Adopting a pet in need is always a beautiful thing. Considering the extent of the cat over-population problem in Canada, adopting a cat instead of buying a kitten from a breeder has never been more important. To find the right cat for you and your family, there are some important things you should consider and questions you should ask the shelter staff to make sure you and your new addition will be a purrrrfect match for each other.
Think about your own personality and quirks so you can find a cat that suits you
Cats are just like people – they have different personalities and it is important to consider this before any other factor such as coat colour or fur length. There are hundreds of personality traits and, since we can’t cover them all, we’ve put together a few “person and pet” profiles just to give you an idea of how important a good personality match is.
The Social butterfly
Are you an outgoing person with a busy life who loves meeting new people and having parties? Then you probably want to look for a cat who is as confident and outgoing as you. Living with a boisterous cat who fearlessly approaches new people and pets - and who is curious about everything - would be too much for some people, but a cat like this would probably be perfect for you. On the other hand, a shy cat would not be very happy in this type of home.
The Quiet Intellectual or the Homebody
This kind of person usually likes to live life a bit more slowly and in a more relaxed fashion. They usually like routines and would often rather read a book or watch a movie at home then be out and about all the time. People like this would do well to adopt a cat who is similarly calm, quiet and potentially shy. Shy cats take time to come out of their shells, but in the right home they can and will form very tight bonds with their special person who they trust. This is buddy who would love nothing more to sit on your lap while you read a good book. Although some would consider these cats too shy or boring, they suit this type of person perfectly.
The Affectionate Caregiver
Perhaps you are a very affectionate person who is home a lot and looking for a cat that will never say no to your love, cuddles, and hugs. This is the kind of cat that follows you from room to room, always wants to sit in your lap when you sit down, and meows to get your attention and to be picked up and held. Maybe you’re an empty nester, recently lost a loved one, or are simply lonely. Some cats need a lot of affection, attention, and time from their owners (such as Siamese cats), and although an independent person who is not as openly affectionate would feel smothered by a clingy cat, for you they would probably be a great match.
The Independent Adventurer
People like this often love to explore new places and hobbies, try new foods, and spontaneously investigate anything they come across that sounds interesting. Often times, these people are creative, independent, and curious about anything that’s new and different. For you, a cat who is adventurous, smart, and independent would be a great match. This is the type of cat you might be able to leash train, take on outings, and teach tricks to, but he is also a cat that would likely be unhappy in a quite home where not much happens, or where his owner wants to lot of cuddle time.
What age of cat do you want, is a kitten really the best choice?
Most people assume that if they are going to get a cat, that there is no question that they want a kitten. This is really a shame because there are thousands of well-behaved adult cats out there with a lot of life and love left to give. Many people also think they want a kitten because they mistakenly believe that an adult cat wouldn’t be able to bond with them (which is completely untrue).
The reality is that kittens are lot of work because, like puppies, they are young, extremely energetic, and frequently get themselves into trouble. If you want to avoid being woken up many times a night by the ‘nighttime zoomies’ and coming home to find things in your house have been shredded or chewed – don’t get a kitten. While kittens can be a lot of fun if you’re willing to get through the crazy period, cats can live up to 20 years or more, so getting a kitten is a also a big commitment that shouldn’t be taken lightly.
I don’t want to sound anti-kitten because they can be the right choice for some families, but it is easy to want a kitten as they are adorable. So much so that they often overshadow the older cats that would be a better choice for many people.
Think about where you live and whether you have other pets or children
Do you already have another cat or a dog? Maybe you have several of each. Some cats would love to live in a big happy family and are not afraid of dogs, whereas some may be ok with either other cats or dogs but not both. What about children? It is important to tell the shelter staff whether or not you need a cat that is good with young babies and children, teenagers, or neither. Some cats love kids and are very tolerant and others are more selective and less patient. All of these things are very important to discuss with the shelter staff as you don’t want to rule out a great cat who can’t live with other cats if you don’t have any – but you also don’t want to adopt a cat that hates kids when you have.
Consider if you can handle adopting a special needs cat or a cat with allergies
Some cats in shelters may need to be on a special diet, use a particular type of litter, or have specific medical conditions that require medication and/or regular vet visits. It is very important that you are fully aware of this information (if the shelter knows, which they sometimes don’t) before you adopt. These issues do not mean that these cats wouldn’t make great pets or are not the best match for your lifestyle and personality, it just means that you need to know what you are getting yourself into - both financially and in terms of time - before you commit and then later realize its too much for you.
