Cat in cage

It’s impossible not to be achingly smitten with a cute, fuzzy kitten, so it’s understandable that people seek them out for adoption. But the demand for kittens comes at a cost: They have an advantage against even the sweetest, prettiest, most well-mannered adults.

Overlooking older animals at the shelter is bad news for cats, of course, but it’s also a missed opportunity for potential owners. In many cases, an adult may be a better choice than a kitten. Sure, kittens are cute, but they need extra time, extra training and extra tolerance.

You know pretty well what you’re getting with a grown cat in terms of activity level, sociability and health. It’s all been established. Given a loving environment, a grown cat forms bonds that are just as profound as a kitten’s.

With an adult cat, knowing a little of the animal’s background is important, especially if your family has other pets or children. (A cat who has never experienced them may have a more difficult time adjusting to a new family that includes either.) You can ask questions directly about the cat’s background if you’re adopting from the original owner, and most shelters or rescue groups provide some basic background information on their animals.

What if the information isn’t flattering? Give the cat the benefit of the doubt and decide if you have the time and patience to work on the problem. And remember, you don’t know the contributing factors. Pee problems? Maybe the litterbox was never cleaned or was left in a spot that was convenient for the owner but disconcerting for the cat.

If at all possible, take each adult cat you’re considering away from the caging area of the adoption center. Sit down with the animal in your lap, alone in a quiet place and try to get a feel for the cat as an individual. Shelters are stressful places, so the cat may need a few quiet minutes to collect herself. A calm, confident and outgoing cat will respond pretty readily to your attention by relaxing in your lap, pushing for strokes and purring.

Be prepared to give your new pet time to adjust once you take her home. No matter how promising the initial meeting, remember that cats don’t react well to change. Experts advise starting out your cat in a small, enclosed area — a spare bathroom or small bedroom equipped with food and water, litterbox, toys and a scratching post. A few days of quiet seclusion with frequent visits from you will relax your new pet and re-establish litterbox habits.

If you’re considering bringing a pet into your life, why wait? There are enough of them around to give you a great chance to bring home a pet you’ll absolutely adore.

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