When choosing a rescue cat, you might ask yourself “Does my family need a kitten or an adult cat?” It may be tempting to go for the cat who has been at the shelter the longest, the cat that looks the saddest – but not every adult cat will cope with every household. It can be confusing enough trying to decide between rescue cats and pedigree cats (that’s another article entirely)!
Advice for your family when choosing a cat
To help make choosing a new cat a little easier you can adopt through a reputable rescue organisation who know each of their cats really, really well. Any responsible rescue organisation whose primary focus is the welfare of its cats, can offer you feedback on a certain felines suitability for your home and (in my opinion) any responsible organisation will say no to a particular adoption if they think the cat will not cope in your home. Don’t be offended! Just because you hear “no” in regards to a certain cat does not mean the shelter staff hate you, or think you are a bad owner. They just know that this particular cat does not suit your circumstances.
If you are going it alone, you need to assess the composition of your household and be realistic with yourself. Do you have a dog? Do you have multiple children? Do you have children and other pets?
I have another pet and a young child:
Your realistic options will be a little limited. You could try to find an adult cat that is fine with other pets and children – but honestly you could be waiting a long time. I would estimate 90% of the adult cats I have come across in the last decade, need to be re homed as the only pet. Some of this 90% are ok with very small children but most of the time we just have to assess the cats reactions to the child. You could meet several adult cats only to see them run away from your child each time.
Adopting a kitten is the easiest option. Kittens are adaptable and are not old enough to have had bad experiences with dogs, other cats or children.
But won’t they just get used to it?
Its not a case of your toddler and/or dog doing anything wrong – its just that lots of rescue cats are scared of dogs and small humans. Very, very shy cats will tend to hide from very young children and not interact with them at all – which isn’t rewarding for child or cat! There is a microscopic chance that the cat will slowly get used to the child but quite honestly a very shy, stress prone cat will almost never get “used to them”.
Same with dogs in the house. I have seen adult cats who have lived with dogs their whole life, completely fall apart at the sight of a dog they do not know – almost as if they grew up seeing the dog they used to live with, as more of a “cat”. I have also seen cats so stressed by having to share a home with dog that they rip their own fur out. Once adult cats have formed an opinion on something, it is very hard to get them to change their mind.
Stressed out adult cats can toilet inappropriately, run away from home, or just live in constant fear. They cannot just “get over it”.
How do I know my young child is old enough to be around a kitten?
Have a toddler in the house? If you are not sure if your child is old enough to have a kitten around – you can get a toy shaped like a cat and teach them to treat this toy like it was real. Behaviours you may need to teach your child include: gentle pats, not rubbing fur the wrong way and to not carry the kitten in a dangerous way.
You will soon know if a kitten would be in danger from being picked up around its neck, being accidentally fallen on, or being hit with other toys as your toddlers excitement level goes up. If you feel like your child may not be quite old enough, there’s nothing wrong with adopting a kitten the next year!
No other pets?
The majority of the rescue cats I encounter need to be the only pet in their new household and suit single occupant homes, couples or families with older children/teens. If you have no dogs or other cats living with you then you can realistically adopt a cat of any age.
The confidence level of any particular adult cat is a great indicator to how it will cope in your family. If your household is boisterous or you have visitors regularly then you will need a confident adult cat. A confident cat will walk up to you and your family and will not shy away from your family members.
The very shy adult cats suit houses of 1-2 adults without children and without other pets. If you live on a road with a lot of traffic please avoid the very shy and easily startled cats or please consider an “Inside-only” cat.
Any responsible rescue organisation can offer you advice on how confident a particular cat is and what sort of environment it will suit.