What Do I Need To Adopt A Cat
Adopting a cat is exciting but can also be a bit stressful if you’re not prepared because you can find yourself scrambling to go buy stuff that your cat needs last minute while you have a stressed out cat hiding in the closet. Whether it’s your first time adopting a cat or the 10th time, make sure you’ve thoroughly read through what you need to adopt a cat.
There is a checklist and a set of questions for every stage of adopting a cat.
But the short answer is, you need a suitable home that’s big enough for your cat to mark their territory, a loving environment and a responsible adult who has time to pay attention to your cat on a daily basis and finally, the basic items to provide a high quality of life for your cat including nutritious food, a clean litter box, and toys galore.
But first time cat owners have to realize that contrary to popular belief, cats are not low maintenance. Sure, they are lower maintenance than dogs relatively speaking, but if you treat your cat with no/low maintenance, they might end up on the show, “My Cat from Hell!”
What Do I Need to Adopt a Cat?
When I was at the shelter to play with the cats, I couldn’t help eavesdropping to a teenager talking to the adoption counselor that she came in to the shelter for fun and wanted to bring one home. She had done this before and her mom was furious. And as though proudly, she said the kitten she had brought home before is now always angry and is a jerk.
That made me so furious. If you can’t provide a loving home to your cat, don’t even think about adopting one. Cats are not dolls that you can just pay no attention to when you get bored of playing with them. They become a part of the family and should be treated with the same respect as your other family members.
With that said, if you’re looking to adopt a cat, you should consider the following checklist for different stages of the adoption process. I’ve categorized the 5 stages of cat adoption:
I. Before You Decide to Adopt
I can’t stress enough that cats are not low maintenance and if you think they are or if you’re planning on not spending any time to care for them everyday, then you should not adopt a cat.
I’m sure that’s not what you want to hear, but I hate seeing adult cats dropped off at the shelter because their family thinks they are a burden because they didn’t expect the cat to be such a handful.
But let me tell you that if you do pay attention to your cat’s needs everyday and provide them with a high quality of life, then the reward is priceless. Your cat can also be a man’s best friend just like dogs.
Consider the following factors as a checklist to see if you have what it takes to adopt a cat (or another cat):
A quiet loving environment
As cliche as this sounds, your indoor cat spends all his/her time around you, so he/she will take on the personality of you and whoever inhabits your home. If there is constant fighting and shouting among people in your home, your cat will become stressed.
Also, if you always have people over and tend to play loud, obnoxious music at home, don’t get a cat. That’s one of the causes of chronic stress in your cat and he/she can be scared of everything all the time.
You may puke a little in your mouth if you hear cat owners baby talking to their cat, but guess what, cats love it. They feel more at ease when you talk to them in a soothing voice. It’s one of the ways to calm a scared and stressed cat, according to cat behaviorists.
According to research study, cats can perceive the different tone in our voices. They are very sensitive and can feel safe and respond better to soft voices and can feel threatened if the voice is loud.
Responsible adult who has time to play and feed the cat
Feeding your cat twice a day is not enough to maintain a healthy and happy cat, especially if you plan on keeping your cat indoors, which I advocate for. Your cat needs mental stimulation, which means 15-30 minutes of playing everyday. You need to have time to research and figure out the right nutrition for your cat’s dietary needs. And simply leaving food out (free feeding) is not recommended.
Have everyone in your home cat allergy tested
It would be unfortunate to bring home a cat only to find out that somebody in the house is allergic and having to return the cat back to the shelter. Make sure you’re not allergic otherwise employ various ways to live with a cat if you have cat allergies.
Test out whether your current pet enjoys the company of another cat
Some dogs and most cats don’t like sharing their space with another cat. If it’s possible, foster a cat for a few weeks to see if your resident pet likes the company of another cat. Again, this is to avoid bringing your new cat home only to return him/her back to the shelter.
Suitable home with enough space, high perch area and hiding places
Several years ago when I lived in Pasadena, California, I lived across from this girl who had mental health issues. I have nothing against that but when she started knocking on my door having a meltdown and telling me how she got arrested and asking me to feed her new kittens when she suddenly had to go out of town, I just felt sorry for her new kittens.
