By Steve Dale, CABC in Partnership with Fear Free and BISSELL®.
June is both the ASPCA’s Adopt a Shelter Cat Month and the American Humane Association’s Adopt a Cat Month. That makes it a very special month for cats. At BISSELL and Fear Free, we have a soft spot for shelter kitties, and we want to help them find homes.
Here are 12 tips for finding just the right one to join your family and how to ensure a happy homecoming.
- Personality plus. Individual cats have distinct personalities. Think about the kind of cat you think might be the best match for your family: active, talkative, fun-loving, or more of a couch potato? The perfect cat is out there for you.
- During a shelter visit, you’re getting only a quick glimpse into a cat’s personality. For example, that cat you’re calling “lazy” might have just played with two consecutive visitors and is now taking a well-deserved catnap. Ask an adoption counselor who sees all the cats daily to assess what they’re really like.
- How old should your new cat be? Kittens are loads of fun and are best in pairs, but they can also run you ragged until they settle into comfortable adulthood. Those cats who are 2 years old and up have a long life ahead of them and you know exactly what you’re getting in terms of personality. Senior cats? They are great, too. We love them for their wise and mellow natures. Also, if you happen to be a senior citizen yourself, maybe a senior cat is best.
- Deal of the century! Shelter cats are already spayed or neutered and treated for parasites, and often they have received additional medical care or have been microchipped.
- Budget basics. Over the life of your cat, there will be costs involved for food and veterinary care, not to mention toys, litter, and pet sitting or boarding when you’re gone. Any pet is a financial commitment and responsibility, so save your pennies. Pet health insurance is not a bad idea, either.
- Stock up. Your new arrival will need a litter box (or two), cat litter, food and water bowls, food, scratching posts, safe and stimulating toys, a cushy bed, a brush for grooming, a toothbrush and pet toothpaste, and nail clippers. Go shopping before you bring him or her home.
- Catproof. Ensure that your home is safe. That means, among other things, no lilies or other dangerous plants and no dangling yarn for a cat to swallow. Even an adult cat can get into trouble.
- Get the vet! Find a veterinarian for a post-adoption exam, and schedule blood work so your veterinarian will have a basis for comparison in the future. Seek out a Fear Free practice or Fear Free veterinarian to assist in making those veterinary visits pleasant to prevent the cat from having an adverse reaction. Learn more here.
- Double the fun. Cats love play, using their brains and social interaction. When there are two of them, they can entertain each other as well as you. Even better, it’s been found that purring is good for human health; when cats purr, people smile. With two kittens or cats, you get to smile twice as much! Make sure the two cats you’re adopting get along well; littermates are always the best idea. If you currently have a single cat, adopting two can keep them focused on one another rather than your existing cat. (Of course, it’s possible – albeit unlikely – that the two will gang up on your existing cat).
- Getting to know you. It’s always a good idea to take introduction slowly when bringing new cats into a home with an existing cat or more than one cat. Seclude newcomer(s) in a sanctuary room such as a second bedroom or den. Let them get to know each other by smell beneath the door for a few days or a week before gradually letting them see each other and make first contact. The more time you take to introduce the cats, the better.
- If the newcomer is hiding and scared, never force your touch. Instead, use enticing treats and develop trust, allowing the cat to come to you when he or she is ready.
- A calming product, such as a synthetic feline pheromone, is a great stress-buster for all cats in the home. It mimics natural “mama cat” chemical messages that help cats feel comfortable in their environment. Use it in the new cat’s sanctuary room as well as in the areas of the home where your other cat(s) live. With your guidance and a little help from chemistry, your new cat will feel at home in no time.
About Steve: Steve Dale, certified animal behavior consultant (CABC), has reached more pet owners over the past few decades than any other pet journalist in America. He is the host of two nationally syndicated radio shows, “Steve Dale’s Pet World” and “The Pet Minute”. Steve is a speaker for American Association of Feline Practitioners Cat Friendly Practices and the Fear Free Initiative. He’s on the Fear Free Advisory Council and is the Chief Correspondent Fear Free Happy Homes, he is also certified in Fear Free.