While it's true that cats value their independence a bit more than their canine counterparts, they do need companionship and they also enjoy a good scratch now and then.

Cats make wonderful pets. Because they're less demanding, they can easily adjust to a variety of lifestyles and living spaces. Every cat is a true individual, though, so it's important to take the time to choose a four-footed friend who's right for you. A cat's personality, age, and appearance, as well as the kinds of pets you already have at home, are all things you should keep in mind when making your selection.

Choose a Personality. Stroll past a few cat cages at the shelter, and you'll notice that some cats meow for special attention, while others simply lie back and gaze at you with an air of arrogance. There are as many different personalities of cats as there are cats in the shelter. Which disposition is best for you? You have to decide.

But regardless of individual personality, look for a cat who's playful, active, alert, and comfortable while being held and stroked. At the shelter, ask an adoption counselor for assistance when you wish to spend some time with individual cats.

Kitten or cat? As a general rule, kittens are curious, playful, and full of energy, while adult cats are more relaxed and less mischievous. Kittens also require more time to train and feed. Cats are only kittens for a few months, though, so the age of the cat you adopt should really depend on the level of maturity you're looking for. Young children usually don't have the maturity to handle kittens responsibly, so a cat who's at least four months old is probably the best choice for homes with kids under six years old.

Short-haired or long? Cats can have long, fluffy coats or short, dense fur, and the choice between the two is chiefly a matter of preference and availability. You'll see more short-haired cats at the shelter since they're the most popular and common cats. One thing to keep in mind is that long-haired cats require frequent grooming to be mat-free. Felines with short coats also require brushing, though less frequently, and they'll leave less hair on your favorite recliner. Most cats enjoy a regular brushing and will look forward to this daily ritual with you.

Room for one more. If you already own a cat or dog, you're probably wondering how easy it is to add a cat to the family. The good news is that cats can get along with other cats and-despite the common stereotype-most dogs can get along with cats. The bad news is, introducing a new cat to a home with other pets will require some patience on your part. The best way to handle adding a new cat to the home is to provide time for a period of adjustment. You can do this effectively by isolating your new feline in a room of his own for a while-something that's a good idea for a new cat anyway.

After several days, supervise meetings between the animals for periods of increasing length. Most cats will soon learn to accept each other, and some may quite possibly become the best of buddies. Some dogs simply won't tolerate the presence of a cat, but by carefully introducing them, most problems can be solved.

Be responsible! Regardless of the cat you choose, you'll want to start being a responsible pet owner right away. The easiest way to do that is to keep your cat indoors with you from the very beginning. If you don't let your new friend outside, he'll never miss it, and will have a much better chance of still being around to sit on your lap a few years from now.

The other big staple of responsible cat ownership is having your female cat spayed or your male cat neutered. Spaying or neutering will ensure that your cat never adds to the millions of animals born each year who never find a good home. It'll also help him or her live a longer, healthier life.

Adopt a cat for life. Finally, remember that you're making a commitment to love and care for your new pet for his or her lifetime-which could mean 10, 15, even 20 years. So choose your new pal carefully and be a responsible pet owner. In no time at all, you'll know how wonderful sharing your home with a cat can be.


You are the proud new owner of a cat. No doubt you're looking forward to years of happy companionship. But what do you do now? The first thing you should know about your new pet is that most cats hate to travel. After the ride home from the animal shelter, he will, most likely, not be in the mood for fun. For the trip home, confine your pet in a sturdy cat carrier. Don't leave him loose in your car where he might panic and cause an accident.

To make his transition to your household as comfortable as possible, select a quiet, closed-in area such as your bedroom or a small room away from the main foot traffic, and provide him with a litter box. Let your new pet become acquainted with that limited area for the first few days. Let him sniff all your belongings and investigate all the hiding places. Over a few days, slowly introduce him to the rest of your house, including the other pets and household members. It will take a little while, but he will eventually begin to feel at home.

Cats vary in terms of how demanding they are as pets, so let yours guide you to the level of attention he wants, whether it's your hand for petting or your lap for sitting. Provide him with the necessary creature comforts and give him the companionship he seeks, and he will be content.

The following is a mini-primer of cats' requirements for a happy life:

Cleanliness. Your new cat will prize a clean environment and a clean body. Cats are naturally fastidious and most will instinctively use a litter box; for some, you may need to place the cat in the box and make little scratching motions with their front paws so they get the idea. Many place such a premium on cleanliness that you should clean the box daily or several times a week. Cats also value privacy, so place the litter box in a convenient but secluded spot.

