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Choosing the Right Rescue Cat

To the Rescue: Choosing the Right Shelter Cat

Getting a new pet is an exciting time, but choosing the right kitty can be overwhelming. It's hard not to get caught up in the "awwwwww" factor before considering the reality a new cat will bring to the family. When one of our beloved cats passed away last year, we weren't sure if a new kitty was a good idea. But when our other cat became overwhelmingly depressed, it was decided that adopting a shelter cat was the right decision. Before adopting, set a timeline for selecting your new pet, because bringing home kitty should never be an impulse decision. With June being National Adopt a Shelter Cat Month, here are a few tips for making educated choices:

  • Check your shelters: If your town has several adoption centers, take the time to check them all out. Talk with staff, ask about adoption fees, and find out how pets are treated while at the shelter. It's also a good idea to discuss what happens if the kitty you select isn't the right fit. Most will happily take your adopted cat back within an allotted amount of time if things don't work out at home.
  • Adult cat or kitten? While kittens are adorable, adult cats are often calmer and already trained. Check with the staff to see if the kitty is litter trained and spayed or neutered. If you're choosing an adult, it helps to ask about the cat's background, as well, especially if you've already got a pet at home.
  • Check her stats: It's not just about beauty — make sure the cat appears healthy. Look for bright, clear eyes; clean noses and ears; and nice, unmatted fur. Ask for a chance to hold any cats you're interested in, and give your potential furball a good once over, listening to the cat's breathing as well.
  • Plaything: We spent hours playing and holding cats before we found the right one. If the shelter doesn't have cat toys on hand, pick some up and donate them to the shelter. If you have children, bring them along to check out the cats. Pay close attention to the kitty's response to being held, active play, and petting.
  • Think about it: Take the time to really think about your decision before bringing home kitty. Consider your work hours, space, lifestyle — and your budget. Regular vet visits, pet food, and cute cat toys can be costly, so it's important to think things through.
  • Go with your gut: In the end, the cat that's caught your fancy is probably the right one to adopt. After spending a month checking out prospective kitties, our new cat walked right up to us in the group petting room at our local shelter. And, a year later, we are so happy she's part of our home.

Do you have shelter-cat adoption tips or success stories? Share them in comments!

