Cats already dominate our hearts but when you introduce us to tiny kittens, they can melt into pink warm goo. Too much cuteness can be detrimental!
Luckily, there's a subreddit that collects pictures of "illegally smol cats," warning of the suspects that might pull such a trick on us.
If you dare to meet them, proceed with caution. But if you somehow manage to make it through this list in one piece and desire more, fire up our earlier piece on this adorable online community.
To learn more about what to do if you end up caring for such a smol kitty, we contacted our good friends at PDSA, the UK's leading vet charity, providing free and low-cost treatment to pets in need. First thing's first, we ought to understand the main developmental stages in cats.
"Kittens are dependent on their mother's care to survive, but as they get older, they start to become more independent and are able to feed and care for themselves," PDSA vet Anna Ewers Clark told Bored Panda. "They are usually ready to leave their mother at 8 weeks old, although sometimes they may stay in their first home until around 12-13 weeks."
"Once your kitten comes home with you, they will continue to develop and will grow into an adolescent, which is the time when they reach social and sexual maturity — similar to a human teenager," the vet explained. "Your kitten can become an adolescent as young as 4 months old, and you'll often notice changes in their behavior at this time, especially in female kittens who may start having seasons if they're unneutered."
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According to Anna Ewers Clark, a cat is usually considered an adult around a year old, and at around 7 years old they are often thought of as senior, and then geriatric in the last few years of life.
"At each different life stage, your cat's needs will change so it's important to consider whether you might need to adapt their routine or lifestyle to keep them happy, for example changing them to a diet that’s right for their age group."
The average lifespan for a domestic feline is about 12-14 years, however, some pet cats can even hit 20! The oldest cat ever was Creme Puff, who was born on August 3, 1967 and lived until August 6, 2005 — an amazing 38 years and 3 days.
Kittens learn a lot about themselves and the world around them in their early development. "Their mother will teach them about how to be a cat, including how to interact with people, how to groom themselves, what to eat, even how to go to the toilet," Anna Ewers Clark explained. "By meeting your kitten's parents, you can often learn a lot about how your kitten is likely to see the world, for example, whether they're likely to be friendly with people, as their genetics and early life will often shape your cat's personality."
But let's not forget the rest of the family! "Your kitten will also learn a lot from playing with their littermates, including skills like stalking, hunting, pouncing, and how to communicate with other cats. They will also learn about their home environment and routine. It's a good idea to look for a kitten that has been raised in a similar household and lifestyle to yours, as this will mean they already understand what to expect when they come home with you," the vet said.
"Your kitten's breeder or rehoming center will be responsible for your kitten's socialization too, where they should have lots of positive experiences to help them learn what to expect later in life. This often includes meeting people of different ages, sizes, and ethnicities and getting used to noises, household objects, and experiences, for example, vacuuming, fireworks, and traffic noise."
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Like we mentioned before, most kittens are ready to come home with you around 8 weeks old, although Anna Ewers Clark said that many breeders will recommend that you wait until the critter is around 12-13 weeks of age, often after they have had their second vaccination in their primary course.
"Bringing your kitten home is an exciting time, but there are a few key things to remember to help your new cat settle in and adjust to your household," the vet highlighted.
"Make sure you have everything you need before they come home — a simple way to check you're ready is to think about your cat's 5 welfare needs."
Also, cat-proof your place by removing hazards and poisons, and at least try to give your new family member an area that can be really theirs. "For example, [choose] one or two rooms, which are safe and quiet, and let them start exploring the rest of your home in their own time. Your kitten shouldn't be allowed outside until after they've been vaccinated, neutered, and microchipped in order to keep them safe," Anna Ewers Clark said.
Next up, munchies. The vet said that feeding your kitten a high-quality, complete kitten food will provide them with all the nutrients they need. "It’s a good idea to speak to the breeder or rehoming center so you can try to continue feeding the same food when your kitten comes home and reduce the chance of stomach upsets."
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The key thing to keep in mind is setting habits. "It's really important to give your kitten a routine from day one, with regular mealtimes, short play sessions as well as plenty of time to rest and sleep. You might want to speak to your breeder or rehoming center and see if you can keep their routine in a similar pattern for the first few weeks."
The folks at PDSA would also recommend letting your kitten come to you to avoid overloading them with too much attention when they first arrive. "Although it's tempting to spend all your time with your adorable kitten, it can be an overwhelming change for [an animal] who's used to spending their time with their mother and siblings. Not only that, but they will need to learn about having time to themselves, so they’re happy in their own company when you go out. You can both enjoy having regular play sessions or time sitting together on the sofa, but allow them to rest and have their own space when they want it."