What’s the Best Age to Adopt a Kitten?


With those big eyes and playful paws, kittens are irresistibly adorable tiny bundles of joy. And one thing’s for sure. Once one of these furry little balls of energy enters your life, things will never be the same again!

What’s more, it is always an absolute delight to watch them mature and grow up. Which brings me to the all important question: What’s the best age to adopt a kitten and bring home your little bundle of delight?

But first, a note of caution.

What we sometimes don’t realize, is that cute as it is, a kitten can be a lot of hard work. Kittens don’t come with an off-switch. At least not yet! And just like tiny babies, kittens need looking after.

At the very least, you will need to give kittens four feeds a day, and provide them with constant entertainment. And oh did I mention countless litter changes?

So, what’s the best age to adopt a kitten and bring home your irresistible bundle of joy?

The question of when to rehome a kitten is vital because the mother-kitten relationship is essential to a kitten’s proper development. Indeed, kittens grow into healthy, well-adjusted adults partly because of their mothers.

Although kittens start eating solids at four to five weeks, they’re still dependent on their mother for food and warmth until they’re around eight weeks old. Their mum will still also be helping them toilet – not only stimulating their motions through licking but also showing them how to do it on their own. Kittens learn from their littermates too – growing up around their brothers and sisters develops their social skills. Without it they can grow up fearful, skittish or even aggressive.

Kitten Season, Battersea Dogs & Cats Home

We asked a group of experts the best age to adopt a kitten.

The Best Age to Adopt a Kitten – What the Experts Say

The best age to adopt a kitten is between 8 to 10 weeks of age. This allows the kitten the maximum time for nursing and socialization.

Dr. Sarah Wooten, DVM, CVJ, vet expert at Pumpkin Pet Insurance who has been featured as a subject matter expert across many industry conferences and publications.

Dr. Jennifer Coates was valedictorian of her graduating class at the VA-MD Regional College of Veterinary Medicine and has practiced in Virginia, Wyoming, and Colorado. She is also the author of numerous articles, short stories, and books, including the Dictionary of Veterinary Terms, Vet-Speak Deciphered for the Non-Veterinarian. She lives in Fort Collins, Colorado with her husband, children, dog (Apollo), and cat (Minerva).

In a perfect world, kittens would remain with their mothers and littermates until they were at least 12 weeks old. Unfortunately, most kittens are put up for adoption when they are around 8 weeks old, particularly in shelter situations where space is at a premium. 

Dr. Jennifer Coates, DVM

Omair Khan is an animal lover. Not only has he owned many cats, he has also given several kittens up for adoption.

The Ideal age to let a kitten off for adoption is usually 12 weeks. Many breeders can, at times, wait to 14 weeks before allowing a kitten to be adopted and separated from the mother. There are many reasons for this. Mostly because kittens learn a lot of things in this time from their littermates and their mother, such as socializing and appropriate playing. 

Omair Khan, Outreach Consultant, Gigworker 

The-Best-Age-to-Neuter-a-Male-; best-age-to-adopt-a-kitten

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Are there any unwanted effects of separating kittens from their mothers and littermates too soon

If you separate a kitten too soon from their mother, then they don’t get all the benefits of socialization from the mother and other kittens. They also don’t get the health benefits that come from nursing, including important milk proteins and antibodies to build the immune system. In addition, kittens that are separated earlier may be at increased risk for stress-related disorders, including chronic vomiting and inflammatory bladder disorders. 

Dr. Sarah Wooten, DVM, CVJ.

Kittens who are separated from their mother and littermates at a young age are at increased risk of behavioral problems because they’ve lost critical opportunities to learn how to interact with others in an appropriate manner. I once raised a newborn kitten who was abandoned at my veterinary clinic, and despite my best socialization efforts, he became quite the bully as an adult. 

Dr. Jennifer Coates, DVM

When should a kitten be weaned?

Waiting for a kitten to be completely weaned and spend some time with their mother and littermates is very important. Not only do they need the antibodies from the milk to stay healthy and protected until they get all of their vaccines, but it is also beneficial in developing their 
socialization skills.

Kittens are weaned by two months of age, but letting them stay a bit longer, maybe closer to three months, with their littermates can really help them be more sociable. Their mother will also get a chance to correct unwanted behavior like playing too roughly with their siblings or being protective of food and toys. 

Connie Monico, In-House Veterinary Technician, The Dog Adventure

What happens if you wean a kitten too early?

Kittens who are weaned very early, before 8 weeks of age or so, may need help transitioning to solid food. Mix a high-quality milk replacer with some canned kitten food to make a gruel and offer the mixture four times a day. Over the next two weeks, gradually mix in less milk replacer until the kitten is just eating canned food and drinking water. 

Dr. Jennifer Coates, DVM

Frequently Asked Questions on the Best Age to Wean a Kitten

#1. What’s the best way to wean kittens?

Most experts suggest not starting to wean your kittens until they are at least 4 weeks of age.

  • Weeks 4 to 5: Start by giving either wet or moistened dry food. Next, mix this with formula to form a lovely slush.
  • Weeks 5 to 6: Give your weaning kittens the kibble for them to start to nibble on. The key is to slightly moisten with water the kibble with water.
  • Weeks 6 to 7: The kitten weaning process should now be complete. By the end of week 7 your kittens should be eating all solid food.
  • Weeks 8 to 10: Most kittens are completely weaned by the time they are between 8 to 10 weeks of age.

#2. I am pregnant, can I adopt a new cat?

The short answer is ‘no’.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Pregnant women should avoid adopting a new cat or handling stray cats, especially kittens. Cats can carry a parasite that causes toxoplasmosis—a disease that can cause birth defects. If you are pregnant, you do not need to give up your current cat, but you should avoid changing cat litter.”

Best Age To Adopt A Kitten – Some Interesting Cat Statistics

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals® (ASPCA®),

  • About 3.2 million companion cats enter U.S. animal shelters nationwide every year.
  • Each year, approximately 860,000 shelter cats are euthanized. 
  • Approximately 1.6 million shelter cats are adopted each year
  • Every year, about 90,000 are cats who enter shelters as strays are returned to their owners.
  • Approximately 85.8 million cats are owned in the United States. It’s estimated that 35% of all households in the United States have a cat.
  • About 46% of cat owners learned about their pet through word of mouth.

Best Age To Adopt A Kitten – Your Turn

Do you have any cats? Have you ever adopted a kitten?

You’ve heard from our experts and animal lovers. But what do you think? In your view, what’s the best age to adopt a kitten?

Join our conversation by leaving a comment below.

Pete Hudson-Smith is Associate Editor of Pet Connection and a Contributing Editor at Astute Copy Blogging. He is an animal lover. When he’s not writing, his two golden retriever corgis, Coco and Molly keep him busy.

Please note: We reserve the right to delete comments that are either offensive or off-topic.

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