June is Adopt-a-Shelter-Cat Month, and there is no better place to adopt your next new best friend than a shelter or rescue. These groups are full of wonderful, family-ready cats who ultimately cost much less than pets purchased from stores or even acquired for free, once you add in the cost of various extras included in the adoption fee, such as vaccinations, spay/neuter surgery, microchip, dewormer, etc. You’ll probably be surprised by what a great deal an adopted cat really is!
Unfortunately, there are more cats than there are adopters, and nationwide up to 70 percent of shelter cats are put down — that’s about 2.7 million healthy cats a year. Approximately 25 percent of people get their cats from a shelter, but millions more lives could be saved if more people would chose to adopt from a shelter.
I’ll never forget the time I first met Tobias at a shelter in Florida. I had traveled from Maryland on a work-related trip, which involved helping to film a video about caring for cats. The producers took me to the shelter so that I could choose some friendly cats for the video. I went into the cat room, sat down, and waited to see who would approach me. Almost instantly a big, fluffy brown cat dashed past several other cats and jumped into my lap. He started purring, kneading, and kissing me. He seemed friendly enough! I chose him and two other cats to take to the film studio.
I wanted to let the cats settle in a bit before we did any filming, so I took one of the carriers into a small room and opened it. Out popped Mr. Friendly Tobias. He wasn’t interested in the room, the litter box, or the water. He was interested in me. I petted him for a few minutes, and then opened the door to the studio.
Most cats I’ve known would not have ventured out right away or they would have been very tentative. Not Tobias. Out he went, as confident as he could be, to greet everyone and check out everything. I followed him out and as soon as I sat down, there he was again up in my lap, purring, kneading, and kissing me.
When the filming was over, the producers took the cats back to the shelter. I couldn’t stop thinking about Tobias and his wonderful personality. As soon as I woke up the next morning, I immediately called the producers and asked them to contact the shelter right away. I wanted to adopt Tobias.
I returned to the shelter and found out a little more about Tobias. He had been in a home with 33 other cats, and the shelter estimated he was about 10 years old. I wondered if he was so friendly because that was the only way to get attention in such a crowded house or whether he was trying to make up for a lack of attention.
Either way, I just loved his personality and didn’t care that he was already a senior cat. After all, I was a senior as well. I enjoyed telling friends that I’d met a wonderful guy in Florida and that he was affectionate and mature and had beautiful green eyes and thick brown hair. The look on their faces was priceless when I told them that the man of my dreams was a cat.
Unfortunately, some people think that there is something wrong with shelter or rescue cats. But a cat’s homelessness is usually not his fault. It’s usually a human issue, such as a move or a landlord who won’t allow a cat, a divorce, an allergy, a pregnancy, or a job loss.
Fortunately, most shelters and rescue groups evaluate the physical and behavioral health of their animals and work hard to help adopters choose a pet who is a good fit for their family. But there’s more to it than that. Shelters and rescues can provide a lifetime of support to help adopters resolve issues that may upset their loving relationship with their pet.
If you’re thinking of adopting a cat and starting your life as a cat owner, it’s best to think of it like a job. In that vein, here are three things to consider before you take the position:
Candidates must possess excellent communication and organization skills, unlimited patience, and a keen sense of humor, and they be willing to work evenings and weekends. Often, pet parents must be willing to consider their cat’s needs above their own; for example, sitting for hours so they don’t disturb the cat on their lap.
No financial compensation will be provided, but pet parents will receive a lifetime of entertainment, licks, purrs, and more. Pet parents must be willing to: provide care when their cat is ill or old and loses his house-training skills; train their cat to claw on a scratching post and not their couch; find the best advice to keep their family and pet safe and healthy; and work together to weather whatever curves life may throw.
But on-the-job training is offered on an ongoing basis!
Pet parenthood offers limitless opportunities for improved physical and mental health, and a lifetime of unconditional love. A relationship with a pet will be unlike any human relationship — and sometimes better. Cherish and enjoy it!
There are millions of cats like my Toby waiting for their forever home. If you’re not ready to be a pet parent, volunteering with an animal shelter or rescue group is a great way to learn about cats and cat care and to help cats waiting for their forever homes. For example, I loved being a foster parent and socializing a litter of five four-week-old feral kittens.
You can also help cats by tweeting about the importance of cat adoption, being a community (feral and stray) cat caretaker, or showing your support for Adopt-a-Shelter-Cat Month on the American Humane Society’s Facebook page. In small and big ways, everyone can make a difference in the lives of cats.
How are you celebrating Adopt-a-Shelter-Cat Month? Let us know in the comments!
Read more on adopting a cat:
Read stories of rescue and love on Catster:
About the author: Nancy Peterson is a registered veterinary technician and award-winning writer. She joined The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the nation’s largest animal protection organization, in 1998 and is currently the Cat Programs Manager. She lives in Maryland with her cats Luna, adopted from a feline rescue; Toby, adopted from an animal shelter; and Jenny, a feral kitten she fostered. Check out the HSUS cat information at humanesociety.org/cats and humanesociety.org/outdoorcats.