For many people, becoming a cat-parent is a life-changing decision that should be considered wisely, as your feline friend will require a time and money investment. The average lifespan of our feline friends is 14 years, although some cat breeds live longer, so being a cat parent is a long commitment.
If you have decided to bring a cat or kitten into your life, welcome to the pack of pet owners! Before the adoption you will need to take some steps to prepare yourself and a new environment for your new 4-legged friend. In this article, you will find tips on adopting a cat for the first time or from a shelter.
Adopting a cat – tips
One of the most important steps is to find the right vet for your kitty, in particular if you are considering adopting a senior cat or pet with health issues. Cats do not like visiting vets, so find your own ways to make the visit as stress free as possible.
You will also need to visit a pet shop to prepare all of the essentials for your kitty such as a litter box, food and water bowls (or water fountain as cats are not heavy drinkers), a cat bed or tree, safe and stimulating toys, a cat carrier, and other suppliers. If you are a lucky owner of existing pets, you will need to provide resources for your new kitty plus one extra. If you have never had a pet, visiting a pet shop will help you better plan your expenses once you bring a cat home.
If you will be a first-time cat owner, this list of books will help you better understand cat’s personality, their behaviour, how to train pets and arrange a pet-proof environment. Also prepare yourself for unexpected expenses (e.g. cat-related home repairs) or some behavioural issues in case of multi-cat or multi-pet households. You can also talk to a cat owner that you know about cat’s personality and habits to be sure this pet will be right for you and will suit your lifestyle.
Pet parents will also need to take care of the healthy eating and drinking habits of their new friends that will have a huge impact on the pet’s health. High-quality cat food, a balanced diet and wise usage of treats should not be overlooked. You might also seek your vet’s advice as they could help you choose the right products before you adopt a cat.
One of the less attractive responsibilities you will have is litter box training, which is a crucial step for both sides. If you brought a kitten home, you will need to be patient and understand that learning might take time, and your pet has just started to understand what you expect from them.
Forming relationships and proper socialising is a key part for cats and their owners. You will need to find 15-20 minutes each day to play with your kitty for their mental and physical stimulation, remembering about toy rotation.
If you are particularly concerned about your apartment or house, this is another reason to re-consider cat adoption. Before bringing a cat home, you will need to make it kitten-proof, which means removing toxic plants (there are plenty of them – here is the complete list), small elements that might be dangerous for animals, small toys, strings, electric cords, etc. Kittens are very curious so pet parents need to double check whether the new home will be safe for a new fluffy friend. In case you are a dog parent, check out the Door Buddy solution that will keep your dog away from the kitty litter box.
Pet owners should also be aware that having a cat will also impact their holidays and how they spend them. Although you can find a cat sitter (more information here and here) you will need to take extra steps to prepare a safe place for your kitty during certain periods e.g. Christmas holidays that are very stressful for felines because of new smells, loud sounds or new family members or friends who will be visiting you during this time.
If you have not changed your mind, understand your responsibilities and can’t wait to visit the shelter, keep on reading.
Adopting a cat from an animal shelter
Before visiting a shelter, spend some time and make yourself familiar with your preferred breed, considering your status and lifestyle. Some cats are very active and loud, e.g. Siamese breed, while others are very friendly e.g. Australian Mists.
Once you understand your commitment and long-term costs, the next step is find and visit a shelter. Some shelters are supported by local authorities, while others operate independently. In shelters cats are staying due to various reasons, some pet owners cannot provide cat care anymore, while others have moved and could not take their feline friends with them (we recommend reading The Travelling Cat Chronicle about Saturo who while being ill visited friends and family members to find a good place for his cat Nana). Some people came to the conclusion they made a mistake in bringing cat to their home, and some cats simply became homeless. Unfortunately, the list of reasons why cats find themselves in the shelter is endless.
As the story of each kitty is very individual, some shelters will provide future cat parents with complete information about the pet, their medical history, vaccination records, personality and behaviour. Other centres will provide only basic information and an evaluation that in case of senior cats, which won’t give you a complete understanding of the situation.
