Choosing a cat
Cats make wonderful pets. They are affectionate, playful, interested in their surroundings, and have individual personalities. Cats do not need as much daily care as dogs; they do not need to be walked, and can spend their entire lives indoors. Cats can live in smaller places than dogs, and are quieter by comparison. Cats spend more of their time sleeping than dogs, and can stay by themselves (with sufficient dry food and water) if you are away for a few days. Cats also live longer than dogs-up to 20 years is not unusual.
Before you make the decision to get a cat, you should examine some aspects of yourself and your life:
Can you make a commitment to a cat for its whole lifespan? Many people get pets before they are ready, and end up surrendering them to shelters. If your life is not settled or stable, if you move around a lot, if your life is one of frequent changes, maybe you are not ready to adopt just yet. Pets are not something to get rid of once they become “inconvenient,” and having a pet means making choices that take the animal’s needs into account, not just your own.
Can you afford a cat? Pets need more than food, you must also take care of your animal’s health. All pets need to be spayed (female) or neutered (male). In Fort Smith spaying can cost $120 or more and neutering $70 or more. Pets need annual shots; in Fort Smith this can cost over $100 for a cat. Just like people, pets need periodic medical and dental attention, and sometimes medication. Cats need litter and litter boxes, and these need to be cleaned daily. They also need scratching posts, toys, brushes, and pet carriers.
Have you got what it takes to be a responsible pet owner? Are you willing to buy your outdoor cat a breakaway collar and identification tag? Are you willing to spend time playing with your cat and giving it some attention every day? Are you willing to be patient and work with your cat and your vet to resolve any behaviour problems? Are you willing to provide your cat with the veterinary care it may need? Are you willing to keep your cat indoors in winter? Can you commit to feeding your cat a proper diet so that it stays fit and healthy?
Can you compromise? Although cats are fairly easy to care for, they have personalities and needs all their own. Just like anyone that you share your life or your home with, you have to be flexible to be a pet owner. Most cats shed to some degree, and if you are a person who wants to keep your home in perfect condition or are impatient and intolerant when problems arise, a pet may not be for you. Expect some fine-tuning at first as you and your new pet adjust to each other. Do you have the patience and creativity to work through problems?
Give some thought to these questions and discuss them with the other people in your household. If you can still answer yes to them, you’re ready to choose a cat.
Other things to Consider When Choosing a Cat
Are there small children in your house; is your house an place that’s busy and noisy? Younger cats (say, under five years old) will adapt better. Older cats, especially more than eight or nine years old, usually like a quieter environment.
Kittens are babies and, like babies, they need lots of attention and supervision. Kittens can also be destructive: everything is a toy to a kitten, and they don’t know your rules or expectations. While they are small kittens are cute and fun, but in a matter of months an untrained kitten will grow up into an unmanageable cat. Kittens need companions---either another cat, or a person who is with them most of the time. Kittens (like babies) do not usually sleep through the night, and want to play at 2 a.m. Kittens are energetic and active, and when they are left alone for long periods they get bored and become destructive. Unless someone is home most of the time in your house, kittens (6 months or less) are not recommended.
Spend some time with a cat you are considering for adoption, and get to know its temperament. Consider fostering first. Too many people fall in love with cute little kittens or beautifully coloured cats. You’ll be living with your cat for a long time and its personality- not its looks- need to be a good fit with yours. Do you want a cat that is active and loves playing (and do you have the time to spend giving it the attention it needs?). Do you want a cuddly lap cat? Or maybe a shy, quieter cat that is content to sit by a window and watch the birds?
Perhaps you are not able to make a 20-year commitment to a cat, and are able to adopt a well-behaved senior cat? The Fort Smith Animal Society allows a standard seven day home trial for a cat you are thinking of adopting, and if you’re still not sure we’ll consider a couple of extra days. We want you to be sure that a particular cat is right for you.
Don’t worry about the cat’s name. Most cats that come to us do not know their names, and the unclaimed strays that come in have names made up by shelter volunteers. You can change a cat’s name to one that you like and the cat will learn it in time.
Are you adding a second or third cat to your home? A younger cat (2 months to 2 years) is likely to be more accepted by adult cats. On the other hand, don’t bring a young, active kitten home as a companion for a 16 year old cat---it’s like bringing a hyperactive four year old child to live with a 75 year old senior. Think of the personality and age of your existing cat. Cats can make great companions for each other and keep each other active. We can give you some tips on introducing a second cat to your family.
Discuss your home and family environment and the cats up for adoption with a shelter volunteer who knows our cats. We spend time with the shelter animals and get to know their personalities and needs, and we can help you choose a cat that’s right for you. We’ll even try to help you with problems after you adopt, or steer you to someone who might be able to help.