Adopting a cat: tips on finding your purrfect match
Things to consider before adopting a cat
Thinking about adopting a cat? Who doesn’t love their soothing purrs and watching them “make biscuits” with their paws? Cats make wonderful companions and are great for our mental health. Some studies have even shown that cat owners have a decreased risk of heart disease and stroke.
While the joys of cat ownership are seemingly endless, it’s also important to consider the responsibilities and make sure that you are indeed ready for the commitment. Sadly, animal shelters are full of cats that were relinquished by no fault of their own; their previous owners simply were not ready for a cat. It’s important to consider all the aspects of cat ownership before bringing home a new feline friend.
Here are some things to consider when deciding whether to adopt a cat:
Am I ready for a long-term commitment?
Most cats have a lifespan of 13 to 17 years and will depend on you for their care every step of the way. This is a long-term financial commitment. Cats cost around $2,000 a year for food, supplies, and veterinary care.
Your lifestyle is another important factor. While we can’t predict the future, it’s important to consider whether or not your new cat will have a place in it. If you think your future may hold some big moves or changes that wouldn’t allow you to bring a pet, it may not be the best time to adopt a cat.
Do I have the proper home setting for cat?
While cats don’t need a ton of room, they do need some space for themselves. Think about where you might put their bedding, bowls, litterbox, scratchpad, toys, etc. Do you have space for a cat tree? While that’s certainly not a necessity, it’s a nice thing to have for enrichment. Is there a space where they can retreat when they need some alone time?
Think about your setup and how your new cat will fit into it. Are you prepared to make modifications to your home to keep your cat comfortable and safe? This can be as simple as designating a corner of your laundry room to their litterbox, or it can mean having to part ways with your favorite houseplant that might be toxic.
What about other pets?
Will your cat be alone, or do you have other pets already in the home? If you do have other pets, what’s their temperament like? Are they ready for a new friend? Even if you think they are, it’s impossible to know how our pets might act when faced with a new addition. They may see your new cat as a friend or foe. Are you prepared to take the time and training that may be necessary to help your pets get along?
Am I ok with common cat behaviors?
Like all animals, cats have natural behaviors that can sometimes cause conflict in the home, such as jumping on counters or scratching furniture. While you can train your cat and provide alternate outlets for them to express these natural behaviors, like providing them a scratchpad in lieu of your couch, nothing is foolproof. There will be a learning curve, especially in the beginning.
If you’re considering declawing your cat, know that this practice is now considered outdated, inhumane, and illegal in some areas. Most major animal welfare organizations and feline veterinary associations oppose elective declawing as new studies show it can lead to a host of complications.
Do I have a plan for veterinary care and unforeseen expenses?
Like all pets, cats need veterinary care. They will need routine check-ups, vaccines, parasite prevention, dental cleanings, and more. Unfortunately, there can also be unforeseen expenses, like emergency care. An estimated one in three pets will need some kind of emergency treatment every year and depending on the severity, costs can quickly add up to thousands of dollars.
All potential pet owners should consider how they plan to pay for their pet’s medical expenses before adopting. Some owners opt for a special savings account or medical credit card while others find that pet insurance is the best option for them. A 24Petprotect Insurance Plan can help pet owners be prepared for unexpected emergencies.
Finding the purrfect cat for you
Once you’ve decided that you are indeed ready for a new feline friend, the next step is finding the right cat to adopt. Your local cat shelter or cat rescue will surely have an assortment of cats, in all sizes, ages, and personalities. Consider what you are looking for in a cat. Are you looking for a quiet, reserved cat or one that is more playful? Are you ready to take on a kitten or would you prefer an adult cat that has already passed its rambunctious phase?
It's also important to consider your lifestyle. Do you have children? Other pets? These things will all factor into what kind of cat will do best in your home. A calm senior cat that sleeps all day might not do well in a busy, boisterous household while a playful kitten may love being part of the action.
Talk to the adoption coordinators at your local shelters and rescues. They know the pets under their care well and can provide insight into their personalities and special quirks. They can evaluate your home and lifestyle and make recommendations to help you find your perfect match. It’s also important to take your time, meet different cats, and remember this will be a lifetime commitment, so it’s best not to rush the process.
