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23 Things You Should Know Before You Adopt A Cat

Warning: this article contains unprecedented levels of cat pictures.

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Cats are awesome. And sometimes, they willingly live in your house.

Instagram: @hosico_cat

Thank you oh gracious cats. You are good to us.

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We asked Sharon Weller, a cat expert from Battersea Dogs & Cats Home (a rescue centre), for her tips:

Instagram: @batterseadogsandcatshome

1. There are usually three steps when you're adopting a cat: registering, matching a cat to you, and then finally, re-homing.

Laura Gallant / BuzzFeed

At Battersea, there are "three basic steps in the rehoming process: 'register', 'match', and 'rehome'. First, you'll need to register your details, either in person at one of our centres or by calling 0843 509 4444.

"Next, have a look at the online cat gallery. All cats that are ready for rehoming will have their own web profile providing details about their character and the sort of home that they are looking for. Once you have found a cat that you think would be a good match for you, make a note of the cat's reference number and give us a call on the number provided on their profile.

"At this stage our rehoming team will look into the behaviour and background of the cat you are interested in to see whether they may be a suitable match for you and arrange a time for you to come and meet them.

"If this all goes well you may be able to rehome your cat that very same day."

2. It's much better to get your cat from a rescue centre than from online sites or a friend, or even a pet shop.

Laura Gallant / BuzzFeed

"The main benefit of adopting from a rescue centre is that you get a guarantee of its health: they’ve all been through health checks, been seen by a vet, had their blood taken, had vaccinations, been microchipped and neutered, and if there’s anything like dental work needed they’ll have that done before they’re re-homed. If there’s ongoing medical conditions we’ll make you fully aware of that too.

"We take calls every day of the week from people who’ve taken on animals from sites like Gumtree, which we really don't like. A lot of people take on animals and bring them into homes that have children, without being told anything about the animal and it's behaviour. We have information about all the animals we take in, both from their previous homes and from them being in the system here. We’ve assessed them ourselves for sociability, confidence, shyness, and we match them up as best as we possibly can."

3. Adopting a cat will cost around £75 up front, and then £15-£25 a week for food and litter.

Laura Gallant / BuzzFeed

"We have two types of fees; a slightly more expensive fee of £85 for a kitten, or £75 to adopt one of our older ones. Every cat comes with at least its first vaccination, if not two vaccinations. They’re all flea-treated and worm-treated, and they also come with four weeks free insurance from Pet Plan, who will insure any of our cats regardless of age.

"Food and litter is one of those 'how long is a piece of string' questions, but you’re probably looking at between £5 and £10 a week for litter, and £10 to £15 a week for food. If they’re on a prescription diet that may cost more though.

"Vaccinations on their own are generally about £30 to £40 a year. Regular flea and worming treatments are the most important thing to get though. Generally it works out as less than a tenner a month for flea and worming treatments – the three month course I got from my vet recently was £30. If you’re thinking about adopting, it’s worth doing your homework. Go into a pet shop and working out everything you think you’ll need for your cat: toys, food, litter...etc, and then working out if financially it’s all OK."

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4. Cats are very clean, and will use a litter tray naturally. If they're not, it's usually easily fixed.

Laura Gallant / BuzzFeed

"The most common reason we see cats being brought into Battersea is people saying the cat's not house trained. The first thing we always tell people is to get them medically checked out. Any cats that start doing anything abnormal should always be checked, as often it is just a simple underlying medical problem which can be treated quite easily.

"Cats are very clean creatures. It’s a completely natural instinct for a cat to use a litter tray – it’s often not a case of the cat not being litter trained, but there being an underlying problem in the home i.e. it’s the wrong kind of litter, or it’s the wrong location for the litter tray. Sometimes we find out that people put the litter tray in the kitchen, and if you think about the kitchen as an environment, it can be the busiest part of the home. Would you like to go to the toilet when there's a whole family in the room, talking and eating dinner?

