Cats are relatively low-maintenance pets that can make themselves at home in all sorts of households. Looking after a kitten requires more effort, however, and the ideal kitten for you will depend on factors including your personality.
Teresa Keiger, creative director of the Cat Fanciers’ Association, told Newsweek: “One’s personality often influences one’s lifestyle,” so both can help determine which kitten is best for you. Even within a cat breed, she pointed out, there can be personality variation between individual kittens.
“They may all still have the basic attributes of the breed, but to a higher or lesser degree. So pet buyers should keep that in mind when choosing specific kittens,” Keiger said.
Here, animal experts share everything you need to know about getting a kitten.
What To Think About Before Getting a Kitten
Dr. Bruce Kornreich, director of the Cornell Feline Health Center at Cornell University, told Newsweek that getting a kitten is a serious responsibility that will likely last about 15 years, sometimes longer.
Caring for a cat takes time, effort and financial resources, he said.
Kittens need frequent feeding and supervision, plus more time for litter box training and socialization. Seven to nine weeks is the ideal age for a kitten to move into a new home, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.
Zazie Todd, author of Purr: The Science of Making Your Cat Happy, told Newsweek that you’ll need to “think about your lifestyle now and 15 to 20 years into the future,” whether you’ll be happy cleaning your cat’s litter box, playing with them and taking care of them every day.
Although cats are more independent than dogs, “they still need companionship and love,” said Vicki Jo Harrison, president of the International Cat Association. If you’re a busy family who are often not at home, a cat might not be the right fit for you, she told Newsweek.
Health Care and Other Costs
Cats need regular vaccinations and routine veterinary visits, Kornreich said. These visits can be once a year for adult cats up to 10 years of age and twice yearly for older cats.
Cats often develop diseases (such as kidney disease, diabetes and hyperthyroidism) that may require more intensive veterinary care as they get older, he said.
Cats can carry harmful germs that can cause a range of illnesses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. So, it’s vital to wash your hands thoroughly after handling cats or cleaning up after them.
Kornreich said: “There may be situations in which consultation with a physician may be warranted prior to adopting a kitten.”
People who are immunosuppressed or pregnant may benefit from discussions with a health care professional, as they may be more prone to “certain zoonotic diseases that cats can transmit,” he said. These include toxoplasmosis (an infection caused by the Toxoplasma parasite) and bartonellosis (cat scratch fever, a disease caused by the Bartonella henselae bacteria).
“This is not to say that these individuals cannot adopt kittens, but consultation with health care professionals prior to adopting a kitten can be helpful in these cases,” Kornreich said.
The CDC advised: “Do not get a new cat while you are pregnant,” because of the risk of getting toxoplasmosis that can be passed onto your unborn child.
What Do I Need for a New Kitten?
Kitten-Proof Your Home
Kittens are “fearless and curious as they learn about their emerging abilities,” cat behavior expert Pam Johnson-Bennett told Newsweek.
Be prepared to do lots of “kitten-proofing” to protect your kitten from potential dangers, such as chewing on electrical cords, falling into toilets or escaping through an open window.
Todd advised confining your kitten to one room at first, before allowing them to explore the rest of the home.
Specially Formulated Kitten Food
Harrison said kittens begin to eat food at around four to six weeks of age and need to eat specially formulated kitten food until they reach one year of age.
She also explained that it’s important to feed your kitten the right amount for their age and weight, adding that they prefer snacking and can eat three to four meals a day.
Bed, Toys and Accessories
Kittens sleep most of the day (around 18 to 22 hours daily), so a cozy bed is essential, Harrison said. “Encourage your kitten to sleep in the same spot every night,” she said.
But be prepared for plenty of activity later, as “they will be very active” once they are awake, she warned.
Providing a variety of toys is also important to help your kitten get acquainted with different objects and interactions.
The American Veterinary Medical Association warns that a string is not a good toy for cats, however. If a cat eats a string or a ribbon, “it can develop life-threatening intestinal problems.”
Other must-haves include climbing towers and scratching posts, which “provide great exercise while also acting as a deterrent from scratching furniture.”
How To Pick a Kitten Based on Your Personality
Todd said you should choose a kitten raised in a home, where they were able to experience normal household sounds, meet people and so on. “Kittens have a sensitive period for socialization from two until seven weeks and a wide range of positive experiences in this time will help set them up to be friendly and confident,” she said.
If you’re an extrovert who tends to have “a lot of hubbub going on in the household,” Keiger said you will be glad to know that many breeds enjoy an active home—and may even want to get in on the action.
Abyssinians, Japanese bobtails, ocicats, and Cornish rex cats love to play and are all great in high-activity homes. Bengals also work well, as they’re athletic and curious about everything, according to Keiger.
There are also breeds that are ideal for people with introverted personalities, who “may be on the more quiet and contemplative side,” with just a few friends visiting their home, according to Keiger.
Russian blues, Egyptian maus, Persians, exotics and the Devon rex all thrive in this type of atmosphere, she said, while the sphynx breed “will be active, but then want to snuggle in,” she said.
Those Somewhere In Between
If your personality sits somewhere in the middle between an extrovert and introvert, you have a lot of options in terms of breeds, according to Keiger.
For homes with a moderate level of activity, interspersed with busy and then quiet periods, American and British shorthairs work well, as they all have laid-back personalities and “not much really bothers them.”
These breeds are also great for homes with children, as are Maine coons, who “love being with their people and love to play and get attention.” Birmans and ragdolls are good for families too, as they are quiet, gentle and loving and get along with most people and animals, according to Keiger.
Burmese, European Burmese and Tonkinese are all very “owner-oriented” and are always down for playtime before settling on your lap for attention. The same can be said for the Siamese and its related breeds the Oriental, Balinese and Javanese.
These breeds “really want to be a part of whatever it is that you’re doing, love to play and will be right with you when you both settle in for the evening,” Keiger said.