Tips on adopting your first cat

If you are considering adopting a new kitten, I hope you will consider the local shelters and rescue groups as your first source. Your local shelters are probably bursting at the seams with cats and kittens, especially at certain times of the year.

If you are looking for a specific breed, chances are there is a rescue group that has just the animal you are looking for, waiting for a good home.

By adopting a “shelter” or “rescue” animal, you are giving an animal a second chance, and maybe it’s last chance. Many, many cats and kittens are put to sleep at shelters every day, because there are just too many of them to properly care for.

You can also help to keep the pet population in check by adopting a “pre-owned” animal.

Before you go to the shelter or call a rescue group, you should have some ideas of what you are looking for in a cat or kitten. Are you willing to groom a longhaired cat as often as required? Are you sure no one in your household is allergic to cats?

Is this your first dog or cat? If so, you may want to talk to other pet owners to be sure you have a realistic idea of what you are getting yourself into. Remember that this is a long-term commitment, as much as 20 years for a cat!

Whether this is your first pet or your twentieth, make sure your budget can handle it. Don’t forget food, vet expense, possible boarding or pet sitting, groomers, kitty litter, etc.

If you are adding to a household of pets, consider the ones you already have. Will they accept another animal? Most dogs and cats can learn to live with each other eventually, but some will have a harder time adjusting than others. Some cats do not tolerate other cats well. Planning ahead for the introductions and potential problems will ease the way considerably.

If you are renting, are pets allowed? Are you planning to move in the near future?

Be sure to look at your lifestyle and environment. Once you have reviewed your situation and are certain that this is the right time for a new pet, then the question becomes “What breed of cat is right for us?”

My favorite breed of cat is the “domestic shorthair”, a catch-all term for mixed breed cats. Really, unless you are looking to show or breed the animal, there is really no reason to choose a purebred cat.

Mixed breed cats tend to be healthier. Since most genetic anomalies and predispositions to disease are carried on recessive genes, mixed breeds will be less likely to inherit these traits. Often times you get the best of both worlds or at least the best of both breeds. The animals will usually exhibit the most predominant traits of their breeds so knowing something about the different breeds will tell you something about the animal you are considering. There are only a few breeds of cat that really have specific characteristics beyond looks. Siamese, for example, are known for their vocalizations.

If you have your heart set on a specific breed, and you have done your research and know that the breed is right for you and your lifestyle, then you might want to consider looking for a rescue group for that breed. There are many such groups available.

When visiting a shelter, remember that cats are usually much more timid than dogs, and are often frightened by large, noisy spaces. Their behavior at the shelter is a response to their environment. They may be withdrawn and depressed, they may even hiss and pull their ears back in fear. Talk to the shelter personnel, find out as much as you can about the cat’s normal behavior.

Once in your home, with your love and care, their true natures will emerge. Hopefully they will all turn out to be the perfect cat or kitten for you. And don’t forget to have them spayed or neutered!

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