10 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Adopting A Cat
Adopt at a Shelter or Buy from a Breeder?
Get a Kitten or Adult Cat?
Choosing the Right Cat for You
Preparations for Bringing Your New Cat Home
TEN QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF BEFORE ADOPTING A CAT
Am I ready and willing to commit the next 15 to 20 years of my life feeding, grooming, scooping the litter box and providing medical care for a cat?
Does everyone in my household feel the same way?
Am I financially prepared to handle all of the costs involved with maintaining the health of a cat and its lifestyle?
These costs may include any or all of the following: adoption fee, pet deposit, food, feeding utensils, grooming, litter box(es), toys, a bed, veterinary examinations, testing for diseases such as feline leukemia and feline immunodeficiency virus, and diagnosis and treatment of other medical conditions. These costs may run as much as $200 to $300 or more within the first week after acquiring a cat.
Are there any lifestyle altering events in my foreseeable future that might affect my ability to care for a cat?
A marriage, a divorce, a new baby, a move, caring for an elderly family member, job uncertainty, etc. Have I thought about what might happen to the cat should something unexpected happen in my life?
Am I ready to assume the daily responsibilities of caring for a cat?
All cats require daily care, such as litter box cleaning, feeding and exercise through play. One adult in the household should be designated as the primary caretaker to avoid the needs of the cat being lost in the shuffle of busy schedules.
Is my residence equipped to handle a cat?
Have I gotten permission from my landlord to have a cat if I rent? Will my cat be an indoor cat only, or will it go outside sometimes? No cat that has been declawed should ever go outdoors since it cannot defend itself.
Am I willing to spay or neuter my cat?
It is irresponsible for anyone except serious breeders to allow their cat to have litters of kittens. Even if your cat will only stay inside, it is better for the cat to be sterilized for health, cleanliness, and behavioral reasons as well as to prevent pet overpopulation.
Will I be traveling frequently?
Have I considered what I will do with the cat while I am away? Will I hire a pet sitter? Will it go to a boarding kennel? Do I have any idea how much this will cost?
Do I have at least one hour a day to devote to my cat?
Although more independent than dogs, cats thrive on companionship. Consider adopting two cats if the cat will be alone during the day. Two provide company for each other and bring more love into your life.
Am I willing to learn basic cat behavior and training?
Cats are independent, but understanding their behavior will help you train them to use the litter box and not scratch furniture.
Do I REALLY want a cat after considering all these responsibilities?!
If the answer is "yes," then congratulations! Now, go find the cat that is right for you!
ADOPT FROM A SHELTER OR BUY FROM A BREEDER?
It depends on what kind of cat you are looking for. There are many places that sell cats, but keep in mind that your local animal shelter has many great cats to choose from as well. Additionally, you'd be saving a life in the process!
Local Animal Shelters
Local animal shelters are an excellent place to find cats and kittens. During the height of "kitten season," which begins roughly in March and April and lasts until late October, there is usually a huge variety of kittens within shelters. Unfortunately, this is due to the fact that people fail to take responsibility for spaying and neutering their cats and then do not take responsibility for their offspring. Nevertheless, you can find just about any type or color of kitten you want at some time during kitten season at a shelter.
There are several different reasons why adult cats commonly end up in shelters:
A new member in the household has allergies. This happens most often with a new baby or a marriage.
The owner moves to an apartment or other situation where he is unable to have a cat. This often happens with elderly people moving into nursing homes.
The owner dies and there is no place for the cat to go. This happens more than you think.
People bring in strays that have lingered around their homes. Usually, if these cats are gentle enough for someone to catch them and bring them in, they have most likely been someone's pet that has gotten lost. They make good adoptive pets because they are anxious to bond with a new owner.
Occasionally, cats are relinquished to shelters because of "behavioral problems" which are almost exclusively described as urinating in inappropriate places. This problem can almost always be traced back to a medical condition or an emotional upheaval of some kind within the household (See Caring for Cats with Litter Box Problems) and can therefore be corrected with treatment. These cats often turn out to be very good pets.
Kittens that come from pet shops may have many problems - breeders who supply stores are often indiscriminate, resulting in more frequent genetic abnormalities than properly bred kittens. The pet store environment is very stressful for young kittens who need lots of gentle interaction with humans and a safe, quiet space in which to act out their natural curiosity. Although it may be convenient to be able to buy pet supplies at the same time, there is truly no legitimate reason to buy from a pet store.