"If there’s another cat in the home, that can also be a reason for a cat not going to the toilet where it should. If you only have one litter tray, or even two litter trays side by side, one of the cats might be guarding the litter tray and preventing the other cat from using it. You can fix that by keeping two litter trays in separate parts of the house."

5. You should give your cat a yearly booster vaccination.

Laura Gallant / BuzzFeed

"Unfortunately a lot of the cats we see, even if they’ve come from home environments, are not kept up to date with their vaccinations. A lot of people think that cats don’t need vaccinations outside the ones they received as a kitten, but as an adult cat if they’re going outside there are lots of things other cats can carry that they might pick up.

"The booster won’t give them complete immunity, but it will help give them protection against things like cat flu and feline leukaemia virus – the latter is absolutely deadly, and it’s mainly unvaccinated cats that catch it and spread it. We test all our cats and vaccinate them there, but if you have a cat that will be going outside, you’ll need to carry on yearly vaccinations to protect them from what other cats might be carrying outside."

6. The best way to help your new cat settle into your home is to introduce them to each room gradually.

Laura Gallant / BuzzFeed

"Give them their own space to settle into the home without too much pressure to get to know everyone all at once. If you imagine this little cat coming into a home, not only is it getting to know a new environment with lots of hidey-holes and places to go, it’s also got all these weird strangers in its home, and possibly other animals too.

"We always recommend putting the cat in a room of its own with its own food, water and litter tray, with the door shut, and leaving it a few hours. Then if they seem happy you can let them chill out in there for the next few days while gradually opening up the rest of the house a room at a time. The more you just give them space and let them get on with it, while making sure they’re safe and can’t escape from the house, the better it will be."

7. Cats that like hugs are rare, but they do exist.

battersea.org.uk

"The majority of cats don’t like being picked up or hugged, and prefer to come to you on their own terms – they’re more likely to come and sit on your lap while you’re watching telly. But there are those unique cats who absolutely crave attention.

"We’ve got a really fantastic cat here called Clive. He's one of the cats who's been here longest. We’ve got no idea why he’s still here: he loves people, he’s so affectionate, and will even climb up you for a cuddle."

Guys, we need to talk about Clive. On weekends Clive wears bowties. Lots of people come and take pictures of him and ooh and ahh over his fancy bowties, but then they all go home without adopting him, and that is the most heartbreaking thing I have ever heard. Clive there in his bowtie, all smart and snazzy, trying to keep his chin up. Sitting there, thinking maybe today will be the day someone comes and takes him home and loves him and oh god, now I'm crying.

FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, SOMEONE PLEASE ADOPT CLIVE. PLEASE.

8. It is possible to have an indoor-only cat, but only certain cats are suited for it.

Laura Gallant / BuzzFeed

"When I first started working here, I was under the impression that it’s unfair to keep a cat indoors all the time, but I’ve definitely changed that opinion now. Battersea work with a lot of behavioural therapists, and work inline with what’s going on in the behavioural world. Our policy is that we don’t rehome kittens to indoor homes anymore. We find that kittens who are kept as indoor cats, as they go through their teenage years and emotionally mature, start to display behaviours that are not desirable.

"The type of cat who makes a perfect indoor cat is either a cat that we know has stopped going outside through their own free choice, and just doesn't like the outdoors that much anymore, or a nervous cat that finds it too scary to be outside. A lot of the time these cats really blossom when you take away the outside world.

"If a cat has FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus) it also needs to become an indoor cat, as FIV can be passed onto other cats. We blood test every cat that comes in, and if a cat tests positive for FIV, we'll assess them and decide if they can cope with being an indoors cat. It’s mainly toms who’ve been brought in as strays who tend to have the illness, but the good news is that the majority of those cats, given the opportunity to be lazy, and get off the streets, love being indoors and adapt really well to it. Most of them stay in homes without any issues whatsoever."

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9. Indoors cats will need things like toys, puzzle feeders and shelves they can perch on.

Laura Gallant / BuzzFeed

"The best thing you can do for an indoor cat is give them enrichment to make their indoor lives as happy as they can. You can use puzzle feeders which encourages them to forage for their food like they would do in the wild. It gets the cats to use their brains which is much more important that socialising with them.

