Cat Behavior 101,  Cats,  Holistic cat care,  Shelter Cats,  Vet 101

Are you Secretly Prejudiced? How To Choose The Right Shelter Cat

If you love cats, sharing makes us purrrr :-)

Are you Secretly Prejudiced? How To Choose The Right Shelter Cat by Layla Morgan Wilde. Updated Oct. 2020.

NRHS-cats adoption

They say cats choose us but if that was entirely true there would be very few homeless cats. There are millions of cats clamoring for good homes but ultimately we’re the one’s who do the choosing, sign the adoption papers, open our hearts and check books. The closest cat/human bonds seem to have a synchronicity or meant to be aspect to them. Tell us in your comments if your cat choose you and if so how.

Choosing the right cat for you is highly personal but might you be secretly prejudiced? Do you think Persians are too high maintenance, Siamese too neurotic, Syphnx too weird? (FYI, there are plenty of purebred cats are available at shelters and breed specific rescue groups). Maybe you wear a lot of black so forget about white cats? What’s the real reason you’d prefer not to adopt a black cat?

adopt a black shelter cat

Could a layer of old musty, superstition be at fault? Or might you be missing the best cat in the world because of an age barrier? Ten or 12 is too old? I only want a kitten. Look at these random pics of cats I’d snapped at the New Rochelle Humane Society. Some will attract more than others. Why?

Even breeds with distinct characteristics can have exceptions. When I was a teenager, I’d heard Siamese cats could be high-strung, but that didn’t stop me from adopting my first Siamese. She turned out to be the sweetest cat and I was instantly hooked on the breed for their intelligence and affectionate nature. It’s a question of knowing what you can live with. Chatty Siamese cats can drive one crazy with their loud talking. Merlin, true to his breed has the lungs of an opera singer and the chattiness of Howard Stern but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I love observing people at the shelter interact with the cats. They almost always make a beeline for the kitty “stars” the ones rubbing up and rolling on their backs with purrsonality to spare. They get adopted quickly. Two weeks ago one tiny, orange kitten with a giant meow caught my attention, climbing up his cage like monkey bars and sucking up all the air in room. He commanded the room like a super star. To no surprise he was adopted a few days later. Meanwhile, in the same room, a cat who’d been up for adoption with his three kitten brothers found a different fate. The brothers got adopted and the perfectly nice leftover grew up at the shelter and is still in a cage TWO YEARS later. Give a chance to the cat who is hiding or lacking a movie star personality. Check the cage cards for how long they have been at the shelter.

beat the heat -kitten season

Quick Tips

  • Some shelter cats in cage-free rooms will hide or take longer to warm up. I like to sit on the floor and let them come to me. It helps having some catnip toys and playing with a wand toy.
  • Watch your energy when meeting a new cat. Try to center yourself. Breath deeply slow down and cultivate your inner Zen cat.
  • Observe their body language and speak “cat”. Speak softly. Listen.
  • Don’t wear heavy perfumes. Cats have a highly developed sense of smell. Be aware they may smell other pets on your clothes, shoes or handbag.
  • Remember cats in shelters whether cage-free or not are not in a natural setting. You won’t full see their purrsonality blossom until they are in a home or foster home.
  • Take your time. Even if you’re excited to make a connection. Sleep on it to be sure.
  • Be honest with yourself. Only you know your lifestyle and whether you want a couch potato or a travel companion.
  • When circumstances aren’t ideal, consider fostering. There are long term foster options for senior cats at most shelter. They will help pay vet care and other costs.

adopt senior cats


  • Let go of pre-conceived notions. Just because your last cat was a tortie doesn’t mean your next cat should be a tortie.
  • Be open to the unexpected. Think you want white but might end up with black.
  • If you are tight budget, sit down and figure out if you can afford it. Include a yearly budget of food, litter, toys, scratching posts etc, annual vet visits and emergency fund.
  • Long-haired cats will need regular grooming which can be costly and time consuming.
  • Kittens require more, time and energy, more vet visits in the first year for shots, spay/neuter. The home will be to be kitty-proofed for safety and to reduce damage.
  • Check the shelter cage cards for how long they have been at the shelter. Give an old-timer a chance.
  • Special needs cats can be a joy but require more care and usually more medical expenses. With more attention in the media with special needs cats like Grumpy Cat and Lil Bub, blind, three-legged cats and so on, it’s an option but NOT for everyone.
  • Consider the needs of existing pets and other family members.
  • When in doubt, don’t rush to adopt. Cats live into their 20s these days and its a long term COMMITMENT on every level: time, care, financial and emotional.

  • Kittens are impossibly cute but ask yourself: Are you up for a 20 year relationship no matter what? If you’re middle-aged or older, please consider adopting an older or senior cat.

Have any tips to add?


  • Susan and the gang from Life with Dogs and Cats

    Great post. I was at the vet with my two cats for a checkup yesterday, and spent some time in the waiting room watching two adoptable kittens who were in a large cage. For about 20 minutes, I just watched them, and you could see their personalities change depending on who else was in the room, if there were dogs there, how you approached them. Choosing a pet should be a thoughtful decision.

