Many animal shelters are flooded with newborn kittens now. That’s because spring and early summer is prime cat-mating season. (Cats have a three-month gestation, so kitten season tapers off around October.)
Yes, they’re cute and, yes, they’re cuddly, but before adopting a kitten or a cat, there are a few essential factors to consider:
Commitment and cost
When deciding whether to adopt a cat, first determine if you’re ready to take on a long-term commitment. A cat can live for 20 years or more. And while they are lower-maintenance than most dogs, cats do require socialization. At least 15 minutes of interaction per day is recommended for any cat. Some will need more for mental stimulation and energy release, especially in a small apartment.
Cats are relatively budget-friendly. Adoption fees average $50 to $120 per cat, which typically includes spaying or neutering and the first round of vaccines. Sometimes the price also includes a microchip implant. After that, expect to spend $30 to $40 a month on food and litter, at minimum. Don’t forget to factor in money for a scratching post and a few toys.
Aside from the upfront investment and monthly maintenance, consider health care. General wellness visits can cost from $100 to $400 a year. For some pet owners, it’s worth considering pet insurance, which averages $25 per month.
Pick for personality
“Cats are like humans, there are all sorts of personality types,” said Karen O’Rourke, president of Stray Cat Relief Fund and owner of six cats. “Some just want to chill in your lap all day. Others are high-energy and want to play nonstop, which can be great for families with kids or other playful kitties.”
Some are more affectionate, and others are timid, requiring a patient person to gain their trust.
If you prefer owning one cat at a time, you might want to opt for an adult, because kittens tend to need more interaction and socialization. Shelters often provide some information about the personality of a cat that’s up for adoption and their staff is trained to help you find the right fit. If you choose a kitten, you’ll need to be prepared for any personality.
Prepare your home
Before bringing a new cat home, pet-proof your house. Do a quick scan of your furniture. If a cat hops onto a shelf of your bookcase, will the whole bookcase fall down? Make sure your window screens are secure, too, and that window blind strings are tied up. Put away fragile items, as well as plastic bags.
Household plants can pose a danger. Some common varieties, including peace lilies and aloe, are toxic to cats. Refer to the ASPCA’s site for an exhaustive list. Likewise, toxic household products, including medications and cleaning products, should be placed out of reach.
Once your house is ready, identify a room to serve as the cat’s home for the first week after adoption. A small, quiet space will allow your cat to slowly adapt to its new home.
When a cat shows signs of comfort, like perked ears and a prance in its step, it’s ready to nose its way through other parts of the house. At this point, it’s time to prep the rest of the family.
If a dog is involved, keep it leashed while introducing the cat. And don’t give up hope if it’s not love at first sight. Multiple introductions may be necessary.
“Take a slow and staged approach,” O’Rourke said. “By placing the new cat in a separate room, they can use the sounds and smells to get to know other pets, and vice versa, before meeting face to face.”
Kids should also be introduced with care. Coach children to pet the cat without gripping or pulling.
Choosing the right kitten or cat and welcoming it into your home can take time and effort. But cats are worth the work. They bring comfort, laughs and companionship.