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