Preparing your home for a cat
Before you bring your new cat home, it’s important to be prepared! There are some items you’ll need to purchase and some adjustments you’ll need to make to your home to ensure a cat-friendly environment.
Checklist for new cat owners:
- Food and water bowls
- Cat food (keep the same food as the shelter was feeding until you see a vet)
- Cat treats
- Litterbox and litter
- Cat bed (many cats prefer a covered or hut-style bed to hide in)
- Scratching post or cat tree
- Cat toys
- Cat collar and ID tags
- Cat brush and nail clippers
- A Feliway diffuser to help reduce anxiety (optional, but recommended by veterinary behaviorists)
Home checklist for new cat owners:
- Set up food bowls and litterbox (away from each other)
- Create a safe space for your cat with comfy bedding, toys, and their scratching post
- Secure any potential hazards like loose wires, blind cords, or strings of any kind
- Get rid of any houseplants that are toxic to cats
- Make sure all medications, cleaners, and chemicals are locked up
- Put away any fragile items you don’t want knocked over like vases or photo frames
- Plug in Feliway diffuser if you have one
For the ultimate guide to all essentials, extras, and tips for new pet parents visit: The ultimate checklist for new pet parents
Bringing home your new cat
Bringing home a new pet is an exciting time, but it can also be stressful. Cats need time to adjust to their new surroundings so don’t be surprised if you don’t see them too much over the first few days. They need some time to decompress from shelter life and explore their new home. This is why it’s important to give them a safe space to retreat to like a cozy corner or hut-style bed to hide in.
The adjustment period will vary depending on the individual cat but most newly adopted cats follow a pattern known as the rule of threes.
- 3 days to decompress: Your cat may not eat or drink much during this time and will likely hide. They may show signs of stress like dilated pupils, pinned ears, and tense body positions. Don’t worry if their personality during this time is not what you expected.
- 3 weeks to learn: Your cat will start exploring the environment, learning their routine, and feeling more comfortable. They’ll likely begin to trust you more and show their personality.
- 3 months to feel at home: Your cat will now understand this is their home. They’ll likely feel much more comfortable and start building a bond with family members.
You can help your cat adjust by giving them the space they need (don’t force interaction), creating positive associations by offering enrichment toys and treats, and keeping to a schedule for feeding and playtimes. This will help them learn their routines and bond with their new family. You can also try some positive reinforcement training techniques to help your cat learn their new environment and where they should go when they want to play, scratch, etc.
Keeping your cat happy and healthy
As your new feline friend is getting settled in your home don’t forget to schedule their first veterinary visit. Even if your cat saw a veterinarian at the shelter, it’s always a good idea to establish a relationship with a veterinarian soon after adopting a new pet. This will help establish a baseline for their health, go over nutritional needs, and set up a schedule for their future healthcare needs.
This is also a good time to brush up on some basic cat care and become familiar with some common feline emergencies and what signs to look out for.
Common cat emergencies:
- Trouble urinating (especially in male cats)
- Respiratory distress/open-mouth breathing
- Trauma/being hit by a car/injuries from jumping off high places
- Open wounds/bites or scratches from wildlife
- Sudden loss of mobility or collapse
- Ingesting a toxin (such as antifreeze, lilies, onions, rodenticides, ibuprofen, or toxic plants)
- Swallowed a foreign object (such as a string, batteries, etc.)
To help prevent cat injuries and emergencies, keep all hazardous or toxic materials out of reach and keep your cat indoors. Outdoor cats face significantly more health and safety risks than indoor cats. Outdoor cats are more likely to get struck by cars, injured by wildlife, poisoned by pesticides or other chemicals, and infected with parasites. Outdoor cats are also more likely to get lost.
If your cat is not already microchipped from the shelter, you’ll want to have that done as soon as possible. Sadly, one in three pets will go missing during their lifetime. You can protect your pet with a microchip and a 24Petwatch Lifetime Protection Membership that includes access to 24/7 lost pet recovery specialists and the largest microchip data registry in North America.