The Best Time to Adopt a Kitten (or a Cat)

If you’re thinking about adopting a kitten and wondering about when to do it, this article is for you. We’ve included some reasons to consider getting a grown cat, too.

First, let’s talk about kittens and kitten season.

Cat standing inside a cabinet over stacked dinner plates, looking out innocently

The two factors that determine best timing for getting a kitten

There are two main driving factors that determine the best time for adopting a kitten.

  1. Whether you’re really ready for a cat
  2. The time of year (Kitten Season)

Adopting a kitten is a huge responsibility. It’s a ton of work in the beginning, it takes money, and it’s a long-term commitment – as much as 15-20 years. You need to make sure you’re making an informed decision.

Once you’ve thought it through and you know you’re really ready, then all you have to do is wait for kitten season to roll around. Yes, kitten season is a thing!

When is kitten season?

Kitten season is roughly March to October. This is because cats are seasonal breeders based on length of daylight. They’re reproductive cycles occur during the time of year when daylight is longer – from spring to fall.

This means that in temperate zones, late spring to early fall is the best time to get a kitten. Shelters have an influx of rescued kittens in need of adoption during this time. Kitten season peaks in late spring and early summer.

In equatorial climates where daylight length is more even, kitten season is less distinct and cats are more likely to breed throughout the year.

Do cats ever have kittens at other times of year?

Most cats typically don’t have kittens when days are shorter and colder (late fall through early spring). However, in warmer climates without harsh winters, some cats may breed throughout the year. But even in these places, spring to fall is still when most kittens are born.

Some breeders will manipulate cats’ estrous cycle so that litters are produced at other times of year, but this is a controversial practice.

Where should I look for adoptable kittens?

Because there are more adoptable cats in shelters than there are people to adopt them, we strongly encourage anyone looking to get a cat to adopt one from a shelter or rescue agency instead of buying one from a store or a breeder.

Just ask the internet to show you kittens and cats available for adoption near you, or for animal rescues and shelters near you. I have had good experiences adopting from the Humane Society, as well as local animal rescue agencies like the Milo Foundation, which is where I adopted my current crew from.

How old should kittens be for adoption?

There is some debate about the exact timing, but the earliest a kitten should be adopted is at about 10-12 weeks.

Although some places begin adoption for kittens starting as early as 8 weeks, many believe that a kitten’s health and socialization outcomes are more optimal if they are able to spend at least 12 weeks with their mom and siblings. There are things kittens learn by being part of a litter that they won’t learn otherwise.

Kittens younger than 8 weeks should not be separated from their mother. Without their mom, they require specialized care from humans in order to survive.

The best age for adopting a kitten

Many people who want to get a cat are in love with the idea of getting a cute, tiny kitten without realizing how much work it will be. The younger the kittens are, the more work it will take to raise them.

On the other hand, if you’re able to put in the work and time, starting younger can make it possible to develop a deeper bond with a kitten. Starting with a young kitten also means you have control over your cat’s environment and socialization during critical stages of early development.

Reasons to consider an adult cat instead

There are a lot of reasons to consider getting an adult cat instead of a kitten. Yes, kittens are fun and adorable bundles of energy. But kittens take a lot of time and work. They’re also destructive, and require extensive kitten-proofing and constant clean-up.

Full-grown cats are mellower, and you have a better idea of what you’re getting in terms of personality and temperament.

Advantages of adopting adult cats:

  • They tend to have calmer and more predictable temperaments.
  • Their activity levels, socialization needs, and handling preferences are known upfront.
  • Adult cats often make a smoother transition into a new home environment.
  • The costs of getting started with an adult cat are typically much lower than for kittens. That’s because vaccinations and spay/neuter are already taken care of.
  • Many adult cats available in the shelter are already very well socialized.

When is the best time for adopting an adult cat?

The best time for adopting an adult cat is whenever the timing is best for you in your life. Most shelters have adult cats in need of adoption at all times of the year.

If you go with this option, you may well be saving the cat’s life, because adult cats are less frequently adopted and more frequently euthanized in order to make room in the shelter for “more adoptable” animals.

And if you really want to do some good in the process of getting a cat, you might also consider adopting a “less-adoptable” cat from the shelter.

Explore other articles in this collection:

VerveCat is supported by readers.  When you purchase via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no added cost to you.

The information provided here is not meant to replace professional guidance from your own veterinarian or cat behavior specialist.

About VerveCat launched in Fall 2023 and aims to grow into a comprehensive source of information, resources, and reviews for every part of feline companionship. Whether you’re an experienced cat owner or just getting started on your cat life journey, we’re glad you stopped by and hope you’ll find things here to help you along the way.

Read more about the VerveCat project and the sentient beings behind it on our About Page.