A new kind of "pet store" that is becoming popular, however, are the chains that are actually enabling animal shelters to adopt out animals "through" the store itself. These programs provide additional exposure and opportunities for the local shelter and are a wonderful example of constructive partnership for the benefit of our animals.
PetSmart is an example of one of these stores in the Amarillo area. They have a special area of the store called the "Luv-a-Pet" Center that is designated for adopting animals. Cats and kittens are kept in spacious cages in a special room so that people may adopt them during regular business hours. The Amarillo SPCA and the Pet Sterilization Program of the Panhandle regularly adopt cats out this way. The Amarillo Panhandle Humane Society takes both dogs and cats to be adopted on Saturday afternoons.
If you want to buy a purebred cat or kitten, look for a good, responsible breeder. Visit a local cat show and speak with breeders. Contact a veterinarian and ask for references. Inquire as to whether any of the vet's clients own cats of the breed you are looking for, which breeder they came from, and if they are happy with their pet. Buy a magazine such as Cat Fancy and look for ads which seem reputable and are posted by breeders in your area.
At this point you can call some of the breeders you have chosen, and ask if you can arrange to visit the premises. Inquire about kitten availability and price, but don't use this as the sole reason for choosing a pet from that breeder.
Are the breeders happy to let you see the kittens or do they seem reluctant to show you their animals? Take a good look at the facilities where the litter was raised. Note cleanliness and the health and temperament of other cats in the facility. Is the breeder proud to show off her cats?
Ask questions about the health of the animals. Have the kittens received their vaccinations? What have they been weaned on? Ask to meet the mother, and if possible, the father of the kittens. If there are no litters available, look at the cats that are regularly used for breeding. Observe the parents' temperament, health and appearance. Have the parents been tested against genetic defects common to the breed? Make sure that there is a guarantee to assure that kittens are free from these defects. In the event that a kitten does have hereditary abnormalities, is there a return policy? Will registration papers be provided? Also ask about non-breeding contracts, spay/neuter programs, etc.
Speak with the breeder and ask him or her as many questions as you can. The best breeders should be asking you questions, too, because they will only want the best homes for their kittens. If the breeder seems only interested in selling you a kitten, consider another breeder.
KITTEN OR ADULT CAT?
What kind of cat are you looking for? An active, playful cat that entertains you with its antics? A calm lap cat that would be gentle with elderly people? A cat that won't be frightened by a barking dog?
Kittens are full of energy and love to rush and rumble around your house. They are fun to watch and play with, but one needs to be realistic about the demands that a kitten can make. It's a given that they will explore every inch of their new world and mishaps can happen in the process. Therefore, it is wise in the beginning to limit the roaming space of a kitten to a couple of rooms where nothing too valuable can be knocked off the shelf. With your firm voice and compassionate attention, you can soon teach a kitten the "rules of the house." Climbing on shelves and clawing furniture is a no-no. Kittens can learn very quickly and adapt somewhat easier to a new environment than adult cats.
Kittens also require several trips to the vet for a series of vaccinations, tests, and finally, neutering or spaying. It is also difficult to predict what a kitten will turn out to be in terms of looks and personality when it is finally grown. If this is very important to you, perhaps you should consider getting an adult cat.
Adult cats are already past the stage where they have to explore the entire house from floor to ceiling. They are calmer than kittens but will still check out everything that is going on in the house. An older cat may not be so easily "molded" as a kitten and it might have a few established personality traits, for instance, wanting to be the only cat. However, with enough love and attention, most adult cats will adapt as easily as a kitten.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT CAT OR KITTEN
There are many myths surrounding personality characteristics of cats. Some people believe that males are naturally more affectionate than females. Others believe that females make better cats. The truth is that neither sex is uniformly more affectionate, more intelligent, calmer nor more playful. Each cat is unique in personality regardless of the sex.
However, one important factor that does affect personality and behavior is whether the animal has been sterilized. Unaltered cats of either sex can be difficult to live with. Unneutered males "spray" a foul smelling urine on walls and furniture. If allowed outdoors, they will roam and fight with other cats. A spayed female no longer goes through heat cycles and ends several problems associated with heat, such as confining the females to prevent the approaches of persistent males as well as the irritating howling of a cat in heat. (If you've never lived with a female cat in heat, usually once is enough to convince you that spaying is a worthy investment!) Neutered and spayed cats always make much more pleasant companions.
