It can be a difficult decision. I’ve faced it several times over the years of caring for cats, and each time the question is the same: Cat adoption or buy from a breeder?
I don’t want to upset anyone, as this can be a touchy subject with some pet owners, but personally, I almost always go in favor of pet adoption over buying a pet from a pet store.
Cat adoption isn’t just about saving one life. Thankfully these days the number of no-kill shelters is growing, and according to the ASPCA, the numbers of cats in shelters far outweigh those that are euthanized.
But what makes adopting one cat have such an impact is that the fees/charges involved help save other cats. The more cats that are adopted, means even more cats are saved!
According to the ASPCA, approximately 860,000 cats are euthanized in the United States each year.
Another benefit of adopting a cat, over say a kitten, is you can assess its personality on the spot. Is it quiet? Or active? A talker? All of these traits are there for you to see, so no hidden surprises.
Then there’s the variety of cats that will be available for you to take home; exotic breeds, black cats, white cats, tabbies, calico and gingers, purebreds and mixed breeds they all need loving homes.
Another reason to adopt is your health will be improved, stress lowered. Studies have shown that cats improve children’s resistance to asthma, cats have a direct positive effect on our mental health too.
If you’re not ready to commit to adoption, that’s okay, it’s a big decision and it’s important to understand what you’re signing up for. It’s also important to make sure your potential housemate is a good fit for your household.
Fostering is the best way for you and your potential kitty to get to know each other, and work out if your relationship is going to last. It’s a bit like dating, you might meet the right one first time around, or it may take a few dates to be sure one way or the other.
Fostering also helps support your cat shelter. It does this by easing the number of cats they have to care for – many paws make for lighter work. Another reason to foster is you might have a soft spot for cats with special needs; illnesses, disabilities, or just old age, but can’t take them on full-time, as it can be worrisome.
Then again, maybe you love kittens, but you’re not up for pandering to a grouchy older cat. Whatever your preference, fostering is the answer!
The procedure is essentially the same as adoption. You discuss your needs with the shelter, they might do a home inspection or ‘vet’ you to make sure you’re a good fit for their cats. Before you know it you’ll have an armful of your purrfect companion.
Then it’s a waiting game, you sign up permanently for adoption, or for some time as a foster carer. Easy.
There are many reasons to foster instead of buying a cat. But to me, these are the top 5 reasons you should consider fostering:
- Fostering a cat helps save lives, not just of one cat, but by freeing up space for another kitty to be cared for – no-kill shelters have limited resources, so this helps spread the love.
- It’s a great way to try having a cat, without the permanent decision. Like test-driving a car, or try-before-you-buy/adopt
- You love a challenge. Some cats have extra needs and these cats can sadly be overlooked. So, if you have a tender and compassionate heart you might consider an older cat or one who needs extra care and attention.
- If you already have a cat, or two, what better way is there to help another cat find its fur-ever home than by socializing them with other cats/dogs/children/adults?
- You’re a pro already, and want to keep up the good work. Maybe you’ve had cats and want to help out your local shelter by caring for one or a few more cats, but adoption just isn’t possible.
This is where the process starts in earnest. I’d recommend running a web search for animal shelters in your area. Cat adoption near me will usually work, try not to limit yourself only to ASPCA shelters. Many cities and states have private shelters that care for cats, and may not have the resources to look after them all, so helping them out is fantastic.
When you have a list of shelters, go through their sites and see if they promote themselves as ‘no-kill’ and whether they treat animals humanely. Check if there are any feline bio pages, some shelters actively promote cats; you may get a sense if any of their cats are a match for you.
Finally, visit the shelters. Spend time there, and observe both the cats and also the shelter – is it clean, are the staff compassionate, are the cats in good health? All of these small questions will add up to the general health and welfare of your new friend.
I always feel a little uneasy here. When adopting a cat you don’t want to be taken for a ride fiscally, just because you’re trying to do the right thing.
