Cat rescue – is adoption right for you?
The sad truth is that, every year, thousands of cats and kittens are abandoned to rescue centers and shelters across the country. Behind each of these cats is a unique and often heartbreaking story. While not all the cats have suffered abuse or neglect, they do share one thing in common: the need for a warm, safe and loving home.
For anyone considering welcoming a new cat into their home, there are many good reasons to consider: is a rescue cat the right option for me and my family?
Why are there so many abandoned cats?
There are many reasons why people abandon their cat. In some cases, the owner became ill or even passed away, or perhaps there was an unexpected change in circumstances – divorce, moving - that meant they could no longer provide for their pet. Regrettably, in all too many cases, the owners simply underestimated the effort or expense involved in caring for a cat. Too many people buy that cute little kitten on impulse – but forget to factor in that owning a cat is a long and sometimes costly commitment.
Whatever the reason for abandonment, the result is the same: a huge number of cats in need of a home. In 2018, Canadian shelters took in an average of 219 cats per day1 . It’s a big and growing problem in Canada, and rescue centers rely on the compassion of cat-lovers to provide much needed homes for their guests.
What do cat rescues do?
Cat rescues do more than provide temporary homes for abandoned cats. On top of feeding and housing their guests, they also ensure the cats receive medical attention and are treated for parasites such as fleas, ticks and worms. But that’s just the beginning.
The rescue organization’s goal is to unite each cat with a new owner that’s right for them. This involves getting to know each cat’s personality (are they shy, outgoing, laidback, vocal, energetic and so on) and health details (age, weight, health issues) in order to make the perfect match as quickly as possible.
As part of this matching process, most rescues now post their guest photos and profiles online. Once you see a cat you are interested in online, the rescue organization will invite you to meet your chosen cat in person to ensure the chemistry is right.
What are rescue cats like?
The short answer is rescue cats are cats. They can be any age and any breed, or no breed at all. Each rescue cat is an individual, with their own story. The only thing they all have in common is that each and every one of these rescue cats and kittens is in need of a loving and caring home.
Adopting a grown rescue cat is a different experience from buying or adopting a kitten. When you buy or adopt a kitten you generally know their medical histories and sometimes you are able to meet their parents as well. You are also taking on a very young animal that will grow and mature in your home, adapting and modelling themselves quickly to your personality and way of life. Kittens are also available through rescue organizations.
What to expect from a rescue cat
Adopting an adult rescue cat is different from getting a kitten, because although your new cat will still be able to adapt to her new environment, their personality has already been mostly formed. As the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) says about their rescue animals, “They come with a personality ready-made, a past that’s unique to them and a lot of love to give.”
When you take on an adult rescue cat you need to keep a few things in mind. First, regardless of your cat’s particular history, every rescue cat has experienced a major upheaval in their life. Cats thrive on routine, so change is very traumatic for them. Beyond this, they may also have experienced mistreatment or neglect in the past, which can result in trust issues or difficult behaviour.
You will need to approach your new arrival with an open mind and a lot of love and patience. Depending on the cat it could be days or weeks before they come out from under the bed or behind the dresser!
In the end, however, cats are adaptable, just as humans are. Minds and bodies heal and evolve once they’re in the right environment. All cats, even the most timid, will appreciate your warmth, love and patience and, with time, will return it to you in their own fashion.
Adopting a rescue cat is one of the most rewarding things you can do. You are rescuing an animal in urgent need of a home – and freeing up a place at the rescue organization for them to house another kitty in need of saving.