Consider Choosing Two
If you're thinking about getting a cat or kitten, consider getting two; two littermates, two older cats that have been together for years, etc. They can keep each other company when you're not home and tend to get into less trouble that way!
PREPARATIONS FOR BRINGING YOUR NEW KITTY HOME
Being prepared for the new arrival is an essential step towards having a happy and healthy companion. Once you know where and when you will be getting your cat, organize the final details to welcome the new addition. Make sure you have read up on cat care and know what you'll need to do once Kitty arrives at her home.
It is very important that you have the necessary supplies to care for a cat, including:
A cat carrier suitable for carrying the cat home and to the vet.
A litter box, litter scoop and litter
Cat or kitten food
Ceramic or stainless steel feeding bowls
Soft, clean, washable bedding that will make the cat feel comfortable and that she has a place of her own
A scratching post so that you can train Kitty early on about appropriate scratching places
Toys - the best kind tend to be the "homemade" kind; wadded up pieces of paper, small cardboard boxes, paper bags (never allow your pet to play with plastic of any kind), thick pieces of string such as shoelaces. Do not allow your kitty to play with yarn - it can be fatal if ingested.
The First Vet Check-up
It's important that you take your cat or kitten to the vet for a first check-up even if he seems perfectly healthy. If you have not already chosen a family veterinarian, now is the time to find one. Look for a vet who is reputable and close by. Your veterinarian will check for any health problems, and in most cases, give your pet a vaccination.
The First Few Days
It is best to confine your cat in one area of the house for the first few days until it becomes familiar with you and the new smells and sounds of its new home. The younger and smaller the kitty, the smaller the area needs to be. A bathroom works well, but the ideal place would be where you intend to permanently place the litter box later on. Make sure there are no cords or wires in which a kitten could become entangled, or other possible dangers in the room, such as access to crawling under a refrigerator.
Set the litter box up in one corner (make sure it is a very shallow box if the kitten is small) and the food and water in an opposite corner. Be sure to provide soft, comfortable bedding for the cat to curl up on. They love this!
Spend as much time with Kitty as possible. Bring it out of the designated room and play with it in other areas of the house where you spend a lot of time. Within a few days, your kitty will feel secure enough to know where its litter box and food and water are. That will become its "home base."
What About My Other Pets
If you have any other pets, you will have to take a few extra precautions. First of all, make sure the other pets are up-to-date on vaccinations.
Introducing a new kitty to a previous cat: Take your new kitty out of its designated room for a few minutes and let your other cat come in and explore the smells. After you've done this one or two times over a two-day period, bring your new kitty in while your other cat is in the room. Observe their reactions to each other. If there is some hostility, separate them while you are gone until you are certain that they get along.
You can modify the length of time and amount of supervision as you see how the two cats react. Sometimes they will look like they are being hostile when they are not. The position of the ears is a clue. If they are standing up or forward when confronting each other, or if they are lying flat back, there is trouble. Continue to supervise them for a while. However, if the fighting stops immediately when one of them cries out, they're okay.
Introducing a new kitty into a household with an elderly animal: The older animal can often feel threatened by a newcomer. Try to minimize the stress it feels by paying extra attention to it. Too often, the excitement of a new kitten in the household is so great that other pets feel left out. Pets can feel jealous, just like people, so give all of your animals daily TLC.
Introducing a new kitty to a puppy: A puppy introduced to a cat will quickly view it as another sort of dog and leave it alone, or more often, want to play with it. The cat will probably view the dog as a nuisance for some time, but will eventually learn to ignore it or even play with it.
Introducing a kitten to an older dog: It will all depend on the dog's temperament. Many dogs are good with cats such as Labs or Newfies, and will present no problems whatsoever. Other dogs with high prey drives may need to be taught to leave the kitten alone. Soon, the kitten will be able to get up out of the dog's reach when it wants to be left alone. Create a place for the kitty to go where the dog can't follow. For example, place a childproof fence in the doorway of a room high enough for the cat to get under but too low for the dog.
According to Humane Society studies, there are some combinations of animals that tend to work well:
An older kitten and a puppy
A pair of mature sterilized animals
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