"You should try to get a lot of interactive toys and definitely a scratching post: things that encourage the natural behaviours they’d do outside, but also saves your sofa. Shelves up the wall are good. Cats love being up high, so even just little shelves or a wardrobe they can sit up on top on would be great."

10. Make friends with a cat by plying them with delicious treats.

Laura Gallant / BuzzFeed

"Every time we have a cat come into the home we have to try to make friends as quickly as possible. Again, it’s going back to not forcing yourself on the cat, giving it lots of opportunities to hide away and take itself off. Let it come to you. Treats help too – Dreamies always seem to work really well*. I don’t know what they put in Dreamies but cats love them. Or if you have a toy, often cats can’t help themselves and will have a little play. Just give it time and have a lot of patience."

*Can confirm this, when we were at the cattery we had a bag of Dreamies and literally every cat was obsessed with them. That’s how we got them to stare into the camera – we were holding a bag of Dreamies next to it.

11. If you have a cat who's shy of strangers, use reverse psychology and positive reinforcements to help them get friendlier.

Laura Gallant / BuzzFeed

"In terms of cats who actively dislike people, there are two types; a nervous cat who’s not had good experiences, or an anxious cat who, like a person, was just born as an anxious cat and will always be like that. The thing to do is to not pander to them, and just carry on your normal daily lives. If you’re nervous or hesitant towards them, they will pick up on that.

"Cats are masters of reverse psychology: the more you try to make friends with a cat, the more they just don’t want to know. Only interact with your cat when it interacts with you. There’s been a lot of research recently about how letting cats be the ones that choose to interact with you is much better for their stress levels. If they only interact with you when they want to, it makes a better bond for them.

"You can also try and give them lots of positive reinforcement i.e. treats after they interact with other people."

12. Older cats don't get as much love as they should. Don't dismiss them!

Laura Gallant / BuzzFeed

"The hard thing with kittens is that we don’t know how their personality is going to change as they grow up. They can change dramatically when they go through their teenage years.

"The benefit of having an older cat is that whatever their temperament is like, it's only going to stay the same or increase i.e. if they’re already very affectionate, they’re only going to get more loving as time goes on." For example, Matilda, pictured above, is a highly affectionate cat who's had difficulty finding a home because of her age. When I visited, within seconds of my sitting down she'd climbed up onto my lap – if you cannot love Clive, please love Matilda instead.

"The best thing you can do when you walk into a rescue centre is to be open-minded. A common problem we have is people coming into rescue centres with very set ideas about what they want. They’ll come in and only look at the ages of the cat, going 'it’s too old, it’s too old'. That’s really sad as they may have walked past a cat that’s completely suitable for their home, but because it’s a year or so older than they wanted they’ve completely disregarded it. It’s sad for them, and for the cat."

13. If you're worried about other cats coming in through your cat flap, get a microchip flap.

There’s a new microchip catflap on the market. All Battersea cats leave here microchipped, and this cat flap scans your cat like it was a tin of beans, and will only unlock for your cat. There are magnetic cat flaps that open with magnetic collars that are less expensive, but there are more problems with that – your cat could lose its collar and then be unable to come in, or there might be other cats in the area that also have a magnetic collar.

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14. If you're adopting kittens, it's best to adopt two so they have a friend to play with. But older cats are fine on their own.

Laura Gallant / BuzzFeed

"There are loads of cats here who are on their own, and have always been on their own and are very happy. They wouldn’t want to live with another cat. Those are generally older cats or adult cats. With kittens, it's better to get two, especially if you have a working day, so they can play with each other. As an owner it’s so much easier having two – they will just keep you amused for hours. What you can find though with kittens is that as they get older, and go through their teenage years and emotionally mature between 12 months and four years of age, they may just drift apart. For example if you have two sisters, they won’t necessarily fight with each other in the house but you may notice that they’re not sleeping together as much or doing everything together anymore. It’s not necessarily that it won’t work anymore, but it’s important to give them their own space – like with all sisters!

