By Mark Asher
Bringing a new cat or kitten into your home can add a lot of love and laughter to your life. In addition, by adopting a cat you’ll be saving a pet from possibly being euthanized. There are important caveats to consider, however, before you take the leap. Being a responsible cat owner requires time for grooming, affection, litter box maintenance, and play. You will also need the financial resources to provide food, supplies (litter, bedding, toys, scratching post), and veterinary care. It’s important to honestly assess your long-term commitment to these aspects of pet ownership so you won’t make a poor decision that negatively affects both you and the cat you adopt. In this post, we’ll offer tips and important information that will help lead you to the purrfect companion.
Prepare Your Environment for Your New Adoption
Most cats do better in a household with at least one other cat. In the wild, cats live in colonies and are highly social creatures. As a result, they require a great deal of contact with humans and other animals within the home in order to be happy. For this reason, most owners find adopting two cats or kittens at the same time creates an environment where their pets bond more easily and interact with others in the household in a healthier way.
If you have a full-time job and a household where no one is home during the day, it may be a good idea to pass up kittens and adolescents (less than 18 months old) in favor of a more low-key adult whose energy needs will be easier to meet. Cute kittens typically find homes easily and older cats are the animals most in need of forever homes.
Adopting a Kitten Versus a Cat
It’s important to consider your lifestyle, needs and expectations when choosing the ideal feline candidate. If you are thinking of adopting a kitten or young cat, you need to have the time and patience to work with the cat through its adolescence. You will need to take playing, training and energy level into account. Many people are unaware or forget how mischievous and rambunctious a kitten can be. They can be a lot of fun, but they definitely require more attention and work!
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Even if you are working from home with a new kitten, factor in plenty of time for socialization and supervision to ensure that the end result will be a well-adjusted adult cat. Kittens can also be quite destructive, and it will be important to kitten-proof your home and be prepared beforehand for your new arrival. If you have very young children, you might consider older kittens, rather than a six to eight week old.
Choosing instead to adopt a mature cat allows you to know your new pet’s size, demeanor, personality, and haircoat length. Adult cats can sleep up to twenty hours a day, and they are likely to be fine with less of your time and attention. A caveat to getting an adult cat is it might be less adaptable than a kitten if you already have dogs or other cats. There is also the possibility that an adult cat in a shelter has medical or behavior issues. Shorthaired cats require much less grooming than most longhairs, but longhairs actually shed less than shorthaired cats.
Assessing the Cats for Adoption
Make a plan to visit multiple places with available cats and kittens, including a shelter, a humane society, or rescue groups. Before you visit each one, visit their website to make note of candidates that fit what you’re looking for. Once you arrive and begin taking a few cats out of their cages for a play or cuddle test drive, be sure to ask a lot of questions about each pet’s health and needs.
Unless you are willing to commit significant time and the proper training, you probably want to avoid a cat or kitten cowering in the back of the cage or corner of the room. If a kitten or cat hasn’t been well socialized and you haven’t had training to work with this, you may find that a trusting relationship with your new kitty can be hard to build. You should also pay attention to any evidence of physical illness, such as discharge from the eyes or nose, sneezing or coughing, patches of missing fur, poor physical condition, or the third eyelids showing (white membranes in inner corners of the eyes). These felines can still make great pets, you just need to be aware and prepared that there may be immediate veterinary costs. Ask about medical records and if the animal’s previous owner left any pertinent information.
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You are taking a chance when you adopt a kitten or cat from a shelter, but it feels amazing when you change a kitty’s life for the better by giving him or her a “forever” home. Most shelter cats will become excellent, loving companions, if you will give them the time they need to adapt to their new home.
Soon after you’ve successfully adopted a cat, make an appointment with a veterinarian. This is especially important if you already have pets at home. If you have to delay that first veterinary visit, make sure you keep your new kitty separate from your other pets until he or she can be checked for parasites and infectious diseases.
If you find after reading this that adopting a cat might be more then you are ready to take on at this point, there are alternatives. Fostering a cat or kitten in need until they can find a forever home is a great way to familiarize yourself with the responsibilities of becoming a pet parent. Fostering still requires a commitment, but can be a great first step.
Pet insurance is a cost-effective purchase that usually covers much of the expense of typical veterinary procedures and emergency care. Having health insurance for your cat is one of the most practical ways to ensure the health and happiness of your new addition for a long time to come.
By Mark Asher