11 Expert Tips for Adopting a Cat

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If you've been thinking about adding a fuzzy little friend to your household, there's more to consider than whether to name it Pearl or Pickles, or Zoroaster or Apollinaris, like Mark Twain named two of his many cats. So if you're planning on celebrating June's Adopt a Cat Month quite literally, here are 11 tips straight from the pros. Mull them over, then head to your local shelter!

1. BE CHOOSY ABOUT THE SHELTER YOU ADOPT FROM.

A family pets a grey striped cat at an animal shelter.
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According to Gail Buchwald, vice president of the adoption center at the ASPCA in New York City, assessing shelters in person is a must. "I think it's a great idea for a prospective adopter to go to the shelter and check it out, get a visual. If they see animals that don't look healthy, they should ask some questions," she told WebMD. Furthermore, talk to shelter employees to get an idea of what they know about the animals' health and behavior. Shelters that don't do behavior assessments or disease testing aren't able to give you the appropriate information to make a match that truly works for you and for your prospective pet.

2. KNOW THAT YOU'RE IN THIS FOR THE LONG HAUL.

A cat is sleeping on its owner's lap.
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Cats are long-term roommates, so make sure you're ready for the commitment. According to Gwen Sparling, the owner of Camp Kitty boarding facility in Atlanta, over the course of a cat's 15- to 20-year lifetime, a pet owner will spend approximately $1000 annually on vet care, food, treats, toys, kitty litter, and more. "There is this general thinking that cats are no-fuss pets, which couldn't be further from the truth," Sparling told Mother Nature Network.

3. SHELTER CATS ARE GREAT OPTIONS.

A black kitten peeks out from behind the bars of a shelter cage.
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There's a misconception that animals in shelters have physical or behavioral issues; most of the time, that's not the case. "Animals primarily end up in our care because of challenges and transitions that exist in the lives of the people responsible for their care," Michael Keiley, director of adoption centers and programs at Boston's Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, told Country Living. Often animals can end up in shelters when their humans move, lose a job, or have to focus on non-pet-related stressors—and that's not a reflection on the cats who now need a new home.

4. ASSESS YOUR NEEDS BEFORE YOU GO IN.

A cat snuggling with a young blonde child while she reads.
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"The goal is for the adoption to work out well for everyone," Susan Daffron, the author of Happy Tabby: Develop a Great Relationship with Your Adopted Cat or Kitten, told LovetoKnow.com. Before you fall in love with the first cute face you see at the shelter, make sure you know exactly what you and your family need in a pet. Do you have small children? Are you away from home a lot? Do you have other pets? None of those things preclude you from adopting a shelter cat, but they definitely help set parameters about the personality and type of cat that would be ideal for you and your family.

5. CONSIDER MULTIPLE CATS.

A black cat and a grey cat snuggle together in a wicker basket.
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If you're going to jump in, do it with both feet, right? But there's a method to this madness—according to the American Humane Society, cats provide each other with exercise, mental stimulation, and social interaction that humans just can't quite match. And if you're at work or otherwise occupied during the day, having the companionship can be extra important to your cat(s).

6. PREP A SPECIAL PLACE FOR YOUR NEW FAMILY MEMBER.

Three grey and black kittens lounging on a piece of carpeted cat furniture.
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Cats are territorial, so entering a new space is stressful for them. Before you go to the shelter, create a special spot in your home to make kitty feel more comfortable when it arrives, writes Sara Kent, the former director of shelter outreach for Petfinder. A quiet spot stocked with a litter box, toys, food, and water will help—let your cat get familiar with the sights and sounds of the room on its own time.

7. VET A VET AHEAD OF TIME.

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Before you choose a cat, choose a vet by getting referrals from people you trust. The American Humane Society recommends making an appointment for an overall check-up within the first few days of the adoption. Be sure to take the vet any medical records provided by the shelter.

8. BOND THE RIGHT WAY.

A young girl in a blue shirt nuzzles a grey kitten.
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You will, of course, want to spend some time bonding with your cat. But how you do so depends on what stage of life the cat is in, Samantha Bell DiGenova, the cat behavior and enrichment lead at Best Friends Los Angeles, told Bustle. "When bonding with kittens, you want to handle them, hold them, let them look at you and see your face," she said. "You want to have as much contact with them visually and tactually as you can so that they grow up understanding that's how they should interact with people."

On the other hand, adult cats require their space. "If you adopt a cat that's four months or older, let them make the decisions. If you … allow the cat to come to you when they want affection, and let them show you that they want to interact, the bond you create will be so much stronger."

