What Should I Know About Adopting a Cat?

A Kaminsky

Is your home a little empty? Are you looking for some excitement? Entertainment? Have you ever thought about adopting a cat? Felines are generally quiet animals, but provide a great deal of laughter and love in their homes.

Cats generally provide a great deal of laughter in their homes.
Cats generally provide a great deal of laughter in their homes.

Adopting a cat is one of the best ways to bring one into the home. Some pet stores have local shelter cats in their businesses that are available for adoption, and this is always a good place to look. Adopting a cat from a shelter saves the animal from an uncertain, possibly unpleasant future, and at the same time, brings in a creature who will become a member of the family.

A newly adopted cat might take to playing with a ball on its own.
A newly adopted cat might take to playing with a ball on its own.

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Adopting a cat is usually a process. The prospective family will generally be able to see and interact with the cats available. Some shelters require an interview with the family, and even references to make certain that the animal is going to a good, loving home. Most families will have to fill out paperwork when adopting a cat, and this may include an adoption fee to help cover the cost of spaying or neutering. Many shelters provide veterinary care and may have a list of the cat’s immunizations and any recent illnesses. All shelters should be able to provide proof the cat has tested negative for feline leukovirus, an immune disorder similar to AIDS.

An adopting family should look for cats that are friendly and sociable.
An adopting family should look for cats that are friendly and sociable.

The family should also look at every cat for signs of ill health. The cat should have clear, clean, bright eyes, no nasal discharge, no feces or vomit in the fur, no sounds of coughing or wheezing, and clean, uninjured paws. The nose should be cool and moist and the cat should take some interest in his surroundings. Allowances should be made for the stress of shelter living, but these are basic signs to look for when adopting a cat. The family may also want to take the chosen pet to a local veterinarian for a complete check-up, since many cats come from shelters with fleas or worms. These problems are easily remedied, however.

Cats have extra cats that some pets don't, such as a little box.
Cats have extra cats that some pets don't, such as a little box.

The adopting family will also want to look for cats that seem friendly and sociable and do not mind being touched or held. These cats will generally make the best pets and will adapt more quickly to their new home. The family should also have the home ready for the new pet. Filled food and water bowls should be placed where the cat can find them easily. A litterbox should also be set up and ready to go.

Cat owners must provide their pets with comfy places to sleep.
Cat owners must provide their pets with comfy places to sleep.

When adopting a cat, the new family shouldn’t overwhelm the animal. He will be stressed from the trip in the carrier and may be very upset. The best way to proceed is to just open the door of the carrier and allow the cat to come out and look around at his own pace. The home should be quiet when the cat arrives, with no loud music or television noise to frighten him. The family should make an effort to speak quietly and soothingly also. Having food, water and a litterbox available from the start will help the cat realize he is home and safe.

The cat may be somewhat subdued for a couple of days, as she figures out her place and gets to know her new family. Her true personality will start to come through in a day or two, however. Family members should not be too upset if the cat doesn’t seem very affectionate at first, or if she hides or runs from her people. Chances are, she’s been through a lot and needs some space and time to adjust. Some cats will hardly let their people out of their sight at first, as though afraid of being abandoned again. Lots of love and lap time will help the cat over this anxiety.

The family should also purchase a few cat toys like balls or catnip mice that the cat can play with by himself at first. A couple of days after adopting a cat, the family can introduce interactive teaser-type toys. This will help the cat bond with the new family, after some initial trust has been established. The most important part of adopting a cat is to provide love and patience. Cats will give their families devotion and laughter when they receive it themselves. Adopting a cat is a process that will reap many wonderful rewards.

Cats should be given a complete check-up by a vet when being adopted.
Cats should be given a complete check-up by a vet when being adopted.

Discussion Comments

Cageybird

Our local animal shelter has volunteers who spend all day with rescued cats and make notes about their personalities. If someone goes there to adopt a cat, the volunteer will usually provide a short summary of those interactions.

Phaedrus

I took in a neighborhood stray that came to our door every night for food. He didn't act like a feral cat, because he would come right up to me after his meal and roll over on his back. He'd let me pet him on the head or stomach, but nowhere else. We weren't supposed to have more than one cat in our rental house, but I thought I could feed him for a few weeks and then put him up for adoption. He had a few medical issues, like fleas and an eye infection. We ended up keeping him for ourselves, with the landlord's permission.

One thing I'd say about adopting a cat is that his or her personality can change over time. A rescue cat may bite and scratch and howl for a few weeks, but eventually he or she will learn to trust humans again. Sometimes it helps to just sit in a room with the adopted cat and let him or her decide when it's time to play. Sometimes owners get overly excited and want to pet and tease an adopted cat all the time. Rescue cats sometimes get overstimulated by all the attention and start lashing out as a defense mechanism. Give a new cat plenty of time to adjust to his or her new environment.

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