"Two kittens are great to have, but it’s also fine to take just one, if you have a busy household and kids who'll be playing with them. To be honest, it’s swings and roundabouts. We often get litters of five, so we’ll re-home two pairs together, and then have one on its own. Or you may have a litter of kittens who are all so happy and confident that they don’t mind if they’re not together and can all be re-homed separately. It’s just working out what people are looking for and what they want, and finding the right cat that fits that."

15. If you already have a cat and want another one, it's better to get a kitten.

Laura Gallant / BuzzFeed

"If someone wants to adopt a second (or even a third or fourth) cat, we need to know how happy their cat is to be around other cats i.e. if it fights with the neighbourhood cats. We'll also ask whether their cat has ever lived with another cat before. The crucial thing is to find out as much about the cat in the home as possible, so we can decide if it would be fair to introduce another one.

"If you’ve already got an adult cat in the home though, the easiest thing is to get a young kitten. Kittens are not as massive a threat as an adult cat coming into a home with an already established adult cat. We want to try and upset the home of the existing cat as little as possible. If the cat doesn’t like the kitten, it may hiss at it or swipe at it, but that’s usually as far as they take it. And a tiny little kitten isn’t going to retaliate too much. Eventually the adult cat will begin to tolerate the kitten. It may even discover that chasing the kitten around the front room is actually quite funny. If it's a much older cat who's quite geriatric, you should get two kittens – they'll just play with each other and largely stay out the way of the older cat."

16. If your cat has attachment issues, distract it with a puzzle feeder.

petplanet.co.uk

"I had two kittens, and lost one to the road at the age of 14 months old. The other kitten became really nervous and over-bonded to me, because she’d lost her sister. Correcting over-attachment is the same with a cat as it is with a child. If the cat is constantly at your feet asking for attention, and everytime it asks for attention or food it gets a reward, (which is even you just looking at it and giving it eye contact) that cat’s going to continue to do that. So you need to change how you interact with the cat.

"Vicky Halls, who’s a really fantastic cat behaviourist, found that imagining your cat is wearing a Harry Potter invisibility cloak works really well. You know it’s there, but you’re just going to look straight through it. Cats will adapt, they’re one of the best adaptors out there, and they usually only follow up things because they’ve got a good result the last time.

"Practically, with a cat that gets very distressed when you’re leaving, puzzle feeders can be great. I’d give the cat it's dinner or lunch just before you leave, and put it in a puzzle feeder. That will distract the cat and give them something to do while you’re gone."

17. Cats and dogs can get on, but it'll take time and baby gates.

Laura Gallant / BuzzFeed

"We get people who come in with this lovely idea that they’re going to take a puppy and a kitten at the same time and raise them together in harmony, which I’m not saying doesn’t happen. But the main thing to remember is that nine times out of ten the cat is going to be boss in the relationship.

"Get the cat first and then bring the dog in once the cat is settled. We’d recommend a cat that had maybe lived with dogs previously or was good around dogs in general. Give it three months then come back and get a dog, and do introductions very slowly: bring the dog in on a lead, and be very cautious. If the cat swipes of hisses at the dog, most dogs will just whimper and run away, but occasionally they’ll take it personally and lash out, which is why you should have them on the leash when they’re first meeting each other.

"If it’s a cat going into a house where there’s a dog already, we’ll do a lot of background checks to see what the dog is like, and if it’s lived with a cat previously. The cat should then be kept completely separate from the dog in a room until it adjusted. Then, use baby gates to let the cat come in and watch the dog from a distance, while still keeping it protected."

18. Help introduce your cat to other cats in the neighbourhood by having it's back when it first goes outside.

Laura Gallant / BuzzFeed

"We would recommend keeping your cat indoors for three to four weeks after they leave us, before you let them outside. When they do go outside, do it very gradually, and at a time you’re around, so you supervise them and monitor their interaction with other cats. That way you can shoo them off if they’re too much.