Consider grooming and breed – some are higher maintenance than others
If you have your heart set on owning a long-haired cat, then you’d better be eager to spend an hour or so brushing your cat every day in addition to (sometimes) training your cat to sit still and enjoy being groomed. Conversely, if you have always wanted a Sphinx (hairless) cat – did you know that they need to be bathed weekly and that if you allow them outside that they need to wear cat sunscreen or else they’ll get burned? Although a plain grey shorthair mix or an orange tabby might not seem as pretty or exotic as a Persian or a Himalayan, they are also a lot lower maintenance and can generally take care of all their grooming needs themselves.
Can’t adopt a cat right now but still want to help? There are plenty of options!
Foster a cat in need instead of adopting
Examples of people with situations that make fostering a better option than adoption
- Your kids and/or spouse are begging for a cat or kitten but you’re not sure you’re ready.
- You wish you could get a cat, but you travel frequently for work.
- You have the time and love for a cat but not the money to care for one right now.
- You love cats but you worry you might be allergic to them.
- You’re a young adult and you love cats but you’re not sure where you’ll be in a few years and you can’t make the 10 to 20 year commitment of adopting a cat or kitten.
- You’re a senior who is retired and would love the companionship of a cat, but you’re worried about adopting one and having it outlive you and become homeless.
All of these people would likely make great cat foster parents even if they can’t adopt! Fostering a cat is an arrangement you make with a shelter in need where you open your home to a kitten, an adult cat, a pair or set of cats, or even sometimes a pregnant or nursing mother cat and you agree to care for the cat as if it were your own until it is able to be adopted into another home.
In almost all cases, the shelter pays for all the vet bills, food, treats, toys, and litter you need and all you have to do is pick everything up and give the cat or cats lots of love, playtime, and attention. This situation is great because if your life circumstances change - you want to (or have to) travel or move or something else comes up – then the shelter can move the cat back to the shelter or to another foster home for you, so you are not tied down to the long-term responsibility of adopting a cat.
Yes, the downside is that you do become attached to the cats and it is hard to see them go. However, I have fostered quite a few cats and kittens and I can tell you that although it is sad when they finally get adopted into their forever homes, that sadness is far outweighed by joy. Joy that comes from knowing you made a direct difference in a needy cat’s life by giving them a significantly better temporary home than a noisy and small cage at a shelter. In addition, your choice to foster a cat freed up another space in the shelter so another cat could be rescued.
Donate money or supplies to a cat rescue or shelter
- You can be certain that there isn’t a shelter in existence that would say no to a financial donation, no matter how small. Many rescues are non-profits, and some are staffed entirely by volunteers who often also have part- or full-time jobs and busy lives of their own. A financial donation allows rescues to get cats spayed and neutered, pay for much needed medical treatments, pay building rent, and much more.
- If you want to donate supplies, calling the shelter in question and asking what they need at that time is usually the most helpful way to donate, as this way you are fulfilling an urgent and current need they have, rather than simply donating something randomly that they may already have a lot of. By calling or emailing to ask and then donating exactly what they need, you are also freeing up the money that would have been used to purchase those items that can now be used for cats’ medical care, operations, and spay/neuters.
Donate your time and skills
- Raise awareness about the cat overpopulation problem by adding banners to your website that promote cat rescues or post on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook about June being cat adoption month and encouraging people to chose adoption as the best option.
- Volunteer your special skills to help a rescue in need to prepare their taxes, renovate their barn or bathroom, answer their phones, or counsel those who come in wishing to adopt.
- Volunteer your time virtually to help a rescue digitize old records, respond to emails, update their website, or upload new and better pictures of the cats awaiting adoption.
- Volunteer in person to help clean the shelter, clean litter boxes, give the cats food and water, give the cats playtime, or simply to cuddle and pet the cats who are lonely.
We hope that reading this article made you more aware of what to look for when deciding to adopt a cat as well as helping to make you more aware that by finding the right match for you, your cat is more likely to be with you for life as living together in harmony will be much easier when you lifestyle, your household, your personality and the cat’s needs, wants and personality are a great match.
Additionally, we hope that we have encouraged you that there are many ways to help cats in need this June, even if a permanent adoption isn’t in the cards for you right now. Please continue to raise awareness of this important issue so we can all work together to reduce the number of unwanted cats in Canada.
– Carly Piatocha, Pet Industry Writer