So you’re thinking about getting a shelter cat. Congratulations! Cats are wonderful pets and choosing a homeless animal from the shelter can be such a rewarding feeling. You might be wondering how you’ll know which cat is the right cat for you. Here are some basic questions you can ask yourself and steps you can take to help ensure you’ll be bringing home the perfect cat for you.
Think about your lifestyle
What is life like at your house? Is it always busy and a little chaotic or is it usually more calm and relaxed? If you have a fast-paced and busy lifestyle, consider whether or not you have time to add a cat into the mix. If you do, work with shelter staff to choose a cat who will adapt well to the commotion and frequent comings-and-goings of your busy life.
Evaluate your family situation
Do you have small children at home? Are they expecting a cat that they can pick up, play with, and carry around? If your children are very young or just very hands-on, you might be wise to avoid adopting a small kitten which can be easily injured. An older kitten or adult cat could be a better choice.
Do you live alone and work outside of the house? Think about adopting two cats so they can keep each other company during the day. We frequently have bonded pairs of animals who we adopt out together, or we’d be happy to suggest a pair who seems to get along here at the shelter.
Think about the advantages and disadvantages of kittens vs. adult cats
Kittens are pretty hard to resist, but it’s important to consider the extra time and work that they take. Kittens require more supervision and training than adult cats. You may also need to kitten-proof your home to ensure their inquisitive nature doesn’t lead them into trouble that could be dangerous for their safety or for your stuff.
If you’re looking for a cat with a specific type of personality and temperament, you might want to consider an adult cat instead. Talk with the staff here at the shelter and let them know what you’re looking for. We’ve spent a good amount of time with each of the animals in our care, so we might be able to guide you to a cat that will be more likely to sync with your lifestyle.
Think about any pets that you already have
If you already have a cat at home, consider their personality when choosing a second cat. An energetic cat who loves to play might not love a new friend who prefers their own space and vice versa. Whatever their personalities, be prepared for a gradual introduction.
If you have a dog at home, it’s a good idea to try to determine whether or not they will peacefully coexist with a cat. Some dogs do just fine with feline friends, while others treat them as prey. Does your dog try to chase other animals on walks? Do you have a friend with a cat who you could introduce your dog to in a controlled setting? If you think your dog will do well with a new cat friend at home, make sure to select a shelter cat who has had previous experience with dogs. Our shelter staff can help guide you to the cats who would be most appropriate.
Don’t discount older or “flawed” cats
We often have cats available who are a little older, or who have past habits or experiences that potential adopters think make them less likely to become good pets. This isn’t necessarily true. Many of these animals simply came from stressful homes which can bring out behaviors such as house-soiling, hiding, excessive scratching, excessive vocalization, or aggression toward people or other animals. For a number of these animals, a change of environment is all that they need to become the sweet, loving, and well-behaved pets they were always meant to be.
Give your new cat a chance to acclimate
Going from the shelter to a new home can be overwhelming for any animal, so give your new friend a chance to settle in. Have a room set up for him with a litter box, scratching post, toys, food and water, and plenty of places to hide. Let kitty get comfortable in that one room first, before introducing him to the rest of the house.
The same applies to new family members, particularly if your new cat is timid or seems overwhelmed. Let him get to know you before you introduce him to the rest of the family. For some this trust-building can take a long time and for others, they may be ready to explore and meet the family right away. The most important piece of acclimating your new cat to your home is to let him go at his own pace.
Ask for help!
Keep in mind that when you adopt a shelter pet, that pet comes with a history. It may take a little extra time for your new cat to get over her past experiences or to let go of the stress that she felt at the shelter. It’s unrealistic to expect your new cat to be the perfect pet right from the start. If you have questions or concerns along the way as your new family member gets settled in, please reach out to us about it. Our staff is familiar with the animals that we adopt out, and we can likely give you some tips and guidance to help get you through any early rough spots.
Above all, be patient. Treat your new kitty with love and build trust by letting him initiate your early interactions. The extra time that you put into helping him feel safe, secure, and loved, will pay off in the end as your new addition grows into a treasured member of the family.