A Kitten For Christmas

Published December 2007

The holidays can be the best of times to welcome a new kitten into your home. Or they can be the worst of times. While the emotions and warmth of the season can inspire you to share your home with an animal, the distractions can also make this a terrible time to bring home a furry friend. Here are some guidelines to keep in mind when thinking about acquiring a kitten over the holidays.

The Worst of Times

There's no shame in being honest. Most households are too preoccupied with the festivities to take on the responsibility of a new kitten. Here are some reasons to put off an adoption until after the holidays are over.

  • Beginnings are important: When you welcome a kitten into your home, you promise to keep him for life. You must make him a priority until he feels comfortable as a member of the family. The holiday season – with its shopping, entertaining and general confusion – rarely leaves you with time, energy and attention to spare.
  • Training is crucial: When you bring home a kitten, it's important to set up a routine it can count on. If you're too busy to feed, play and care for it on schedule, it's almost impossible for it to settle in properly. It may lose its appetite or act out destructively. If it's hard enough to keep a mature adult cat on an even keel during the holidays, think of the confusion a new kitten will feel amid the Yuletide chaos.
  • Holiday food and decorations: A lively young kitten is almost guaranteed to go after blinking lights, shiny ornaments, trailing tinsel – all of which can be dangerous. Put off the adoption until the decorations are put away until next year.

The Best of Times

People communicate almost intuitively with animals, and some people can get to know and appreciate a kitten in the best spirit of the season. Who can do it? Here are some candidates.

  • A single person who will spend most of the holiday season alone and wants company.
  • A couple without children who would like the emotional payback a kitten provides.
  • People with time to spare. Can at least one adult take time off from work for about two weeks? Can you give large chunks of time to your new kitten, playing and getting to know its personality, its likes and dislikes? All new kittens need extra attention and intense socialization at this phase of their lives.
  • People who want to scale down. Families who have decided to change the pace of their holiday can do well with a new kitten. You have to be willing to spend a season with a minimum of decorations and visitors, but if you're ready for him, a new kitten can bring great joy to the season.

Never Give an Unexpected Living Gift

People sometimes make the mistake of providing a kitten to ease the loneliness of a friend, but all too often these animals wind up in a shelter by New Year's. Here are a few reasons kittens never make good surprises.

  • You can't be sure that the recipient wants to take on the responsibility of a kitten, including providing medical care for the next 10 to 20 years.
  • A person should be able to choose his or her own kitten companion.
  • Never give a kitten to replace a cat that has just died. Some people need time to mourn their loss before they can welcome a new animal into their lives.

Give the Promise of a Kitten Instead

Instead of bringing a surprise kitten home, you can put presents under the tree - a bowl, a collar, a book about cats, or a figurine of a kitten. Enclose a "gift certificate," a card that promises to take family members to a breeder or shelter after the holidays so they can choose the kitten of their dreams.

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