Fab_Kitty Fab_Kitty 9 years
When I adopted Calliope, I chose her because all the other cats and kittens at the adoption day were much cuter. I figured sweet Cal w/ her lopsided mustache and tendency to climb onto shoulders would have a hard time finding another owner. She and I have been happy ever since.
psterling psterling 9 years
If you live near Palo Alto, CA I would highly recommend the itty bitty orphan kitty rescue organization. I have adopted 3 cats from them and they go to great lengths to make sure all of their cats are healthy, well-adjusted and go to a great home! Plus, the treat everyone like family. I would never adopt anywhere else again!
sweetpeabrina sweetpeabrina 9 years
1. Make sure they are Feline Leukemia and Feline AIDS negative! 2. Go with personality in mind. If you're a laid back person, you may want a laid back cat not one that looks at your fingers like they're snacks. Also, sometimes pretty cats aren't the nicest cats.
Beauty Beauty 9 years
When I adopted Minou, I spent a lot of time interacting with all of the different kitties, both adults and kittens. I think I probably spent two hours at the shelter! But ultimately, it gave me time to figure out which kitty and I had the best bond. And this was after spending four days going to different shelters. I think it's so important to block out time to see if you and the kitteh get along.
james-bond-girl james-bond-girl 9 years
I used to work (as a volunteer) at an animal shelter, and if it was up to me I would adopt an adult cat. There's so many to choose from and just spending 5 minutes with them you can grasp alot of what their personality is like. And if you have other cats at home no worries because the shelter will already be well aware as to whether the cat you want gets along with other felines or not. It's definitely true that the kittens fly out of shelters...When I worked at one I would spend minimal time with kittens and maximum time with the adult cats, because I knew the kittens would be gone in a day or two and some of the adult cats would be there for months. I used to really get annoyed at some customers...people would actually have the nerve to come in and tell me "I want a cat thats fixed, completely declawed and has all of its shots." It was pretty obvious someone like that had no place having a pet in the first place. Go for the adults, they are suuuch sweethearts!
CaterpillarGirl CaterpillarGirl 9 years
I have three cats. One i bought from a breeder, one i found in a garbage bin and one from the shelter. I always adopt Young adults or adults because to me they are the most at risk for not getting adopted. the kittens usually fly out of there.
lucygirl lucygirl 9 years
all my kitties have been shelter/vet rescue kitties. cats are very prolific reproducers so it only makes sense to rescue them from the perils of the outside world. my vet is a real cat person and every year she rescues 100's of kittens, treats them, and puts them up for adoption. these kittens are usually brought in by people who just find them, either with their mom or without, out in the streets, neighborhoods. my leo and lenny came from just that sitution. they are the best cats, so sweet and loving.
dholmas dholmas 9 years
Kitty hid in the basement for almost 2 months. He was a stray picked up and taken to a shelter and spent 6 months there. He has turned into a huge {20 pounds and almost 40 inches from his nose to the tip of his tail} sweetie pie. I spent over 2 hours at the shelter last year just looking and holding cats before falling in love with him. The shelter I went to has forms to fill out before they will even let you adopt. He was already neutered and vaccinated for the year. That day I left a donation for the shelter and called the next to say I wanted the cat. Went back and paid for him {$80} and picked him up a couple of days later. After buying litter boxes, food, dishes and of course toys. We also found a vet who makes house calls for his annual check-up. People need to look at the shelter for cleanliness and how the animals are treated. Do they have toys to keep them occupied? Also, we need to donate items to the shelters to allow them to take care of the animals in their care. Not just money. I buy canned food, litter and bleach for this shelter. I am also going to be making a bunch of catnip bags for the holidays. Got the local natural food store to sell me catnip at cost for the project.
megafie megafie 9 years
I got my cat (and my dog) from a shelter/rescue group. My cat was extremely shy but I spotted her and it was love at first sight! The first few days I had her she hid in her juicy carrier but she's much better now. She loves my dog (a 57 lb pitbull!) and bops her on the head all the time! My advice is to take you time and not to force the cat to do what he or she doesn't want to.
aimeeb aimeeb 9 years
Both of my cats came from my sis' work, a vet clinic. Both abandoned and I fell in love. I have to admit she has saved me lots of $$$$$ by working there.
emalove emalove 9 years
The cats my family has owned and my own kitties that I have now are all from a shelter. Most were kittens when we got them, but my parents' cat now was 4 years old when we got him. I agree with everything you said above, it should never be an impulse decision. It also costs money to own pets, so you need to be sure you can provide for them, not just food, but medical care and such. I think it's important to get them to a vet right away to be looked at. The shelter I got my own kitties from also payed for them to be spayed and neutered, I just had to make sure to bring them in for the procedure when they were old enough.
kiddylnd kiddylnd 9 years
Many shelters do a spay or neuter before the cat can even leave, so that's not as much of an issue these days. The biggest issue is to make sure you are adopting from a reputable agency. These days anyone can start up a 'rescue' and you never really can be sure about the care the cats receive while with them. If you have other pets, kids, or other concerns try looking for a shelter with a foster program. Chances are they have a foster family who's makeup resembles yours and you are more likely to find a cat that meets your needs. Some shelters offer a free vet visit and you should definitely use that as they don't all have an on-site vet to check over every cat. Price is subject to shelter, but should not exceed $150 for a rescue. If you have other pets at home, listen to the Adoption Staff as to their recommendation for introducing the pets to one another. This is a common mistake and can lead to a return within a few days with is taxing on both you and the cat. Don't feel like you have to take a cat home the day you decide to go to the shelter. This is a commitment of up to and over 21 years. If you are in college now, know who is responsible for the pet and be committed to taking this cat with you when you move. If you have roommates make sure that you set up who is responsible for what aspects of the cat's care. If you are in a domestic partnership, establish who is the primary care taker. I know that one is hard to think of, but I have seen many ownership disputes because one person did the adoption in their name and then they split and the other person wanted the cat.
DejaVecu DejaVecu 9 years
To the vet immediately to have them checked for ear mites, a very common kitty ailment. Actually, you can kinda tell yourself, do they have brownish (or, eeek, darker) build-up in their poor little ears? That has to be treated! It can spread to other pets and make them very miserable (and then some)!
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