By Elise Hattingh, DVM
The summer forecast at the ASPCA is cats, cats and more cats! Monday, June 1, kicks off Adopt a Shelter Cat Month and marks the height of kitten season, the time of year when felines breed. This time of year, shelters across the country get a major influx of homeless and newborn cats that are in desperate need of forever homes.
While kittens are cute, cuddly and super fun, adopting an older cat has its benefits. Cats that have been around the block a few times are often wiser than their younger counterparts and just as fun to have around. When you choose to adopt a senior cat, it’s very likely that he or she will already be trained to use a litter box and will provide low-key feline companionship.
Benefits of adopting a cat from a shelter include:
- Adopting a cat from a shelter rather than other avenues means you are helping, and not contributing to, the pet overpopulation problem.
- The cost to adopt a shelter cat is usually much lower than buying one from a breeder or pet store.
- Breeders or pet stores sell pets with the incentive to make money, whereas shelters are focused on the animal’s best interests.
- Cats adopted from shelters often have already been spayed or neutered. Most of them have also been wormed and vaccinated.
- Shelter cats have often adjusted to being around other animals.
Many people say that adopting a cat from a shelter is extremely spiritually rewarding – knowing that they are saving a life (some shelters euthanize animals for population control) and giving the cat a new home.
CHECKLIST FOR ADOPTING A CAT
- Find a cat whose personality meshes with yours. Just as we each have our own personality, so do cats. Spend time getting to know multiple cats before selecting the right one. Additionally, consider your lifestyle and needs before your visit to help focus your search. Some shelters have adoption counselors who can offer advice to help you match the cat’s personality with your own.
- Pick out a veterinarian ahead of time and schedule a visit within the first few days following the adoption. On your first visit, you’ll want to take any medical records you received from the adoption center.
- Make sure everyone in the house is prepared to have a cat before your furry friend comes home. Visiting the shelter or animal control facility should be a family affair. When adopting a new cat with existing pets at home, discuss with your veterinarian how to make a proper introduction.
- Budget for the short- and long-term costs of a cat. Understand any pet is a responsibility and there’s a cost associated with that. A cat adopted from a shelter is a bargain; many facilities will have already provided spaying or neutering, initial vaccines and a microchip for permanent identification. However, these low costs do not mean that your new kitty won’t develop medical or social needs that come with additional costs.
- Stock up on supplies before the cat arrives. Be prepared so your new cat can start feeling at home right away. Your cat will need a litter box, cat litter, food and water bowls, food, scratching posts, safe and stimulating toys, a cushy bed, a brush for grooming, a toothbrush and nail clippers.
- Cat-proof your home. A new cat will quickly teach you not to leave things lying out. Food left on the kitchen counter will serve to teach your new friend to jump on counters for a possible lunch. Get rid of loose items your cat might chew on, watch to ensure the kitten isn’t chewing on electric cords, and pick up random items like paper clips, string and small toys (which cats may swallow).
- Go slowly when introducing your cat to new friends and family. It can take several weeks for a cat to relax in a new environment. It’s a great idea to keep the new addition secluded to a single room (with a litter box, food and water, toys, and the cat carrier left out and open with bedding inside) until the cat is used to the new surroundings; this is particularly important if you have other pets. If you’ve adopted a kitten, socialization is very important. But remember – take it slow.
- Be sure to include your new pet in your family’s emergency plan. You probably have a plan in place for getting your family to safety in case of an emergency. Adjust this plan to include your pets. Add phone numbers for your veterinarian and the closest 24-hour animal hospital to your “in case of emergency” call list.
- If you’re considering giving a cat as a gift, make sure the recipient is an active participant in the adoption process. Though well-meaning, the surprise kitty gift doesn’t allow for a “get to know one another” period. Remember, adopting a cat isn’t like purchasing a household appliance or a piece of jewelry – this is a living, breathing, emotional being.
If it’s not possible for you to adopt a cat at this time, there are other ways to get involved during this busy time of year. Consider volunteering at your local shelter, becoming a foster for an adult cat or kitten, making a financial contribution, or donating vital supplies like food, litter, bowls and toys.