So you’ve decided to become a cat parent. Congratulations! You’ve made the purrfect choice - cats are intelligent, sweet, hilarious, and endlessly rewarding life companions. We strongly encourage you to adopt a cat from a shelter or rescue, since there are so many friendly felines out there that need fur-ever homes! Here are some things to keep in mind before you zip off to the shelter to find your new best friend.
- Set up your household: do some basic cat-proofing; make sure you’ve got basic supplies like a litterbox, toys, scratching posts, and food; check that the environment is free of stressors like bright lights and loud noises; and throw out any chemicals or trash lying around. It’s also a good idea to purchase a sturdy carrying crate ahead of time in case you need to transport your cat on short notice.
- Review your budget: there are websites that will help indicate how much you can expect to spend on a cat each month, including things like food, litter, toys, and bills for both routine and emergency vet visits. Double-check to make sure that this fits into your budget over the rest of your cat’s expected life span (which can be up to 20 years).
- Research a shelter: find out what shelters near you have cats up for adoption. If there isn’t one nearby, or simply if you’d like to broaden your search, try websites like Petfinder or Craigslist.
- Find a vet: research and contact a local vet ahead of time, and check that he or she will be able to accommodate your new cat. Be sure to find a nearby 24/7 clinic that is open for emergencies.
- Think about what time of year you want to adopt: summer is kitten season, the time of year in which most kittens are born. This means that generally, there will be fewer adoptable cats in the wintertime, but that could also imply the shelter will be less crowded with prospective adopters.
At the shelter
- Ideally, everyone in your household should come along to spend some time with the cat you’re considering to ensure that it gets along with you and you all get along with it.
- Be mindful to look for a cat with the temperament you want (shelter staff can help!). Do you want a cat who’s chatty? Playful? Cuddly? Shy? Crawls right into your lap or just wants to check out the toys? Frisky cats may be cute, but would not fill well into a household where most people are out all day or prefer a quiet home environment. Conversely, shy cats make wonderful snuggle buddies, but will probably have a hard time in an active or raucous household.
- Remember that shelters are a stressful environment for cats, so they will act differently than when settled at home. Don’t write off a cat if it doesn’t immediately approach you!
- If you have young children or other pets at home, consider a cat that’s more mellow: a cat that’s frisky or playfully bites may pose a danger to young kids, and vice versa.
- Consider adopting an adult cat. Kittens are certainly cute and deserve loving homes, but older cats generally have a harder time getting adopted. But adult cats have many benefits: you already know what their personality will be like before you take them home (though you can socialize a kitten, their innate personality may not show itself until they’re an adult!), and they are more mellow and need less attention from you, which is preferable if you spend a lot of time away from home.
- If you do get a kitten, consider adopting two. That way, they can play with each other when you’re gone and won’t take all that excess kitten energy out on you when you’re just trying to sleep at night!
Introducing a cat to the household
- Start slow: put your new cat in only one room of the house or apartment, with a litter box and some food and water, so that it can gradually get used to its new environment. Over the next few days, allow your cat to access more of the residence.
- Have extra patience if you’ve got existing cats or other pets at home: it’s recommended to do these introductions gradually and in a controlled environment. Unfortunately, it’s possible your pets may not ever be BFFs, but “tolerance” is a worthy enough goal! It may take weeks, if not a few months, for the dust to settle.
- Be patient and encouraging: talk in a low sweet voice and give lots of treats. Kitty may spend some time hiding under furniture - moving can be scary, and it’s natural to want to take cover! Don’t coerce your cat to do anything it doesn’t want to. You may want to play with your new bud all the time, but forcing it out of hiding against its will is counterproductive. Let it come to you, and you’ll have won its trust in no time.
It’s going to take some time to integrate your cat into the household - that’s normal! Once the new kitty’s all settled in, you’ll be the proud parent of a rescue cat. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the strange, crazy, oh-so-rewarding ride!