Congratulations! You’re on your way to adopting a cat! Apart from gaining a friend for life, you’re also providing a better home for him/her. This guide covers all the necessary information you need in order to adopt a cat from a rescue shelter, including:
It’s a good idea to include anyone living with you in your search for a new cat. Have an honest chat about things like primary care, medical bills, living spaces and budgets. Once you’ve done that, it’s time to enjoy the journey! Let’s get started.
#1 Plan before adopting a cat
Consider carefully whether or not you have the right time and finances to ensure your cat’s wellbeing. For instance, plan who will care for your cat if you go on holidays.
If you intend to move house or countries in the next few years it’s best to post-pone adopting a cat. It’s heartbreaking when pet owners abandon cats without considering the consequences.
Summarising everything that goes into the planning stages of adopting a cat, ask yourself:
- Can I offer this animal a stable environment and safe loving place for its entire life?
- Is everyone in my house on board with this idea?
- Can I provide this creature with the right medical attention (read: vet bills, grooming costs and more)?
- Will the other cat/s or dog/s in the house adjust to a new companion?
- Am I ready to prioritise this cat in my daily routine?
Quick tip: Don’t take the decision to adopt a cat lightly. You are welcoming a new family member into your home. Ensuring that no one thinks of this animal as ‘disposable’ is a crucial first step.
#2 Cat proofing your house
Even though cats are more independent than dogs, they will still benefit from having a primary caretaker. Pick one person who has the time to care for your new friend and be responsible for feeding, grooming and playing with your rescue cat. In the early stages while your cat or kitten settles in, this will ensure continuity and stability. If you have kids, discuss their responsibilities and teach them how to be gentle with your cat.
Once you’ve decided to adopt, ‘cat-proof’ your home and prepare toys, a bed, a scratching post and a litter box for starters. Cats like to have a safe haven to hide in. One option is to buy a covered cat bed, or you can use a cardboard box turned upside down with two ‘doors’ cut in too. You also need to clean your cat’s litter box regularly, so be sure to pick a spot that’ll be easy to maintain. And remember, cats love scratching things! Keep scratching posts or mats available throughout, if you want to keep your furniture safe.
- Where will your new cat’s litter box be placed?
- Where will the cat sleep?
- Do you need to protect any expensive or important furniture (because your new cats will scratch your couch!)?
- Are you precious about rugs, bed headboards, armchairs, and carpeting? If yes, you’ll need to invest in some anti-scratch sprays, scratch guards, and time—to discourage excessive scratching behaviour.
- Do you have live wires lying around? Because your cat will try to play with cables and power points.
Quick tip: Getting a cat is a little more effort than simply picking it up at the shelter. You’re essentially preparing your home for a new lifelong family member—and it is now as much your cat’s home as it is yours. Be careful not to treat him/her as an intruder.
#3 Choosing a cat: what to consider
Cat rescue shelters and rescue groups are available in most cities with a quick web search. Choosing to adopt a cat should not be a rushed process and you might want to prepare yourself for the right cat to come along, or visit a few shelters before deciding.
Long-haired cats will need brushing daily, and some breeds tend to have more energy than others. You’ll also need to consider your new pet’s age and previous experiences. There are usually both cats and kittens to be found in shelters, and you’ll need to decide which is better suited to you and your family.
The benefit of adopting an older cat is that they are often already toilet trained, grown out of problematic kitten habits and you can be sure of what you’re getting. The drawbacks of giving a beautiful kitten a new home are that it can be difficult to tell if they are short or long-haired, and they are more likely to need a few more trips to the veterinarian, such as for vaccinations and neutering. However, a kitten is a fresh state and is less likely to have bad habits or past traumas that will affect how he/she fits into your home.
Choosing between a cat or kitten is often a deeply personal choice for most people. We’ve seen some people bond more with older cats, while for some others the excitement of a new kitten in the house has its own special place. If you already have a cat or dog in the house, choose your new cat’s age based on how well socialised they are with other cats and dogs (if old). Most shelters allow a trial to see how the new cat settles into your home with the other pets and kids.
Quick tip: Choosing an adult cat means you know what you’re getting, and you’re saving a life by rescuing an older cat who may struggle to be adopted.
#4 Welcoming your new cat: the adjustment period
Your new cat will likely initially be scared and wary of new things. Your cat may have come to think of the shelter as home and your home will seem foreign and strange to him/her. Therefore, your new cat will need time to adjust and adapt to new settings and may initially seem shy or anxious.
Don’t expect too much from your shelter cat too quickly, and try to limit the number of new things you expose them to straight away. There will already be a multitude of new people, objects, and smells for your new pet to deal with, and maybe other animals to meet as well. You can help your pet adjust by avoiding inviting guests over in the first week and steering clear of loud machinery such as vacuums or leaf blowers.
Building a routine will help your cat to adjust. Ensuring stability around meal time will help your pet feel safe and welcomed. Dedicate a meal space for your cat, aim for the same time every day and always have the primary caregiver prepare the food initially.
Your new cat will also need safe spaces within your house. Do not pull it out of these safe spaces, since that will only encourage your cat to move on and find another one—often, in a state of panic or fear. Simply let him or her stay in that safe space, till they feel safe enough to come out and explore—which they most certainly will eventually!
Quick tip: Building a new routine and keeping things calm is the fastest way to help your cat adjust.
Tying it all together
Before adopting a cat, think about whether a cat or kitten is better suited to your home. Consider if you have time to care for him/her. Think about where they’ll sleep, where you’ll place the litter box and who will be responsible for feeding and grooming. Prepare your cat’s bed, a scratch post, and some toys before they arrive. Your new friend will be a bit quiet or timid for the first week or two. Help them adjust however you can.
You’ll also need to cater for the new cat admin requirements in your life. Ensure that your cat is healthy and content by taking care of essentials. These include choosing the right vet, and schedules for grooming, flea, tick and deworming.
By now, and well before bringing your new cat home, you would have considered:
- Who your cat’s primary carer will be
- Which vet you’ll take your new cat to
- Your new daily routine
- Who will care for your cat when you leave on vacation
- How you plan to introduce your new cats to other pets in the house
- Your monthly ‘cat care’ budget that would cover everything from toys to food, and beyond.
Finally, enjoy your new feline companion!
When you find a beautiful furry friend for your family, everyone benefits. Consider your rescue cat’s needs and how these fit in with the needs of your family before adopting. Saving a cat from a life on the street is a reward in itself. Everything that comes after that, is a beautiful bonus that you will enjoy for life.
Read more articles on cat adoption here.