When I went to feed them, I saw that she lived in a micro-sized small studio of about 100 square feet. The brother kitten came out and immediately jumped on the counter to have his food. The sister kitten never came out from under the bed. She cautioned me that that would happen. It seemed the brother cat dominated in the household and bullied the sister cat a lot to a point she hardly came out from under the bed.
That is not an acceptable living condition for multiple cats. They each need their own personal territory, sleeping areas and hideouts as well as vertical spaces in order for each cat to be confident and happy.
Specific cat breed that matches your personality
Although most cats and kittens at the shelter are tabbies and mixed breeds, sometimes they look distinct enough that the animal counselors at the shelter will indicate what mix of breed they are. I encourage cat owners to adopt from a shelter rather than from a breeder, so it will be more difficult to choose the cat breed that matches your personality. But if it’s important, then you can read about cat personalities on Petfinder.
Kitten or an adult cat
Things to consider if you’re deciding between a kitten or an adult cat, is your motivation behind adopting a cat.
Adopting an adult cat means you’re saving a cat that would otherwise have a lower chance of getting adopted. You would also have a companion who doesn’t need as much attention as a kitten, although an adult cat will still need your T.L.C. as far as attention goes. He/she will already have formed his/her outlook on life and you need to match their temperament. If the adult cat is a senior cat, you’ll have to make adjustments in your home such as easier accessibility to vertical spaces and a more regular routine check up to the vet.
With a kitten, you shouldn’t leave your kitten unattended the whole day everyday. You need to play with him/her plenty everyday. If you are motivated to train your cat to do tricks and harness train to walk outside, you’ll want to adopt a kitten as it’s easier to train them young. But that’s not to say it’s impossible to teach an older cat training though.
Maybe you can’t teach an old dog a new trick but you can teach an old cat a new trick!
Can you afford it?
Finally, can you afford having a cat financially? Not only do you have to spend on food and litter as ongoing costs, you also have to take them to the vet for vaccinations and routine check-up at the vet. When you first bring your cat home, you’ll also have to get infrastructure, such as a cat tree, toys, litter box, food bowl, etc.
It can cost anywhere from $400 – $2200 in your first year and then $350 – $1800 per year every year. Know what you’re getting yourself into before you get yourself into it!
II. Getting Your Home Ready
Cat-proof your home to prevent scratching furniture
When you first bring your kitten home, anything your kitten does will be so freaking adorable. But that gets old real fast if your cat wears off the innocent kitten behavior and leaves your sofa looking like one that belongs on the street on garbage pick-up day.
If you have precious furniture that you don’t want your cat to destroy, you have a few options. Take the gamble, spray a repellent that will deter your cat from getting near the furniture, put double-sided tape on the edges where it is the most prone to getting beat up by your cat, or put a second layer of upholstery on it (i.e. put a condom on your sofa).
Scratching posts are also vital – both a vertical one and one on the floor.
Check for any toxic chemicals or poison (what??)
Clean your home with natural cleaning products and remove any rat or bug poison that you may have lying around or have sprayed.
Cat-proof with a fence or a net to keep your cat indoors
Get a door screen or a fence so your cat doesn’t dart outside. If you have a balcony, consider netting your balcony. You can build a “catio” or outdoor cat enclosure later. You don’t have to do that all right now.
Vertical spaces and hiding places
Your cat is going to love you and give you a headache all at the same time. Because having a cat is like having a perpetual teenager with attitude (disclaimer: I don’t have any kids nor have I raised a teenager before, but I assume they are difficult!).
III. Basic Items for your New Cat
Now, this is the easy part, because you just have to follow the checklist and get the necessary items. I’ve categorized these into the items you need from day 1 of bringing your cat home and items you can get slowly buy in piecemeal in the first month after you bring your cat home.
