Do you . . .
Enjoy unconditional love and constant companionship?
Believe that caring for a pet for 15 years does not seem like a lifetime?
Look forward to having your ankles rubbed by an affectionate, hairy animal?
Not mind sharing your house with someone who will never clean up after himself?
Love a housemate who randomly and regularly entertains you with outrageous and silly antics?
Want to take care of someone every day?
Like your lap warmed whenever you sit down?
Not mind spending your extra money on pet food, toys, veterinary care, and kitty litter?
Believe that spaying and neutering pets will solve the pet overpopulation problem?
Not mind living with someone who sheds, tracks kitty litter, and throws up hairballs?
Want to keep an ID tag on your pet?
If you answered yes to these questions, you could be a perfect cat owner. And now is the perfect time to become one. June is the American Humane's (AH) Adopt-A-Cat Month®. But before you add a loving feline to your family, consider the following questions:
What Kind Of Cat Do You Want?
There are about 35 cat breeds, plus all the wonderful mixes. This variety in cats gives you plenty of things to take into account when making your decision.
Appearance: Do you have a fondness for cats whose ears are folded over or whose noses are flatter? Or do you like those with ears that stand erect or with bushy tails? Do you envision a cat with a short, easy-to-care-for coat, or a fluffy cat that looks like a ball of fur? Cats come in many colors, with many features and coats – which look appeals to you? Keep in mind that, although all cats shed, longer-haired cats require almost daily brushing to keep their fur from matting. Some breeds, like Persians, need to be groomed on a regular basis, which may require professional services.
Gender: Do you want a male or a female cat? Knowing ahead of time whether you want a Simba or a Sasha can greatly assist you in narrowing your options.
Age: Do you want a kitten or a cat? Tiny mewing kittens are hard to resist, but, like any other baby, they require frequent feeding and lots of TLC. Kittens need lots of attention and will have to be trained to use a litter box. Fortunately, most are fast learners and adapt quickly to their new surroundings. You may prefer adult cats that are often already litter box trained, and that will not display the crazy antics of kittens. Also, adult cats (six months or older) may be a better choice for families with small children as they are less fragile and know how to get out of the way.
Personality: Many cats are affectionate and friendly, while others can be aloof and distant. Some breeds are more inquisitive, more laid back, or more talkative (like the Siamese). What type of personality would work best in your household? Do you have the energy for an energetic kitten? Or would you rather have a mellow cat who is better suited to a quiet household?
Other Family Members
Discuss the needs, concerns, fears and medical issues – namely allergies – of everyone in your household. Does everyone want to have a new cat? Is everyone looking forward to loving and caring for a new member of the family? Decide how much time each family member can spend with the animal and the responsibilities each will have.
Visit your local shelter first!
Throughout the spring and summer, animal shelters throughout the country are inundated with hundreds of homeless cats and dozens of litters of kittens. Tragically, about 71% of these animals will have to be put to sleep because there are not enough loving homes. For this reason, the American Humane Association recommends checking out your local shelter or breed placement group first. Along with benefitting from the lifelong gratitude and devotion of the cat whose life you saved, you'll also find that shelters provide the greatest number of options (long-haired or short-haired, kittens or older cats, purebreds or mixes), as well as assistance in choosing a cat who will fit in well with your family and lifestyle.
The Adoption Process
Once you've answered these questions and decided to take on the fun and love of cat ownership, be prepared to be screened yourself. If you adopt a cat from a shelter, adoption counselors will want to determine your commitment and ability to care for an animal. If you rent an apartment, you may be required to present a copy of your lease or other proof that your landlord accepts pets. Also be prepared to answer questions about your home and lifestyle and about your expectations and concerns about owning a pet. Keep in mind that adoption counselors are always impressed with people who have thought about what they want in a pet before being asked.
It's easy to lose your heart at an animal shelter. There are so many adorable animals vying for your attention that you may find yourself wanting to take them all home. Of course, all the animals deserve good homes. But how do you find that special companion animal that's the best fit?
