Just because a person announces the desire to adopt a cat doesn’t mean that person gets a cat.
Whether you’re a rescue group or just a person who found a cat that you can’t keep, it’s important to make sure you check out potential adopters. I asked some of my rescue friends to share some of the important things they look for. Here are some important questions to get answered before you hand over a kitty to others:
1. Is the person allowed to have pets?
Many apartment buildings or condos don’t allow pets or have a pet limit. And many people think that cats will go unnoticed since they don’t have to be walked or bark like dogs, says my friend Jenny Slack of Orphan Animal Rescue and Sanctuary in Wisconsin. (I’m guilty of this, too.) You should make sure the potential adopter is allowed to have the kitty they want to adopt, just in case they get caught. One would hope a person would just move and take their cat with them instead of surrendering them to a shelter later, but that’s not always the case, and you don’t want the cat to end up homeless a couple years later.
2. Does the person agree to spay, neuter, and vaccinate?
The only way to stop the overpopulation of unwanted pets is to have them fixed. It’s important to educate people on this and make sure they aren’t going to add to the problem. Most rescues require the pet to be spayed before adopting (OARS does!). If they won’t spay, chances are it will cause more homeless cats later.
As for vaccinations, some people argue that indoor cats and other pets don’t need to be vaccinated regularly, but at least check for initial vaccines if adopting to a family who already has pets.
3. How is the person’s criminal history?
No one is saying that everyone needs to be perfect or that people can’t change, but there are certain crimes or charges that are serious red flags when it comes to potential adopters. Jenny says OARS checks for the big ones: recent drug charges, domestic abuse, and sexual assault charges. Any history of violence is not a household you want to place your sweet kitten in.
4. Does the person complain about the adoption fee?
Adoption fees serve two purposes, explains Stacey Chen of Good Karma Pet Rescue of South Florida. First, it helps cover some of the costs racked up while caring for the cat before getting her adopted (vaccines, spay/neuter, food, vet care, etc). More important, it shows the adopter is willing to spend some money on the cat. If a person doesn’t even want to pay $50 to adopt a cat, what are the chances they’ll want to spend $500 or more on it if it needs serious vet care? Or even that they’ll take it to regular check-ups and pay for that? Cheap is not a good thing when it comes to pet ownership.
5. Does the whole family approve of the adoption?
When doing meet and greets or house visits to make sure a potential adopter checks out, it’s a good idea to make sure the whole family that lives in the house is present.
Stacey told me about one time where she drove a couple hours to do a house visit with a potential adopter and everything checked out great. The woman was excited and the house was fine, so the kitty stayed in her new home. But on her drive back, she got a call from the woman saying her husband would not allow her to keep the cat! She had apparently lied about her husband being okay with it, and then when he got home, Chen had to turn around and get the kitten back.
6. Does the person already have a large number of cats?
There is no magic number for how many cats is too many -ÔÇô a five-bedroom house can hold many more cats than a one bedroom ÔÇô- but there is a point where enough is enough. It’s also important to make sure that if a person has owned many cats previously who are not around, you know what happened to them, explains Cheryl Johnson of Forever Home Feline Ranch in Illinois. There’s a big red flag if someone says, for instance, that she has had a lot of indoor/outdoor cats and that they were killed. You don’t want to adopt your cat into a potentially harmful situation!
7. Does the person provide landlord information?
Another red flag Cheryl suggested is to watch out for any potential adopter who is not willing to give you their landlord’s information. Perhaps they are not paying rent on time or they are not allowed to have pets or they have too many pets. There could be many reasons why someone might want to withhold this, but none of them are good ones when it comes to adopting a cat. Adopters should be completely upfront about anything that has to do with how the cat will live.
8. Does the person promise no declawing?
This is a hot topic to some, but the fact is that declawing is a cruel procedure. Many rescues require adopters to promise and sign something saying they will not declaw the cat. If they won’t promise that, no cat for them!
Jo Ann Natale-Varvatsas, a rescue partner for Gaston County Animal Control in Dallas, NC, also requires adopters to promise never to have the cat’s hair dyed or undergo any other non-medical cosmetic alterations. You don’t want your poor kitty to end up tattooed and neon pink with a mohawk!
9. Will the person commit to the cat for a lifetime?
Adoption is for life, not for now, Jo Ann reminds us. Adopters must be willing to commit to keeping the cat safe and sound for the cat’s entire life, which is typically 10 to 20 years. If a person can’t commit to that, for whatever reason, it is not a good home for the kitty. You don’t want them looking for a new home later in life as a senior!
10. Does the person just give you a bad feeling?
A lot of times, you just get a feeling about someone when you meet or talk to them. Trust this feeling. If something seems off or you don’t get a good feeling about a potential adopter, do not adopt the cat to her! It’s your job to make sure you place the cat in a good situation. Be smart and be pick, and your kitty will be happy!
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