Part 3 Choosing your cat
Look past the cat’s looks. Much like humans, cats should not be judged by their outer beauty alone. While there’s nothing wrong with feeling drawn to an adorable face, make sure you consider more than the cat’s appearance when making your decision.
Ask about adoption counseling. Many shelters and foster networks offer free adoption counseling, where they will ask you about your needs, lifestyle, and personality and make recommendations from there. This is a great way for you to meet cats that will mesh with you and your needs.
Bring along everyone the cat will interact with. It’s helpful to get an idea of how the cat will interact with everyone in your household, especially children. If you can, bring everyone when you meet the cat to see how everyone gets along.
Ask to hold the animal you like. Ask an employee or volunteer to show you how to handle the cat. Every cat has individual preferences about how it is handled that the workers will probably be more familiar with. This can help prevent things like biting and scratching. If the cat resists, don’t force it. Some cats are very affectionate, but just do not like to be held. Other cats may simply be uncomfortable in an unfamiliar environment and will warm up over time.
- Make your hand into a fist and extend it towards the cat. This is a human method for mimicking a feline greeting. If the cat head-butts your hand, this is a friendly greeting. If he/she looks away or backs away, the cat may not like meeting new people.
- If the cat attempts to scratch or bite you, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t adopt it. Many cats scratch or bite when they are anxious or afraid. However, a cat who bites or scratches may not be a good choice for a household with small children.
Ask about the cat’s history. It’s important to get as much information about the cat as you can before you make your decision. Some good questions to ask include:
- How long has the cat been there?
- Why is the cat there?
- How does the cat interact with other cats, the staff, and other animals?
- What is the cat’s personality like?
- Does the volunteer/employee/breeder have any concerns?
- Does the cat have any health issues?
Ask how the cat has been socialized. Especially with purebred kittens, it’s important that they be socialized with a variety of different people, sights, sounds, smells, and other experiences in their first 12 weeks of life. Without proper socialization, the kitten could grow up into a cat that doesn’t like people, or is even aggressive. Studies show that kittens who get plenty of human contact in their first 7 weeks are more likely to mature into friendly, well-developed cats.
- Good socialization includes holding and petting kittens for at least a few minutes every day soon after they’re born. However, newborn kittens should not be taken away from their mother for more than a few seconds at a time. Doing so could make her anxious or even cause her to reject the kitten.
- Other important socialization processes include playing with toys, interacting with people in games such as chasing and pouncing, and exploring different types of objects, such as cardboard boxes, paper bags, and scratching posts.
- Make sure that the kitten has not been socialized to consider fingers and toes as toys. Kittens may accidentally scratch or bite while playing, but this behavior should not be encouraged. The kitten should always be redirected to an appropriate toy if scratching or biting happens.
- Kittens should also encounter many different people so they’re less likely to be shy of strangers.
Consider an older cat. With all the tiny kittens available, it can be tempting to go straight for the cute and forget about older cats. However, older cats pose some advantages:
- Their personalities are usually set, so you are likely to know more about how the cat will behave and what its attitude is like.
- Older cats are often litter box-trained and don’t require as much supervision.
- Older cats are usually calmer and are better with small children.
- If your older cat wasn’t properly socialized as a kitten, you can still teach her remedial socialization. It may take a lot longer, but with patience and training, even an adult cat can become less skittish.
Find out whether the cat you’re interested in is one of a bonded pair. Cats sometimes come into shelters with another cat with whom they have already bonded, or form a bond while in the shelter. If separated they may suffer emotionally and have difficulty forming future bonds with other pets.
- If you are looking to adopt two cats, an already bonded pair is a good choice, as they will comfort each other through the stress of relocation.