Adopting A Cat

Are you thinking there might be a new cat in your future? Though cats have a reputation of being aloof and stand-offish, they can be funny, playful, affectionate, cuddly members of the family. And they need you, too! House cats especially depend on you to consistently provide food and water as well as a clean litter box, and they also seek companionship, play, grooming, and—yes—time alone every now and then. But how do you know which is the right cat for you and if you’re truly ready to take on the commitment (remember that cats can live for up to 20 years!) of bringing an adorable feline friend into your home?

One things to consider is the behavior and personality of the cats you meet. My friend Molly chose her two adopted cats because the little tiger-striped Bailey just wouldn’t stop flirting with her—inviting her to play and appreciate just how cute she was!—and her mate Lucy hung back just a little, waiting for Molly to see that she was excited about a quieter sort of interaction. Some people recommend having more than one cat in the home so that they can keep each other company.

Does a cat you’re interacting with seem cautious and timid, cool, assertive and bold, energetic, vocal or quiet, and/or demonstrative? Talk with the staff at the agency you’re considering adopting from to see what they can tell you about different cats’ behavior and temperament. Also look at how the cats interact with other cats and people. One “test” involves trying to pick up a kitten by the scruff of the neck and seeing if he settles down after just a bit of wiggling. If he does, he’s likely to grow up less aggressive than a cat that continues to struggle. Remember, of course, that each cat is an individual!

And consider some household practicalities—will white cat fuzz on your dark brown carpeting make you grumble every time you have to take out the vacuum? Are you willing to clean up the occasional cat mess such as a spilled flowerpot or litter tracked across the bathroom floor? Do you have a convenient place to keep the litter box? Are you lucky enough to have a basement to put it in, or will you have to move it from the tub every time you or one of your roommates need to take a shower?

Also to remember to check any apartment or condo guidelines you might have to ensure they’ll allow you to have a pet. My aunt Nancy actually chose her last apartment in part because it allowed small pets! There’s compromise and change in every relationship, but think about what you’re really willing to take on and what might end up creating a really stressful situation down the road.

Even if you feel you have the resources—time, money, patience, and more—to take on a special-needs pet, when you’re considering different cats, you’ll want to get an overall idea of their health. The adoption agency you’re working with should be able to provide you with some health history, but what does a healthy cat look like in general, and what are signs that could indicate there might be a problem? A healthy cat has:

  • Eyes that are shiny and clear, without secretions
  • A moist nose without discharge
  • Ears that are pink and clean
  • Regular eating, drinking, activity, and elimination habits; these can vary from cat to cat, but if a cat suddenly has a change in her usual patterns, this could indicate a problem
  • Good posture and balance
  • Teeth that are intact and clean
  • Smooth, soft, clean fur without bald patches, fleas, or wounds

Remember that the adoption agency you work with and other important people in your life such as family, friends, and your vet are there to help you think through this exciting—and important!—decision and support you as you begin the adventure of incorporating a new furry pal into your family. Don’t hesitate to ask questions and ask for help if you need it. In addition to these important people in your life, the Internet offers a plethora of resources for pet owners, and your library likely has multiple books, magazines, and other resources that you can consult when you’re faced with questions or just want to learn more.