When most people think about getting a new cat, they think about adopting an adorable kitten (or two), not an older cat. But there are plenty of reasons why you should at least consider adopting an adult or senior feline and not instantly fall for the appeal of a cute kitten.
Older Cats Are Cleaner
Kittens tend to be very energetic and play with not only toys but also inside their litter box. This means that they may kick litter out or run around their box like a racetrack while learning what the box is for, leaving the litter mess for you to clean up. Adult cats are typically already used to their litter box and do not like to play in it after they have buried their waste. Sure, they may still track litter out of the box, but they are not as messy as their kitten counterparts.
Older cats also self-clean better than kittens. Kittens don't lick themselves as much as adult cats do, so you may find yourself cleaning your kitten with baby wipes and fine-toothed combs to get debris off of them. Older cats do not typically need your help with regular grooming, unless they have long hair, because they will naturally keep themselves clean with their abrasive tongues.
Kittens, especially ones that are switching foods, recently weaned, or infested with intestinal parasites, are more likely to develop diarrhea than older cats. Kittens have dietary changes within the first couple of years of life that older cats do not typically experience, and these dietary changes can cause some loose stools. Loose stools usually mean more clean-up on both your kitten's hind end and the litter box, as well as odors for you to manage.
Older Cats Aren't Teething
Kittens have baby teeth that need to fall out before their adult teeth come in. To aid in the removal of these baby teeth, kittens will chew and teethe on items much like a human child does. Wires, shoelaces, furniture, and more are all at risk for being chewed on, so it should be expected that a kitten may cause some damage with their teeth. Older cats, on the other hand, already have adult teeth and are no longer teething.
You Get What You're Looking at With an Older Cat
Older cats are already fully grown when they are adopted, whereas kittens are still growing and changing. You may be surprised to get a long-haired cat when you really wanted a short-haired one, but if you adopt an older cat, you'll know what you're getting when it comes to their appearance.
Older Cats Cause Less Trouble
Just like human children, kittens tend to cause more trouble than adults. Kittens are curious and mischievous and seem to get into things they shouldn't, knock things off countertops, eat things that aren't edible, and exhaust you. While not every cat outgrows this behavior, older cats tend to sleep more and don't wear you out as much as a kitten does.
Older Cats Are Better for Children
The smaller something is, the more easily it can be broken by a child, and cats are no exception. Kittens are more fragile than an older cat. Kittens can fall or be dropped, get stepped on accidentally, or squeezed too tightly in a hug, but older cats are hardier, less breakable by children, and know how to get out of the way to avoid being stepped on. Older cats will often be more amenable to being petted, something children want to do with a cat, and kittens tend to be too wiggly to want to sit still and be stroked. Keep in mind that every cat is different, so a slow introduction to excited children may be best.
Older Cats Need You
If you still haven't been convinced that adopting an older cat is a good idea, then keep in mind that you may be their last chance for a home. Kittens are cute and get adopted very easily. Older cats are less likely to be adopted and run the risk of living out their lives in a shelter or foster home or even being euthanized if they don't get a home. It usually isn't the fault of the adult cat for ending up without a family. Sometimes elderly people need to live in nursing homes that don't allow cats, human ailments such as asthma or allergies make it difficult to care for a cat, or the previous owners simply couldn't afford to care for a pet. Older stray cats may have never had a home to begin with and are worth taking a chance on, too.
Grooming and Coat Care for Your Cat. VCA Hospitals.
Diarrhea. Cornell Feline Health Center.
Loving Care for Older Cats. Cornell Feline Health Center.
Zito, S., et al. Determinants of cat choice and outcomes for adult cats and kittens adopted from an Australian animal shelter. Animals. 2015;5(2):276–314. doi:10.3390/ani5020276