9. INTRODUCE THEM TO YOUR OTHER CATS.

An adult cat touches noses with a grey, fluffy kitten with a background of fallen autumn leaves.
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But do it the right way. According to cat behaviorist Jackson Galaxy, just letting two cats "work it out" is not the best way to get your felines to be friendly. Instead, he wrote on his website, keep your cats separated by a door, but let them sniff each other under the door. Feed them both on their respective sides of the door so they get positive associations with each other. And eventually, swap bedding between your two pets so they get familiar with each other's scents. After a period of familiarization—which can sometimes last weeks—any hissing and growling should subside, and they'll be able to interact without fighting. (Have a dog? You can find some tips for that scenario here.)

10. CONSIDER PET INSURANCE.

A vet is holding a stethoscope up to a small brown kitten.
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Even if your cat is the picture of health when you first adopt, you never know what medical issues could arise down the road. As with human insurance, veterinarian Tracy McFarland wrote that it's a good idea to purchase pet insurance while your ball of fluff is totally healthy. It could eventually save you a bundle and make sure your cat is around for a long time.

11. HAVE PATIENCE.

A broken pot and soil on the ground with an innocent-looking cat sitting next to it.
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Renowned cat behaviorist Pam Johnson-Bennett, author of Think Like a Cat, reminds new owners to have patience with their new pets. From remembering the location of the kitty litter box to interacting with your family, it takes them some time to learn the ropes. Have patience as they are learning, and you'll be rewarded with a relationship that lasts for years to come.

This Stylish Cardboard Box Is Designed to Be Your Cat’s New Favorite Hideout

Scott Salzman
Scott Salzman

You can buy your cat a fancy bed or perch, but when it comes right down to it, your feline friend is probably going to be more eager to curl up in the cardboard box that it arrived in. So why not just cut out the part where you spend time and money picking out something your cat couldn’t care less about? Just get a really nice box. That’s the premise behind the Purrfect Cat Box, a cardboard box specifically tailored to cats’ needs.

While every cat is finicky in his or her own way, almost all cats love a good cardboard box. (Seriously, it’s science.) Squeezing into a cozy box makes cats feel protected, and, since cats like warmer temperatures, the insulating cardboard also helps keep them at their preferred level of toasty.

Designed by Colorado-based inventor Scott Salzman, the Purrfect Cat Box is made to be just the right size for ultimate kitty comfort. At about the size of a shoebox, it’s big enough for most cats to squeeze into without being cramped—though Salzman doesn’t specify whether it will work for big breeds like Maine Coons—but small enough that they still feel protected inside. It has a small cutout in the front to allow your cat to peek his head outside the box, and, most importantly, to get in a really good chin scratch.

While we humans might find cardboard cars or cardboard Taj Mahal replicas adorable, most cats just want a plain box that makes them feel safe and comfortable. The geometric-patterned Purrfect Cat Box walks the line between utilitarian and chic, making the empty cardboard box in your living room a little bit less of an eyesore.

Plus, it’s cardboard-priced. At $6 a box, it's about what you'd pay to have a regular cardboard box full of anything from Amazon delivered to your door, but it’s still inexpensive enough that if your cat destroys it, it’s easy enough to throw in the recycle bin and get a new one.

Get it on Indiegogo.

Signalman Jack: The Baboon Who Worked for the Railroad—and Never Made a Mistake

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

One day in the 1880s, a peg-legged railway signalman named James Edwin Wide was visiting a buzzing South African market when he witnessed something surreal: A chacma baboon driving an oxcart. Impressed by the primate’s skills, Wide bought him, named him Jack, and made him his pet and personal assistant.

Wide needed the help. Years earlier, he had lost both his legs in a work accident, which made his half-mile commute to the train station extremely difficult for him. So the first thing he trained the primate to do was push him to and from work in a small trolley. Soon, Jack was also helping with household chores, sweeping floors and taking out the trash.

But the signal box is where Jack truly shined. As trains approached the rail switches at the Uitenhage train station, they’d toot their whistle a specific number of times to alert the signalman which tracks to change. By watching his owner, Jack picked up the pattern and started tugging on the levers himself.

Soon, Wide was able to kick back and relax as his furry helper did all of the work switching the rails. According to The Railway Signal, Wide “trained the baboon to such perfection that he was able to sit in his cabin stuffing birds, etc., while the animal, which was chained up outside, pulled all the levers and points.”

As the story goes, one day a posh train passenger staring out the window saw that a baboon, and not a human, was manning the gears and complained to railway authorities. Rather than fire Wide, the railway managers decided to resolve the complaint by testing the baboon’s abilities. They came away astounded.

“Jack knows the signal whistle as well as I do, also every one of the levers,” wrote railway superintendent George B. Howe, who visited the baboon sometime around 1890. “It was very touching to see his fondness for his master. As I drew near they were both sitting on the trolley. The baboon’s arms round his master’s neck, the other stroking Wide’s face.”

Jack was reportedly given an official employment number, and was paid 20 cents a day and half a bottle of beer weekly. Jack passed away in 1890, after developing tuberculosis. He worked the rails for nine years without ever making a mistake—evidence that perfectionism may be more than just a human condition.

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