June has been designated as Adopt A Shelter Cat Month. Needless to say, a whole month dedicated to raising awareness about shelter cats that are in need is a great thing. But, if you are thinking of adopting a cat, there are some things you should consider before you actually bring that furry feline friend home with you.
Are you prepared to take responsibility for your new cat for his (or her) entire life time?
Cats can live up to 20 years or longer. When you adopt a cat, you should be prepared to house, feed, and care for that cat for that entire time. That requires both a time and financial commitment. Litter boxes need to be scooped daily. Food and water dishes need to be washed daily, and cats need to be provided with fresh food and water daily as well. Your cat will also require attention and exercise (through interactive play) on a daily basis.
There are financial responsibilities that come with adopting a cat also. Your new cat will require not only food, litter, toys, scratching surfaces, bedding, and other needs, but regular veterinary care as well.
Consider your living situation
Do you rent or own your home? If you rent, be certain your landlord allows cats before you make the commitment. Bringing a new cat home only to find out that you have to return the cat to the shelter can be stressful for the cat and heartbreaking for you and your family.
What type of cat do you prefer to adopt?
Of course, all cats require frequent grooming and other care. But some people have a breed preference, prefer a certain coat color or pattern, or like short-haired or long-haired cats better. Still others would prefer to make the decision based on personality, which is what I would recommend.
Do you want to adopt a kitten, an adult cat, or a senior?
What age do you prefer? This time of the year, kittens abound. Most shelters and rescues will have no shortage of babies and many people prefer to adopt a kitten so that they can watch the kitten grow into an adult.
However, adopting an adult cat has some advantages that you may not have considered. Adult cats are sometimes a bit more sedate than kittens and finding a home for an adult cat is often more difficult than placing a kitten in a forever home. Adult cats may also require less veterinary care than a young kitten. While kittens require a series of vaccinations, worming, and other veterinary services in their first few months of life, an adult cat will have already gone through these procedures. Adult cats are likely to have already been spayed or neutered as well, whereas a young kitten may or may not be.
Adopting a senior cat is another option. Depending on the individual cat, many seniors can still have many years to spend with you. Seniors are usually quite difficult for a shelter or rescue to place, so you will likely be saving a life and giving your senior a comfortable and dignified place to live out his final years.
While I encourage you to consider adopting a shelter cat, adopting any animal is not something to be taken lightly. It is tempting, when faced with an adorable ball of fluff, not to resist the impulse. But an impulse purchase or adoption of a pet, which is after all a living being with specific needs, is never a good idea.
Don’t despair if adoption is not right for you currently. There are many other ways you can help. Shelters and rescues are always in need of supplies. Cash donations are welcome but a donation of food or other supplies will likely be appreciated also. If in doubt, ask the personnel at your local shelter what would be most useful.
If you have more time than money, consider volunteering at your local shelter. Whether cleaning cages, socializing cats, bathing and/or grooming, or performing some other function, you’ll still be helping.
If you can’t make a long-term commitment to a pet but can keep a pet in the short-term, consider fostering. Shelters and rescues often find themselves in need of foster homes to house cats temporarily until a forever home can be located. Many cats do better in a home environment than in a shelter situation.
Another way you can help is by passing the message on to your friends and family members. Do you know someone who could benefit from a cat in their life? I bet you do.
Dr. Lorie Huston