Each spring during “kitten season,” thousands of newborn kittens join the millions of cats already in shelters across the country. That means your local shelter has tons of cute, cuddly newborns, in addition to all the mellow, older cats and everything in between. And the shelter staff is ready to help you adopt your very first cat – or to bring home a friend for another beloved cat – just in time for American Humane’s Adopt-a-Cat Month®. This year, America’s first national humane organization is encouraging Americans everywhere to rescue a cat – or two – from a shelter or rescue group.
The popular annual campaign is part of a larger effort by American Humane to help these beautiful animals and focus on and help solve the unique challenges and issues they face. Although cats have often been referred to as America’s “Most Popular Pet,” they receive less veterinary care, have less research dedicated to their unique health/behavioral issues, are more likely to be feral, and are more likely to be euthanized in shelters than dogs. American Humane has been conducting research to identify barriers to adoption and retention, as well as other key welfare issues.
To help people do their part now, here is a “Top 10” checklist if you’re thinking of adopting:
TOP TEN CHECKLIST FOR ADOPTING A CAT
1. If you’re thinking about adopting a cat, consider taking home two. Cats require exercise, mental stimulation and social interaction. Two cats can provide this for each other.
2. Find a cat whose personality meshes with yours. Just as we each have our own personality, so do cats. In general, cats with long hair and round heads and bodies are more easygoing than lean cats with narrow heads and short hair, who are typically more active. Adoption counselors can offer advice to help you match the individual cat’s personality with your own.
3. Pick out a veterinarian ahead of time and schedule a visit within the first few days following the adoption. You’ll want to take any medical records you received from the adoption center on your first visit. Due to their immaturity, kittens in particular should accompany you to make the appointment – even before the exam itself – so staff can pet the cat and the animal will have a positive association with the veterinarian’s office.
4. Make sure everyone in the house is prepared to have a cat before your new pet comes home. Visiting the shelter or animal control facility should be a family affair. When adopting a new cat with existing pets at home, discuss with the adoption facility how to make a proper introduction.
5. Budget for the short- and long-term costs of a cat. Understand any pet is a responsibility and there’s a cost associated with that. A cat adopted from a shelter is a bargain; many facilities will have already provided spaying or neutering, initial vaccines, and a microchip for permanent identification. Plus, shelters and rescue groups are there to offer guidance and assistance as you acclimate your new family member.
6. Stock up on supplies before the cat arrives. Be prepared so your new cat can start feeling at home right away. Your cat will need a litter box, a good-quality cat litter such as Cat’s Pride®, food and water bowls, food, scratching posts, safe and stimulating toys, a cushy bed, a brush for grooming, a toothbrush and nail clippers.
7. Cat-proof your home. A new cat will quickly teach you not to leave things lying out. Food left on the kitchen counter will serve to teach your new friend to jump on counters for a possible lunch. Get rid of loose items your cat might chew on, watch to ensure the kitten isn’t chewing on electric cords, and pick up random items like paper clips (which kittens may swallow).
8. Go slowly when introducing your cat to new friends and family. It can take several weeks for a cat to relax in a new environment. It’s a great idea to keep the new addition secluded in a single room (with a litter box, food and water, toys and the cat carrier left out and open with bedding inside) until the cat is used to the new surroundings; this is particularly important if you have other pets. If you’ve adopted a kitten, socialization is very important. But remember – take it slow.
9. Be sure to include your new pet in your family’s emergency plan. You probably have a plan in place for getting your family to safety in case of an emergency. Adjust this plan to include your pets. Add phone numbers for your veterinarian and closest 24-hour animal hospital to your “in-case-of-emergency” call list, and be sure to have a several-day supply of your pet’s food and medications on hand.
10. If you’re considering giving a cat as a gift, make sure the recipient is an active participant in the adoption process. Though well-meaning, the surprise kitty gift doesn’t allow for a “get-to know-one-another” period. Remember, adopting a cat isn’t like purchasing a household appliance or a piece of jewelry – this is a real living, breathing, and emotional being.
“American Humane has rescued innumerable cats during the past century,” said the organization’s president and CEO, Dr. Robin Ganzert. “But there are still millions more healthy, adoptable pets in shelters around the country, just waiting for someone to be their hero by rescuing them and bringing them home. American Humane’s Adopt-a-Cat Month not only encourages people to give loving homes to animals in need, but offers an opportunity to provide a wider focus on the ongoing need these beautiful animals face all year round.”
American Humane is the country’s first national humane organization, founded in 1877. For more information, please visit http://www.americanhumane.org.