June is the National Adopt a Cat Month, an idea created by the American Humane Association to encourage people to make room in their hearts and homes for one (or more?!) cat(s), from the millions of them who are waiting for their Forever Homes in shelters across the country. Research has shown that all cats in sheltering situations experience stress that causes emotional and physical health problems – which means that every day a kitty spends in a shelter (even the nicest one) is a really hard day for her. If you have never had a cat yourself, but have considered adding a feline member to your family, why not make now the time to make a lifetime of difference in one cat’s life – and discover for yourself the joy a cat will bring you (with the bonus that pets have been proven to lower your stress at the same time!)
There are ten days left in June so don’t miss the chance to be counted as one of the Good Guys! You can make a huge difference – not just in that cat’s life, but also to the shelter workers who suffer another sort of stress seeing their cat populations grow with not enough adopters knocking on the door. From my book THE CAT BIBLE: Everything Your Cat Expects You to Know, here are some of the thoughts to take into consideration as you head off to your local rescue or shelter.
The first question to ask yourself is, “What kind of cat am I looking for?” Even if you don’t have a clear picture in your mind, we are all influenced by preferences we may not even be aware of. When you try to imagine what the perfect cat would be for you, what would your ideal cat look like? If you have a fantasy of the color and size of your dream cat, it’s easy enough to accommodate those physical characteristics on your wish list because on any day of the week there are so many thousands of cats for adoption wherever you might turn – local shelters, breed rescues, and of course the ubiquitous Petfinder.com which brings them all together on the Internet based on your zip code.
Beyond what your Fantasy Cat will look like, do you have feelings about what you envision as the ideal kitty’s personality and energy level? Kittens tend to zoom around and get into mischief: they need to have their environment kitten-proofed while their personalities are developing and you have to play with them and set boundaries for them until their energy mellows out. A grown cat will need less playtime and probably exhibit little, if any, of the wild antics of a kitten. In either case, think beforehand about your own time and energy levels and what might make a good fit for your lifestyle and personality.
When you meet an adult cat, you know in short order what her personality is. Does she like to sit on laps? Is she quiet and timid, or bold and assertive? Shelters and rescue groups often know their cats very well and can help steer you to a compatible match if you have a sense of what feline qualities would be appealing to you. But if you think about it, attraction often just happens. When you’re dealing with another living, feeling being, there are two sides to the equation. With pets we adopt, there often seems to be a mysterious moment of being touched with a magical wand of mutual attraction and you just seem to feel “That’s the one!”
For many people there is an “Aha!” moment when they are attracted to a human partner – for some people this can happen with pets, too. If you leave yourself open to that moment, you will know when it happens. Call it animal magnetism, karma, fate or your “inner cat,” and just go with it. What you’ll be letting go of at that moment is the idea that you can pick the “perfect” kitty and mold her into what you want, or control her natural self. Much better to leave the match-making in the hands of destiny and trust that the cat whew needs you – and whom you need – will find you.
Are there qualities about a cat that you can know beforehand? Unlike with dogs, there’s not much value to the idea of temperament testing for cats, starting with the fact that they wouldn’t submit to the test, anyway, unless they were in the mood! Dogs can be evaluated through a temperament test, but there is no such yardstick to evaluate cats, which means it isn’t reasonable to try to choose a cat or kitten based on a checklist of qualities.
The truth is that there’s really no way to pick the perfect cat for you, even if you knew what such a cat would be like. This is because one of the beautiful things about cats is that they do not reveal themselves all at once. Getting to know pussycats is a process, a gradual discovery of their enigmatic natures. Purebred cats are the only ones who tend to have somewhat predictable personalities and energy levels, but since only a small percentage of cat owners have purebreds, majority rules apply here. While I have heard that nearly one third of cats in shelters are actually purebred, there are still no hard and fast rules about their proclivities: not all Siamese talk a lot and not all Maine Coon cats like to take showers or go on walks like a dog!
Behaviorists who study cats have identified just two basic personality types for a cat. Beyond that, there aren’t any clear guidelines that allow you to judge a cat’s temperament ahead of time, other than sitting with a cat over one or more visits to discover how she interacts with you. Those who study cats generally agree that there are two fundamental kinds of cat personality and most cats’ personalities fall into one of them, with subtle variations. Type A cats are independent loners, aloof and maybe even reclusive. Type B cats are the kind of cats who will seek out people and other cats for companionship and they need affection and company.
The best overall tip in visiting the cat room at a shelter is not to pick extremes of personality. Be wary of the cat cowering in the corner.: if she’s a kitten, that timidity may be her natural personality and nothing you can do will make much of a dent in it. If she is an older cat who is fearful and withdrawn, it may be trauma of some kind has driven her into a nervous state, in which case you won’t be able to change much there, either. Avoid any extreme behavior, whether it is very reticent or overly energetic or enthusiastic, unless you are prepared to have a potentially long and challenging road to win this cat’s affection (though for some, such cats become the best love stories of all). But otherwise, pretty much any kitty who rings a bell for you has a great chance of being a love for life – so go ahead and make this the month you go for it!
Halo Purely for Pets is a pet food company devoted to supporting the health of cats in shelters (where they donate millions of meals through Freekibble.com) and their mission is to vigorously encourage adoption, which is why June being Adopt-a-Shelter-Cat month is such a meaningful month for them.
Keep in mind that how you feed your kitty will have a direct effect on her physical health and therefore her frame of mind.
Because the carbohydrates in dry food have been linked to health problems for animals who are obligate carnivores, I always recommend feeding wet food only to any cat of any age. Halo has a great choice of canned foods, including their newest pate-style cat food which has a remarkably low carbohydrate content around 3%. Feeding Halo canned foods is a sure way to get your new kitty on track for a lifetime of health and happiness. Don’t forget to pick up some freeze-dried protein in the Liv-a-Little containers, which makes heavenly treats to properly spoil your new feline family member!
Tracie Hotchner is the author of THE DOG BIBLE: Everything Your Dog Wants You to Know and THE CAT BIBLE: Everything Your Cat Expects You to Know. She is also a renowned pet radio host and producer, having spent 7 years on the Martha Stewart Channel of Sirius/XM with CAT CHAT® and even longer with her award-winning NPR radio show DOG TALK® (and Kitties, Too!) that continues to broadcast in the Hamptons and the Berkshires. Her most recent accomplishment is the pet talk radio network she has created on the Internet called The Radio Pet Lady Network.