Happy Adopt-A-Cat-Month!

We thought we’d give you some questions to think about and some homecoming tips when you decide to rescue a shelter cat.

Before you go to a shelter – ask yourself and your family these 5 very important questions.

1. Are we financially, emotionally, and personally ready to take on the responsibility of a new cat?

An indoor cat can live as long as 20 years if it is well-loved, its health maintained, and good nutrition. Are you prepared for 15 to 20 years of annual clinic visits, possible procedures and medications, the cost of high-quality food, the initial vet clinic visit, vaccinations and spay/neuter, plus other emergency expenditures that might – and usually do – come along? Are you willing to have your heart broken when your much-loved pet eventually passes to the Rainbow Bridge? How do you feel about changing litter boxes daily and sweeping up cat hair?

If the answer to any of those questions is in the negative and you might have second thoughts. If you answered an exultant “YES!” to all of those questions, congratulations! You’re on the road to adopting your new feline friend.

2. What age and gender do I feel would fit best in my home?

Some people prefer males – some people prefer female cats. Which gender of feline you choose to adopt is typically a matter of personal fondness. However, when it comes to determining the age of the cat you may want, there are factors to consider.

Cat on couch playing with toy on a stringKittens and young cats are typically playful and can get into all kinds of mischief. Climbing the curtains, chewing on electrical cords, and crawling up in the bedsprings are just a few of the ways a kitten can endanger itself and make your life more trying. Additionally, kittens may come to you with necessary health requirements – spaying/neutering, the series of kitten vaccinations and wormings – that older cats have already passed through. If you’re ready and able to deal with the circumstances just described, then a kitten or young cat may be just the pet for you.

Older cats come with a different set of issues. While it may already be spayed or neutered by the rescue veterinarian, an older cat most likely has a set personality. Not as malleable or trainable as a kitten, the adult cat already knows what it likes and dislikes, what it needs, and what it disdains. Your mature cat may have some undetected health issues and you already know you probably won’t have it around as long as you would a kitten. If none of those issues bother you, then adopting an older cat may be exactly what you want to do.

3. Is my family an active one that loves to play outside, travel, and see new places and people? Or are we more of the ‘couch potato’ variety?

If your family is of the loud, boisterous variety that likes to play active games and exercise, then a more energetic cat breed such as the Balinese, the Siamese, or the Russian Blue may be just the breed for you. For a more laid-back, relaxed breed, look to the Ragdoll, the Persian, or British Shorthaired.

Since most of the shelter cats you’ll be looking at are not purebreds, you’ll need to watch how each cat interacts with other shelter inhabitants and how it reacts to strangers. You can also check with shelter staff as to each cat’s personality and how it might fit in with your family.

4. Are there young children at home and what are their responsibilities towards a new cat or kitten? Are the kids cat-friendly?

Children should not chase or corner cats and both cats and children should always be supervised when together. If you can, choose a calm adult feline that has lived with children. Your house needs to accommodate high areas, such as cat trees and shelves that are inaccessible to children. Baby gates will also help create sanctuary areas for the new cat.

You’ll want to teach your young children gentle touches and how to learn when the new companion wants some private time. Older children can be taught how to feed and water their new pet and scoop litter boxes when necessary. Delegating age-appropriate responsibilities to children has been proven to provide kids with confidence, self-esteem, and compassion for animals.

5. How are my other pets (if you have them) going to react to a new cat in the home?

gray cat crouching down  Your new adopted cat must fit in with your other pets. Introductions will go faster and smoother if your resident cat is cat-friendly. Some cats just don’t like other cats. Ideally, the new adopted cat should be similar in age and energy level to your resident cat and have successfully lived with other cats. Pet dogs should be cat-friendly, never chasing or hurting cats. When integrating dogs and cats into a household, adopt a dog-friendly cat.

At various extended times during the early introductory period, consider keeping your new cat in a crate where all of your animals can smell and interact with each other, yet not cause undue stress. Once you notice that calm curiosity reigns over your pets, then you can try letting your adopted cat into the room with the other pets. Keep a safe room or the crate handy for retreat until the new cat feels safe and comfortable.

Health concerns of a shelter cat.

Cats come to the shelter with varied histories and health problems. Despite careful screening, occasionally an animal may develop a health problem soon after it is brought into a new home.

You’ll need to take your new cat to your veterinarian within a week of the adoption for a complete health exam and any appropriate vaccinations and health care. Some vets give special discounts for animals adopted from rescues, so be sure to show your adoption contract on your first visit.

Your vet will want to do a complete body exam to look for skin, ear, and flea problems. He or she will also ask to run a fecal test to check for intestinal parasites and blood tests to determine if your new cat has FLeuk, panleukopenia, or FIV (Feline immunodeficiency virus). These diseases that can be transmitted to other cats in your household. Blood tests can also determine any systemic organ disorders. You’ll want to keep your new cat separate from other animals in the home until your vet gives it a clean bill of health.

Some of the common conditions affecting the health of shelter cats include:

  • Upper Respiratory Infections
  • Ear Mites
  • Fleas and Ticks
  • Ringworm
  • Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye)
  • Intestinal Parasites
  • Flea Allergies
  • Stress

orange cat on floor looking at camera

Adapting your shelter cat to a new home.

Your new cat has had a rough day already, and will probably be stressed by the time you bring her home. She is most likely used to the close environment of a shelter cage, so it would be best to keep her confined in a small safe room for the first few days, especially if there are other cats in the house.

Let your cat set the rules at first. Don’t be surprised if she hides under the bed for several days. As long as she has access to food, water, a litter box, a place to sleep, and a toy or two, then she will be okay. Chances are when you are not in the room, she will be coming out to eat, use the litter box, or explore.

Gradually increase your together time. Talk to your cat when you are in the safe room. You may want to sit in a chair and read a book. She’ll come around when she finally feels safe with you, but don’t rush it. When she finally jumps up and settles in on your lap, you’ll know that she is now your cat, and no longer a shelter cat.

Have you added a shelter cat to your pet family and need someone to check in on them while you’re at work or on vacation? We’re here to help – contact us today!