Adopting Kittens? Brace yourself…

One couple’s experience of being first-time kitten owners.

No one can deny the love and fun that comes with adopting kittens... or the lengths their owners go to, to keep them safe, healthy and happy!

New kittens percy & shelby exploring

Nine years ago, my husband and I adopted a pair of kittens – brother and sister. We named them Percy and Shelby. We considered ourselves to be experienced cat-people but we had adopted our previous much-loved moggy, when she was 14. Kittens were quite a different (but fun) kettle of fish and these are some of the things we learnt from our crazy pair!

Kittens like company

percy and shelby having a cuddleOne thing we did get right, was to adopt them as a pair. We both work full-time, so a solo kitten would have been on its own for long periods of time.

Kittens like feline company – so it’s a great idea to adopt two – ideally from the same litter (especially if you are going to be out of the house for a lot of the day).

A socialised kitten also loves human company too – so if you are looking for a lot of interaction from your pet, then a kitten is for you. They are friendly, curious and playful so it’s a great idea to choose a kitten if you have children over 5 years old, so that they can grow up together. Having a kitten (or cat) in the home teaches children about care, compassion and responsibility.

On the first night with our two, when it was our bed time, we placed them in their bed, under the kitchen table (next to the radiator) where they snuggled up together, staring up at us with big eyes in their tiny faces, framed by huge sail-like ears. Night, night babies!

Kittens are lively and fun

We were unprepared for how lively Percy and Shelby were; being used to an elderly cat we were sometimes very surprised by how full of beans they were. If they were in the room with us, they would usually be trying to climb on us in some way or play with us. So if you are looking for some peace and quiet then an older cat is definitely best.

percy shelby on curtain railMost days when I ate my breakfast, I watched them play together – fighting and wrestling over the living room floor. There was lots of squeaking and they seemed to like hiding from each other and then stalking and pouncing. This is natural kitten behaviour and it’s good for them to grow up together so that they can do this. Still, they appeared to be very rough with one another, biting each other on the underside of the belly and other sensitive areas!

They seemed to like climbing up our legs, I suppose it’s an easy climb for them – lots of fabric and soft flesh for them to get their claws into. They couldn’t jump straight onto the kitchen surfaces when small, but worked out a way to get on, via the chair and then the table. Clever rascals!

Within days I had several minor scratches on my hands and legs – kittens aren't born knowing how to retract their claws and as we engaged and played with them it was a natural outcome. They do learn though, and it doesn’t hurt much so just be patient.

One useful tip is to have a variety of toys to use when playing with kittens, and not to let them play with your fingers. If they learn early on that fingers are toys, it’s hard to un-teach that when they grow up!

Kittens poo… a lot!

Active kittens keep up their energy by eating a lot and it has to come out somewhere! Most kittens are toilet trained when you adopt them (if not then seek guidance from the rescue). Ours were, but the sheer volume of poop they produced was overwhelming AND stinky. Also, sometimes their litter tray etiquette isn't the best! Litter would be kicked all around it and the paper ripped to shreds.

Another habit they had was to put a back paw in the poo when attempting to bury it and then climb on our laps! This is of course unpleasant but they are babies so be patient. Wipe it off their paws with some damp kitchen roll – don't use any cleaning products as that can be harmful to them. They do grow out of this – it’s just kitten exuberance and clumsiness – so I can only advise tolerance.

Home-alone Kittens; is your house safe?

kitten on clothes drierWhen I went to work, I would worry about the kittens. There seemed to be just so much danger in a house for two tiny curious little animals. The clothes drier in the utility room, for example; what if they climb up that, and it collapses on them, the metal crushing them? Or getting stuck in that floor-standing wine rack?

There were days I couldn't stop worrying about some terrible accident befalling them in my kitten death-trap of a house, so I went home at lunchtime to check on them – frequently. In the end we moved anything that we thought could be dangerous into a room which we closed when we weren't around. Kitten proofing your house is definitely something to think about.

Be prepared for messiness!

With liveliness and playfulness, messiness often follows. The toys we got them ended up strewn around the living room after a boisterous play session. Other items left lying around such as socks ended up as toys and reappeared in random places. We tidied up occasionally but mostly were fairly relaxed about the whole thing. A messy home is a happy home, right?

All the love

My kittens were two lively bundles of fun and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I hope my experience gives you an idea of what to expect with kittens, so that you can make an informed choice about what sort of pet suits your home and lifestyle.

My final piece of advice if you do decide kittens are for you, is to have tolerance and a sense of humour. The rewards you reap will be so worth it. A clear benefit of adopting kittens is that by giving them all the cuddles and snuggles while small, they become used to it and love it as adults. The bond of trust you can build with them is so strong.

My two are middle aged now, and they are both absolute cuddle monsters. I love them dearly and it has been a pleasure to watch them grow into quirky, affectionate, lazy but occasionally active adult cats.

Contributor: Tara Lambert, Cat Chat Volunteer
Published: May 2021

Further Information

The Kitten Checklist - a must-read before getting a kitten
Cat Introductions & Hierarchies
Bringing a New Cat into your Home
Want a Kitten? Top 10 Reasons to Adopt
Cats Needing Homes - UK & Ireland
Cat Rescue & Adoption Centres, UK & Ireland

Images courtesy of Tara Lambert, Cat Chat Volunteer