Some are used to seeing kittens available at 8 weeks or even earlier, but this practice of kittens going home is not the best for the kitten. Shelter kittens are often released from the shelter early for many reasons: 1. the mother was not around anyway; 2. the health risk to the kitten being in a shelter with other animals, potentially other diseases, is greater than in a home; 3. the scarcity of opportunities for proper socialization in the shelter; and the cost of care to the shelter. But in a home-bred and raised situation, 12-16 weeks is a much better timeframe for the kitten to go to its new home.
From TICA (https://www.tica.org/pdf/publications/brochures/lookingforakitten.pdf
When can I take the kitten home?
Most responsible breeders allow their kittens to go to new homes at 14 weeks of age or older. If you're used to seeing barely-weaned kittens in pet stores, this might seem old; but its actually a good age to make the transition to a new home. At 14 weeks, a kitten is weaned, litter trained, and has been vaccinated at least twice. And it still has plenty of comical, lovable kitten hood to go.
Been seeing some posts about kittens being sold or given away as early as 7 weeks old, believing that this is normal when it is not. This is NOT a judgement on anyone who has posted or who has purchased or taken a kitten before 14 weeks. But this is the reason why a kitten should be, at a minimum, 14 weeks of age before going home.
- Immune systems are not developed at 6-8 weeks of age.
- Before 14 weeks of age, a single serious bout of something as simple as diarrhea can kill a kitten. Dehydration can kill a kitten. A good chill can kill a kitten. They are so very very fragile up until 12-14 weeks of age.
- At 6 weeks (for example) kittens have just left the nest box about the week before. They are still getting used to the world- still experiencing the world. When left with Momma for the next 6-8 weeks, Momma teaches them everything. It is a very important time development-wise for kittens.
- We currently think that it takes until at least 14 weeks for kittens to have a fully functional immune system which is why it is also recommend at least one vaccine at or after 14 weeks of age as the second vaccine.
We can't just "fast-track" immunity by giving vaccines earlier and expecting that to give proper protection.
- They learn a lot from their siblings and momma cat, but their personalities also develop along with their confidence. At 14 weeks of age savannah kittens are very outgoing and interested in new things while at 7-8 weeks of age they are more easily worried and stressed.
What is a mere week to us is a huge developmental stage to a fast growing kitten. They only get a few weeks of their lives with their "family" in the breeder setting where a cat in their feral state will stay with its family often for months or until sexual maturity. I don't think it is until you can watch the interactions of the babies with their mom's and siblings that you can really value what a special and very short relationship they have together.
*******************The real point to this is to learn how to spot, and avoid, a backyard breeder.
A breeder that says "Oh, you can trust me, I'm a member of TICA" and then ignores TICA's recommendations on kittens...is a hypocrite, not a breeder. Most people don't understand that TICA membership means nothing anyway. The person who will give you a supposedly purebred cat at 8 weeks (or younger) is looking to make a quick buck, to leave you responsible for spay/neuter (and any consequences), to minimize their expenses for feeding and vaccines, and to get the kittens out of their house as fast as possible so they can make more.
Spay and neuter, Trap-Neuter-Release (TnR), and don't buy from backyard breeders so that they will go out of business! All things we can do to keep cats out of shelters.