You might additionally ask dedicated staff about their experience with the pet and observations, recommendations or evaluation of the kitty you would like to adopt. If you can, ask for a written copy of their health record, or you can bring it with yourself and ask the shelter to complete the information. Pet parents can create and print health records by themselves, find free info sheets on the Internet, or purchase one from our Etsy shop (30% of our sale goes to local shelters that we support).
Talking to the shelter staff, try to find out as much as possible about kitty’s health, what vaccination they had, about known health issues, whether a cat has been tested for infectious disease. Many cats have an unknown background and can live comfortably with some health issues, but you need to know whether your new friend will require extra care or medication.
When visiting a shelter, you might be overwhelmed by seeing so many pets you will like. Before your visit prepare the list of desired breeds, sex, age, personality, behaviour, or any limitations you would like to share with shelter staff or adoption counselors. Keep in mind that some animals might experience trauma or difficult moments and their behaviour might differ from animals who are taken care of in a home environment.
If you have a family, children or grandchildren, it’s recommended that all members visit the animal before the adoption and meet the kitty in a quiet place under staff supervision.
Many shelters will want you to wait 24 hours before you can finally bring a cat home, in case you will want to additionally discuss your decision or change your mind afterwards.
Some shelters will require to pay an adoption fee and sign a contract including provisions such as your obligation to take care of the pet, provide spaying or neutering, allow post adoption visits or return an animal back to the shelter in case cat owners do not care properly, and so on.
In some countries shelters provide post adoption counseling for pet parents or trial periods.
You might ask why you should adopt a cat if you can buy a kitten? Of course, the way a feline friend joins your family is an individual decision.
Adopting a kitty can have many benefits such as:
- many cat owners feel happiness knowing they saved pet’s life or made it better by providing a loving home
- some people prefer having adult pets who are trained and do not damage furniture or walls
- we already mentioned cat-related expenses, but adoption will cost you less than buying a kitty in pet shops or through breeders particularly when you do not have any further plans and would like to have a 4-legged companion for yourself
- when you visit a shelter and talk with staff, you will bring home a pet with a personality you know and like
Adopting a kitty – what future parents should remember
Related costs and your obligations have been discussed earlier, however, there are a few additional things you will need to consider. Being in shelters, cats do not have their own spaces, in many cases, they miss relations with people or playing time. All these and other experiences might cause stress in animals, and felines will need more time to accept you and their new home, stop hiding and start being curious about their new place.
You might discuss with a vet or shelter about having a crate for your kitty to help them feel safe in the beginning. Also find out what food the kitty is used to while living in the shelter, try to keep it during the first days and then change their diet gradually to let the cat adjust to new food.
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Shelters usually take care of pets by grooming and bathing them. Learn more what your kitty likes, and spend some time grooming the pet and making them comfortable and happy.
Do not hurry with your kitty’s training, who find themselves in a new environment. If the kitty is stressed, buy Feliway to calm the animal. Feliway is recommended by vets, and can also be used while transporting the pet from the shelter or to the vet.
When your new feline friend will like you and their new home, you might consider volunteering in a local shelter helping other pets find their homes where they will be happy.
Adopting a cat — FAQ
Most cats will be hiding and observing the new environment. You might also expect that your cat will be sleeping a lot, hissing, or refuse to eat. Behaving like that, the cat will try to protect themselves unless they will be sure the new home is comfortable and safe.
To help your kitty feel safe, pet owners can show them their litter box a few times, prepare some hiding places, and ask the shelter to let them take a cat’s favourite toys or a blanket to their new home.
If you want to contribute to a local center, there are a lot of things you can do, e.g. you can take dogs for walks or transport animals to a shelter. Shelters need people who can take care of animals or offer other services. You can make donations, organise online or offline events to collect things shelters need, etc.
Some people share their profit to support shelters, you can find many of them on sites such as Etsy. We also like creating helpful stuff for pet owners, and are very happy to share our profits with local shelters.
Teresa Berg, who is a professional photographer, decided to take better photos of pets to help them faster find their new homes. You can read her story in this article.
PetLifeToday asked professionals to share their insights on the most important questions before pet adoption. Here is the link where you can read their article.