Part of the responsibility in owning a cat is ensuring its good health. Cats are quite good at hiding illness, which is likely a survival instinct. An ill animal is much more likely to get attacked out in the wild. Often any symptoms your cat may show will be subtle until something is acutely wrong.
This is one of the reasons why it is important to find a veterinarian you trust long before you need one. You don’t want to be frantically searching through the yellow pages looking for a veterinarian during a crisis.
What To Look For
If your cat does not travel well, you may want to find one close to home. This is not the most important criteria, but something to be considered. Try to lessen the stress on your cat.
- Friendly Office
It’s nice to find an office where both the staff and veterinarian not only care about the animals they care for but care about you. A smaller office may be more likely to remember you and your pets. The downside is they may not be open on the weekends or evenings.
- Someone You Trust
Take your cat in for a general check up. See how they treat you and your cat. Are they gentle with your cat even if he fusses? Do they push treatment options on you without explaining the necessity? Do you feel comfortable asking questions?
- After Hours Treatment Options
Cats always seem to get sick on the weekend or at night when the offices are closed. Does your veterinarian have after hours options, even if it’s a recommended emergency clinic they work closely with?
Veterinary care can add up quickly. Is your veterinarian conservative in treatment while still putting medical care first? Do they give you estimates and payment options if treatment is prohibitively expensive?
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.