Six to eight million dogs and cats enter shelters each year, according to The Humane Society of the United States. The adoption rate is approximately half that number. After losing my feline companion of 17 years, I headed for the local shelter to adopt another cat, preferably an older cat who needed a safe, calm and loving environment.
DECIDE WHAT SUITS YOUR LIFESTYLE
Prepare a list of the most important things to you as a pet owner, before you visit the shelter. For instance, do you have enough time and energy to train and socialize a kitten, or is an older, mature cat more suitable? Do you prefer a lap cat or a more independent type? Will your cat live exclusively indoors? Which sex do you prefer? Is it important the cat be declawed? Is the cat accustomed to other pets? Shelter staff are very adept at matching personalities to people, so when you give them some criteria, the field is narrowed and introductions to prospective matches is easier.
UNDERSTAND THE SHELTER ENVIRONMENT
Older cats often stay in shelters longer and the environment is often stressful for them. The noises, sounds, visitors and loss of familiar caregivers often affect behavior, cause depression and affect their self-confidence. Staff members, who groom, feed and care for the shelter cats know a great deal about each animal’s personality, before and after arrival at the shelter. Ask to review the cat’s intake file. This resource often reveals preferences, behavior and personality quirks prior to shelter entrance.
SIT QUIETLY WITH THE CATS AT THE SHELTER
I was seated in a quiet room with five or six senior candidates. I let the cats come to me on their terms. Some simply looked at me, others came over to greet me and still others tried to crawl up into my lap. I was totally ignored by Peyton, a handsome eight-year-old Maine Coon, until I was leaving. As I walked by him, he reached out from his perch and gently tapped my shoulder. Each time I turned to leave, he tapped again. I accepted his terms, and he came home with me that day.
The shelter staff helped us achieve a seamless transition from shelter to home. Peyton soon began to trust and bond with me, as I let him know he was safe in his new, forever home. He is a character and a clown and at times playful as a kitten, but he suits my slower lifestyle quite well.