–Guest blog by Jenny Hart

So you’ve decided to give a shelter cat a permanent home with you and your family—that’s great! Rescuing a pet is one of the most rewarding steps you can take in life. But it also comes with a good deal of responsibility, starting with the task of choosing the right cat.

Most shelters have multiple cats who need homes, all with different needs, quirks, and personality types. The more thought you put into choosing the right shelter cat, the richer your life together will be.

Pet Adoption Is Challenging, Yet Rewarding

When you adopt a shelter cat, you don’t always know what their background looks like. The shelter staff may have some information on where a cat comes from and what they’ve been through, but that isn’t always the case.

Since most shelter cats were taken in as strays or given up by a previous owner, it’s safe to assume that many have experienced some kind of trauma in the past. This can make the process much more challenging than bringing home a brand-new kitten from a breeder, but…it will also be more rewarding. After all, as the ASPCA explains, animals are still dying in shelters every year for lack of space: so you will be saving a cat’s life—not to mention, freeing up room for the shelter to rescue even more cats.

To achieve that rewarding relationship, you want to make sure you’re bringing home the perfect cat. You can’t just waltz into a shelter, bring home the first cat you see, and expect it to be a match made in heaven.

Here are some questions to ask yourself when searching for your newest furry family member.

Do you want a kitten or adult cat?

If there are young kittens at the shelter, it can be tempting to bring one home! They’re just so tiny and cute. But keep in mind that kittens require more work than older cats. They are much more active and curious, making you’ll have to “kitten proof” your home in order to keep them safe.

If there are certain personality traits you’re looking for in a cat, it’s best to adopt a grown cat. Once grown, their personality is much more obvious than when they’re young. You’ll be able to learn about their behaviors, likes, and dislikes from the shelter staff.

What is your home life like?

Do you work from home or are you away from the house for a large chunk of the day? Is your house quiet and calm or is chaos the norm? These are all things to consider before bringing home a new cat.

You don’t want to bring home a kitten or a cat with behavioral challenges or medical needs if you’re away from home most of the day. Some cats require more supervision and attention, and it’s not fair to bring home a needy cat that will be left alone most of the time. In that case, you would want to adopt an older, mellow cat who does well on their own.

Do you have children or other pets at home?

Consider who you’re bringing this cat home to. Some cats at the shelter may have had negative experiences with small children or other animals. In that case, those cats will do best going to homes where they can be an “only child.”

If you have small children at home, make sure to find a cat who has been around kids before. Keep in mind that toddlers and kittens don’t always mix well, since toddlers are still learning boundaries and kittens are fragile and easily injured.

And if you have other pets at home, think about their personalities and whether they would mesh or clash. If you have a social and energetic pet at home, adding an older and not-so-social shelter cat into the mix could be stressful to everyone involved.

Can you care for a special needs cat?

Sadly, many cats are relinquished by owners who can’t keep up with their care. As a result, many cats in shelters have medical or behavioral issues that can be demanding. Bringing home a special needs cat is a very noble thing to do, but is it the right choice for you?

Only bring home a special needs kitty if you can provide the care they need. These cats need owners who have the extra funds for medicine, special food, and frequent vet visits. Erin Ollila, writing for Hill’s, shares some uplifting stories about special needs cats who got their happy endings here.

Spend Lots of Time at the Shelter

The most valuable piece of advice for choosing a shelter cat is to not rush the process. Don’t operate under the unrealistic expectation of bringing home the first cat you see! Sure, it’s possible that you’ll find the perfect companion right away. But that doesn’t happen for everyone.

Be prepared to spend lots of time at the shelter, spending time with every cat there. Once you start forming relationships with the cats, spend some one-on-one time with the ones you feel closest with. Many shelters have private rooms where you can spend some alone time together, and some may even let you take the cat home for a weekend as a type of trial run.

Whatever the process looks like for you, just be patient and don’t rush it.

Final Advice for Choosing the Perfect Shelter Cat

Be open and transparent with the shelter staff about what you’re looking for. Communicate honestly with them regarding your home life, the care you can provide, and what kind of cat you want to bring home. They know those cats better than anyone and will be able to facilitate the process, matching you with the perfect kitty companion.

If you’ve never owned a cat before, take some time to educate yourself on how to best care for your new pet. You already know that they need food, water, and a litter box. But do you have plenty of cat toys and a scratching post and/or a cat tree at home? Do you know what kind of flea and tick protection for cats is best? If not, Jackie Brown at Insider has some solid advice. 

Finally, be patient with the process. Bringing home a shelter cat—especially if it’s an older cat who has experienced trauma in the past—can be challenging. Exercise patience and give your new pet plenty of time to build trust. You’ll be rewarded with one of the most loving and treasured relationships of your life. Find a complete resource guide for caring for your new cat here.

More about the author, Jenny Hart

Jenny is originally from New York City and now lives in rural Arkansas. She has a passion for animals, mental health, and living a healthy lifestyle. When she isn’t working on her blog–All Health All Day–you can find her spoiling her cats, Maya and Noah.

Visit Jenny’s Blog
Published On: March 11, 2022|Categories: Cat Behavior, Cats, Steve Dale on Pet Behavior|