Feline Temperament Testing
If the one that captures your heart is an older feline, here are a few suggestions from animal behaviorists on how to perform a temperament test in the shelter.
Find out who is friendly. When you talk to them, many cats will greet you by rubbing against the cage door and purring.
Meet with the cat in a quiet indoor environment. Hold your fingers out and scratch the neck and head area. If he continues to respond in a positive manner, then the cat was probably well socialized in his last home.
Determine a cat's tolerance for touch. Try to hold the cat. If she immediately struggles to get away, she may not like human contact. Try a few more times, since the cat may be stressed and need a few minutes to calm down.
Test the cat for affection or aggression. After petting a cat a few times, does he nail you with his claws? This cat may not be happy with being petted, which is something to consider if you are looking for a lap cat.
Another thing to keep in mind is that cats are very sensitive to the scent of other cats. Consider changing your shirt and washing your hands thoroughly before visiting with another cat.
Don't think you have to adopt an animal on your very first visit. This is a big commitment, so take your time. It may require many visits to find the right pet.
When you have decided to move ahead with the adoption process, it's time to prepare your home for kitty's arrival. You will need:
A litter box for each cat
Collar and ID tags
If you already have a cat and will be introducing a new one to your household, be sure you have a room to put your new cat in. You will need to separate the cats for about a week to ensure no illnesses are passed between them and to give them time to get to know each other.
Keeping Your New Friend Safe
Once home, it's important to protect your kitten or cat in her new environment and to safeguard your belongings.
In the kitchen and bathroom:
Use childproof latches to keep little paws from prying open cabinets.
Place medications, cleaners, chemicals and laundry supplies on high shelves.
Keep trash cans covered or inside a latched cabinet.
Check for and block any small spaces, nooks or holes inside cabinetry or behind washer/dryer units where kitty may want to hide.
Make sure she hasn't jumped into the dryer before you turn it on.
Keep foods out of reach. Even if the food isn't harmful, the wrapper could be.
Keep the toilet lid closed to prevent drowning or drinking of harmful cleaning chemicals.
In the living or family room:
Place dangling wires from lamps, VCRs, televisions, stereos and phones out of reach.
Put away children's toys and games.
Put away knick-knacks until kitty has the coordination not to knock them over.
Check for dangerous items like string in all places where your vacuum cleaner doesn't fit but your kitten does.
Move common houseplants, which can be poisonous, out of reach. Don't forget hanging plants that your cat can jump onto from nearby surfaces.
Make sure all heating or air vents have a cover.
Put away all sewing and craft notions, especially thread.
In the garage:
Move all chemicals to high shelves or behind secure doors.
Clean up antifreeze from the floor and driveway, as one taste can be lethal to all animals.
Bang on your car hood to ensure that your kitten (or any neighborhood cat) has not hidden in the engine for warmth.
Keep all sharp objects and tools out of reach.
Keep laundry and shoes behind closed doors. Drawstrings and buttons can cause major problems if swallowed.
Keep any medications, lotions or cosmetics off accessible surfaces (like the bedside table).
Move electrical and phone wires out of reach of chewing.
Be careful that you don't close your kitten in closets or dresser drawers.
Look out for paws, noses and tails when you shut doors behind you or scoot chairs.
Adding a cat to your life is not only enriching, but also entertaining. Consider adopting a cat in the month of June and welcome a furry, feisty friend into your family.
About American Humane
Founded in 1877, the American Humane Association is the nation's only organization dedicated to protecting both children and animals. Through a network of child and animal welfare and protection agencies and individuals, American Humane develops policies, legislation, curriculum, and trainings to protect children and animals from abuse, neglect, and exploitation. The nonprofit membership organization, headquartered in Denver, raises awareness about The Link® between animal abuse and other forms of violence, as well as the benefits derived from the human and animal bond. American Humane's regional office in Los Angeles is the authority behind the "No Animals Were Harmed…"® End Credit Disclaimer on TV and film productions, and American Humane's office in Washington, DC, is an advocate for child- and animal-friendly legislation at the state and federal levels. Visit www.americanhumane.org to learn more.