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Adopt a Cat from an Animal Shelter

by Katherine Noyes
The Challenge

When you adopt a cat from an animal shelter, you save the life of one of the 70 million stray and homeless cats in the United States. You also make room at the shelter for another cat who might otherwise be euthanized, which gives that cat a chance to be adopted too.

In a culture that kills 70 percent of its homeless cats because there simply aren't enough homes to adopt them, pet stores and breeders compound this problem by supporting the continued breeding of yet more cats. In doing so, they tend to rely on two main sources for the cats they sell. First are "backyard breeders," which are generally individuals seeking to make some extra money by breeding cats — usually under questionable conditions. Second are what's known as kitten mills, which are like factories that breed cats under extremely miserable conditions in order to sell them for profit. Either way, the individuals responsible are bringing extra cats into a world that doesn't have room for them.

Adopt a cat from an animal shelter, on the other hand, and you give the gift of life to a cat who might not otherwise have a chance.

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  • First, give some serious thought to what you want from a companion animal. Cat adoption should be a lifetime commitment — for all 10, 15 or even more years of the cat's life — so make sure you're ready. The Humane Society of the United States offers a good list of adoption questions to ask yourself before you start looking. Keep in mind that having a pet takes time. If you're a full-time student, or if you travel frequently, for example, this might not be a good time to take on a dependent.
  • If you're sure you have room in your life for a feline companion, think about whether you want a kitten or an adult cat. Kittens are often more sought-after, but adult cats have many advantages, such as being less mischievous, having a personality that's already formed, and being used to the litter box. If you have young children, adult cats are usually a better choice. You should consider whether you want a purebred or a mixed-breed cat, and also if you want a cat with short or long hair — the latter tend to require more grooming. Personality will of course be a major factor too in finding the right cat for you. Finally, if you have the space, you might even consider adopting two cats instead of just one—a cat with a friend is much less likely to get lonely or bored. Adopt-a-Pet offers a list of useful tips about cat adoption.
  • Visit your local shelter, and start meeting the cats! (To find your local shelter, visit the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals or you can enter your ZIP code at Petfinder or Pets 911.) Don't hesitate to ask adoption counselors for help in finding a good match for you.
  • Once you've met your match — or matches — start off your cat adoption on the right foot by making sure your cat is spayed or neutered (a good shelter will usually require this before the cat even goes home), and by committing to keeping your cat indoors all the time. The Humane Society offers additional tips and advice for adopting and bringing your new cat home.
  • Enjoy your feline companion! Cats can sometimes seem more aloof than dogs, but that doesn't mean they're any less loving. You can rest assured that your feline friend will be grateful to you — for life.

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