While we adopt out cats of all ages here at Tree House, kittens are the unequivocal stars of the show. Regardless of the season, in an average month over half of the adopters who visit our shelters come specifically in search of kittens. Often times these adopters are initially disappointed when they learn that they cannot adopt the tiniest kitten available to raise as their own- media throughout the years has certainly made the idea of the bond between a single kitten and their human parent seem appealing. However, the messy, exhausting reality of caring for a single kitten is overwhelming for the owner and can be detrimental to the development of the cat despite the owner’s best intentions and efforts. If you have been considering adopting a single kitten of your own and are confused about Tree House’s policy, read on to learn more about the importance of companionship.
If you’ve been following the Scratching Post for a while, you’ve likely heard of “Single Kitten Syndrome”- this is the colloquial term for a host of behavioral issues that kittens who are raised alone can develop. Single Kitten Syndrome can occur in any kitten devoid of feline companionship, as no amount of human interaction can replicate kittens’ natural play behavior. Kittens learn appropriate behavior from one another through the feedback they get during play- if a kitten nips their sibling and is met with a painful yelp, they learn that what they’ve just done won’t make them very popular within the litter. These little nips and scratches aren’t as painful to us humans, and a tiny kitten wrestling with a seemingly giant human hand can admittedly be a pretty cute sight. But encouraging these behaviors and reinforcing the idea that hands are toys to be gnawed on can have long-term consequences. What was once a mild annoyance can develop into a harmful habit once cats are fully grown, and you may wind up with an easily over-stimulated kitty who can’t endure petting without using their teeth or claws.
Adoption counselors are sure to tell any potential adopter that raising a kitten is a round-the-clock job, but it can sometimes be difficult to convey just how literal that expression is. Kittens are extremely energetic and require constant attention and stimulation, and even owners who spend the majority of their time at home will have to turn their back at some point. Kittens who lack a feline companion of a similar temperament to tussle with whenever the urge strikes them will take out their pent-up energy however they can, often on inappropriate targets and at inappropriate times. Cats are quite active at night, and a bored kitten does not understand the value of their owner’s beauty sleep! When kittens can amuse one another, they’re far less likely to pounce on the bed at 3:00 in the morning, chasing the movement of a foot under the blanket and waking you by nibbling your toes.
Just like babies of any species, kittens are curious by nature and prone to creating their own fun. When left unsupervised and without stimulation, a kitten can wreak havoc on even the most carefully kitten-proofed home. A lonely kitty may also deliberately wreck the house to demonstrate their displeasure with being left alone. Having a buddy ensures that kittens have an outlet for their boundless energy even when their owner has to leave the home, and keeps them from resorting to destructive behaviors to amuse themselves or teach their owner a lesson.
A frequent case we run into here at Tree House is that of an adopter whose cat is now older and less playful, and who would like to adopt a kitten to restore that energy to the household. However, a playful young kitten may be an overwhelming nuisance to an older cat who wants to nap without being jumped on or enjoy a meal without a tiny mouth trying to share their food. A negative experience in the introductory stage can influence two cats’ entire relationship, and both cats may remain unhappy long after the kitten has matured. If the relationship between resident cats is strained, they may show their displeasure by engaging in bad habits such as inappropriate elimination or destructive tendencies. Adopting pairs with similar play drives keeps the chaos out of the path of older or quieter pets, who can then go about their preferred schedule undisturbed.
While adopting a pair of kittens may seem overwhelming, in the long run it will save you a great deal of time, effort, and trouble that raising a single kitten may bring. If being a two-cat household is not a possibility for you, consider adopting a cat over six months of age- in the grand scheme of things, the life you and your kitty companion will share will stretch far beyond those few months you may miss out on, and avoiding the possibility of Single Kitten Syndrome will ensure a much more happy and stress-free relationship for both of you.
-posted by Taylor V.