Puppy, Kitten or Adult?

General information

Which is right for you?

Few people can resist the face of a puppy or kitten, and often assume they must start with a baby animal when choosing a pet. Unfortunately, animal shelters often see these adorable animals returned when they are less than one year-old because well-meaning adopters did not account for the time and energy required to raise a puppy, or the kitten was more than they bargained for. Most of these adopters could have been more successful with an adult dog or cat that required less effort.

Kitten vs. cat

2 Cats

There are few things more adorable than a kitten. Kittens are entertaining and full of fun. A young kitten will have more need for attention and supervision than an adult cat. As a kitten learns about the world by playing, your curtains, couch and flower arrangements can become sacrificed in the process. An adult cat is more likely to settle in faster, and choose to nap in front of the window versus climbing the drapes.

Kittens can be poor matches for young children. Kittens can play rough and have sharp claws that can hurt children. Young children, in turn, can handle a kitten too roughly and cause injury. An adult cat is more likely to be more patient with young children, and best of all, knows when to walk away from interactions that are too much for either of them.

Kittens can also be bad matches for homes with resident animals. Dogs may play too roughly, or worse yet, mistake the kitten as prey. Adult cats are more able and confident in setting boundaries with dogs. Resident adult cats often resent the playfulness of a young kitten, and often adjust better to an adult housemate.

Adopting an adult cat can bring the sweetest rewards. Cats often live to be nearly 20 years old. By adopting an adult cat you are taking a stand against the pet overpopulation crisis, and your efforts will be appreciated daily through purrs of thanks from your new cat.

If you do decide that you are ready to adopt a cat or kitten, we recommend that you do some homework and be ready for Fluffy’s arrival. Learn more about cat behavior resources and recommended reading.

Puppy vs. dog

2 Dogs

Watching a puppy grow can be a rewarding experience, and is often compared to the time requirements of raising a human baby. Just like a baby, you won’t discover the dogs’ true personality until it nears adulthood. Young puppies require large amounts of time; needing to be fed three to four times a day, kept in a confined area indoors and let out every few hours to eliminate. The first few weeks can be filled with sleepless nights as the confused puppy seeks comfort and food. A puppy’s growth phase requires much supervision and training. House training is accomplished only after accidents. Teething (“chewing”) lasts the first eight – 14 months. And puppies don’t become mature adults until they are two years-old, meaning they act like teenage dogs for a year or more.

If everyone in your home is gone for eight hours a day, your puppy probably won’t get the attention he needs to meet your expectations. If you are gone much longer than eight hours a day, even adult dogs have high attention needs and may not be a good choice for your current lifestyle.

Adult dogs have many advantages

Most dogs surrendered to animal shelters are young adolescents. They don’t usually have behavior problems, they were just the result of well-meaning owners who didn’t have the time, knowledge or patience to match the needs of a dog.

While many shelter dogs could use a little more training, they usually bond quickly with new owners, and have fewer needs than a young puppy.

  • Many shelter dogs are already housetrained, though they often need some reminders and a few days of adjustment time after their stay at a shelter. Even if they were sadly kept outdoors only, adult dogs often only need a day or two to learn that they live inside, but eliminate outside.
  • Many shelter dogs have already lived with children. People often assume that they should start with a puppy if they have children. Puppies have sharp baby teeth and can play too roughly with young children. There are many adult dogs in the shelter that are recommended for households with children.
  • Adult dogs are easier to train than young puppies because they have longer attention spans. Many shelter dogs already know some basic commands taught in their first home or by shelter volunteers.
  • Adult dogs are generally more predictable. A dog isn’t full grown until it’s a year old, so when adopting an adult dog you already know it’s full size, health and real personality.
  • Dogs often don’t mature out of their “teenage phase” until they are two years old or older. Adopting an older pet means that someone else already had his or her shoes chewed and you get the benefit of a dog who is more mellow and allows you to finish the entire newspaper.
  • Don’t discount a dog that is approaching a senior age. Even an eight-year-old dog is likely to have many more good years to give you. A senior dog often offers the sweetest rewards. To learn more about adopting a senior dog, we recommend visiting the Senior Dog’s Project.
  • When you adopt an adult dog from a shelter, you are taking a stand against the pet overpopulation crisis and saving an animal that will bond quickly with you, and shower you with gratitude and unconditional love.

Like us, dogs are highly social animals and have the need for regular companionship and attention inside the home with their humans. If you are gone much longer than eight or nine hours a day, a dog may not be an appropriate pet for your busy lifestyle.

If you do decide that you are ready to adopt a dog, we recommend that you do some homework and be ready for Rover’s arrival. Learn more about dog behavior resources and recommended reading.