat, you know exactly what you're getting. Body type, coat, and eye color are set. Laid-back or active, quiet or vocal, cuddly or demanding, an adult cat has already settled into his own persona. These considerations may not be as important in a pedigreed cat, because you know, based on your kitten's background and the breeder's reputation, what your kitten is likely to grow into. But in a nonpedigreed kitten, these qualities are anybody's guess. If you want to make sure that you're getting, say, a mellow pet, choose a cat beyond the ants-in-his-pants kitten stage.

One of the most compelling reasons to adopt a mature cat is that many of these adults have little hope of getting a second chance after they hit the shelter, no matter how healthy, beautiful, and well mannered they are. Kittens are so adorable they're hard to pass up, and so many people never even look at the cages of adult cats when they're at the shelter.

The possible disadvantage of adopting an adult cat is that you may be choosing a pet with behavioral problems — not using a litter box, for example. A good shelter, rescue group, or breeder practices full disclosure of any known health or behavior problems with the animals up for adoption. Remember, however, that many animals are given up for problems that can be resolved — such as the cat who's looking at a filthy litter box every day and decides to do his business elsewhere.

An adult cat's personality may be set, but his affections aren't — a grown cat bonds with you just as tightly as a kitten does. Adult cats may even be more likely to appreciate you for taking them in.

Most people still choose a kitten over a cat; such is the power of packaging. But make sure that you aren't automatically excluding some wonderful pets. Look at kittens, sure, but check out the cats, too. Strike a blow against ageism! We think you get brownie points for adopting an animal that has everything going for her — except kittenhood. Adopting an adult cat is also a great time- and money-saver.

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