Ragdoll Kitten Adoption – What’s the Right Age to Bring Home Your Kitten?

Murphy as a kitten
Murphy as a kitten

If you’ve ever owned a cat, let alone a kitten, you know how they can react to change. Consider this next time you’re in a rush to bring home a new pet immediately after its been born. Changing homes can be extremely stressful on anyone, let alone a newborn kitten. While most people expect to be able to open up the newspaper, look to the classified ads, and find a six week old kitten up for adoption, this is often not realistic.

New cat owners sometimes fear that if they do not adopt their kitten early enough, it will not bond properly with them. This is not necessarily true. Stray cats that are several years old can form bonds with humans who take them in. It is understandable to want a small, young kitten, but it is harmful for a newborn cat to be away from its mother. Taking it away from its mother before it is at least 12 weeks old can cause quite a bit of psychological stress leading to developmental problems.

I am a firm believer that a kitten shouldn’t go home before 12 weeks of age.  So when a reader asked me if I had read this article, “How old should a kitten be when it goes to a new home?”, I thought it was time to address this on the site!

A Kitten’s Immune System
Just like newborn babies, kittens are especially susceptible to germs and illness in general. This is particularly true between the ages of eight and twelve weeks when their immune system begins to rely more on vaccines rather than the mother’s milk. During this time, kittens can more easily develop upper respiratory issue and sometimes experience diarrhea. They are already vulnerable to disease. If you move them into a new environment during this time, you’re pushing their immune system to work even harder. In addition, mental stress can weaken the immune system.

Charlie as a
Ragdoll Kitten” src=”https://www.floppycats.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/AA_CASEY0001-300×253.jpg” width=”300″ height=”253″ /> Charlie as a Ragdoll Kitten

It is at around six or seven weeks that most kittens receive the first series of shots. This can be dangerous, however, as some kittens are not healthy or large enough to handle the vaccinations. Administering the shots in a familiar setting, like the cat’s home since birth, can help prevent behavioral problems in the future.

Weaning a New Ragdoll Cat
Naturally weaning the kitten off a mother’s milk is a very important aspect of its development. It is meant to be a natural process usually occurring between eight and twelve weeks old. Eventually the mother stops nursing the kitten, and the kitten becomes more independent. If a kitten is taken from its mother before its been weaned off, the kitten may feel frustrated and insecure.

Socialization/Behavioral Problems with Rag Doll Kittens
While it can be cute when kittens are needy, this behavior is often unhealthy. Taking them away from their mother too soon can lead to separation anxiety and other nervous tendencies. Sucking and nibbling is usually a sign that a cat was weaned too quickly or not at all. Another significant fact is that cats learn how to properly interact with one another between ages nine and fourteen weeks old. How do they learn this? From their mothers. If you take a kitten from its mother too quickly, you can stifle its social skills.

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Hi, I’m Jenny Dean, creator of Floppycats! Ever since my Aunt got the first Ragdoll cat in our family, I have loved the breed. Inspired by my childhood Ragdoll cat, Rags, I created Floppycats to connect, share and inspire other Ragdoll cat lovers around the world,

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  1. Does anyone know anything about the right age that Ragdoll crosses be brought home? I have two wonderful 1/2 Ragdoll, 1/2 Maine Coons I adopted last year which the breeder insisted could only be rehomed at 12 weeks, and I was happy with her explanation. The person I’m currently in the process of buying a 1/2 Ragdoll, 1/2 Tortoiseshell non-pedigree cat from has had the kittens for sale from age 8 weeks, saying that “normal moggies can leave from 9 weeks but I’m happy too keep him here with us for when is convenient” and that the 12 weeks only applies to full Ragdolls. Oh, and she said the kittens were weaned at 4 1/2 weeks “as they’re so big and she’s tiny so vet advised we do this” … so I guess feeding by the mother is no longer an issue. I offered to meet her halfway and collect my kitten at 10 weeks, but since reading this article I’m feeling worried and the Ragdoll-owning friend who directed me to this website is saying I’ll only have myself to blame if the kitten has socialization / behavioural problems . Am I right to be worried?

  2. Dementia Boy says:

    Ah, Jenny…if your article changes just one person’s mind, consider it a major victory. Beautifully written and reasoned.

    Early kittenhood development is as much a science as early childhood development. Sadly, you’re right about people wanting “needy” creatures. But that neediness isn’t so cute three years later.

    I was looking up Ragdoll breeders several weeks ago when I remembered the cattery name of another of William’s grandparents. I smiled because the breeder is radical about both her kittens and feline nutrition. But I ran across another breeder who ships out her kittens at eight weeks =(. It’s what the market wants. Sentient beings are not commodities.

  3. Hi, Jenny!

    Great info! Awwwwww, Charlie and Murphy’s kitten pictures are adorable! I love those blazes! What gorgeous babies they were!

    Quick correction needed, I think. Shouldn’t the following line in the very last paragraph be changed from “interact with one another between ages nine and fourteen months old” to “interact with one another between ages nine and fourteen weeks old?”

    Big hugs!

    Patti & Pink Sugar 🙂 <3

    P.S. We got our darling Pink Sugar from Andra at Little Apple Ragdolls right around her 16th week. And she has been just perfect with us regarding behavior and health! 🙂

    1. yes! thanks for catching that! yes, i know andra is great about giving them away at the right age!

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