Pure Breed or Mixed Breed?
I have to confess, I am totally biased on this topic. Too many cats and kittens are put to death each year because there are not enough good homes. All of my cats have been mixed breed cats who were adopted from shelters or rescue organizations. They have all been wonderful, beautiful and intelligent animals that have made loving companions. The sole comfort I had when Kiggy and Michi passed away in their late teens was that I had given them a good home for as long as they lived.
In the end, it’s a personal decision. If you do have your heart set on a particular breed, check shelters and breed rescues. You may be able to get the best of both worlds and rescue a pure bred cat who needs a loving home.
Places to Adopt
Most cities have an animal shelter where you can adopt cats, dogs, even rabbits. Some of these shelters are even lucky enough to be “no kill”. This may be a bit of a misnomer. It is my understanding that these shelters will not euthanize a healthy, adoptable animal, but will take care of them both medically and emotionally until they find a good home. I prefer the ones that encourage you to visit with the animal before adoption and that will take the animal back if it is not a good fit. Their main concern is finding a good home for the animals in their care.
The benefit of adopting from a shelter includes:
- saving an animal from being euthanized.
- the cat or kitten will be spayed or neutered, saving you the trouble and expense.
- the cat or kitten will have been examined and cared for by a veterinarian. You will know of any ongoing health issues before adoption.
- the cat will be tested for disease.
- the cat will be vaccinated (kittens will need to continue with their booster shots).
Criteria for Adoption
Most well run shelters will have criteria you need to meet before they will let you adopt one of their animals. At first this may seem odd because they have so many animals in their charge. Shouldn’t they be happy that someone is willing to take one of them?
They are happy that you are there to adopt, but they care deeply about the animals in their charge and want to make sure they don’t end up back in the shelter or worse. Adopting an animal is a huge responsibility and they want to make sure prospective pet owners know what they are getting themselves into.
Things They Often Ask
- Do you rent or own? If you rent, do you have your landlord’s written permission?
People often give animals up because they don’t have permission to have them in a rental or they move and can’t take them.
- Do you have children? If so, how many and what ages.
Small children do better with adult cats instead of kittens.
- Do you or anyone in your household have allergies or asthma?
Cats are often given up due to allergies in the household. If you have never lived with a cat before you should spend some time with one before adopting to see if you are allergic. You may still be able to adopt with some modifications to the household and treatment with antihistamines. Check with your doctor.
- Do you have any other pets? If so, what types, ages, etc.
They want to know if you have dogs or other cats who may not get along or be a threat to a cat.
- Have you had other pets? What happened to them?
They want to know if you gave up animals before or lost animals to mishap.
- Do you plan to keep the cat indoors or outdoors?
Most shelters will insist you keep your cat indoors. They are much safer indoors.
- Do you have a veterinarian? If so, what is the name and address.
If you already have animals, make sure to have your vet info handy. This is a big plus and shows that you take responsibility for your cat’s health. If this is your first cat, ask friends for vet recommendations. If you already have a cat or cats, you will want to have the cat examined by your vet before bringing him/her into your home.
- Do you plan to de-claw?
They will not adopt to you if you want to de-claw. De-clawing is cruel and unnecessary with proper scratching posts. If you insist on a de-clawed cat, adopt an adult that is already de-clawed.
- What will happen to the animal if you move?
You must show commitment to the cat by noting that he/she will always go with you. When I rented, I always made sure I could have my cats anyplace I moved.
Pet Store Adoption Centers
Some of the bigger pet store chains like Petco and Petsmart now host adoption centers. This is in sharp contrast to pet stores who sell animals, often from back-yard breeders or puppy or kitten mills. Please avoid the latter. If you insist on a pure bred cat, go with a reputable breeder not one who sells their animals to a pet store.
These adoption centers are usually run by small rescue groups who foster the cats and kittens until they can find a good home. The rescue groups are often more particular about whom they will adopt to. They will ask the same questions above and may even want to visit your home before the adoption is complete.
Another good place to check is Petfinder.org. It is national database of adoptable animals in shelters and rescue groups. Through their site you can search for an animal by species, breed, age, size, gender and location.
When people can no longer take care of their cats, they often advertise in the local paper, Craigslist, or the like. This is often the easiest way to adopt a cat without meeting the adoption criteria. However, be aware that the adoption criteria for shelters and adoption centers is a good basis to decide if you are ready to adopt. If you do not meet the criteria, maybe now is not the time. Make sure you are ready to provide a forever home to a cat or kitten. It’s well worth any perceived inconvenience to share your life with one of these elegant, loving animals.
Male or Female?
Before I ever shared my life with a cat, I was under the misconception that female cats were better. I’m not sure why I thought that other than opinions from friends. My first two cats, Kiggy and Michi, were female and they were great. When we decided (well, I begged and hubby relented) to adopt our third, the shelter recommended adopting a male because they said that female cats would have a harder time accepting another female.
We looked around at the shelter at all the male kittens. We decided on a kitten due to the fact that we already had two and the acceptance of a kitten should be easier. Lucian was a sweet kitten, but we had forgotten how wild they can be. He terrorized our resident queens and made all us miserable. On the recommendation from the shelter, we adopted a fourth. This time we opted for another female, Lucian’s littermate whom we named Liv Tiger. She helped divert his wild energy so that the older cats could stop hiding under the couch and hissing every time he came near.
