When you adopt a pet from a shelter, the whole family is usually in on the decision. Same with when you take an older rescue cat into your home. But there are some good steps that can help make sure everyone is on board before adopting a new cat.
1 Choose a family member to be the “cat caretaker.”
If it is not already the case, decide who will be responsible for the cat’s daily care, including feeding, grooming and cleaning the litter box. Make sure everyone knows that not everyone can make these decisions; a person who is allergic to cats or just doesn’t like them might end up resenting a new feline member of the family!
2 Allergic family members will need to take allergy medicine.
Very young children and people with allergies should take allergy medicine every day after you bring your new cat home to help reduce symptoms while he transitions into his forever home with you. Ask your vet for advice about what medicine to give and how much to give.
3 Plan ahead to get pet insurance.
Pet insurance is a way to help avoid high veterinary bills if your new rescue cat gets sick or injured. Pet insurance, like human health insurance, can require you to pay a yearly fee and then pay small amounts for any visits or treatments the cat needs, including preventive care and vaccinations. The money you spend on premiums may be well worth it if your cat becomes very ill later in life. It is a good idea for everyone in the family to have pet health insurance because it often covers illnesses that are not related to accidents or injuries. Pet health insurance is a must if your cat will be an indoor-only cat.
4 Plan ahead for dealing with the new cat’s litter box.
Adopting a rescued cat may mean changing some of your household routines, particularly if you have to adjust to a new litter box location or type. If you have young children, it is very important that you help them develop habits early on so they won’t shake litter around the house or track it through the house in their shoes when playing outside.
5 Teach all family members how to praise the cat when he does what he should.
When you first bring a rescue cat into your home, you may be an object of curiosity and wonder from the rest of your family. But before long, other members of your family will want to learn how to give praise to your new family member. Everyone who spends time with the cat should learn this act of kindness because many rescued cats live in homes where they are not adored or fussed over by everyone. So you will want to show everyone how to pet the cat and give him praise in a way that he will respond to.
6 During the first days, weeks or months with your rescued cat, keep a close eye on his health.
If your new cat does not seem well, contact your vet right away. Many shelters are overcrowded and underfunded, so it is especially important to take good care of your new rescue cat at an early stage. If something seems wrong, seek veterinary care immediately. If you have questions about your cat’s health or behavior or notice some changes in his behavior after gaining him into the family home, contact your vet right away to make sure everything is okay.
7 Your vet will probably want to keep your new cat for a few days to check him out and make sure he is healthy.
Afterward, you can decide whether to accept the cat into your home, return him to the shelter or give him back. Some people choose to give their new rescue cat back for adoption but keep the pet in their home for a period of time so that he gets used to them and their routines before being returned to the shelter (or rescued again from another home).
8 Decide whether you want to breed your new cat.
Some people select rescue cats because they want to have a litter of kittens, and they can be a wonderful source of joy for a family who is not ready to adopt an adult cat. But there are some best practices that must be followed when breeding rescue cats, especially if you plan to do it with other rescues or you plan on displaying kittens for sale in a pet store or online. The pet store or breeder should always be free of fleas so that the kittens are born healthy.
9 Once you have your new cat in the home, you will want to continue to visit your vet regularly.
If a rescue cat comes into your home as an older adult or has special needs, it can take some time for caregivers to learn all of the cat’s likes and dislikes. Most people don’t know this, but a rescue cat can be just as distraught when his routine is disrupted as when he loses a family member. So if you really want to keep your rescued cat in the family and in your home, it is important to make sure that everyone is committed to long-term foster care of the animal and bringing him back for regular visits with your vet.
10 You need to make arrangements for the cat’s medical needs.
Some rescues can be problematic to have around because they have parasites or other health conditions. If your rescued cat has fleas or other parasites, it is best to keep the cat separated from human contact until you are certain that he is free of these pests. It also helps if your vet is not on call 24/7, so you can provide this service for your rescued cat during the day when you are not home. But contact your vet whenever you notice any changes in the cat’s behavior or general health after taking him into the house (or when he visits his previous owner).
While rescues can be wonderful, there are drawbacks to adopting a cat who has already been through many different homes. If you are willing to make a commitment, however, a rescue cat could turn out to be the best pet you ever had. Just remember that you will need to do extra research and take extra care of this new animal in your life. Maybe you will find that adding another pet into your home is the best thing that ever happened to you. But you should also be prepared for the possibility that you will become another home for a rescued cat.