Young woman pets a cat with a white belly

5 Things to Look for in a Shelter Cat

Young woman pets a cat with a white belly

There are so many benefits to adopting a shelter cat. Apart from the warm fuzzies of giving a pet its forever home, adoption is less expensive than getting a cat from a breeder. An adult rescue cat has already settled into its temperament, so it’s easier to see how it’ll fit into your life. And if you happen to have your heart set on a purebred kitty, good news: up to 25% of shelter cats are purebreds.

But to find the right shelter cat for you, we recommend going beyond breed. Here are a few things to consider when looking for a shelter cat.

1. Behavior problems (that might not be problems).

Sometimes, overcrowded and underfunded shelters produce cats who aren’t at their best. They may be depressed, shy, or even aggressive—but experts warn that these “problem behaviors” don’t necessarily reflect a cat’s personality.

Talking to Maddie’s Fund, cat expert Joan Miller notes, “Almost all cats need gradual exposure to everything.” An unfamiliar environment filled with weird sounds and dozens of strange cats can cause even a well-adjusted feline to lose her cool, so don’t despair if a cat you like doesn’t have glowing personality recommendations. To get a better sense for the cat’s personality, you’ll want …

2. One-on-one time with the shelter cat.

Shelters often provide quiet rooms where pet-parents-to-be can get to know a cat in a calm environment. If this kind of space is available, take advantage of it! See what you can glean about the cat’s personality. Does he play with toys? Is he shy? Is he young and pouncy, or older and more sedate? The answers to these questions can help you find your purr-fect match.

3. Cats who are “hard to home.”

If you’re already considering adopting a rescue cat, chances are you want to bring love and happiness to a pet who’s had it rough. Think about whether you have the time, patience, and resources to pick a cat that others may pass by, such as senior cats or cats with chronic medical problems.

These cats can sit unadopted for ages compared to playful kittens, but they have plenty of love to give! Just make sure you consult with the shelter so you fully understand your new fur baby’s needs.

4. Health issues.

Shelter cats can experience health problems ranging from cat colds and fleas to scarier (and much rarer) ailments like feline distemper. A little planning will save you a lot of anxiety over your pet’s health.

Step one is to determine what vaccinations the shelter has already provided. This information may be available on their website, or you can ask in person. Be sure to inquire about your cat’s medical and vaccination history as well. Last of all, try to schedule a vet appointment on the same day you pick up your cat, especially if you have other pets at home—that way, you’ll avoid exposing furry housemates to anything communicable.

5. That special connection.

Adopting a cat is so exciting to many pet parents that they fall in love with the first fluff they see! There’s nothing strictly wrong with this, but it’s worth your while to take a look at all the adoptable cats in a shelter. Figure out which one you connect with—you’ll know when it happens.

Once you’ve brought your shelter cat home, make sure they’re protected with Pawscout! Our free App connects you with a network of engaged pet parents:

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