After Kiggy and Michi died a year apart from each other, the house seemed empty with only two. We jointly decided to once again add a third. This time we opted for a male because we enjoyed Lucian’s company so much. He is more affectionate than the girls, which just may be his personality. We adopted Wayne and he bonded quickly with Lucian.
I’ve lived with 5 cats over the past 19 years. Three female and two male. They have all been wonderful cats with individual personalities. All were spayed or neutered, so behavior problems due to hormonal urges have not been an issue.
- My male cats have been more destructive as kittens.
Lucian used to tear and bite rolls of toilet paper or paper towels. Wayne chewed anything he could get his mouth on. We had to put cord protectors to protect both our electronics and Wayne. The girls never got into too much trouble.
- My male cats are more affectionate than the females.
Both Wayne and Lucian are snugglers. They follow us from room to room and want to be carried or held. The girls are loving but a little more aloof.
- My male cats are physically larger.
Wayne is 18 pounds and Lucian is 15. Liv is only 10 pounds. Michi was only 8 pounds and Kiggy was 10 pounds.
- Male cats will spray to mark their territory if not neutered. They will also be more territorial and fight other males for dominance.
My cats were all neutered before reaching sexual maturity. They have never sprayed.
I haven’t noticed any difference in aggressiveness with altered male or female cats. Lucian is somewhat aggressive. When he’s in a bad mood he’ll take it out on his sister. Liv was aggressive with Kiggy and Michi but not with the boys. Wayne is passive. Although he is the largest cat in the household, he is also the most meek. He’ll back down in any confrontation. He still tries to bulk up by bristling his fur on his back and tail to try to look bigger. He’s 34 inches in length and 18 pounds. I’m not sure he needs the illusion of extra size.
In the end, it’s the individual personality of the cat that makes a difference. As long as the cat has been spayed or neutered, gender will not play that big of a role.
Am I Ready?
Adopting a cat is a wonderful experience, but one that should be taken very seriously. Cats can live into their late teens or even early twenties. Before adopting a cat you should ask yourself some questions.
- Am I willing to adjust my life and my home to accommodate a cat?
While cats are a fairly low maintenance pet, they do need outlets for scratching, they shed, they need a litter box and do vomit on occasion. Are you willing to put the time into learning what is natural behavior and adjust accordingly?
- Can I afford medical care for my cat?
Veterinary bills can be very expensive. It’s important to find a good vet for regular medical care.
- Who will take care of my cat when I travel?
Do you have a friend or relative who can come by to feed and visit while you are away?
- What will happen to my cat if I have to move?
Make sure that you can provide a “forever home” for your cat. He or she will become part of your family and will need to be treated as such.
- Does anyone in the house have allergies or asthma?
Cats are often given up because someone in the household has allergies or asthma that is made worse by a cat. If you are not sure, try spending some time with a friend who has cats to see how you react.
Cat or Kitten?
Kittens are one of the cutest things on the face of the earth. Only a hard hearted person could resist the allure of a tiny, soft little kitten.
There are many positives to adopting a kitten, including:
- you know the kitten’s history
- you can train the kitten
- kittens are easier to introduce to a multi-cat household
- they’re just so darn cute
Some things to consider before adopting a kitten, include:
- kittens are wild and like to play all the time, often hunting you if no other ‘prey’ is available
- kittens are small and can easily be hurt by a child or adult playing too rough
- kittens are curious and will get into everything
- you need to kitten proof the house, similar to baby-proofing a house for a new infant
- you have the added expenses of vaccinations and spaying/neutering
- kittens can be destructive by chewing on cords, running up drapes, breaking nick-nacks, etc.
- kitten’s personalities have not developed yet
You would be surprised at how quickly a kitten becomes a cat. Within one year, the kitten will be full grown. If this is your first cat or you do not have other cats at home, you may want to consider an adult cat.
Some positives to adopting an adult cat include:
- cats are more mellow than kittens
- cats should already be trained to use a litterbox
- cats personalities are more apparent
- you may be saving a cat’s life by adopting from a shelter. most people want kittens.
- does the cat have any behavior or health problems? This shouldn’t prevent you from adopting, but you should be aware of extra training or medical costs.
- if you have other cats, will they get along? Adult cats often see a new cat as an intruder. Introductions need to be slow.
I’m known around my office as the ‘Cat Lady’. People are usually kind enough to leave the ‘crazy” part out. I don’t think I fit the stereotype of a Cat Lady. I am married, I only have 3 cats, I’m not completely obsessed with cats – just mildly obsessed.
I did not grow up with cats or any pets for that matter. I always wanted a pet, but we lived in apartments where it was not allowed. I finally convinced my mom when I was in college to harbor an “illegal” cat which meant we had to hide her when the landlord came by. Personally, I think the landlord knew but just looked the other way.
That was 19 years ago and I’ve learned a lot about how to live harmoniously with cats over the years. I’ve made many mistakes along the way and am happy that cats are forgiving animals that love unconditionally, despite the rumor of being aloof.
I hope to use this blog to share the things that I’ve learned over the years and to share some excellent resources that can help make your relationship with your cat the one it was meant to be.