There's no way around it: You love those adorable tufts of fluff ... so certainly any time could be kitten time, right? Hang on a minute before you're swept away by kitten fever. Consider timing carefully.
Kittens are babies. Yes, it seems like stating the obvious, but their young and vulnerable age demands that they receive special treatment. Like all babies, they need your time: time to bond with them and allow them to get comfortable in their new home, time to make your home safe for them, and time to get to know them as individuals and learn how to meet their specific needs. The best time to get a kitten is when you're free of commitments that keep you away from home. An additional weekend job, going to school at night after work, a commuter relationship -- any of these make it a bad time to adopt your tiny new furbaby.
Holidays may seem like the answer to extra kitty bonding time, but think again. Consider your mood and schedule when big festivities roll around. You're likely to spend your holiday "free time" rushed, hurried, aggravated, stressed out and broke, rather than chilling at home with an eggnog in one hand and a cat toy in the other. Holiday commitments tend to fill any vacation time you have to the max. Homes fill with mayhem. Your decorations are oh so tempting -- and potentially deadly -- to baby animals, who can get in enormous trouble when terrified by party noise or merely eager to investigate twinkling lights.
Holidays make such notoriously bad pet adoption times that many shelters actively discourage taking a new best friend home during them, and some even halt adoptions for a few days around major holidays. On a related note, all shelters and animal rescues agree: Never, ever get an animal as a gift for someone else. Those matches end badly.
It's a sad fact that animal shelters experience overflow at certain times of year. One "kitten season" happens in mid-summer, when the year's new kitten batches hit adoptable age, followed by another in early autumn, especially in areas of the country with warmer climates. Most shelters also have an adoption lull around June when potential adopters leave town for vacation. During these seasons, shelters overflow with new kittens and face the painful reality of euthanizing adult cats waiting for homes to house all the newbies. In response, many animal shelters offer fee waivers during these times of year -- it's often possible to take a brand new furbaby home, complete with spay or neuter and shots, for around $25. Ask your local shelters and rescues about Adopt-A-Cat months and seasonal fee waivers.
The best time for your kitten to go home with you is after she's weaned and of legal age. Only a few states enforce minimum adoptable kitten ages, but they all pretty much agree the bare minimum is 8 weeks old, and shelters almost never offer kittens younger than this without their mommies. Kittens younger than 4 weeks need their mommies' milk and cannot go potty without help. By 8 weeks, kittens are potty independent and can eat solid food, but most professional cat breeders say 12 to 16 weeks is the ideal age for adoption.