This is a question many potential owners will ask and the reasons for when we allow a kitten to leave our homes are often not obvious. When is a kitten old enough to leave a breeder? A kitten is ready to leave its new home around 12 weeks of age however there are many other factors to consider.
Kitten Registration Rules
A breeder is bound by certain rules and code of conducts from their registering bodies that provide a guide for various factors regarding breeding. One of these is the minimum age when kittens should leave the breeder’s home. The Southern Africa Cat Council’s rule says no earlier than 10 weeks but this hasn’t been updated in quite some time and does not really account for early neuter-spay recovery times. The Cat Federation of Southern Africa more recently changed their rule to 13 weeks.
Breeders registered with these organisations need to adhere to the rules in order to maintain their ethics. Before breeders practiced early neuter-spay (ENS), 10 – 12 weeks was an appropriate age for a kitten to leave their home, before this even 8 weeks was acceptable (and there are many deceiving articles on the internet promoting this).
In the past few years with health becoming more of a concern and ENS being a more accepted practice among vets and breeders in South Africa, this has changed. Kittens need around 5 – 7 days recover for a neuter operation and 10 – 14 days recovery for a spay, so if a kitten is spayed at 10 weeks, the earliest it may leave is around 12 weeks, not taking into account vaccination protocols. Most vets will not be comfortable performing a spay or neuter operation before 12 weeks of age or before a kitten has had their vaccinations.
Well-being of the kitten
For the general well-being of your kitten, the above rules were put in place however as discussed they do not account for many other factors. Some breeds require more time to socialise and some less. With Oriental, Siamese and Peterbald we have found they are most confident and ready for their homes between 16 and 18 weeks where bigger breeds such as Maine Coons, Ragdolls and Persians may be ready at 12 – 14 weeks to leave for their homes and adjust well.
We have personally found that Siamese, Orientals and Peterbalds need more time before their first inoculations to give their immune systems time to settle after weaning, so our personal protocol includes first inoculation at around 9 – 10 weeks of age where other breeds may be ready to have it at 6 – 8 weeks of age.
There is also a waiting period of 2 – 4 weeks before a booster can be administered. Many breeders give the booster with the rabies vaccine at 12 weeks of age. By law, a rabies inoculation should not be administered prior to 12 weeks and it is imperative kittens get these vaccinations if they are going to be travelling outside of the province. Kittens who are flying to their new homes will need this vaccination at 12 weeks and can fly after the vaccine is deemed valid, a minimum of 14 days after it was administered. Older cats who receive a rabies booster can fly 7 days after the vaccine was administered.
It is up to the breeder at the end of the day to decide when their kittens are ready for their new homes with the above rules considered. At 16 weeks, our kittens are very much still babies and will bond easier and be much more confident in the first few weeks than if they left us at 12 weeks of age. Breeders will set out their guidelines and protocols based on what works for them, their breed, and their kittens.
- I won’t be able to bond with my kitten if it is older than 12 weeks of age. This is not true at all. Studies have shown that from 12 weeks on wards is the optimum age for a kitten to be homed because not only have they completed their socialisation with their feline mommas, they should be well adjusted to a normal household and more confident. A kitten leaving the breeder will be immuno-compromised so at a slightly older age, will be better equipped to deal with the change of environment than a younger kitten whose immune system is still developing.
- My kitten doesn’t need it’s booster and rabies injection if it is not flying. This is a risk and it is especially irresponsible of breeders to leave this up to the owner due to current rabies outbreaks (among other diseases) in South Africa. Our own kittens have had zero reactions to the vaccine.
- My kitten doesn’t need it’s rabies shot if it is kept indoors. Another one… What if your kitten escapes and comes into contact with other animals who carry the disease? Do you want to take the risk for your kitten, other animals and your family? Rabies is FATAL for cats, dogs and humans.
- My other animals won’t accept a teenage kitten. There is no way to know this and be sure. “Teen age” in cats is around 6 months to 18 months old – when they should be reaching sexual maturity; at 12 – 18 weeks a kitten is still very much … a kitten. If you follow the breeder’s guidelines and take it slow, with lots of patience and care, your pets may be great friends. Age is rarely the factor when introducing kittens to other pets and we have homed teenage cats with very little problems that weren’t solvable.
Here is our protocol and guideline to give you an idea of the many factors involved in order to get our kittens ready for their new homes by 16 weeks of age. To note, kittens can get sick just like human babies and especially around the weaning stages. If a kitten falls ill, the protocol is adjusted accordingly to allow for recovery before deworming, vaccination or ENS.
- 4 – 6 Weeks – Weaning, dewoming and Bordatella Intranasal Vaccine
- 7 – 9 Weeks – Deworming, holding fees are paid to secure (if kitten is weaned)
- 9 – 10 Weeks – First 3-In-1 Vaccine if kitten did not fall ill from weaning
- 12 – 13 Weeks – Booster 3-in-1 Vaccine if no reaction to previous vaccine and if kitten did not fall ill
- 14 – 15 Weeks – Neuter or Spay Operation (5 days recovery for males, 10 – 14 for females). Balance of adoption fees are paid.
- 16 – 18 Weeks – Deworming, microchipping, kitten is vet checked and ready for her new home