It’s not surprising that June, which falls right in the middle of "kitten season" here in the U.S., is Adopt-a-Shelter-Cat Month. Shelters all across the country are offering reduced adoption rates, holding adopt-a-thons, and finding lots of creative ways to help the cats in their care find their forever homes.
If you’re planning to adopt a shelter cat this month — or any other month — here are some suggestions to make the transition as easy as possible.
Make sure you have dishes, food, a litterbox, toys, a scratching post, and a bed or cat condo at home for your new arrival. Trust me, you don’t want to have to stop at the pet store or the supermarket on the way home from the shelter because you don’t have the stuff you need.
Cat-proof your home. The best advice I ever got on this subject was to get down on the floor and look at your home from a cat’s-eye view to find potential hazards. Get wires and drapery cords out of the way, and make sure your windows have screens that are in good repair.
Be sure that all the plants in your home are cat-safe (consult the ASPCA’s toxic and safe plants list for guidance), and remove fragile knickknacks from mantels and bookshelves or glue them down with museum putty. Be sure that household cleaners and laundry detergents are not accessible and that no medications of any kind are within kitty’s reach.
If you can find out what food and litter your cat has used at the shelter, you’ll be able to decrease her stress level by using the same products. It’s fine to transition to a food or litter you’d rather use, but do so after your cat has settled in.
If you’re introducing your shelter cat to other cats, be sure to make those introductions properly. There are lots of great books and websites with information about how to introduce a new cat to your current feline resident. The timing of a successful introduction varies from cat to cat: I’ve had new kitties that have been welcomed by the current residents in a matter of hours, and the introduction of my current new cat on the block is going on two weeks.
It’s better to go too slow than to go too fast. Trying to hurry the process could result in behavior problems like inappropriate elimination or fighting. One of the most common reason cats are returned to the shelter is because they didn’t get along with the pets already in the home, so it really pays to take your time.
Think about adopting a bonded pair. If the cat that won your heart has a best friend, bring his pal home, too. Some shelters offer discounted adoption rates if you’re willing to bring home a pair of bosom buddies. Keeping the two cats together will also decrease both individuals’ stress level.
Check for special adoption programs. Many shelters offer "seniors for seniors" specials, in which senior citizens can adopt senior cats for a greatly reduced, or sometimes even completely waived, fee. Pets to Vets programs waive adoption fees for active duty, retired or service-disabled military personnel.
When you adopt, you’re making a commitment for life. A well-cared-for indoor cat can live for 15 years or more, so be ready for the long haul. Many happy returns to you and your new kitty.