You've decided that a cat is to be your companion. Where to look for one may be as important as what kind of cat you choose. Each possibility has advantages and disadvantages, so investigate several options before deciding.
Shelters either allow healthy animals to live out their lives there (no-kill) or they keep animals for a predetermined time after which they euthanize them. No-kill shelters are usually run by private, non-profit organizations. Municipal shelters operated with tax dollars typically euthanize animals.
No-kill shelters usually test cats for contagious diseases, vaccinate and spay or neuter them prior to adoption. These shelters have more time to work with individual animals to solve behavior problems. Staff members usually know the history and personality of the cats and can tell you about ones that interest you. The space in no-kill shelters is limited, so you may see many of the same cats week after week.
Shelters that euthanize have a greater turnover of animals so the selection is better. Some may provide cats with veterinary care, so ask before adopting.
All shelters ask for an adoption fee to help offset their costs and to determine whether you are making a serious commitment.
Rescue organizations generally place animals without operating a facility to house them. Organization members will provide foster care in their homes to cats until they can be permanently placed.
The amount of veterinary care given to a cat can vary according to the means of the foster parent. The advantages to adopting from a rescue group are that cats will be accustomed to living with people, and the foster parent will be knowledgeable about the cat.
If you want a purebred cat, find breeders in the national cat magazines, visit a cat show or surf the Internet. Many breeders, cat clubs and pedigreed cat associations maintain Web pages.
When you've identified breeders, call to make an appointment to see their kittens. Like good shelters, breeders will interview you to make certain you will provide a good home and ask you to sign a contract.
Finding the right cat may be only a mouse click away. Many shelters have Web sites on which they post photos of cats available for adoption.
The "cybershelter" available from the American Society of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and Petfinder.org makes it easy for you view adoptable cats in your area without leaving the comfort of your home. After finding a cat that appeals to you, go to the shelter to complete the adoption process.
Purebred cats occasionally turn up at shelters or in newspapers. Groups have sprung up to rescue purebred cats from shelter situations and find them homes with people who would prefer a breed. Listings of purebred cat rescue groups can be found at Eden Publications' www.creatures.com/USBR1.html or the Internet Cat Club's Web site at
www.netcat.org/rescue.html, among other locations.
Check the classified section of your local paper for cats put up for adoption or sale. Visit the home to interact with the cat and make certain the cat is healthy. Ask the owner for the name of the cat's veterinarian and for vaccination certificates.
Pet stores often sell pedigreed pets to appeal to the impulse buyer. Because buyers have not thought through what it takes to care for pets, the pets are often turned over to shelters when they become too much for the owner to handle.
Pet store pets are often obtained through kitten mills – breeders who care only about making money rather than the health and well-being of the animals produced. These pets are kept in deplorable conditions, not socialized, and often receive little if any veterinary care. Their health can be questionable, and genetic defects are common.
Forward-thinking pet stores have become off-site adoption agencies for local shelters and animal organizations. If you are hesitant to go to a shelter to adopt, visit a pet store that has shelter animals available in the store.
There is no shortage of free-roaming cats in the world. They may find you instead of the other way around. Many of these cats are grateful for being brought indoors, and saving a cat from a life on the street carries its own reward.
Wherever you decide to look for a cat, you will be starting down a path of friendship that will endure for many years to come.