Once every eight seconds, an unwanted cat or dog is euthanized somewhere in the United States thanks to pet overpopulation and limited shelter capacity. No one likes to think about that reality, but you can do your small part to help. In addition to supporting organizations that promote an aggressive national spay and neuter policy, facilitate no-kill shelter transitions and work with communities to address specific issues like feral cat colonies, you can adopt a shelter cat (or dog!).
10. Shelter cats come in all shapes, sizes and colors
If you want a kitten, shelters are usually overflowing with them, especially during spring kitten season. If you’re interested in an adolescent feline or even a more mature companion, shelters have those too. In fact, many are really excited by potential adopters who want to take on an older kitty, because mature cats tend to linger in shelters longer because many people prefer kittens. If you’re looking for a cat to accompany an older adult or someone who’s not as mobile, a mellow older cat might be a great fit.
9. Shelter cats are ready to go!
They’re spayed or neutered, immunized, dewormed, microchipped and assessed for behavioral issues by the skilled staff at the shelter. They’ve also been trained to use the litterbox in most cases, so you don’t have to worry about an awkward and potentially smelly transition to living at your house. Many also come with a certificate for a free first visit to the vet, and some shelters have a take-home package with food, toys and other goodies. You’re all set up for your first year of pet ownership, and your pet will be healthy, because the shelter has a vested interest in keeping its animals happy and healthy, while pet stores and unscrupulous breeders do not.
8. Shelter staff can help you pick the perfect companion
Adopting an animal is a big commitment, and not all cats are the same. If you come in with your family, the shelter staff can get to know you, introduce you to some prospects, and help with the matchmaking process. They’re motivated to make sure cats find their forever homes, and they won’t lead you astray when it comes to, well, rescuing a stray. Shelter staff can also provide you with information about the adjustment period if you’ve never had a cat before.
7. Turns out you can teach an old cat new tricks
Shelter cats of all ages love play, and many enjoy engaging with their human companions in a variety of games. We’re not just talking chasing after squeaky mice here either. Cats love learning new tricks, like this kitty, who’s quite good at the shell game:
(Note that when she’s tired of it, she’s not afraid to make her opinion known!)
6. Set an example!
There are a lot of myths about cats living in animal shelters, like claims that they’re damaged, feral or broken in some way. In fact, the vast majority of unwanted animals are happy, healthy and well-adjusted, they just need loving homes to get comfortable and let their personalities come up. By adopting a shelter cat, you can encourage other people to do the same; talking about your positive experiences and introducing people to your cat will help reduce the stigma about adopting from a rescue group.
If you want to adopt a special-needs animal, you’re certainly welcome to. Shelters are particularly choosy when it comes to homing out cats with medical problems, but they are always happy to hear people are interested, committed and ready to give a cat with some extra needs a home to share.
5. Adult cats are low maintenance
If you want a cat in your life but you don’t have a lot of time for teaching a kitten how to use the litterbox, stay away from the toilet paper roll, and stop wreaking havoc on your shoes, an adult cat is definitely for you. Adult cats already know the lay of the land and they tend to settle into routines quickly, making them great housemates. And if you travel a lot, consider adopting cats as a pair so they can keep each other company. A shelter often has a pair of cats whom they’d love to see go out together because they’re relatives or they’ve developed a close bond.
4. You’ll feel better
Companion animals offer a number of mental health benefits. Having a pet of any species around can make people feel happier and more balanced, and the routine of caring for and interacting with a pet like a cat can improve mood and reduce the sense of isolation. Cats are especially great companion animals for people who don’t have the energy or ability to care for a dog, but still want someone around the house to keep them company.
3. Shelter cats have varied personalities
Cats are incredibly diverse, personality-wise. They can be shy and outgoing, playful or more reserved, fascinated by sinks or horrified by water. If you haven’t had the pleasure of having a cat in your life yet, a shelter cat might totally change the way you view these delightful animals. Check out some of the personalities on display at the Los Alamos Animal Shelter:
2. Don’t support animal cruelty
Pet stores source their animals from a variety of places, and those cute kittens in the window might come from an abusive kitten mill where cats endure horrible conditions to produce animals for the pet trade. The sale of companion animals in general promotes the continued existence of exploitative breeders that view cats as cash drawers, not living beings. By turning away from companion animals offered for sale and choosing to adopt, you’ll be voting with your wallet. And that adoption fee? Will be a lot lower than buying an animal from a petstore or breeder.
1. You’ll save a life
Even if your local shelter is no-kill (which is great! consider an extra donation to help them with operational costs), adopting shelter cats to get them out of the shelter system and into living homes reduces the strain on shelters and frees up space for more homeless animals. No-kill shelters often rescue from facilities that euthanize, so by adopting from them, you’re opening up another slot for a kitty who’d otherwise be on death row. If you live in an area where there is a kill shelter or where animal care and control adopts out animals, please consider looking there first for a new cat. Some organizations maintain “kill lists” published by shelters, listing animals slated for euthanasia within the next few days, and you might find your new companion on just such a list.
Photo credit: Kevin Jarrett