It's hard to resist the urge to adopt a new kitten. That wobbly little ball of fluff with the tiny squeak of a “meow” can send even the strongest will packing. But choose carefully, as adopting a kitten too young could pose problems you don't expect.
Not Too Young
All kittens are adorable, and you would think that the younger the kitten, the more mind-meltingly adorable it would be. While this may be true, adopting a kitten before he's old enough to leave his mother and litter mates could result in health issues and behavior problems. Most breeders and legitimate pet stores will only offer kittens for sale as young at 8 weeks, with some waiting until 12 weeks of age. This assures that the kitten is ready to be separated from his family and can tend to all of his own needs without assistance.
Mama Knows Best
While she may not seem to be the most maternal animal on the planet, the mother cat offers your future kitten the health and social development he needs to grow into the well-adjusted cat you'll find shredding your curtains in a year. Her milk provides important nutrients to encourage proper growth and development and keeps the kittens healthy until their immune systems kick in. She also helps to teach them how to go to the bathroom and how to interact properly with other animals -- including humans.
Bringing Kitty Home
At about 8 weeks of age, your kitten's mother will start to get a bit antsy and will start weaning her litter. She'll nurse less and less and encourage her kids to become more self-sufficient as she goes about her business. Around this time, you will be free to adopt him and bring him home to join your family. Be aware that you are taking him away from his family, and he may cry for them as he adjusts to this change. Offer him lots of love and playtime, and he'll soon settle into his new home with little fuss. Keep all breakable or heavy objects he may hurt himself with out of reach, and have a safe area for him to play in at night or while you're out.
Visit Your Vet
Mom's milk helped keep him healthy, but now that he's a big boy and living with his new family he'll need some additional help. Take your newest arrival to see the veterinarian so he can get a once over to catch any diseases or illnesses and to receive the appropriate vaccines. Schedule a date to have him neutered so he won't feel the urge to spray your couch when he gets bigger and wants to mark his territory.
- kitten image by AGphotographer from Fotolia.com