Almost all shelters will charge a fee. Free adoption programs do exist, but they’re rare. Some shelters will mask this fee as a ‘donation’ towards the shelter – that’s code for you try claiming that money back as a charitable donation with your taxes, but do check with an accountant.
What can the fee cover? Often the fee covers vaccinations, de-sexing, micro-chipping, veterinary bills, and of course food and lodging while the cat’s been in care. Your adoption proceeds are an important part of keeping shelters open.
With all of this in mind, when you think you’ve found your new fur-friend, check with the shelter as to what their charges cover, this will give you an idea of future vet bills – will your new cat need to be neutered/spayed, any shots, or chipping?
Now for the fun part, meeting as many cats as it takes to find the right one. Here are four tips to make that process a little easier.
This is probably your first concern. Adult cats have personalities that are set, they’ll have preferences and habits – do they use litter trays? Are they dog-friendly or fearful? Is child-friendly an issue?
Adult cats are less flexible to change, whereas kittens are a clean slate. But, with a kitten you have house-training to contend with, that includes litter training, clawing, mouthing, all the stuff that’s fun to start with, but can become annoying months down the track.
Cats or kittens, it makes little difference in basic personality assessment. Spend some time interacting with your candidate and watch them closely. Observe them and ask yourself, are they reluctant to come to you or play with others?
This can indicate a timid cat that will dislike being handled, or who is overly fearful. What about playfulness? A kitty that continues to mouth or bites you may grow to be overly aggressive when older.
Loud noises, other cats or foreign intruders, how do they respond? Again, observe them as you handle them. Do they freak out if slowly turned upside down, or are they chilled? This is a helpful test for future vet visits and health checks. A loud noise should show a kitty that’s wary, but not petrified.
Pro Tip: A simple, yet loud, clap of your hands will tell you if you have a scared cat or one that’s cautious.
These tests will help you determine if kitty can cope with life in general, and with surprises, or other family members – children and another cat/dog, etc.
Are they fit and healthy, or have any medical conditions?
- Eyes/Nose: You’re looking for clear eyes and a dry nose. No weeping gooey substance from their eyes or nose is a sign of a healthy kitty.
- Teeth: should be clean and sharp, it’s the same for an adult or a kitten. Cats with darkened teeth or missing ones may have underlying medical issues.
- Fur: neatly groomed, no sticky or greasy patches, or missing clumps. Cats are fastidious cleaners, any untidiness should be investigated.
Let’s fast-forward a few months after you’ve brought kitty home, everyone’s settled in, and you love having a new best friend. Is there anything you can do to help other cats?
Shelters need donations, not just of money – though that is helpful – but also of time, resources like food and blankets, but also administration, volunteer carers, and help to raise awareness to the plight of other homeless cats.
What can you do to help? Speak to your shelter of choice, ask what their needs are, and decide if you’re able to lend a hand. You might be asked to volunteer in caring for kittens or adult cats, this includes feeding, changing litter trays, doing spot-checks for health, or introducing prospective owners to the cats.
You could also be asked if you have admin skills, there’s always paperwork that needs addressing. Or perhaps you have a veterinary background, but are retired and can help out with time caring for sick or injured cats.
Many shelters needs help promoting their cause, in which case you can help organize viewing days, promote events, or speak with the media. There are so many ways you can help shelters that don’t rely on you adopting more and more cats.
Still considering cat adoption? Pawesome! That’s great news, and now after reading this article, you should have all the information you need to make finding your fur-ever friend that bit easier.
Don’t forget, if you can’t adopt you might be able to foster, there’s plenty of kitties that need temporary homes where they’ll be loved and cared for.
Hopefully, you’ll also know how to choose the best kitty to fit into your home with the few pointers I’ve given you; age, health, personality, and reactions. All the factors that go into finding the right cat for you.
Remember, you can always get involved with helping that shelter out. Be it with time, money, or lending a hand wherever they need you most.
So, congratulations on making the choice to adopt, I wish you many happy years or purr-fection together!