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10 Tips to Choose the Right Shelter Cat

Have you been thinking about getting a new cat to add to your family? It's usually pretty easy to find kittens, especially in rural areas like ours. You probably know someone (or you know someone who knows someone) whose cat has just had an unexpected litter of kittens and is trying to find homes for them.

This can be a great way to adopt a new cat into your family!

But what if you don't know someone who has "extra" kittens? Or what if you are thinking about an adult cat instead of a kitten? Then a visit to your local animal shelter might be in your plans! Here are our 10 tips for choosing the shelter cat that is right for you and your family.

10 Tips to Choose the Right Shelter Cat

  1. Start with a few ideas of the temperament of the cat you might like. Do you want a lap cat? One who will say hi when you get home but is content to be by himself most of the time? Do a little preparation before you visit the animal shelter so you know what you are looking for.
  2. How much time do you have for your new cat? Kittens have a lot of energy and need a lot of time and attention. They need a lot of interactive playtime and will need some training (where it is okay to climb and claw and where it is not; what things are her toys and what are your things). Adult cats tend to not need quite so much dedicated playtime or training, but will still want some of your love and attention. If you lead a very busy lifestyle, a young kitten may not be the best choice for you right now.
  3. Do you have kids? How old are they? Keep in mind that small children (especially those who have not been around animals before) may not know how to handle a cat, especially a small kitten. Consider waiting until your kids are old enough to understand how to touch and pet a cat, or consider getting an older cat who may be more tolerant of children.
  4. When you get to the animal shelter, take a quick walk through the cat room before stopping to visit with any one cat. See how each cat reacts to you walking around, and pay attention to those who seem to be interested in meeting you. Keep in mind, cats can sleep up to 17 hours a day, so don't rule out that cute one taking a nap in the corner.
  5. Go back and have a short visit (through the kennel door) with any cats who you think you might be interested in. Watch for them to come up to the door and try to smell you, or rub their faces or bodies on the kennel door. Ask the shelter staff to wake up that cute napping cat so you can meet her, too.
  6. If the animal shelter has the space, spend a few minutes in a quiet place alone with each cat that you are interested in. How this interaction goes will be very different based on each cat's personality. For some cats, the more you try to get their attention the more they will ignore you. For other cats, the more you ignore them, the more they will want your attention! Remember, most of these cats want more love and attention than they get every day, so they should be interested in meeting you. Do give them some time to warm up to you, as many cats are cautious around new people.
  7. See how the cat reacts to being petted. If the cat tries to bite or swat at you after bring petted just a few times, this may not be the cat for you (especially if you have small children).
  8. Try picking the cat up to see how she tolerates being held. Some cats enjoy being picked up and held; these will often be good lap cats. Some cats do not like being picked up. That's okay, depending on how the cat's other behaviors match what you are looking for. If the cat gets frantic and tries to claw at you to get down, this may not be the right cat for you.
  9. If you have kids, bring them along on the animal shelter visit to see how the cat interacts with them (or bring them back when you have narrowed your choices down to 1 or 2 cats). You are looking for a cat who seems patient around kids, is interested in being around them, but will move away when they get overwhelmed by the attention (rather than trying to bite or claw to get away).
  10. Ask lots of questions - anything you can think of! Ask how long the cat has been in the animal shelter; if they know why he as surrendered there; if he has a favorite person or other cat there; his medical history; what his normal behaviors are; and if the shelter employees have any concerns about adopting out this cat (in general, or with your family in particular). The only silly question is the one you don't ask, so don't be shy!

Many cats (and dogs) can live for 10-15 years, or even longer. Remember, you are making this choice for your family - and for your new pet - for the rest of their life!

If you are considering adding a dog to your family instead of a cat, you might find our 10 Tips to Choose the Right Shelter Dog helpful.

Are you getting ready to adopt a new shelter pet, or have you recently gotten one? Call us or come in to get your new furry family member a full check-up, make sure they are up to date on their vaccines, and ask any questions you have about bringing a new cat into your home.

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