"Cats are very good at sorting out domestics without getting into fights. A lot of the cat fights you hear, the wailing and noise is just bluffing. Very rarely does it develop into a physical fight. All you need to do is have your cat's back by being in the garden when it first goes outside to help it build it's confidence."

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19. If you want a cat, that's great, but you need to accept it for what it is: a cat.

Emma Cooke / BuzzFeed

"Lower your expectations. We get a lot of customers who don’t understand how stressful it is for cats to be in this environment and to then go to a new home. We live in a society where everything happens now. The amount of pressure people put on cats... they want cats to essentially be like dogs, wanting to dress them up, or behave all the time, or never have a behavioural problem and be well trained. They don't want them to act like cats.

"I think we need to chill out and just enjoy cats for being cats. People who take on our more difficult cats actually go into it with a more relaxed view, whereas people who take very easy cats, sometimes will get very worried if it’s not gotten onto their lap within a couple of days, when the cat is just settling in.

"We need to appreciate that these are little wild creatures living in our homes and letting us have them as pets. The less you expect from them the more you’ll get out of them."

20. Before you adopt, make sure you go through this checklist of things to think about beforehand:

Laura Gallant / BuzzFeed

– If you're in a rented apartment, do you have permission to own cats? You need written permission to bring with you to the cattery.

– Are there any restrictions in your rented apartment you should know about, for instance, are you allowed to put in a cat flap?

– Do you work long hours? If you have a very busy lifestyle, you’ll want a low-maintenance cat, or an older cat who generally sleeps during the day.

– What’s your home environment like?

– Do you want to go on holiday every year? If so, you’ll need a cat that you can put in a cattery.

– Are you thinking of having children at a later date?

– Are you aware of how big a responsibility this is? Cats are living longer now and some live up to their early 20s, is this a pet that you want to have for that long? If not, an older cat will be better.

– Do you have any holidays coming up? You shouldn't adopt a cat until your holiday is over – it’s very upsetting for a cat to be re-homed, then for the owner to go on holiday immediately.

– Are you planning on moving?

– Are you having any building work done in the home?

"Knowing all these things will help us match you up with the right cat. We’re very much a believer that there is a cat for every home, it’s just a case of finding it."

21. Most rescue centres will be on hand for advice post-adoption, and will be there for you if things don't work out.

Laura Gallant / BuzFeed

"After adoption, we’re always available for advice. We usually do a follow-up call in the first week, then another one about three months later once they’ve had the cat a bit longer."

If you adopt from somewhere like Battersea it's unlikely it'll come to needing to return your cat: "We interview everyone who wants to adopt, and have an in-depth conversation about what their expectations are, what sort of cat they want. We try to match them up to the right cat for them. Thanks to this we have a very low return rate."

But if you do need to return your cat, don't worry! "The positive thing about taking on one of our cats is that regardless of how long they’ve been out of the home, if there’s an issue we try to take the cat back within 48 hours, as long as the cat's been given as much time as they can to adjust. Sometimes we get calls from people within the first week who are really worried because things haven’t gone as quickly as they wanted, and in that case it’s usually just about being patient."

22. If you can't adopt right now, you can still spend time with cats by fostering or volunteering.

Laura Gallant / BuzzFeed

If your lifestyle isn’t suitable for adopting a cat, you can still get your cat fix other ways: “Battersea are always looking for foster carers for our cats. People who don’t want to own a cat full-time can come forward and foster cats while we need them out of the cattery; while the cats need a break from being in here; or if we’ve got a cat that’s nervous and needs to work on its social skills. We also have volunteers that don’t have cats in the home, but come in once a week to spend time with our cats.”

23. Want more information? Look online!

Laura Gallant / BuzzFeed

"International Cat Care is generally where we refer people. It used to be the Feline Advisory Bureau, so it’s where a lot of rescue centres go to for information. There’s lot of links on there for cat behaviour, healthcare...etc and lots of informative videos too. "

"Catchat.org is also great for finding other rescue centres near you."

UPDATE

Both Mathilda and Clive have since been adopted.

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