Dawn Armstrong
Special to the Tribune

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June 25, 2012
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How to choose a cat with character

Because unsterilized domestic cats typically mate in late winter and produce their young in spring, June is national Adopt-A-Cat month. Shelters are overflowing with felines. This means an adopter has a wide choice of companions to welcome home. It's easy to choose a cat to match your lifestyle - a cat with real character.

Think Garfield attitude or Sylvester silly. Perhaps you prefer exotic aloof, talky petite, or giant, furry cuddle mate. The American Humane Association generalizes that cats with long hair and round heads and bodies are more easygoing than lean cats with narrow heads and short hair, who are typically more active. With just a little observation and interaction at the shelter, you can find the cat who purr-fectly compliments your personality.

Here's a ready list from the American Humane Association prior to adopting a cat:

1. Consider taking home a pair. Cats require exercise, mental stimulation and social interaction. Two cats can provide this for each other. 

2. Pick out a veterinarian ahead of time and schedule a visit within the first few days following the adoption.

3. Make sure everyone in the house is prepared to have a cat before it comes home. Visiting the shelter should be a family affair.

4. Budget for the short- and long-term costs of a cat. A cat adopted from a shelter is a bargain because most facilities will have already provided spaying or neutering, initial vaccines and a microchip for permanent identification.

5. Stock up on supplies before the cat arrives. Your cat will need a litter box, cat litter, food and water bowls, food, scratching posts, safe and stimulating toys, a cushy bed, a brush for grooming, a toothbrush and nail clippers.

6. Cat-proof your home. Food left on the kitchen counter will serve to teach your new friend to jump on counters for a possible lunch. Get rid of loose items your cat might chew on, watch to ensure the kitten isn't chewing on electric cords and pick up random items such as paper clips, which kittens may swallow.

7. Go slowly when introducing your cat to new friends and family. It can take several weeks for a cat to relax in a new environment. It's a great idea to keep the new addition limited to a single room (with a litter box, food and water, toys and the cat carrier left out and open with bedding inside) until the cat is used to the new surroundings; this is particularly important if you have other pets. If you've adopted a kitten, socialization is very important. But remember, take it slow.

8. Be sure to include your new pet in your family's emergency plan.

9. If you're considering giving a cat as a gift, make sure the recipient is an active participant in the adoption process. Remember, adopting a cat isn't like purchasing a household appliance or a piece of jewelry - this is a real living, breathing, emotional being.

Tip number 10 is a reminder from the CATalyst Council suggesting that kittens are fun and have boundless energy, but having a more mellow older cat may be a better fit. Older cats tend to stay in shelters longer than younger ones, which means that shelter staff have gotten to know them better and can help you choose the one who would be perfect for your lifestyle.

Adopt a shelter cat any day of the year. But think about it especially now. Estimates are that every minute, about four cats are euthanized in U.S. shelters. Tragically, only 2 percent of stray cats are claimed by their owners. There are several shelters in the Greater Lake Tahoe Basin. The local community shelter can be contacted at 530-573-7925.

- Provided by the Lake Tahoe Humane Society and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to help "Keep Tahoe Kind." Dawn Armstrong is the executive director.


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Tahoe Daily Tribune Updated Jun 25, 2012 08:38PM Published Jun 25, 2012 08:35PM Copyright 2012 Tahoe Daily Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.