Adopting a kitty who needs a home can be a rewarding experience for both of you. As an adopter, you'll know you've helped save a life and gained a best friend in the process. And cats who have lost their homes seem to understand and appreciate their good fortune when they do find new loving families.
Wonderful cats of all ages are waiting in animal shelters. Some have been turned in by their owners for reasons discussed earlier, and others were found wandering as strays. Shelters vary widely in their policies and practices. Some are funded publicly; some privately. Some accept any animal in need but must limit the time allowed each animal before resorting to euthanasia to make room for others. “No-kill” shelters, do not euthanize animals to make room, but they do turn away animals they think will be difficult to place.
Many shelters offer discount coupons for spaying and neutering adopted animals at local veterinary clinics.
Shelter staff are usually dedicated and caring people, but their knowledge and ability to assess individual animals varies. Before you adopt, find out how the cats are evaluated, who does the evaluation, and what is included. Some shelters have all incoming cats examined by a veterinarian and checked for parasites. Some evaluate the cat's temperament and behavior and keep information about the cat's history in his previous home if it's available. But many shelters lack the resources to provide such services and have to get by with minimal evaluations.
Observe the physical environment. If the shelter doesn't seem clean or the cat's health seems questionable, be cautious. If you've fallen in love with a particular cat, consider taking him to your veterinarian for an exam and possibly for quarantine before you take him home, especially if you already have a cat.
To adopt a shelter cat, you'll have to complete an application, and you'll probably have to wait a few days before taking your cat home so your information can be verified and you will have time to reflect on your decision before making the final commitment.
The next step will be to choose your kitten or cat. A walk through the adoption area can be overwhelming—there are just so many cats in need of homes. You can't take them all (really, you can't!), so before you go, make a list of the traits you want and the traits you don't want. Your list will keep you on track.
Cats don't always appear at their best in the stressful environment of a shelter. Many become agitated, quiet and depressed, or just plain scared. If you see a kitty you think you might like, ask if you can take him to a quiet place where you can interact with him. Sit quietly, talk to him softly, and see what happens. If you have children, explain that the cat is afraid. Kids are usually sympathetic, quiet, and gentle when they understand that an animal is frightened. If they're too young to understand, meet the cat without the little ones at first.
Cat Rescue Programs
Rescue refers to individuals and groups who take in and foster cats (and other animals) and then place them in new homes. Rescuers are nearly always unpaid volunteers. They give their time, knowledge, and cat-handling skills because they love cats. Some cat rescue groups accept any kind of cat; others are devoted to a single breed.
Rescue organizations need volunteers. You don't have to handle cats to help—there are lots of other jobs you could do, from making telephone calls to fund-raising to bookkeeping. If you'd like to help the rescue effort for a few hours a month, contact a group to see where you might fit in. (You can also search the Internet for “cat rescue” or “rescue” plus a specific breed.)
Rescued cats tend to be older adolescents or adults, although kittens are sometimes available. Most spend time in foster care, where each cat's temperament, behavior, and needs are assessed in a household environment. Rescued cats are generally given physical examinations, and potential adopters are advised about possible health problems. All reputable rescuers require that every cat be spayed or neutered before it is placed or soon afterward. Good rescue organizations will not place a cat with a history of behavioral problems unless they believe the problems are resolved. Ask what the policy is on these issues.
If you want to adopt a rescued cat, you will be asked to complete an application, provide references, and allow a volunteer to visit your home. The rescuers aren't just nosy—they want to ensure a good match. When you adopt, you'll sign a contract and pay an adoption fee. Many adopters make an additional donation to help support the group's work. They'll also give you information about your cat and, if she's a purebred, about the breed.
Most rescue groups provide post-adoption support. Rescuers love to hear from adopters—knowing that a cat they saved is doing well and making someone happy is their main reward.