I want to preface this post that it is meant for first-time cat owners and/or people who do not have another cat or dog in their home. I will be writing posts on how to introduce a new cat to your home if you already have another cat or a dog in the future.
The age of cat you adopt is something you should be taken seriously into consideration. Working at the shelter 9 times out of 10 a potential adopter will come in and ask about kittens. Kittens are hands down the most popular choice in age for people looking to adopt, especially people who are new to cat ownership. There is nothing wrong with kittens, but they have their own set of challenges that many people new to cats may not understand or have the patience to deal with. Adult and senior cats make wonderful companions as well and may very well be better suited to a new cat owner than a kitten.
That being said, kittens can really be a lot more than you bargained for. Across the board, by cat enthusiasts, experienced cat owners, and cat behaviorists it is really ideal for kittens to be adopted in pairs. Why? Kittens require a lot of attention, play time, and handling when they're young to continue to be properly socialized and for them to be well adjusted. If you adopt a single kitten and you cannot commit the time to play with and handle that kitten multiple times a day every day during its kittenhood and teenage years you're most likely going to end up with a cat a with behavioral problems. Cats don't reach social maturity until they're 2-4 years of age, so the type of interaction and attention they receive from humans and/or a sibling kitten during their early years is very critical to their development. This also means that when you adopt a kitten the temperament they may have at weeks old may not be the temperament they end up securing as they get older. The behavioral problem I hear most about with single cats adopted as kittens is they can turn into a very understimulated cat who turns either your house, you yourself, or both into their personal jungle gym.
The solution to this is to consider adopting two kittens, preferably a sibling from the litter. The kittens will often play with one another and entertain themselves taking a lot of the pressure off of you. That's not to say you don't handle or play with the kittens yourself, but you will not have to devote as much time to the process. Kittens learn a lot of boundaries behaviorally and socially from their mother at first and their siblings second. Kittens often play fight with one another and they will tell each other in their own cat ways what is enough. Without a sibling to play with you often become the punching bag and kittens learning boundaries from other kittens are far more successful than a human trying to teach them!
This all doesn't mean you cannot get a single kitten if you want one, but I would really strongly consider if you have the time and patience you would have to commit to in raising it properly so it's a happy and well-adjusted cat. Also, you should always consider your finances if you want two kittens. They will cost more long term than just one. If either the time commitment or the finance of having two kittens is a deterrent for you there are always adult and senior cats who need homes.
The major consideration I find with adult cats is their adjustment level. A lot of adult cats you adopt have either lived in homes before or were strays. This can make adjusting to a new home difficult for them depending on their circumstance. They could have come from an owner who passed away or they could have come from a home that was a hoarding situation and never got a lot of attention. These are two vastly different scenarios that can make it difficult for a cat to adjust to new home and environment. It can take an adult cat weeks to months to feel comfortable and confident in a new home. They may do a lot of hiding at first, so it's great to set up a safe space for them. You will need patience but it is well worth it. These cats want to be loved even if they're not sure how to ask for it and will appreciate your love and respect for them.
A senior cat like an adult cat will also have an established personality and probably even more so. Also, they're probably going to be more interested in lounging around napping than running around your house requiring your undivided attention 24/7 like a kitten or a younger cat. Senior cats just want a nice kitty retirement home where they can find a comfy couch or even better your lap that they can snooze their days away on. Senior cats make excellent cats for someone who wants a lovey dovey lazy lap cat or an older person or couple who are looking for companionship. They will prefer a quieter home with a family or person who can respect their need for peace but will still provide them with affection and love. Senior cats will be low maintenance when it comes to social and behavioral needs and will be easier to please because they are set in their ways.
The considerations with a senior are similar to an adult cat. They also will probably have an adjustment period coming from another home and from an unknown circumstance. Senior cats are also going to require more veterinary care. This is where a senior cat is more high maintenance. As cats age, they may have more health problems arise that may require more well-visits, medication, and sometimes long-term care for chronic conditions. The obvious kicker with a senior cat is you may only have them for a few years. Every day though I hear a new age of a cat that surprises me. The most recent is 23! I've heard well over a handful of people tell me they have 16-18 year old cats, so even if you adopt a 12-year-old you could still have a few years left in them. Senior cats make wonderful and loving pets and shouldn't be looked over because you're afraid of loss. Loss is a part of life, but the love we share and give is a powerful gift that we can give to a cat.
I hope this gives you some insight into what age of cat you might consider adopting. You really can't go wrong here if you consider your preferences and lifestyle. When I receive my certification I hope to add adoption counseling as one of consultation services I offer. I would love to be able to help match cats to families and individuals based on their preferences and needs (cats and humans alike!). Please let me know in the comments if you have any questions! Stay tuned in the future for posts on how to introduce a new cat to your home with other cats!
That's all for meow 😻!