Thinking of getting a kitten? Could kitten rescue be an option for you? Find out everything you need to know about providing a home for a rescue kitten.
Not many animals are quite as cute as a young, fluffy kitten, so it is hard to imagine why so many thousands end up in shelters and rescue centres around the UK every year. The simple fact is that most unwanted kittens come from unplanned litters, which have occurred because the owners have not had their cats neutered.
With so many kittens available around the UK, it seems like a good option to consider if you are thinking about getting a kitten. So, could kitten rescue be for you? Here’s what you need to know.
Look for rescue kittens during kitten season!
“Kitten season” is from April until around November each year and, as the name suggests, is when the vast majority of kittens are born in the UK. This is because adult female cats generally come into heat only at certain times of the year.
As a result, kitten season is the best time to choose a kitten from a rescue centre.
Your kitten will have had a full health check
Rescue centres do a huge amount for the animals in their care.
As well as feeding and housing their guests, all kittens at rescue centres receive a full health check, are routinely treated for parasites such as fleas, ticks and worms, and are given their first vaccinations.
Most kittens in rescue centres will be neutered, if they are old enough, or the centre will stipulate neutering as a condition of adoption.
You can usually take a kitten home when it is 10-12 weeks old
Exactly at what age you will be able to adopt a kitten changes slightly from centre to centre, but the average is around 10 to 12 weeks. Ideally, the kitten will be with its mum at the rescue centre until it is at least this age.
Remember, there may be the possibility to adopt the mum along with the kitten! An adult cat is likely to be more mellow than a kitten and may make a great addition to your home as well.
The rescue centre will help to match you with the right kitten
Every rescue centre wants a happy outcome for all of its animals, and the key is finding the right animal for the right home.
As the Battersea Dogs and Cats Home puts it, “Our aim is to match you and your existing pets with a suitable companion using the experience of our expert rehomers.”
Most rescue centres have galleries of available kittens and cats that you can view online. This is a great place to start, but rescue centres will offer a consultation service with their experts to find exactly the right match for you.
The centre will ask you questions about your house, family lifestyle and what you are looking for to make the best fit. It is likely that all members of the family will be asked to go and visit the kitten(s) at the rescue centre, just to ensure the chemistry is right.
Some centres have policies on pairing kittens with young children
Because kittens have soft bones that are still forming, they can be vulnerable to playful hands or over-zealous squeezes. As a result, some rescue centres have stipulations on pairing kittens with households with toddlers and young children.
However, most centres are happy to place kittens into families with young children, although they will likely ask that all family members go along to the centre to meet the kitten.
As a general rule, it is a good idea to supervise babies and toddlers at all times near kittens or cats. If you are worried about this, you may want to wait until your children are older (e.g. five and above) so you can discuss with them how to treat a cat well.
There is a bit more competition!
Perhaps unsurprisingly, kittens are a very popular choice at rescue centres, so don’t be surprised if they go quite quickly.
Perhaps consider cats of other ages as well. As Battersea Dogs and Cats Home puts it, “We have lots of young, playful cats in their 'teenage' years - and don’t forget that older cats can be particularly friendly and fond of a lap to sit on.”
Rescue centres are not the only option
Of course, there are other options available to getting a kitten beyond a rescue centre, and the decision is a personal one. For example, reputable, licensed breeders are also an option. Kittens may also become available from friends or neighbours with an unwanted litter. In this instance, remember that it is important not to take the kitten away from its mother too early (e.g. not before 10-12 weeks), and that you will need to contact a vet to take care of all the necessary health aspects (such as vaccinations, parasite prevention and, when she is old enough, neutering).
For some people, the plus sides of rescue centres are the care taken to match the right animal to the right home, the support provided, even after adoption, and the fact that you are helping to ease the cat over-population crisis and freeing up a rescue place for another cat in need.
For further information on adopting a cat, see our cat adoption guide.