When I had one cat, I said that was all I could handle. I lived in a small space, and he was kind of a jerk, and I didn’t think throwing another cat into the mix would be good for me — or the cats. Then in 2009, I adopted a six-month-old calico. She was the perfect match for Bubba Lee Kinsey — she was bossy and she could handle herself, but she also loved to purr and snuggle. She tamed Bubba’s wilder impulses (stalking and attacking my legs, for starters), and after a month of violent feuds over my apartment’s prime territory (the bed and the couch), she became his new best friend.
For the last few years, I’ve been saying two cats is all I can handle, but my boyfriend and I are getting ready to move into a house. That means more space — which means, possibly, another cat. Having never raised a kitten — Bubba and Phoenix were both about six months old when they came into my life — I would like to give it a shot, but I have a number of concerns. Here are some of the questions I’m asking myself before a new kitty friend joins the family.
Naturally there will be an adjustment period, and the kitten will need to spend a lot of time in a separate room while Bubba and Phoenix get used to the idea of another permanent houseguest. But what if they never get used to it? Twelve-year-old Bubba has calmed down a lot in his old age, so I suspect he’d do little more than tell the kitten her music sucks and to get off his lawn. But Phoenix, who seems so strange and harmless most of the time, does not do well around young humans. She howled and tried to attack my friend’s two-year-old daughter once, and the kid was just trying to pet her. Naturally I’m worried about how she’ll handle a youth of her own species whose neck she can fit in her strong jaws.
Before I bring a kitten home, I’ll need to have her tested for respiratory viruses, FIV, FeLV, worms, and other parasites, as well as any other contagious illnesses that could spread to my other cats. Around 10 weeks old, she’ll need vaccines to prevent illnesses like panleukopenia, calicivirus, rabies, and upper respiratory infections, and then she’ll need several rounds of booster shots. She’ll need to be spayed around the age of six months, and at the very least she’ll need regular annual checkups. I’m assuming I’ll spend $300 to $500 on the initial costs of bringing a new kitten into the home. Having recently left my day job, I have to consider whether I can afford these expenses — as well as any unexpected health crises that may arise.
Bubba Lee Kinsey and Phoenix have never had litter box issues — never ever (knock on wood). They were both already trained when I brought them home, so I’ve never had the pleasure of introducing a cat to this particular necessity. Cats naturally want to do their business in dirt or sand, so it seems a litter box would be a logical extension of that impulse. I know it’s effective to place the kitten in the litter box so she gets used to the feel of it. I also know it’s a good idea to buy a large litter box and place it far away from food and water. But are my household plants also suddenly going to be in danger? And what if the presence of a new furry body in their toilet upsets Bubba and Phoenix and causes them to explore other options?
In much the same way young humans ask you 35 times why the sky is blue, I’ve heard that kittens have a tendency to follow you around. And cry. And attack your legs with their razor-sharp baby fangs. And they never want to be left alone. My Phoenix is already incredibly needy — she’s sprawled out across my arms right now, making it rather difficult to type. If I don’t allow her to assume this position, she stares at me and meows and paws at my shoulder. Can I really handle two cats constantly vying for my attention?
I mainly want a kitten because I’ve never had one before, and i think it would be exciting to watch a baby house tiger grow and develop into a complex, fabulous adult cat. But I know kittens have an easier time finding homes than the many adult cats in shelters — particularly black cats, seniors, and those with special needs. When I think about adopting a kitten, I get a pang of guilt thinking of a needier cat that could have been saved if I had adopted him instead.
Is there anything else I should consider? If you’ve brought a kitten into a house with older cats and everyone has survived, please share your experiences in the comments!
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About Angela: This not-crazy-at-all cat lady loves to lint-roll her favorite dress and go out dancing. She also frequents the gym, the vegan coffee joint, and the warm patch of sunlight on the living room floor. She enjoys a good cat rescue story about kindness and decency overcoming the odds, and she’s an enthusiastic recipient of headbutts and purrs from her two cats, Bubba Lee Kinsey and Phoenix.