Millions of Americans will heed the national call to visit their local shelter or rescue center during Adopt-A-Cat Month this June, and leading national animal organizations are encouraging families and individuals interested in adopting a cat to take home not just one kitty, but two.
This is among the “Top 10” suggestions from American Humane Association, American Veterinary Medical Association, CATalyst Council and Petfinder. The four organizations collaborated to create a Top Ten Checklist to help navigate the weighty decisions that come with the awesome responsibilities of pet adoption. They have also created an online resource center – available at www.americanhumane.org/aacm – for use by shelters, veterinarians, individuals and anyone who wants to ensure the well-being of cats.
1. If you’re thinking about adopting a cat, consider taking home two. Cats require exercise, mental stimulation and social interaction. Two cats can provide this for each other. Plus they’ll provide more benefits to you. Cats’ purring has been shown to soothe humans as well as themselves – and they have an uncanny ability to just make you smile. A great place to start your search is online. Sites like Petfinder.com let you search numerous shelters in your area simultaneously to help narrow your search and more quickly find the match that’s right for you and your new feline friend.
2. Find a cat whose personality meshes with yours. Just as we each have our own personality, so do cats. In general, cats with long hair and round heads and bodies are more easygoing than lean cats with narrow heads and short hair, who are typically more active. Adoption counselors can offer advice to help you match the individual cat’s personality with your own.
“Shelters and rescue groups have all kinds of cats – from playful kittens to mellow seniors – making them great places to find your perfect match,” says Betsy Saul, founder of Petfinder.com. “And as a bonus, by adopting, you’re saving a life.”
3. Pick out a veterinarian ahead of time and schedule a visit within the first few days following the adoption. You’ll want to take any medical records you received from the adoption center on your first visit. Due to their immaturity, kittens in particular should accompany you to make the appointment – even before the exam itself – so staff can pet the cat and tell you that you’ve chosen the most beautiful one ever and the animal will have a positive association with the veterinarian’s office.
“Regular veterinary care is critically important to the health and well-being of your cat,” says Dr. Larry Kornegay, president of the American Veterinary Medical Association. “Getting your new cat to a veterinarian early will help make sure there are no underlying illnesses or injuries, and your veterinarian can work with you to develop a plan to help your new pet live the happiest, healthiest, longest life possible.”
4. Make sure everyone in the house is prepared to have a cat before your new pet comes home. Visiting the shelter or animal control facility should be a family affair. When adopting a new cat with existing pets at home, discuss with the adoption facility how to make a proper introduction.
5. Budget for the short- and long-term costs of a cat. Understand any pet is a responsibility and there’s a cost associated with that. A cat adopted from a shelter is a bargain; many facilities will have already provided spaying or neutering, initial vaccines, and a microchip for permanent identification. Plus, shelters and rescue groups are there to offer guidance and assistance as you acclimate your new family member.
6. Stock up on supplies before the cat arrives. Be prepared so your new cat can start feeling at home right away. Your cat will need a litter box, cat litter, food and water bowls, food, scratching posts, safe and stimulating toys, a cushy bed, a brush for grooming, a toothbrush and nail clippers.
7. Cat-proof your home. A new cat will quickly teach you not to leave things lying out. Food left on the kitchen counter will serve to teach your new friend to jump on counters for a possible lunch. Get rid of loose items your cat might chew on, watch to ensure the kitten isn’t chewing on electric cords, and pick up random items like paper clips (which kittens may swallow).
8. Go slowly when introducing your cat to new friends and family. It can take several weeks for a cat to relax in a new environment. It’s a great idea to keep the new addition secluded in a single room (with a litter box, food and water, toys and the cat carrier left out and open with bedding inside) until the cat is used to the new surroundings; this is particularly important if you have other pets. If you’ve adopted a kitten, socialization is very important. But remember – take it slow.
“Cats are social animals and like to live in groups, so adding a new feline friend to the household can increase enjoyment for everyone,” said Dr. Jane Brunt, CATalyst Council Executive Director. “Making introductions gradually is important, as scientific studies show that some cats can become upset with even a minor change in their environment. So for fast friends, go slow.”
9. Be sure to include your new pet in your family’s emergency plan. You probably have a plan in place for getting your family to safety in case of an emergency. Adjust this plan to include your pets. Add phone numbers for your veterinarian and closest 24-hour animal hospital to your “in-case-of-emergency” call list, and be sure to have a several-day supply of your pet’s food and medications on hand.
“Making sure your pets will be safe in an emergency situation is a critical part of ensuring the wellbeing of your entire family,” said Dr. Robin Ganzert, President and CEO of American Humane Association. “By having an emergency plan for the animals in your house, you could literally be saving lives – your pets, your own, and those involved in rescue efforts – and will make it easier to return to a normal life after the emergency is over.”
10. If you’re considering giving a cat as a gift, make sure the recipient is an active participant in the adoption process. Though well-meaning, the surprise kitty gift doesn’t allow for a “get-to know-one-another” period. Remember, adopting a cat isn’t like purchasing a household appliance or a piece of jewelry – this is a real living, breathing, and emotional being.
About American Humane Association. Since 1877, the historic American Humane Association has been at the forefront of virtually every major advance in protecting children, pets and farm animals from cruelty, abuse and neglect. Today we’re also leading the way in understanding human-animal interaction and its role in society. As the nation’s voice for the protection of children and animals, American Humane Association reaches millions of people every day through groundbreaking research, education, training and services that span a wide network of organizations, agencies and businesses. You can help make a difference, too. Visit American Humane Association atwww.americanhumane.org today.Adopt-A-Cat Month was launched in 1975 and is a registered trademark of American Humane Association.
About the American Veterinary Medical Association. The AVMA, founded in 1863, is one of the oldest and largest veterinary medical organizations in the world, comprised of more than 81,500 member veterinarians engaged in a wide variety of professional activities. AVMA members are dedicated to advancing the science and art of veterinary medicine, including its relationship to public health and agriculture. Visit the AVMA website atwww.avma.org to learn more about veterinary medicine and animal care, and access up-to-date information on the association’s issues, policies, and activities.
About CATalyst Council. CATalyst Council is a national initiative comprised of animal health and welfare organizations and corporations to champion the cat in light of troubling statistics released by the American Veterinary Medical Association that show an increase in the cat population coupled with a decline in veterinary visits for cats. The association’s address is P.O. Box 3064, Annapolis, MD 21403.More information about the CATalyst Council is available atwww.catalystcouncil.org.
About Petfinder. Petfinder’s founders forever changed the animal welfare industry when they decided it was their mission to end euthanasia among adoptable animals as a New Year’s Resolution in 1996. They created Petfinder.com locally in New Jersey with just a handful of shelters posting photos of their adoptable pets online. Now part of Discovery Communications,www.petfinder.com is a network of more than 13,500 animal welfare organizations across North America and has more than 300,000 adoptable pets listed at any given time.Petfinder is currently celebrating its 15th birthday and has been responsible for the adoption of over 17 million pets over the years.