What to Look for When Adopting a Cat
Getting a new cat is a wonderful opportunity to bring lots of joy and purrs into your home. But how do you know if you and your potential new best friend are the right fit for each other? If you're wondering what to look for when adopting a cat, consider the cat's age, personality, breed, and how well she'll get along with other pets and children in your household.
Adult Cats vs. Kittens
First, you need to decide whether an adult cat or a kitten is better suited for your home.1 Kittens need a lot of socialization as their personalities are just developing. They're super cute, but they're also very energetic and can get into trouble if unattended for too long. They're fragile, so you need to watch them closely if you have other pets or small children.
Adult cats can be left alone longer and are more content to sleep and entertain themselves responsibly while you're gone. They're more likely to be litter trained, but they may need a little "retraining" if they picked up any unwanted habits from previous owners. You'll have a better idea of an adult cat's personality from the start, but kittens are more malleable and willing to be trained.
You might also want to consider adopting two cats rather than just one.2 Cats will get more exercise and mental stimulation if they have another cat to play with.
A Breed's Special Needs
If you're looking for a purebred cat, make sure you research the breed's unique needs. Although each cat is an individual, a cat's temperament and health can still be affected by his genetics. Some breeds may be prone to certain health issues. Others, such as Persian cats, may not be allowed to fly on planes because of the shape of their faces.
Siamese cats tend to have long lives and loving personalities. Bengal cats are energetic, love learning tricks, and need lots of exercise.3 Ragdoll cats tend to be affectionate and calm, preferring to cuddle indoors.4
Don't forget there's a difference between coat markings and breed. A tabby cat, for example, refers to the pattern of a cat's coat, but not the cat's particular breed.
Long-Haired vs. Short-Haired
Do you want a long-haired or a short-haired cat? Long-haired cats are beautiful, but they need a lot more care. They need regular brushing, and the fur around their hindquarters may need trimming so they don't have litter box accidents.
Short-haired cats can still shed and cause allergic reactions because of their dander, but they require far less brushing. If you want to avoid fur as much as possible, there are five breeds of cat that don't shed or are very low-shedding that you might want to consider. Just remember, these also have unique needs. A furless cat may need to be bathed more often, for example.
Personality, Health, and Energy
If you're adopting an older cat, consider her personality, health, and energy levels. Talk to the breeder, shelter owner, or previous owner to find out the cat's unique quirks. Is she friendly and doesn't know a stranger? Does she meow a lot? Is she curious about everything, or is she quieter and prefers cuddling in your lap? Is she timid and hides when the doorbell rings?
Knowing the cat's background can help you better understand how she might react to change and stress. If she was in a tougher situation in the past, like being a stray, then she might overeat or act territorial about her space. If she had a loving home but her owner had to give her up, she might miss her owner and act a little listless or depressed at times.
If you can, talk to her current vet to determine her health background. Is she a healthy cat with all her vaccinations? Does she have litter or spraying issues that might indicate other health problems? Do you have the resources to care for a cat who might need extra vet visits?
Other Pets and Children
If relevant, find out how a potential cat's temperament meshes with other people and pets in your household. Some cats get along with everyone. Other cats may prefer dogs to cats or vice versa. Some cats are a little too aggressive to be around babies or small children. If the cat has a previous owner or is being fostered, you might be able to get their input about his quirks and preferences.
Don't forget to assess if your own pets will do well with a new addition. Some cats will do great in a multi-pet household, but not every cat will. Some dogs have too strong of a prey instinct to tolerate a new cat, but other dogs will treat your cat as their new best friend. If you do have other pets, remember that you'll need to introduce your new cat to them very slowly.
Welcoming Home Your New Cat
Once you've decided which cat is going to be your "furever pet," make sure your home is all set up to welcome him. Give him a quiet space to retreat that's away from people and animals. Include a snuggly bed for him, such as a heated bed like the Thermo-Kitty Fashion Splash or an enclosed bed for extra privacy like the Thermo Mod Kitty Shelter.
Make sure your cat has plenty of space to claim as his own, which helps to build his confidence. This could include cat trees, cat condos, and window perches for looking outside. Interactive toys and cat scratchers (both horizontal and vertical) are also important to keep his mind engaged.
Adopting a cat is a big choice and not one to be taken lightly. You're promising to care for and love this fur baby for the rest of his life. That's why it's important to make sure his personality is a good fit for your lifestyle and that you've prepared your home to welcome him. A little preparation now can pay huge dividends down the road, full of snuggles and adventures with your new best friend.
- CatTime. "Kittens Versus Adult Cats: How to Choose Which Is Right for You." CatTime.com, https://cattime.com/cat-facts/405-kittens-vs-dot-cats-how-to-choose.
- American Humane. "Cat Adoption Checklist." AmericanHumane.org, https://www.americanhumane.org/fact-sheet/cat-adoption-checklist/.
- Petfinder. "Bengal." Petfinder.com, https://www.petfinder.com/cat-breeds/bengal/.
- Petfinder. "Ragdoll." Petfinder.com, https://www.petfinder.com/cat-breeds/ragdoll/.