    –Purrs (and wags) from Life with Dogs and Cats

  • Cleoxcat

    When our beloved 18-year-old cat, Danny, died in 2010, he left a big hole in our lives. We have another cat, Cleo, who was 14 at the time, so when we decided to adopt another cat, we were looking for an adult cat, maybe around 6 or 7, thinking he/she would get along better with Cleo. At the shelter, my husband put down our cat carrier, not noticing the door was unlatched. We spent some time in the cat room, looking at candidates when a small cat rushed over and ran right into the carrier. We looked at each other and said what??? Got the cat out, got acquainted with him, what a sweet tabby fellow. We ended up adopting him, taking him with us that day. He was under a year old, a tabby, and NOT what we were looking for, but we accepted our fate and have been well pleased. BTW, he and Cleo took about a month to accept each other, and they get along well now. Every once in a while, Cleo has to clip him when he gets rambunctious, like any sibling does. 🙂

  • Sometimes, Cats Herd You

    Having gone through the heart-wrenching experience last year of an adoption that didn’t work out… ask for all the information you can. some organizations who use fosters extensively have a lot more insight into their cats than organizations that rescue cats from the streets who never see life outside a cage in the shelter. If a cat has been to foster, use the information from that to help you make a good choice about what the kitty is like in a home environment. The head peep was lucky to meet Pierre’s foster human at the adoption event where she fell in love with him, and she was able to learn more about the shy kitten who had caught her eye.

  • Kitties Blue

    I think we have been adopted by more cats than we have adopted. They used to just show up on the deck or porch and refuse to leave. Those we have “chosen” have all just stolen my heart the moment I looked at their faces. Of course, many have stolen my heart over the years than I have been able to adopt. That always makes me sad. I just started to sponsor a cat at PAWS, and it was the same thing. I just started looking at faces until one of the kitty’s faces screamed, “It’s me. It’s me.” Thanks for all your very good advice. Hugs, Janet

  • The Island Cats

    Well, me and Ernie were chosen because of our colors. The mom wanted an orange cat…and then when she found out about how hard it was for black cats to find homes, she decided to adopt a black cat. So we guess she is a little prejudice. But not as to Zoey. Zoey was a stray that she kept. 🙂

  • Skeeter and Izzy

    We never get to choose. We never make it to the shelter. My kids find me. It always works, no matter color,gender,breed,coat,age, tempermant, etc. What makes it work is they need me for whatever reason and that makes them the purrfect cat no questions asked. Every cat is extraordinary in their own unique way. We just have to look with our hearts instead of our eyes.

    Skeeter and Izzy and the Feral Gang + Twig and Peanut and Romeo >^..^<

  • Andrea

    I think you’ve covered the subject thoroughly and what a great subject. I especially like your point that everyone should take the time to be sure they are even ready to adopt yet. Fostering is a great option.

    I know myself well enough to know that I can fall for just about any cat but I always look for that special sign. I never know what it is, it just happens. For instance, with Mewdy Blue it was his paw. He reached out of his carrier after a vet visit to grasp my finger and we bonded just like that. With many of my cats I find it in their eyes.

    I will say that the one time I purposely went out to purchase a pedigreed cat I chose wrong. Don’t mistake my meaning, Ruka, an Oriental Shorthair, was a great cat, very loving and full of personality. But we did not click and he didn’t fit in with the rest of my feline family either. I bought him because I knew he would be a good show cat. I finally had to admit defeat and found a wonderful older couple who only wanted a cat to spoil. We were both much happier that way.

    I do believe that the right cats find me whether I’m looking for them or not.

  • da tabbies o trout towne

    doodz…noe add vize two add …. but for SURE with out a doubt…Sauce picked de food serviss gurl…. ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

  • Apriljean

    I didn’t expect to get a kitty. I’ve always been allergic. So I didn’t get my calico baby at a shelter. I work for a dealership and she fell out of an engine at work. She had an abcess on her jaw and was just tiny. No one else seemed to care about her so I caught her and was going to take her to the shelter. It was a friday and when I got there it was closed. So I kept her over the weekend. Gave her some antibiotics and soft food and milk. Monday was a holiday so the shelter was once again closed, but by that time she had started to perk up and would curl up under my chin. So I postponed taking her to the shelter for another week. And then another. Then another. Now 4 years later she is a solid part of the family.

  • Judi Daly

    I went to 3 shelters looking for the right kitten. I wanted a kitten so much. At the third shelter, after visiting the kittens and not making a “connection” we asked about the young adults. I walked into the young adult room, made eye contact with Thunder, he stretched his paw out to me–and he was the one. We have been inseparable ever since.

    If I wouldn’t have opened my mind to something other than a kitten, I would have missed out on one wonderful adult cat.

  • Sammy

    Wonderful post………excellent advice as always………the photo collage is grand – all those little faces so unique and sweet – ready to bring “happy” to whoever trusts their instincts enough to adopt.


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