June is American Humane’s Adopt-A-Cat Month, an event that encourages people interested in owning a pet to consider adopting a cat from a local shelter.
Spring and summer seem to be prime time for cats to give birth to kittens, many of them unwanted. But pet shelters are filled year-round with cats of all ages. Unless they’re in a no-kill shelter, the outlook for many cats is grim: American Humane estimates that 71 percent of cats that enter shelters are euthanized.
Almost all of the cats I have cared for in my life were shelter adoptees. With the exception of my late friend Dodge — who pretty much adopted me — a number of former shelter cats led happier lives at my family’s and my house over the years. Some had behavioral issues due to the stress of being abandoned or abused, while others were confident “rebounders” who remained curious, active and social in their new home.
How will an adopted cat settle in to your home? While it’s impossible to predict with certainly how well he or she will adapt, you can make the process less stressful for the cat and your family in a number of ways.
Read up on cat care, especially for adopted cats or kittens, so you know in advance about different issues adoptees may have.
Prepare your home in advance of the adoption, with a new litter box, toys, cat care supplies, scratching post, and a few “peace and quiet’ areas where the cat can just get away from it all and chill out.
If you already have a cat or dog, be especially vigilant about introducing the new cat properly to your home:
- Bring the new cat’s scent home first if you can — ask the shelter if the cat has an extra blanket or toy the cat uses — and place it near your current pet.
- Create a separate living space for the new cat before bringing him or her home. Place the new cat into that living space for the first few days.
- Cautiously introduce new cat to old cat after a few days: if any hissing or growling starts, keep new cat in the room for now. DO NOT let them fight.
Schedule your new cat’s first visit to the veterinarian as soon as possible after the adoption — the same day or next day, if you can. Get a complete checkup and any necessary shots, and schedule a date for the cat to be spayed or neutered, if that hasn’t been done yet.
Get an ID on your cat: a collar with engraved tag showing his or her name, owner’s name and phone number, along with the cat’s vaccination tag, is a minimum. Because many cats are able to “slip” their collars, consider having the cat chipped as well.
It may seem like a lot of work, but advance preparation can make the adjustment much easier for everyone involved.