Americans love their cats. In fact, almost 32 million households have at least one feline family member. The bad news is that there are still a lot of cats in need of a home. Shelters euthanize approximately 530,000 cats each year. By adopting a cat — especially a senior one — you could be saving a precious life.
Before rescuing a feline, however, you'll want to check out these tips for adopting a cat successfully. It can be quite intimidating and sometimes frightening for a feline to be suddenly thrown into a new environment, especially if there are other pets already living in your house. Depending on your new cat's personality and history, it could take a few days or even weeks for him or her to feel comfortable in your home. Once your feline does, you’re sure to be rewarded with a loving companion, especially if you follow these tips on how to adopt a cat successfully.
Where to find your new cat
Sometimes, homeless cats find you. They just show up meowing and demanding your attention but, more often, finding a cat takes a little research and time. The following are some places you can start your search for a new feline friend:
Local animal shelters and rescues:Your county or city probably has an animal shelter or pound. You'll also want to check out the private, non-kill rescues in your area.
Internet rescue sites: You can find all kinds of adoptable pets on sites such as Petfinder or Rescue Me.
Breed-specific rescues: Some breeds have dedicated rescues, such as the Maine Coon Rescue. To find one, do a general Internet or Facebook search for the breed you're interested in adopting.
Cat cafés: This is a relatively new concept where patrons can visit a café that is home to adoptable rescue cats.
Adoption events: Many shelters hold events where they bring their animals out to public places, such as pet stores or festivals. These events are also a good place to learn some rescue cat tips.
Choosing the feline that's right for you
Before you start looking for your next cat, think carefully about your lifestyle. Do you have time to entertain a playful young cat, or would an older, more sedate feline be a better fit for your family? Do you have young children who might be too rambunctious for a shy cat? If you have other pets, you'll also need to consider how a new feline would fit into your home's dynamics.
Has the cat you're interested in been with a rescue group or in a foster home for a while? Then make sure to ask a lot of questions. The rescue or foster should be able to give you excellent insight into any quirks or special needs that the cat might have.
Tips for adopting a kitten
Kittens are not just small cats. They're babies that have special requirements. When adopting a kitten, these tips could help. First, they will need food that has been specially formulated to meet their growing needs. Kittens also need to be socialized properly, as cats who aren't socialized while young tend to be more fearful of humans. Once your kitten has had a chance to acclimate to your home, you'll want to start introducing him or her to new people.
What you'll need
Moving into a new home can be a frightening experience for cats, especially if they tend to be nervous. Set aside a room or an area in your home that your new cat can use exclusively. If the rescue is especially skittish, you may want to give him or her even more privacy by adding a small place where he or she can hide, such as a cat house or even a box.
If this is your first cat, you'll also need a few supplies, including:
Food and water bowls
Litter box and litter
Collar and identification
Carrier or crate
Scratching post or tree
Bringing your cat home
If it's at all possible, plan to be home for at least the first day or two after adopting your cat. That way, you can help ease your pet into the new surroundings. This is also a good way to kick start the bonding process between the two of you. However, don't be surprised if your cat is a bit standoffish. Rescues can be wary at first. Remember, they've been subjected to some very mentally challenging times during the adoption process — from being placed in carriers and moving from one place to another to being handled by total strangers and/or going to a veterinarian to be neutered and vaccinated.
Tips for introducing a second cat
Unlike canines, which are pack animals, cats tend to be loners and territorial. It may be a little more challenging to introduce a rescue cat to the other felines in your household.
When you first bring your rescue home, you'll need to keep your new cat in a separate room from other felines in your house. Allow your cats to sniff under the door to get to know each other. Once you feel that they're comfortable with each other's presence, you can attempt to have your cats meet. Just make sure that you're always there to supervise them in the beginning to prevent any altercations.
Schedule a vet visit
One of the first things you'll want to do after adopting a new cat is to take him or her to a veterinarian for a routine examination and to check for any possible issues. If you adopted from a rescue or a shelter, you'll also want to bring any medical and vaccination records that they gave to you.
There are few things more rewarding than rescuing a cat in need. Not only will you be blessed with a loving companion, but you could also be saving a life.
Lizz Caputo is a Content Strategist at Figo, animal enthusiast, and owner of a rescued senior American Bully. Her hobbies include checking out new restaurants in her area, boxing, and petting dogs of all shapes and sizes.