Decided what the new cat will be like; color, size, age, sex, personality? Chosen a name? Compatibility is the key to finding the right cat and the compatible cat may be diametrically opposite to anything you had in mind. Let kitty do the work and choose you. They are good at it and seem to have a gift for selecting the perfect person for them.
How cats behave in a shelter is not necessarily how they will behave at home. Generally cats are caged; the environment is hostile to them, full of other cats’ scent. Space is minimum; food and litter box in close proximity, nowhere to play, limited one-on-one contact; all conducive to bored, stressed and often depressed cats. Some are so frightened they huddle in their litter box. They feel safer surrounded by a concentration of their own scent. Perhaps you are the perfect person to bond with that cat and give it a new happy and secure life.
Some limitations may apply for a cat to fit successfully in your home. A boisterous kitten or young cat may not be appropriate. Older cats can make excellent companions. They already know the ropes. A senior cat is often, but not always, calmer and perhaps won’t attempt to swing on curtains.
If someone in the home has mobility or vision issues, a kitten is not a good idea. They get under foot; the result can be a fall or the kitten being stepped on, severely injuring it or worse.
Kittens don’t necessarily mix with young children. Some shelters will not adopt to a family with children under three years. The rationale being kittens are very fragile; their bones are still soft and damage easily. Very little weight is required to crush a kitten and not much height to severely injure one if dropped. Don’t be surprised if scratches materialize on children of any age. It is part of their learning process; keep Band Aids and antiseptic cream handy.
Different breeds of cats have different personalities. Exceptions do prove the rule but Persians tend to be calmer; Oriental breeds more bouncy and mischievous.
Cats require grooming. Long-haired breeds generally take more time, depending on undercoat thickness and texture.
Follow cat etiquette when visiting a shelter. What would you do if a stranger ran up to you on the street, shoved their hand in your face, rubbed your head and tried to lift you up? A cat is likely to exhibit a similar response except they have claws and sharp teeth. Do not poke fingers into cages. Remember Band Aids? Visit each cage, talk to the cats and gauge how they react to you. Ask shelter staff about the cat’s personality, why it came to the shelter, any health or behavioral problems. Request to see cats you’re interested in. Observe how they behave towards staff. Only approach a cat with permission. Allow it to sniff something with your scent; glasses or a cell phone are perfect. If the cat doesn’t care to be touched, it will bat the object not you. If all goes well, slowly offer a hand; be calm, relaxed and confident. Things may go well enough for you to hold kitty.
If a free roaming-cat comes up to you offer your hand. If it sniffs you and asks to be petted gently stroke it. Maybe you’ve been chosen?
Don’t let anyone rush you. If the right cat isn’t there, go home, return another day or try somewhere else. Some shelters allow you to put a cat on hold for a short period while you decide.
Before committing, ask about shelter protocol. Are cats vet-checked? Are they vaccinated, spayed or neutered? Do they have health records? What is their policy on returning a cat if, after trying your hardest, the cat will not fit into your home or is sick?