“I want to buy a cat.” I heard that at least once a month when I coordinated the cat section at a local shelter. I correct them gently, “Well, let me help you adopt a cat.” We buy objects. We adopt new family members.
Once relegated to mice duty in barns, cats have become a favorite indoor companion for many families. Nearly one-third of all households include at least one cat, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. Indoor cats can live up to 20 years while the average life span of an outdoor feline is about two years. When looking for that perfect feline companion be ready for a commitment.
Here are some things to consider:
Do I want a kitten or an older cat? Kittens are fun, cute and mischievous. They need to be trained to not scratch the furniture or bite fingers, and they need attention and play time. I once had a family return a cat because it was too affectionate and wanted too much of their time. If you have a busy schedule, consider an older cat. They mellow out at about three years old. Consider a cat with a low-key personality. I would promote “window sill” cats, who were demure and aloof, not wanting to be held or petted too often. This worked for one woman who lived alone and just wanted a quiet companion.
Where should I look? Cats are anywhere. The neighbor whose cat just had another litter is ready to give them away. Your local pound has cats on “death row”. No-kill shelters need to adopt out cats to make room for more. What you are getting for what you pay? That neighbor’s cat is free, but will cost hundreds of dollars for tests, shots, de-worming and a spay or neuter. Pounds often charge a small fee, but find out specifically what that covers. No-kill shelters often charge a higher fee, but you get a lot of bang for your buck. Our shelter charged about $100, but that included testing, de-worming, all shots, spay or neuter, a bath, flea treatment and a return policy for the cat’s life time.
Do I want a pure bred cat? Pure breeds hold a certain appeal, but they can be expensive. Research the breed for temperament and health issues. Find a responsible breeder who raises cats “under foot” or in a household. Cats from mills kept in cages won’t have the necessary social conditioning, something mother cats pass on to their offspring. Breed-specific rescue groups specialize in saving abandoned or unwanted cats. These volunteers are passionate and know the background of a particular animal. Finally, shelters do get pure breeds, especially siamese and rag dolls. Check their web sites or asked to be called if a particular breed comes in.
Am I willing to adopt a special needs cats? Shelters have older cats (cats are considered seniors after age 6 or 7) and cats with feline leukemia or other medical needs such as diabetes or thyroid conditions. A senior cat is perfect for a quiet home, especially if there is an older person with mobility issues. They are less likely to rub against legs or jump in front of them. Until recently, even no-kill shelters would euthanize leukemia positive cats, but now they adopt them out as only cats or to homes with other leukemia-positive cats. Feline leukemia is highly communicable between cats, but a positive cat can live many years with no symptoms. Some shelters have a “permanent foster” program. You give the cat a home, but the shelter retains ownership and provides all the medical care at no cost. If you are willing to put the time and effort into these cats, it can be a very rewarding and cheap solution.
These are few things to consider before adopting a feline friend. You can find out more with just a little research. The more you know before heading out to the shelter or breeder, the more likely you will be able to commit to an adopted cat for its life time and be happy with your new feline friend.