Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Adopting an Adult Cat

There's been a lot of talk over the past couple of weeks about adopting an adult cat versus adopting a kitten, as everyone is posting about adopting "less adoptable" animals.   As you can imagine, adult cats have a much harder time finding homes than kittens do.  And while I'd never suggest that kittens do not deserve homes too, I always find it very rewarding to adopt an adult.  Three of my own cats were adults when we got them - Charlotte, Annie (though considered a YOUNG adult) and most recently, Romeo.

Adopting an adult cat is very rewarding, because the cat knows full well that he or she has been rescued.  Usually this means that they're grateful.   My thoughts on adopting adult kitties are that it's easier than some might lead you to believe, as long as you're willing to keep three things in mind.

1.  It takes patience.  Maybe some adult cats are more gregarious than mine, but all of mine had issues that they needed to work through before they could let themselves trust me.  Romeo is still working on that a little bit, but he will grow to trust me as well, in his own time.  Charlotte didn't trust me to do anything besides feed her and scoop her litter box until that first fateful night at the emergency vet.  It sounds crazy, but I think that she KNEW that we had the power of life or death over her that night, and we chose life.  She's been a very affectionate cat ever since.  But it did take months for both Charlotte and Annie, and it will take months for Romeo.  And that's okay, because I know how great it will make me feel when he voluntarily jumps into my lap and starts head-butting me for attention.  (He already sleeps on the bed with us, though I suspect that's partially because he knows that sleeping with the humans affords him some protection from the other cats.)

2.  It takes respect.  Cats are sticklers for respect; and they don't hesitate to let you know if they feel you haven't respected them enough.  I've learned to give them space when they want it.  They come to me on their own accord when they want my attention, and it's so very rewarding to see them choose to spend time with me because they WANT to, not because I pick them up and force them to sit on my lap.  I think that this is difficult for non-cat people to understand sometimes... if you're more used to dogs, it seems so foreign.

And have you ever had a cat sulk for hours because you made the mistake of laughing at him when he fell off the back of the couch?  Or even if you were able to restrain your laughter, had the cat sulk just because you had the audacity to witness his moment of clumsiness?  Yeah, your lack of respect has been noted.  :)

3.  It takes consistency.  I have yet to meet a cat that likes chaos (unless, ironically enough, they're the ones causing the chaos, then they revel in it.)  They like routine, and they like calm.  Nothing upsets our cats more than for us to wreck their routine by going out of town, inviting guests over, or  even waking up at a different time.  Not that I'm going to rearrange my schedule or forego vacations for the sake of the cats, but it's good to at least keep the cat's comfort levels in mind, and try to reduce the number of stressors in the environment as much as possible.

Really, those are the big ones.  I think that anyone who's willing to be patient, respectful, and more or less consistent, will earn the trust of a cat.  Especially if feeding and treats are involved.  :)  
Charlotte, in a basket way too small for her... girth.  As you can see, there have been many treats.
Disclaimer:  Charlotte is pudgy, and it's all my fault.  But don't judge!  She's terminally ill with congestive heart failure.  We've just decided to let her enjoy what life she has left, and with Charlotte, that means eating what she wants.  


  1. Great post! I always recommend adopting older cats as well. I just wish more people would give older kitties (and doggies) a chance.

    Charlotte is beautiful - hope she lives a very long time!!

    Your pal, Pip

  2. Older cats and dogs both make great companions! I'm glad to hear that other people are seeing their virtues!

  3. Love this post. We "adopted" our cat- our sister in law found him at a campsite. He was starving and stealing cheez-its. He now weighs (yes, really) 18 pounds. He had issues when we got him too. He broke into our cabinets and ate an entire large bag of beef jerky... with no ill effects. Who knows what he was eating out there! He still has weird food issues, but he's a good cat! :)

  4. What a great post!! I think you really hit on 3 important issues. A little time, patience and consistency can go along way with any animal. I think it is great that you give your cats the time and patience to trust you. I got my two cats as kittens and my Siamese was the most timid kitten I had ever seen. It has taken a couple years for her to really trust me and come out of her shell. It has been a beautiful experience watching her grow and change and I have loved every minute of it.
    Thank you for sharing your stories on your blog, I feel like I learn a lot from you.

  5. Ok as a dog lady who is trying to learn and understand about cats this was an amazing post for me - im adjusting to spending time with 2 adult cats.

    Charlotte is so pretty and I would do the same :)

  6. Remember to a cat you are their for their every whim, whereas a dog is just happy to please you:)

    Hope Charlotte has many more years left yet.