Adopting the Right Cat for You
Sharing your life with an animal can be a wonderful, rewarding experience, but having a pet is not for everyone. Before bringing a cat home, consider whether or not you’re ready for the commitment of caring for an animal. Ask yourself the following questions: Are you willing to commit to caring for a cat for the entirety of her lifetime, which could be as long as twenty years? If you move, marry or have a child, will you keep your cat? Do you have time to spend with a cat? Are you financially prepared to care for a cat? The average annual cost for general cat care is approximately $1,000 and could be more should your cat require emergency veterinary care, preventive dental care or treatment for chronic issues. Remember that all cats require a commitment of time, money, and energy. If you’re unable to take on the responsibilities of caring for and supporting a cat, you should probably reconsider adopting.
If you do decide you are ready to bring an animal into your life and family, it is important that you choose your companion carefully. Please consider adopting a homeless cat or kitten from your local humane society or animal shelter. With millions of healthy, adoptable animals euthanized in shelters each year, purchasing an animal from a breeder or store is unnecessary. Contrary to what some may believe, shelter cats are likely to be just as healthy, or healthier, than purebred or store bought cats. Also, by adopting a shelter cat, you will be helping to cut down animal overpopulation, and you will be giving a second chance to a cat in need.
Cat or kitten?
Many people arrive at shelters wanting to adopt a cute, playful kitten, and though kittens can make great companions, they often require more time and patience than older cats. It is important that you consider your lifestyle before adopting a kitten. If you’re going to be a one-pet family, reconsider adopting a kitten. Kittens need constant stimulation, and a single, bored kitten will often entertain herself by scratching furniture, digging in or eating plants, or climbing curtains. This behavior is not only destructive but can be dangerous as well. Rather than inflicting twice the damage, two kittens usually take their energy out on each other, thus saving your belongings. You also should reconsider adopting a kitten if you have young children. Young animals and children are usually a dangerous combination. Neither children nor kittens know how to behave appropriately with one another— kittens don’t yet know not to climb up legs or bite fingers, and children don’t yet know their own strength when they’re playing with pets. Older, calmer cats are generally a better match for children. If your schedule already is packed and you have little time to spend at home with a pet, you should not adopt a kitten. If you do not have several hours a day to devote to a kitten, your friendly, affectionate kitten may grow up to become a shy, distant cat who recognizes you only as a food source. Consider adopting an older cat if a kitten does not fit your lifestyle.
Is a special-needs cat right for you?
Shelters throughout the country are filled with loving, wonderful cats who just need a little extra care. If you have the time and money to devote to one of these special-needs cats, consider adopting a cat who is older, feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) positive, or suffering from a nonlife threatening condition, such as deafness, blindness, etc. Special-needs cats are often known to develop incredibly strong bonds with their adoptive families.
Preparing to adopt
Before visiting your local shelter, be sure to call or visit its website to familiarize yourself with the adoption procedures. Some shelters may require proof of address, references or a copy of your rental lease to prove that pets are allowed in the building. Also, keep in mind that all members of the household should be included in the adoption process—adopting a pet is a life-long commitment and these important decisions need to be mutually agreed upon. Now you’re ready to adopt. Congratulations on bringing home a new family member!
Bringing home a new cat
Here are a few things you should know to ensure the experience goes as smoothly as possible. First, prepare your house for the new arrival. Remove toxic plants (for a complete list of poisonous plants, visit treehouseanimals.org); put away small objects which may be ingested by your new cat (yarn, paper clips, rubber bands, etc.); put away any breakables, so there’s no chance that your new cat might knock them off shelves or tables; and close all cabinets and closets where your cat might hide.
Next, set up a single room as a home base for your cat. Cats are territorial animals, and for a new cat, too large a territory can be overwhelming. By keeping your new cat in a small area you will be providing a less stressful introduction to your home. For most cats a bathroom or a bedroom is an ideal location to get accustomed to the home.
Remind everyone to make the initial homecoming peaceful and quiet, without excited squeals and hugs. The secret to success is to allow your new friend to come to you. It is important not to force affection upon your new cat; soft talk and treats can be more reassuring in the early stages than petting. When your new cat seems comfortable with you being in the room, hold out your hand, palm down in a relaxed manner, and let her smell you. If your cat backs away, you have gotten too close. If your cat approaches, hold your position and continue to speak softly. At this point, begin petting your new cat by softly stroking the top of your cat’s head and cheeks, and slowly work down the cat’s body, if she allows it.
Once your cat is thoroughly at ease with you, begin to allow her to explore the rest of the house. The first few times your cat is allowed to roam, supervise the exploration. This will prevent her from finding a hiding place. When your new cat has explored her new environment and seems comfortable, position food, water and the litter box(es) in their permanent places. Be sure to show the cat where you have moved them.
Be patient. Remember that each step must be taken at your cat’s pace.
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