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What to Know Before Adopting a Cat

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Choosing to adopt a cat is an exciting decision. Not only are you adding a new pet to your household, but you are gaining another family member and a best friend. However, if you are new to the cat adoption process, you may have a few questions.

What Do I Need to Know Before Adopting a Cat?

Before adopting a cat, there are many things to consider. For starters, it’s crucial to understand that cats are a significant responsibility and commitment. When you adopt a cat, you commit to taking care of them for the rest of their lives, which can be 15-20 years for some felines.

This means that before you even step foot in your local humane society or cat rescue, it’s essential that you evaluate your current lifestyle and the one you see for yourself in the upcoming years. Though you might currently have a conducive living situation for a cat, it’s important to look at your immediate plans for the future. If you plan on moving soon, traveling more, or possibly even going back to school, then you may no longer be able to dedicate enough time to a cat.

Of course, pets are also a major financial responsibility. Beyond their initial adoption fees and supplies, reoccurring costs can include food, litter, treats, toys, veterinary visits, flea, tick, and heartworm medications. Before adopting a cat, look at your financial situation and be realistic about whether you can afford to take care of a pet.

On top of considering your time and money allowances, make sure that your current housing situation allows cats, that no one in your home has a cat allergy, and that any current pets will be open to having a new cat around.

If you aren’t quite ready for the long-term commitment of adopting a cat, but would still love to have one around, perhaps fostering a cat is a better choice for you.

What Questions to Ask When Adopting a Cat

Adopting a cat is a big decision, so don’t worry if you have a million questions. Whether you ask some fellow cat parents, a veterinarian, the internet, or the employees at the cat rescue, there are many helpful resources to utilize while you do your research.

Some reoccurring questions that future cat parents may ask include:

Should I Adopt an FIV Positive Cat?

FIV, or feline immunodeficiency virus, is often referred to as cat HIV or cat AIDS because it has similar effects on felines. It’s quite likely for cats to have this virus for years before they begin showing signs, at which point it’ll be necessary to take your pal to the veterinarians for some diagnostic tests.

There is no cure for FIV, so your cat will need continuous treatment, which is an added cost to consider. You will also need to prepare yourself—cats with this condition do not usually live past five years from diagnosis.

Should I Adopt a Cat With Feline Herpes?

Feline herpes, also known as Feline Herpesvirus (FHV) or Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis (FVR), can affect cats of any age. Once diagnosed, cats will be carriers for life. Though this virus can be contagious to other cats, your dog will not be able to catch it. Similar to FIV, if you adopt a cat with FHV, you will need to be prepared to cover the costs of their treatment throughout the rest of their life and have the time for some added care-taking needs.

Should I Adopt a Cat With Feline Leukemia?

Your veterinarian can diagnose the feline leukemia virus (FeLV) by running a simple blood test. There is no cure for feline leukemia, but there are treatment options. Many cats with this condition pass away within a handful of years post-diagnosis. Since cats with feline leukemia are recommended to visit their veterinarian more often, adopting a cat with FeLV can be more expensive.

How Old of a Cat Should I Adopt?

There is no right or wrong answer to this question since every pet parent is different. One way to make this decision easier is to consider what age group may best fit your lifestyle.

For instance, if you want a rambunctious companion that will play all day long, a kitten may be the best choice. However, if you’d prefer a laidback cat who just wants to cuddle and nap all day, then a senior cat may fit this profile much better. 

When considering adopting a cat with health issues, or one that’s specially-abled, it’s important to be realistic about the added responsibility—whether through time or money. However, just because a cat doesn’t have a completely clean bill of health, that doesn’t mean they will be any less of a perfect pet. If anything, providing a loving home to these cats that may not be everyone’s first choice can prove to be even more rewarding in the long run.

tabby cat cuddling with their pet parent

How to Choose a Cat to Adopt

When it comes time to choose which cat to adopt, it can be a little overwhelming, especially because, in an ideal world, you’d want to provide a home for all the cats in need. Like any other major decision in life, though, doing a process of elimination can help you come to a final decision easier.

Although dogs may have more noticeable distinctions from one to the next, some nuances between cats can make a world of difference.

  • Age. Some people may have their heart set on adopting the oldest cat in the shelter, while others would prefer to have a kitten. If age truly doesn’t matter to you, then you will most likely have more cats from which to choose.
  • Size. Cats do not vary as much in size as dogs, but there can still be significant differences. For instance, Singapura cats average weight falls between 4-8 pounds while Maine Coons often weigh close to 18 pounds.
  • Breed. The breed of a cat not only determines their size, but it also is a reflection of their personality and temperament. Some breeds prefer to spend every waking minute with their humans or in someone’s arms, while others are relatively reserved around any guest and don’t want to be held.
  • Current pets. When you are trying to determine which cat is the best choice for your home, you will also need to keep your current pets in mind. If you have a rambunctious and playful dog, finding a cat that can match that energy may be best.
  • Chemistry. One of the best ways to see which cat will be a good fit is to spend some time with them at the rescue. Most humane societies allow you to sit in the cat rooms and interact with the adoptable cats. By spending some one-on-one time with them, you may naturally start feeling a connection with one in particular.

If you share your household with others, whether roommates, a spouse, or kids, it’s considerate to loop them into the decision-making process. After all, your new cat is much more than just a pet—they are now a part of the family.

Thinking about adopting a rescue dog as well? Learn all about the ins and outs and what to expect.

What to Do When Adopting a Cat

If you have never adopted a cat or any pet, for that matter, then the process may seem overwhelming and somewhat foreign. Rest assured, volunteers and staff members at humane societies are often generous with helpful tips and advice to guide you through this process.

What to Expect When Adopting a Cat

When the time has come, and you have found ‘the one,’ there are a few steps you can expect to go through before you can take your new friend home. Although there can be slight differences between pet adoption facilities, most will require you to fill out an application. If you are already a pet parent, they may call your established veterinarian. If you are still a dependent in your household, then they may need further confirmation that the adoption of a new pet is allowed.

If your application is approved, you might need to fill out some additional paperwork and, lastly, pay the adoption fee. After that, you will be free to take your new four-legged friend to their new home.

Depending on the day you visit the shelter and how busy they are, you can expect to be there anywhere from a quick 20 minutes to possibly over an hour. However, since it will be your cat’s first day in their new home anyways, it’s best to keep the remainder of your day completely free—this way, you can spend it entirely with them.

What You Need When Adopting a Cat

Like any other pet, you will need to purchase some necessary cat supplies when you adopt a cat. Items to add to your list:

  • Food and water bowls
  • Age-appropriate food
  • Treats
  • Toys
  • Climbing tower
  • Scratching post
  • Bed
  • Litter, litter box, and scoop
  • Break-away collar
  • Brush or comb
  • Nail clippers
  • Cat carrier

Although you might not need every one of these items on the first day you bring your cat home, try to have the necessities already purchased. Most cats will already be stressed traveling to a new home, so it is best to avoid a trip to the pet store as well.

Along with these physical items, you will also need a veterinarian for your cat. It is best to establish your new pet with a veterinarian as soon as possible. They can help ensure your cat is up to date on their vaccinations and that they are in tip-top shape.

The first few weeks or months after bringing home a new cat can be a little stressful, albeit it’s always worth it. Remember to take things slow and work on building your relationship with your feline friend. It may take some cats a little while to become comfortable in their new environment and realize that this new place is now their forever home.

The information presented in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute or substitute for the advice of your veterinarian.


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