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Adopting a Rescue: How to Choose the Right Kitty for Your Home

By Linda Hall and Rita Reimers

Every time I meet a new kitty, I fall a little bit in love. Those whiskers, that cute little nose, the adoring look on their faces when they ask to be petted and scratched behind the ears. What’s not to love?

Oh, look at THAT cute kitty, and THAT one! Oh wait, I want that one over there! Or do I want this one over here? No, this is the ONE, I’m taking this one home today!

Going purely by the cute factor and your emotions when selecting the new feline household member is a big mistake. You may have wanted a lap cat, but when you get it home it’s tearing up the house; or you wanted a kitty to play with, but it’s a lump of dough on the sofa, or it doesn’t get along with your other cat, your dog, your spouse, your kids…

SO, how do you choose the “right” one?
Here are some things to consider when looking for that PURRfect cat to add to your household.

Cat or Kitten – The age of the kitty you are adopting can be an important factor. If you choose a kitten, be aware that the youngsters are very hyperactive and often do better when adopted in pairs. If you have toddlers in the house, they may be too rough with tender kittens, so you’d have to watch how they handle them. Young adult cats still have lots of energy too and, depending on the breed, may need a lot of social interaction and intensive play. A senior cat may be the right choice for a quieter household that does not have a lot of activity; a super busy atmosphere may be overwhelming to a sweet senior.

Grooming Needs – Some breeds need a lot of grooming, such as longer hair breeds like Persians and Himalayans. If no one in your household has the time to dedicate to daily brushing of the cat, you may do better to adopt a shorter haired cat. Siamese, British Shorthair, and Devon Rex cats are just a few breeds whose coat does not require daily brushing. For those who are allergic to cats but would still like to have one, consider adopting one of the low allergen breeds, such as the Sphynx and the Siberian.

Breed/Temperament – Age has something to do with temperament, as I discussed above. But breed will also play into temperament, as will the cat’s past experiences with people. Most adoption centers will have a place where you can take the cat that is quiet and away from all the noise and other cats. Take some time to sit down with your perspective adoptee and get to know his personality a little better. Keep in mind that Bengals and Abyssinians are very intelligent, high-energy breeds that need plenty of mental and physical stimulation. Birman and Selkirk Rex breeds are more low-key.

Your Household – Keeping the above considerations in mind, think about the members of your household and the activity level. Make sure your household will have enough time, space, and energy to support a cat who needs to be constantly challenged and on the go. If the members of your household are away from the house for long hours at a time, a lower energy cat might be a better choice for you.

Medical Issues – It’s important to ask about any medical issues the cat you are considering adopting might have. Older cats tend to have early stages of kidney issues, perhaps diabetes, or even arthritis. This doesn’t necessarily mean they are not a good choice, but bear in mind that they may require additional care and more trips to the vet. Also ask if the cat has been combo tested for FIV and FeLV, something you need to know before you bring the kitty home.

Be sure to ask the people at the adoption center for any past history they know about the cat, what kind of behaviors they have witnessed, and if the cat has any medical issues. Additionally, adopting a bonded pair of cats is also a good idea. If you see two cats in the rescue or shelter who appear to be tightly bonded to one another, or if the adoption center tells you about a pair they would like to see adopted together, taking both of them home will ensure a smoother transition to the new environment.

A Final Note
Take a moment to stop looking for the perfect cat, and notice who has been looking at you. Cats often choose us, rather than the other way around. I remember fondly the day I was volunteering, as usual, at a weekend adoption event, when Tinkerbelle told me I was “the one” for her. Every time I would walk away from her cage, she would yell and scream for me to come back. Whenever I put my hand inside to pet her, she would snuggle up and wouldn’t let me go.

The rescue owner told me “you have been chosen, you must take her home.” She didn’t even charge me an adoption fee. Six years later, Tinkerbelle and I are very happy together, and I am so glad she decided to choose me to be her forever human!

So, the moral of the story is this: as you are walking around the rescue or adoption event, falling in love with every kitty you see, take a moment to notice which cat may be falling in love with YOU! If you feel a tap on your head or shoulder from the cage above you, if you see paws reaching through the bars demanding your attention, or if you notice a frisky feline is following you around, do take a second look at that kitty. Usually the cats who choose us ends up being our PURRfect match.

Have a question about cat behavior that you’d like answered?
We’d love to hear from you!
Send us an email at questions@stopcatlittersmell.com

For information or help with your cat’s behavior, visit The Cat Behavior Alliance​