Most cats will spend hours grooming themselves, but even the most avid groomer can use a little help from time to time. Nail clipping and ear and teeth cleaning are tasks you can do to keep your cat well groomed. Even short-haired cats benefit from weekly brushing, a task that can be pleasurable for both of you.

Security. Provide your cat with safety and security. Always use a cat carrier when transporting your pet. Protect him by making certain that all windows are securely screened, and that the washer and dryer are kept closed and are inspected before each use. Get into the habit of ensuring that drawers, closets, and cupboards are uninhabited before you close them. And for your own security, put a collar and tag on your feline-there's always the chance he may slip outside by mistake, and you want to make sure he can be identified as your pet.

Health care. Animal shelters take in animals with widely varying backgrounds, some of whom have not been vaccinated. Despite the best efforts of shelter workers, viruses can spread and may occasionally go home with adopted animals. If you already have dogs or cats at home, make sure they are up-to-date on their shots-including feline leukemia-and in good general health before introducing your new cat.

Take your new cat to the veterinarian within a week after adoption. There, he will receive a health check and any needed vaccinations. If your cat has not been spayed or neutered, make that appointment! There are already far too many unwanted kittens and cats; don't let your new pet add to the problem. Most likely, the shelter will require that you have your pet spayed or neutered anyway. If you need more information about why it is important to spay or neuter your cat, read our online information on spaying and neutering.

House rules. Provide your cat with some basic training to help him get along in your home. It's true that cats usually have their own ideas about how to do things. Even so, most cats can be taught to obey simple rules like not scratching the couch, eating plants, or jumping up on the kitchen counter. With repeated, gentle, and consistent training, your cat will learn.

Yelling at your cat never works. Instead, positively reward him and provide him with alternative choices. A good scratching post-coupled with the handy squirt gun filled with water-can save your couch, your chair, and your nerves. If you help your cat understand the rules and give him a satisfying outlet for his scratching impulses, there will be no need to have him declawed, an unnecessary operation no cat should endure.

Room for fun. Finally, provide your cat with an interesting indoor environment. Cats love to play and will appreciate simple and inexpensive toys. Ping-Pong balls and paper bags can provide hours of fun. A comfortable perch by a window can become your cat's very own entertainment and relaxation center.

Enjoy your rewards. Now that you've made certain all the basic provisions are attended to, you can relax and enjoy your new pet. It may take a couple of weeks for him to adjust to life with you. But before you know it, you'll be curled up on the couch together, watching TV like old pals, and you won't remember what life was like without him.

Cat care top 10 essentials

Although your cat may act independent and be litter-trained, he still counts on you to provide him with food, water, safe shelter, regular veterinary care, companionship, and more. Take care of these ten essentials, and you'll be guaranteed to develop a rewarding relationship with your feline companion.

1. Outfit your cat with a collar and ID tag that includes your name, address, and telephone number. No matter how careful you are, there's a chance your companion may slip out the door-an ID tag greatly increases the chance that your cat will be returned home safely.

2. Follow local cat registration laws. Licensing, a registration and identification system administered by some local governments, protects both cats and people in the community.

3. Keep your cat indoors. Keeping your cat safely confined at all times is best for you, your pet, and your community.

4. Take your cat to the veterinarian for regular check-ups. If you do not have a veterinarian, ask your local animal shelter or a pet-owning friend for a referral. 5. Spay or neuter your pet. This will keep her healthier and will reduce the problem of cat overpopulation.

6. Give your cat a nutritionally balanced diet, including constant access to fresh water. Ask your veterinarian for advice on what and how often to feed your pet.

7. Train your cat to refrain from undesirable behaviors such as scratching furniture and jumping on countertops. Contrary to popular belief, cats can be trained with a bit of patience, effort, and understanding on your part.

8. Groom your cat often to keep her coat healthy, soft, and shiny. Although it is especially important to brush long-haired cats to prevent their hair from matting, even short-haired felines need to be groomed to remove as much loose hair as possible. When cats groom themselves, they ingest a great deal of hair, which often leads to hairballs.

9. Set aside time to play with your cat. While cats do not need the same level of exercise that dogs do, enjoying regular play sessions with your pet will provide him with the physical exercise and mental stimulation he needs, as well as strengthen the bond you share.

10. Be loyal to and patient with your cat. Make sure the expectations you have of your companion are reasonable and remember that the vast majority of behavior problems can be solved. If you are struggling with your pet's behavior, contact your veterinarian or local animal shelter for advice, and check out the HSUS's Pets for Life campaign information

Courtesy of HSUS

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