When it comes to finding your new cat, there are all sorts of things to consider. Do you prefer long, medium, or short hair? Will your new cat have to get along with other cats or dogs? Do you want a male or female? Do you prefer a kitten, an adult, or a senior? Can you provide for a cat with special needs? Maybe you’re not quite sure, but instead are waiting for that perfect cat to grab your eye.
For me, finding my next cat is a really big deal. We recently lost our sweet Leela, the sister to our other cat, Fry. We’d like to find a cat that’s female, gets along with dogs, and complements Fry’s playful personality. We’re certainly in no rush, although Fry wishes we were.
Here are the places I’ll be looking for my next cat:
My No. 1 choice in looking for a new cat is to scour local shelters. Policies vary by shelter, but the bottom line is that any cat is at risk to be put down if they can’t be adopted, whether it’s because the shelter needs space or the cat became sick from being caged for so long. When you adopt from a shelter, you are giving a cat a second chance on love and happiness, as well as saving a life.
Added bonus? The adoption fee typically covers vaccines, FIV/FELV screening and spay/neuter. Some shelters even offer microchips, temporary pet insurance, and returns/exchanges for a certain period of time. That’s a pretty hard deal to beat! There’s not much of a downside for adopting from a shelter, unless you are dealing with one that doesn’t follow proper protocol. Fortunately, my local shelter seems to be pretty on top of things as far as vaccines, quarantine, and cleanliness goes.
Cat rescue is clearly not as popular as dog rescue, because my newsfeed on Facebook has yet to be overrun with cats pleading for foster homes. That certainly doesn’t mean cat rescues aren’t out there, though! Cat rescues are typically advertised as "no kill," which means they only euthanize due to health issues or aggression rather than space. Like with shelters, adoption fees cover vaccines, FIV/FELV screening and spay/neuter. Most rescues will also microchip your new cat.
Added bonus? Cats in rescues often get more attention and activity time, as many cat rescues operate a cage-free environment, and the cats may be more likely to show their true personality upfront. The downside to this is that diseases like feline herpes are easily spread, hard to detect, and can be hard to treat if not caught early.
Warning signs of a sick cat include runny nose, sneezing, "goopy" eyes, and lethargy. We have a cage-free cat rescue in my hometown, but I’m hesitant to adopt from them, as I know of four adopters that came away with sick cats, two of which were contagious and spread the illness to the adopters resident cats. The best defense against this is to take advantage of the vet exam most rescues offer within so many days of adoption. Be sure and talk with the rescue staff about any potential problems with your future companion.
I’ll be the first to tell you -ÔÇô I have nearly zero experience with cat breeders. I know they exist, or we wouldn’t have any purebred cats running around. I don’t plan on going through a breeder. There’s so many breed-specific cat rescues out there — if I were to decide I wanted a purebred cat, I could find just about any breed I could think of. While there are responsible cat breeders out there, there’s just as many (if not more) irresponsible ones. One of the few breeders I had the displeasure of dealing with bred five different cat breeds, as well as four different dog breeds. There was no separation of any of the animals, except by breed, so both the cats and dogs were breeding every heat. That’s a kitty mill if ever there was one!
If you do decide to go through a breeder, make sure they follow the guidelines of a responsible breeder. They should have the cats in their home, the kittens should be litter box trained, and they should have already had all of their initial vaccines from a licensed veterinarian. The breeder should be able to show you paperwork on the parents, including health information. The breeder should also have a rather in-depth application process to get to know you and your expectations, as well as how you plan to provide for your new companion. The downside to buying from a breeder? Your purchase price doesn’t necessarily cover spay/neuter, which can be rather costly, depending on what’s available in your area. Again, not really an option I’m considering!
4. The cat next door
We all have someone in our neighborhood who is perpetually getting rid of kittens, whether they’re for free or for a small "rehoming" fee. We have someone living down the road from us who has a host of cats they occasionally feed. I’m not sure if they consider them pets or strays, but they don’t spay/neuter any of them, and they aren’t open to others helping them spay/neuter any of them.
Like our neighborhood cat lady, many people grow attached to the strays they feed and don’t want to part with them or have them fixed, leading to litter after litter as their females continue to get pregnant. While a kitten from someone like this may not cost you anything up front, veterinary exams, vaccines, spay/neuter surgeries, deworming, and all of the other medical costs will add up quick, not to mention it won’t encourage the owner to have their cats spayed/neutered.
Many of you are probably pretty familiar with Craigslist, a website where you can post and browse things for sale or free. People often turn to Craigslist to find homes for their pets when they can no longer care for them. People post cats of all ages, including cats who have already been spayed/neutered and have been given vaccines. Cats who are offered for free on Craigslist will more than likely end up in a shelter if not adopted, so by adopting one off Craigslist, you are keeping it out of the shelter. The biggest downside to getting a cat or kitten from someone else is the unknown, which is a big issue for me. More than likely, the kittens have not had any veterinary care, they haven’t been dewormed, and you can only hope that they are healthy.
Again, we’re certainly in no rush to adopt a new cat, but I feel terrible for Fry. He spends every night crying out for Leela and tries to play with my hands and feet like they’re another cat. I’m also expecting our first child, so it’s of the utmost importance that any cat who comes to live with us is in good health with a solid vet history. And she needs to mesh with our family.
About Meghan Lodge: Fits the Aquarius definition to a fault, loves animals, and is always pushing for change. Loves ink, whether it’s in tattoos, books, or writing on that pretty sheet of blank paper. Proud parent of two dogs (one being very dumb) and two cats (one perpetually plotting my demise). I’m a former quiet nerd who’s turned bubbly animal-obsessed advocate.
Read more on getting a new kitty:
- Lessons in Cat Adoption: How to Choose the Right Kitty
- We Talk to the Biggest Purebred Cat Rescue in the Midwest
- If You Bought a Purebred Cat, I Won’t Judge You
- What Should I Look for When Choosing a Kitten?
- Should I Choose Two Cats from the Same Litter?
- Six Ways to Bond With Your New Cat
- How to Introduce a New Cat Into Your Home, Without Blood Loss