Kittens For Dummies
Book image
Explore Book Buy On Amazon
Online, cat content reigns supreme — but their internet popularity doesn’t seem to translate into real-world adoptions. According to the Human Society of the United States, just 35 percent of households own cats (versus 54 percent for dogs).

So if you’ve been thinking of adding a furry friend to the family, why not consider the kitty? And not just because June is National Adopt a Cat Month — adopting a low-maintenance mouser has perks all year-round. Just imagine the mood boost of watching silly cat videos online 24-7, and you’ll begin to understand just how much a four-legged friend can enhance your well-being.

Gray kitten in the crook of a woman's arm © little plant /

The benefits of cat ownership

A pet can be a crucial addition to our support networks, as many first-time pet parents discovered during pandemic lockdowns. The companionship of a beloved pet has been proven to alleviate stress, loneliness, depression, and anxiety.

Cats can even help us process grief: Talking to a pet in our time of need can help us sort through our complicated feelings without fear of judgment. Cats are also unlikely to become distressed by our distress, making them more of a comfort than an additional worry.

But cats don’t just benefit your emotional heart — they benefit your physical heart, too. One study found that cat owners were 30 percent less likely to die from a heart attack than people who have never owned them, while another found that cat owners were at reduced risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease.

While these outcomes may be due to overall lifestyle differences, it’s safe to say that cats deserve at least some of the credit: Cat purrs have been found to lower blood pressure, reduce stress, and even support bone density and healing.

Best of all, almost anyone can enjoy the benefits of owning a cat. Unlike dogs, cats are perfectly content with a 100 percent indoor lifestyle (in fact, it’s much safer for them — and the local environment — if they don’t venture out). Cats are also quiet and small, making them ideal for apartment living. And, as long as they have fresh food, water, and litter, cats are relatively autonomous. Their low-maintenance ways make them a great pet for anyone from older adults to people who work long hours away from home.

Choosing a cat (or kitten)

On average, cats live between 12 and 18 years — so you’ll want to choose your new family member wisely.

READ MORE: How to Recognize Good Health in Kittens and Cats

Adopting a kitten

While kittens are indisputably adorable, they may not be well suited to your experience, lifestyle, or family. That’s because kittens are cats in training: They don’t yet have the grace and self-sufficiency of adult cats and need more attention, patience, and gentleness as they grow. Spending their formative months in a loud, chaotic environment can impact a kitten’s behavior for life, so be realistic about your lifestyle (and keep out of the reach of children).

READ MORE: Choosing a Cat or Kitten: Which Is Better for You?

Sleeping cat on top of yellow sofa © Sabri Tuzcu /

Adult cats

Cats become adults around the age of 1: still cute, but much less of a mystery. With their personalities generally set, it’s easier to identify the snuggly couch potato or playful hunter of your dreams. Do you want a cat that gets along with other animals? A cat that vocalizes? A mature cat provides the best chance of finding the right fit. Of course, their greatest strength could also be a curse — like humans, adult cats with behavioral issues will be more set in their ways. Be sure to inquire about any potential challenges before committing.

And in case you were wondering, adult cats are as capable of developing love and affection for their owners as kittens are (as long as the feeling’s mutual).

READ MORE: Cats for Dummies Cheat Sheet

Breed characteristics

People often fall in love at first sight with their future cat, committing to a life together without knowing much about them. Understanding a bit about the different breeds can help you narrow the field and find the right cat for your household. Some breeds require more grooming than others, for example, while some are more tolerable for people with allergies.

READ MORE: Cat Characteristics by Breed

When in doubt, lean on the experts: Shelter and rescue workers know which cats hate being picked up, which are suitable for young children, and which will get along with your aging dog. Some cat rescues even have foster programs that allow you to live with your potential cat-to-be for a trial period, giving you both a glimpse of your future together.

The fix is in

Owners failing to neuter or spay their cats is one of the biggest causes behind the rising number of homeless cats in the U.S. While no one feels good about subjecting their little one to surgery, it’s really in everyone’s long-term interest: According to the ASPCA, fixed cats are at lower risk for all kinds of behavioral issues and health problems, including various cancers. Spaying or neutering is also much less expensive than raising or rehoming a litter of kittens (not to mention, less stressful).

While many shelters and rescues perform these and other necessary medical procedures prior to adoption, be sure to request your kitty’s medical records before taking them home.

For more guidance on becoming a cat parent, check out the book Cats for Dummies.

About This Article

This article can be found in the category: