by Sam Mazzotta
DEAR PAW’S CORNER: I am planning to adopt a cat, and I have decided that the local shelter is the best place to do so – not classified ads or a cat breeder. Do you have any advice on things to look for? – Sally in Branson, Mo.
DEAR SALLY: First, congratulations on your decision. I agree that the local shelter is often the best place to look for a new cat. Shelters always have many pets looking for a home, but besides that, many of them offer pet ownership classes and discounts or rebates for medical procedures such as spaying/neutering.
You likely will be asked a few questions by the shelter personnel before you can even go and look at a pet. They need to make sure you are able to care for a cat throughout its life. Shelters do not allow college students or vacationers to adopt. They also will explain any fees or additional requirements for adoption.
When it’s time to find your new cat, look over each prospect closely and ask plenty of questions. How old is the cat? Is it already sterilized? What is its general temperament (sometimes hard to tell in a stressed environment)? Does it have any known health issues? Shelter personnel will give you as much information as they can about each cat.
Give prospects a visual once-over from nose to tail. Healthy cats have a clean nose with no wheezing, white teeth and pink gums, clear and lively eyes, and clean ears. Lift the tail and check for signs of diarrhea or distress such as swelling. The fur should be fluffy and clean with no bare patches, and not ratty- or spiky-looking. Watch how it moves, runs and plays.
Once you adopt a new companion, schedule a veterinary appointment as soon as possible for a physical checkup to make sure your cat is as healthy as possible.