Are you looking for the right shelter cat? Are you planning about adopting a shelter cat? That’s great! When you bring home a shelter cat, you’re not only changing the life of that animal for the better—you’re also freeing up space for the shelter to rescue even more pets in need.
Though noble and rewarding, adopting a shelter cat will only be successful if you choose the right cat. You can’t walk into the shelter, bring home the first cat you see, and expect to live happily ever after with your new family member.
Finding the perfect shelter cat isn’t always easy, so we’ve put together some tips to facilitate the process.
1. Decide Whether You Want a Kitten or a Cat
One of the most important decisions you will make when bringing home a new cat is whether you want a kitten or an adult cat.
Bringing home a kitten will require putting in more work during the first year, as they require more supervision and are much more energetic. You will also need to “kitten proof” your house to protect the cat and your belongings. But if you are an active person looking for a pet that’s always up for playtime, a kitten might be a perfect choice!
Older cats, by contrast, tend to be more calm and low maintenance. Another advantage of adopting an older cat is that, in most cases, you’ll know exactly what you’re getting. With kittens, their personalities are still developing as they mature into adulthood. But with adult cats, their personality traits are firmly set. The shelter staff will be able to tell you all about their temperament, habits, and typical behaviors.
2. Consider Your Lifestyle
Another tip for picking the perfect shelter cat is to think about your day-to-day habits. Are you home during the day or will the cat be on their own? How often do you travel overnight? Is your home a bustling place or a calm, quiet environment?
You want your cat to feel comfortable in its new home, so matching the cat’s personality to your lifestyle and home environment is a great way to ensure successful adoption. If you lead a slower lifestyle, an older and more mellow cat may be best for you. If your life is more fast-paced and active, an energetic kitten might be the perfect companion.
3. Consider Who Else Lives in Your Home
It’s important for you to form a positive relationship with the cat you bring home. But what about all the other people and animals in your house?
Think about who lives in your house and how your new cat might interact with them—including other pets. In many cases, the shelter staff will be able to tell you who that cat has lived with previously. Knowing this will give you an indication of how they will get along with children, dogs, or other cats.
Some shelter cats might do best in homes without small children, while others may prefer the company of other cats or even a dog. Considering the people and animals your new cat will come into contact with on a daily basis can help you make the best decision when picking out your newest family member.
4. Talk Extensively with the Shelter Staff
The shelter staff members know those cats better than anyone, so they’re your most valuable resource during the adoption process! Be open and honest with them about what you’re looking for in a cat. Tell them about your home life, your lifestyle, who else you live with, and what kind of cat you’re hoping to adopt.
Ask plenty of questions about the habits and history of each cat you’re considering. Find out all you can about their likes and dislikes: what food they eat, which treats are their favorite, what kind of toys they enjoy playing with, etc.
The shelter staff wants what’s best for each of those animals, so they will do everything they can to help you find your perfect rescue cat.
5. Conduct a Trial Run Before Making It Official
It’s important to not rush the adoption process. After all, this cat will become a member of your family and will be part of your life for years to come. So don’t hurry things along!
Be prepared to spend lots of time at the animal shelter, maybe even making multiple visits. Take your time getting to know each of the cats that are up for adoption. When you find a cat that you feel a connection with, spend some one-on-one time together. Many shelters have a visiting room where you can interact with the cat away from other people and animals.
You might also ask the shelter staff about taking the cat home for a night or two, as sort of a “trial run” before finalizing the process.
6. Prepare Your Home for Your New Cat
The journey to adopting a cat doesn’t start the moment you set foot in the shelter—it should actually begin long before that. That’s because there are some things you need to do at home before introducing a cat into the mix.
Prepare your home by buying everything your cat will need—food, treats, toys, and a litter box, for starters. If you are considering adopting a young kitten, you’ll also need to conduct some “kitty proofing” to keep them from getting into things that may be harmful.
If possible, give your cat their own room where they can go if they are feeling overwhelmed. A “safe room” is especially important if there are other people and animals in the home that they haven’t been introduced to yet.
You will also need to find a veterinarian right away—preferably before bringing home your new pet. Keeping them up-to-date on vaccines and starting flea and tick protection for cats should be a top priority.
7. Be Patient with the Transition Process
The final and most important piece of advice for adopting a cat is to exercise patience. Many shelter cats have experienced trauma in their past, and will probably not warm up to their new home right away. Don’t be disappointed or discouraged if they don’t make themselves at home right away.
As long as you are patient with the transition process, you will be rewarded a million times over.
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