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Cat adoption guide.

If you've decided to share life with a pet, please consider adopting from a shelter.

Millions of dogs and cats live on the streets and in shelters. You and I can give them a chance.


What kinds of animals are in shelters?

The ASPCA estimates that 6.5 million companion animals enter America's pet shelters every year. About 3.3 million are dogs, and 3.2 million are cats. The total numbers have dropped since peaking in 2011 at more than 7.2 million, but the number of homeless cats has remained consistent.

About 710,000 of these animals will reunite with their human families. Nearly all of those who go home, however, are dogs. Of the ones that remain, shelters euthanize roughly 860,000 cats and 670,000 dogs annually. 

Most of these pets ended up in those shelters through no fault of their own. Divorce, aging human parents, or a family move meant these furry friends landed in a cage at the local animal shelter.


Why should you adopt from an animal shelter?

Previously abandoned pets often make great companions — house trained and accustomed to living with humans. They are inexpensive, too, usually requiring just a modest adoption fee, which covers the cost of sterilization, shots, and microchipping.

It's also a great way to avoid supporting kitten or puppy mills. Yes, these still exist — places where less-than-savory people breed animals, raise them in poor conditions, and then sell them through pet stores or flea markets. By not pumping your money into this industry, you are helping put disreputable breeders out of business. 

The benefits of pet adoption don't only flow one way. You can enjoy a great return on your investment in a companion animal. Research at Harvard University confirms that having a pet improves your mental and physical health because companion animals reduce the risk of heart disease and prevent loneliness.


What is the best type of cat to adopt?

We recommend you choose a warm and friendly cat. An animal that nuzzles your hand, purrs when you touch it, and responds to your offer of friendship makes a great first pet especially for homes with children.

Though a lot of responsibility, a cute, rambunctious kitten might be just the pet for your family. In most cases, however, a senior cat makes a better choice. Usually calm and mature, these cats make great pets for kids and older adults. While you may have less time with an older cat, these animals seem to understand the gravity of their rescue, and their bond is even stronger for it. 

Male or female? A cat of either sex can make a fantastic companion animal. What you want is a pet that's spayed or neutered. Toms and queens can demonstrate challenging behaviors. 

Now, if you have your heart set on taking home a cat of a specific breed such as a Persian or a Ragdoll, you still don’t have to buy from a breeder. About 25% of the cats living in shelters are purebreds. You can also search by breed on www.petfinder.com or approach a breed-specific cat rescue association in your area.

Most importantly, find a cat you click with. You'll probably be living together for a long time so you want to enjoy each other's company.


What is the process of adopting a pet?

Determine what kind of pet is right for you. Are youa cat person or a dog person? Many people who live in apartments, condos, or small houses find that cats fit their lifestyle better. Cats can also stay overnight by themselves in a pinch whereas dogs usually can't. But both cats and dogs can steal your heart and give you many years of joy. You just have to determine which animal suits you best.

Then, prepare your house for a new pet. That means procuring food, litter, toys, a scratcher, a bed, a litter box, and bowls. If you plan to adopt two cats — and this can be a very good choice — you'll want two of everything plus one to curtail any squabbles over property. You'll also need to choose a vet, preferably one with plenty of experience dealing with felines.

Once you're ready to bring your new buddy home, locate a reputable animal shelter near you. Talk with the staff. Explain your situation. It can help the staff to know how you've arrived at the decision to adopt a cat instead of a taking in a dog or purchasing a pocket pet such as a gerbil or rat. Share details about the size of your home, your family, and your work situation. All this information helps the staff members know which of their resident pets may be the best fit for you

If you don't find a kitty who captures your heart on the first visit, don't be discouraged. Animal shelters acquire new cats all the time. Think of it like dating. You may not make your ideal match right away, but a little stick-to-it-iveness can pay off big in the end.

When you do find an animal to adopt, the shelter staff should give you a full medical history and as much information as they have about your new friend. They will also collect a modest fee to help cover the shelter's costs of caring for homeless animals.


What kitten or cat adoption agencies are near me?

Cat adoption centers and pet adoption events publish information on their websites. Also, we created this handy guide to help you locate cat adoption agencies in major US cities:

• Chicago — PAWS Chicago, Chicago Cat Rescue, Harmony House for Cats

• Boston — Animal Rescue League of Boston and Northeast Animal Shelter

• Washington, DC — Feline Foundation of Greater Washington

• New York City — Animal Care Centers of NYC

• Houston — Houston Pets Alive and Friends for Life Animal Shelter

• Los Angeles — Kitten Rescue and Los Angeles Animal Services

• Atlanta — Furkids and Atlanta Humane Society

• Seattle — Seattle Humane and Seattle Area Feline Rescue

• Phoenix — Halo Animal Rescue and Cactus Cats Rescue

• Minneapolis / St. Paul — Twin Cities Pet Rescue and Feline Rescue

Check online for agencies near your home.


What should new cat parents know?

When you’ve selected your new cat companion—be it a black cat, a pedigree Abyssinian, or an orange-and-white cutiehow do you get started as a pet parent?

Check out our Modkat Ultimate Guide to New Cat Ownership for tips on feeding, cat toys, vet visits, and safe cleaning tips. Don’t forget to add an extra litter box for your new cat. Use our article on selecting the right litter box to help you choose.


Should you adopt a cat?

Each year, 3.2 million shelter animals go to adoptive homes, including 1.6 million cats. Your home can be one of those.

Adopting a cat may be one of the best choices you ever make. Not only do you gain an entertaining companion who will (probably) be glad to see you at the end of a long day, but you'll be saving a life, too. And who knows? Before long you might be sporting one of those bumper stickers that says, "Who rescued who?"

Bringing home a shelter cat can mean years of companionship, fun, and kitty kisses. Be sure you're ready for your new friend before you collect him or her at the shelter, though.

Check out Modkat's Ultimate Guide to New Cat Ownership for our best advice on everything you need to do to make your cat's homecoming a great experience.