Americans will heed the national call to visit their local shelter or rescue center during Adopt-A-Cat Month this June, and leading national dog and cat organizations encourage families and individuals interested in adopting a cat to take home not just one cat, but two.
In a press release, American Humane Association, American Veterinary Medical Association, CATalyst Council and Petfinder offered this advice to prospective cat owners. The four organizations created a Top Ten Checklist to help navigate cat adoption.
1. Consider adopting two cats. Cats require exercise, mental stimulation, and social interaction. Two cats can provide this for each other. Plus they’ll provide more benefits to you. Cats’ purring has been shown to soothe humans as well as themselves – and they have an uncanny ability to just make you smile. A great place to start your search is online. Sites like Petfinder.com or AdoptAPet.com let you search numerous shelters in your area simultaneously to help narrow your search and more quickly find the match that’s right for you and your new kittens or new cats.
2. Find a cat whose personality meshes with yours. Just as we each have our own personality, so do cats. In general, cats with long hair and round heads and bodies are more easygoing than lean cats with narrow heads and short hair, who are typically more active. Adoption counselors can offer advice to help you match the individual cat’s personality with your own.
“Shelters and rescue groups have all kinds of cats – from playful kittens to mellow seniors – making them great places to find your perfect match,” says Betsy Saul, founder of Petfinder.com. “And as a bonus, by adopting, you’re saving a life.”
3. Pick out a cat veterinarian ahead of time and schedule a visit within the first few days following the adoption. You’ll want to take any medical records you received from the adoption center on your first visit to your cat’s veterinarian. Due to their immaturity, kittens in particular should accompany you to make the appointment – even before the exam itself – so staff can pet the cat and tell you that you’ve chosen the most beautiful cat ever and the cat will have a positive association with the vet’s office.
“Regular veterinary care is critically important to the health and well-being of your cat,” says Dr. Larry Kornegay, president of the AVMA. “Getting your new cat to a veterinarian early will help make sure there are no underlying illnesses or injuries, and your veterinarian can work with you to develop a plan to help your new pet live the happiest, healthiest, longest life possible.”
4. Prepare everyone in the house before your new cat comes home. Visiting the shelter or animal control facility should be a family affair. When adopting a new cat with existing pets at home, discuss with the adoption facility how to make a proper introduction.
5. Budget for the short-and long-term costs of a cat. Understand any pet is a responsibility and there’s a cost associated with that. A cat adopted from a shelter is a bargain; many facilities will have already provided spaying or neutering, initial vaccines and a microchip for permanent identification. Plus, cat shelters and cat rescue groups are there to offer guidance and assistance as you acclimate your new family member.
6. Stock up on supplies before the cat arrives. Be prepared so your new cat or new kitten can start feeling at home right away. Your cat will need a litter box, cat litter, food and water bowls, food, scratching posts, safe and stimulating toys, a cushy bed, a brush for grooming, a toothbrush and nail clippers.
7. Cat-proof your home. A new cat will quickly teach you not to leave things lying out. Food left on the kitchen counter will serve to teach your new friend to jump on counters for a possible lunch. Get rid of loose items your cat might chew on, watch to ensure the kitten isn’t chewing on electric cords, and pick up random items like paper clips (which kittens may swallow).
8. Go slowly when introducing your cat to new friends and family. It can take several weeks for a cat to relax in a new environment. Keep the new addition secluded in a single room (with a litterbox, food and water, toys and the cat carrier left out and open with bedding inside) until the cat is used to the new surroundings; this is particularly important if you have other pets. If you’ve adopted a kitten, socialization is very important. But remember – take it slow.
“Cats are social animals and like to live in groups, so adding a new feline friend to the household can increase enjoyment for everyone,” said Dr. Jane Brunt, CATalyst Council executive director. “Making introductions gradually is important, as scientific studies show that some cats can become upset with even a minor change in their environment. So for fast friends, go slow.”
9. Include your new cat in your family’s emergency plan. You probably have a plan in place for getting your family to safety in case of an emergency. Adjust this plan to include your cats. Add phone numbers for your veterinarian and closest 24-hour animal hospital to your “in-case-of-emergency” call list, and be sure to have a several-day supply of your cat’s food and medications on hand.
“Making sure your pets will be safe in an emergency situation is a critical part of ensuring the wellbeing of your entire family,” said Dr. Robin Ganzert, president and CEO of American Humane Association. “By having an emergency plan for the animals in your house, you could literally be saving lives – your pets, your own, and those involved in rescue efforts – and will make it easier to return to a normal life after the emergency is over.”
10. If you’re considering giving a cat as a gift, make the recipient an active participant in the adoption process. Although well-meaning, the surprise cat gift doesn’t allow for a “get-to know-one-another” period. Remember, adopting a cat isn’t like purchasing a household appliance or a piece of jewelry – this is a real living, breathing and emotional being.