Must-haves from day 1
- Litter box, litter, and litter scooper (optional for easy clean-up of litter box: poo bags, large garbage bags that go around the litter box and pee pad)
- Food bowl, water bowl
- Food (optional addition: fish oil)
- Nail clipper
- Scratching post (must-have is the vertical scratching post, either on the wall or on free-standing)
- Wand toys and little mouse toys (You can make your own if you don’t want to spend money on these)
Must-haves within the first month
- Collar and nametag
- Harness & leash
- Cat grass
- More toys
- Plush cat bed
- Cat tree and/or shelves for perching
IV. At the Shelter
The adoption process is similar across most shelters.
First, you need to bring 2 pieces of government issued ID with proof of address and your photo in one of them (for example, your passport, driver’s license).
Second, you’ll have to fill out an application form which includes who resides with you in your home and other animals you already have in your home.
You are also usually required to also fill out a questionnaire, which is the shelter’s way of assessing whether you’re fit to adopt a cat into your life. These questions encompass the considerations I listed above that you should be considering before you decide to adopt. If you pass that assessment, then the questionnaire should be no problem.
Then after you fill out the application form and questionnaire, an adoption counselor will have an interview with you one-on-one. It’s not so much an interview but more of a conversation. They ask you to clarify or elaborate on any of the questionnaire and application answers you provided. They go over the basics of bringing home a new cat and your responsibilities as a cat owner. And if you’ve already selected a specific cat to bring home, they tell you more about your new cat’s personality from what they’ve observed during his/her time at the shelter thusfar.
It can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour just to get through this process. And of course, even longer for you to choose the cat that you connect with and to acquaint yourself with your new cat before you bring him/her home.
The shelter will most likely have a starter kit that you can purchase, which includes a cardboard carrier if you didn’t bring one yourself, a bag of litter, a small litter tray, and some food.
V. Bringing Your New Cat Home
How to make a cat feel comfortable in a new home
Once you’ve set up the food and water station and the litter box, bring home your new cat from the shelter. When you let your cat out of the carrier, your cat’s body will most likely get really low to the ground, start sniffing and then proceed to find a hiding place.
Your cat may come out of the hiding place after just an hour or after the whole day. Just leave him/her own. During this time, make sure to keep the home quiet without any loud, sudden noises. It’s encouraged to talk to your new cat who is in hiding with a calm, soothing voice to let him/her get used to your voice.
Introducing a cat to another cat
If you have a cat already at home and you’re bringing home a new cat, separate them in different rooms for the first week.
Have the food and water bowls and the litter box in the room that your new cat is going to be spending a week in.
- Day 1: Don’t let your current cat near your new cat’s room so that your new cat can just spend the first day getting used to the smell of your home without the stress of another cat hissing at him/her.
- Day 2: Let your current cat come to the door of your new cat’s room. Don’t let them see each other but let them smell each other. Just for 10 minutes or so to get them acquainted to each other’s smells.
- Day 3: Feed both your cats at the same time right by the door separating them. That way, they start to associate each other with a positive feeling that they get from eating.
- Day 4: Repeat the previous step.
- Day 5: Repeat the previous step but now open the door ajar so they see each other and eat. They might still hiss at each other, so be careful as to not let them too near that they can swipe at each other. Again, you’re letting them associate the positive feeling of eating with each other being near.
- Day 6: Repeat the previous step.
- Day 7: Repeat the previous step. If they’re not hissing at each other anymore, while carefully monitoring both of them, let them sniff each other. If they are still hissing at each other, then repeat day 6 only; i.e. just letting them eat each other while looking at each other but not letting them near enough to swat or scratch. Eventually when they’re not hissing or fighting, then you can let your new cat out of his/her safe room.
Veterinary care & vaccinations
Even if the shelter vaccinated your new cat already before you brought him/her home, it’s a good idea to schedule a veterinary visit within the first month of bringing your new cat home.
Make sure he/she is healthy and is up to date with vaccinations by taking your cat for a routine check-up to the vet at least once a year. If your new cat is a mature or senior cat, you’ll want to bring your cat to the vet at least twice a year.
Ongoing maintenance to keep your cat happy
As a recurring theme throughout this site, cats are not low maintenance. In addition to your tender loving care, they need mental stimulation, hiding places, a clean litter box everyday, etc.
Finally, good luck!