How to Pick a Cat at the Shelter

How to Pick a Cat at the Shelter

If you’ve been looking to add a feline friend to your family, congrats!

Cats make wonderful, loving companions. June is Adopt a Shelter Cat Month, and shelters across the country are celebrating. The timing falls during kitten season when shelters are overrun with unwanted litters of kittens. But once you get to the shelter, how do you pick the cat who’s right for your family? The problem, of course, is that there are just so many in the shelter. Here are five questions to ask to help you pick a cat at the shelter.

Do you have other pets in the house?

If you already have another pet—dog, cat, turtle, goat, anything—you already whittle down the list of potential adoptables. Most shelters conduct temperament tests to figure out if cats are good with other animals (including children!), so you can skip meeting those who don’t fit that criteria. Be sure to speak with shelter staff about your specific situation, and they can help guide you to some potentials.

Cat or kitten?

Not every family has the time or patience to manage a rambunctious kitten—and that’s okay! There are wonderful older cats who deserve loving homes, too. If your family doesn’t have the energy to deal with rapid growth, tons of mischief, and potential furniture-clawing, focus on meeting cats instead of kittens.

What personality traits are you looking for?

Here’s where you need to have a chat with an adoption counselor or shelter staff. They spend time with the animals every day and get to know their personalities. Have some idea of what you’re looking for, like do you want a lap cat or an independent companion? Be open-minded when you talk through your list with the shelter staff. They may direct you to a cat you might’ve overlooked because of how well they know their residents.

Could you adopt multiples?

Cats—especially kittens—need stimulation. That includes play and socialization, which can come from having a furry friend in the family. Not all cats get along, of course, so consider kittens or cats who are already housed together at the shelter, or work with shelter staff to arrange a formal introduction between the two (or three!) cats you’d like to bring home.

Does everyone in the family agree?

Hopefully, before you started this process, everyone in the family discussed and agreed upon adding a cat to the family. Once you’ve been through the shelter and worked through the questions above, it’s time to make sure everyone in the family is equally as smitten with the new kitten. In fact, some shelters require it. Sure, sometimes it takes a warming-up period, but introducing all family members prior to filling out the adoption paperwork can go a long way towards making the cat feel welcome.

Maggie Marton

Maggie is a writer and author, whose first book, Clicker Dog Training: The Better Path to a Well-Behaved Pup was published by Open Air Publishing. When she's not writing (or reading books about grammar), she teaches writing courses to college students and professionals who want to nail down the basics of communication. Outside of work, she hikes, throws dinner parties, plays with her three dogs and cat, and travels as much as possible.
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