Where to Adopt a Cat
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You might see kittens or a cat advertised in a newspaper or on a bulletin board. Sometimes you can find a terrific pet this way, but proceed with caution. If you're looking at an adult cat, ask the questions outlined earlier in this article. If you're looking at kittens, be sure they've been handled and socialized. Most people won't keep the kittens until the ideal 12 to 16 weeks, and a 7- to 8-week-old kitten might do okay, but adopting very young kittens carries risks (see Choosing a Kitten).
Keep in mind that people who don't bother to have their female pets spayed and who have litter after litter to give away are unlikely to provide proper health care, nutrition, and socialization to the kittens. If you want to avoid supporting irresponsible breeding, look for someone who took in a pregnant cat or who has spayed or will soon spay the pet who was accidentally bred.
Sometimes the most wonderful cat just strolls into your life. One of the best cats we ever had was Leo, an orange tabby someone found and brought to my vet's office. It was love at first sight. Rescuing a cat from life on the streets can be very rewarding, even if you don't keep him yourself.
Remember, even if you take the cat to a shelter, you might have saved her from terrible things, including starvation, poisoning, mauling by other animals, cars, and cruel people. Our world is neither friendly nor safe for stray animals.
A humane trap is a wire cage with a spring-loaded door. You put bait—food—inside the trap, and when the animal enters to get the bait, the door closes behind him. Many veterinarians and animal shelters have humane traps available for rent.
Be very careful when trying to catch or handle a cat you don't know, and call for trained help if necessary. Don't reach for a cat who hisses, bares his teeth, arches his back, or otherwise warns you off. If he threatens to bite, believe him. If you're not used to handling frightened cats or if you're not sure you can handle or confine the cat safely, leave him alone. Go for knowledgeable help or get a humane trap. Don't take foolish chances.
Some stray cats will come to you or allow you to approach them. That certainly simplifies matters, but be careful—you do not want to be holding a cat who panics. Trust me—cat bites and swipes hurt! A panicky cat can also inflict serious, permanent injury. If possible, use a cat carrier to confine the cat securely, especially if you plan to transport him in your car. You definitely don't want a frightened cat bouncing around while you're driving.
Microchips occasionally migrate down the neck or leg, so if you're scanning a cat for a microchip, be thorough.
Of course, that stray might have a frantic owner looking for him. Check his collar for tags. If he doesn't have a name tag, you might be able to trace the owner through a license or rabies tag. If the cat has no tags, have him scanned for a microchip if possible. Most animal shelters, rescue groups, and veterinarians have scanners to read microchips. If you find a microchip, check with the registries to locate the owner.
If you've found a cat who has no identification, you can place a found ad in the local newspaper (they're often free), post signs, read the lost ads, and watch for lost-cat posters. Give out only enough information to avoid irrelevant calls. Withhold some identifying information—eye color, coat length, or sex, perhaps—and make the person claiming the cat identify the cat to your satisfaction. Ask to see photos and veterinary records to prove ownership.
Feral Cats and Kittens
Feral cats are domestic cats gone wild. Those who were born feral might never have been handled by people and might even have been victims of actions meant to scare them away or hurt them. Some can be re-domesticated with time and patience, but others, especially adults who have been feral all their lives, might never be reliable pets.
Feral cats have sharpened their wits just to survive, and they can be very hard to catch. If you do manage to catch one, keep in mind that he's probably frightened and he's lived by defending himself with fang and claw. Unless you're experienced handling uncooperative cats, take him to a shelter, rescuer, or veterinarian who has the experience and equipment to manage the situation.
Kittens born to a feral cat can be a challenge (see Choosing a Kitten). If the kittens have been brought into a human environment while they're still very young (preferably before 3 to 4 weeks old) and handled frequently by people, they will probably adjust to domestic life. But older feral kittens who have not been handled can be very difficult as pets.
More on: Pets
Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Getting and Owning a Cat http://life.familyeducation.com/cats/health/45708.html 2005 by Sheila Webster Boneham, Ph.D. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
To order this book visit the Idiot's Guide web site or call 1-800-253-6476.