Cats adoption success | 6 tips for choosing a shelter cat

The adoption of a shelter cat is the beginning of a beautiful journey in which your new feline friend is eager to fit smoothly into your home. Patience and perseverance are keys to successful adoption. You will also have to understand your pet’s needs in order to guarantee its physical and psychological well-being.

For those nervous about the adoption process, our expert’s guide to adopting a shelter cat.

PEXELS | Dmitriy Ganin

1. keep an open mind

Before you go to look at potential cat pals, sit down with all members of your household to talk about the decision. Even if you live with roommates or plan to take care of her entirely yourself, everyone has to be on board with bringing an animal into the home. Setting expectations early including feeding, cleanup, and playtime schedules can help prevent conflict later. 

2. adult cats vs kittens

Active kittens need equally engaged owners, who can give them the stimulation they need, not to mention good feline citizen training. Senior cats, on the other hand, do better in a quiet environment with lots of calm cuddles. Older animals may have more medical needs too, so have a frank look at your budget before you adopt one. 

3. temperament expectations

Cats have different personalities and temperaments that make each of them unique. To help ensure a successful adoption, be realistic about your expectations of the relationship you want with a new cat. Are you wanting an outgoing, playful cat to integrate into a home with your other active cats? Or do you want a laid back, mellow cat that happily curls up on your bed or lap while you’re reading a book? If you already have pets at home, it’s important that you keep in mind what type of cat would blend in well with your other pets. For example, an outgoing cat may be a bit too much for a more sedate senior cat.

PEXELS | Ahmet Polat

4. get acquainted

It can be difficult to determine a cat’s true personality and temperament when it’s in a shelter cage. A cat that is scared and hissing huddled in the back of a cage can be an absolute love when you spend time with him out of his cage and away from other cats. In addition to being stressed, many cats do not like being pet and are not playful while in a cage.

Once you’ve helped the cat relax with a bit of play time, he will be more likely to accept petting from you. Before picking a cat up, ask the shelter staff their experience with this. It’s best to let a cat approach you instead of putting pressure on the cat to be social with you. The cat you’re interested in should show at least some mild interest in you. Walking towards you and asking for attention is a very positive sign.

5. ask questions

The shelter staff will usually be able to provide you with a behaviour assessment of the cats at the shelter and sometimes a cat’s prior history. Oftentimes, they already have information on whether a cat would do better as the only cat in a home vs. living with other cats, or how vocal the cat may be. Ask as many questions as you can, and you may find that speaking with more than one shelter worker can give you more insight into the cat’s behaviour and personality. Is the cat friendly, outgoing, and playful, or is he cautious or skittish until he gets to know you?

6. be patient after adoption

Once home with your new cat or kitten(s), it can take a few weeks for the newcomer to adjust to their new home, so please be patient if they decide to hide under your bed or in your closet for several days. Make sure they have all their necessary supplies— litter box, food, water, cat bed, and toys. 

One of the best ways to help your cat acclimate more quickly to their new surroundings is to play with them using a wand toy with a feather or toy mouse on the end. Catnip is also a great behaviour tool to help them become more playful. Do bear in mind that kittens won’t respond to catnip until around six months of age. Activating your cat’s animated play state is their most confident fear-free mood state and is the fast track to helping them become confident in their new home. 

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