If you've been reading this blog for a bit, you know that this summer I adopted an 8-year old cat from my local humane society. I went in anticipating I would adopt a particular 3-year old cat, but Ms. Calypso made sure I didn't leave without her. I had some reservations about adopting an older cat, though...and I will admit the vet bills have not been pretty these past few months as there were a few health issues that we had to sort out. But I'm SO glad she came home with me, so much so that it's a darned good thing that I have a one cat per person rule around here, because otherwise I might have gone back for another kitty or two. (Plus, I have a small apartment and also, most importantly, Calypso has let it be known she hates other cats).
It's still difficult for me to understand how her previous owners could have given her away after 8 years. As much as I hate the idea of Cal being in the shelter, I'm glad the shelter was there and able to take her in, and they took very good care of her. She definitely hated it there, though; she was only 7 pounds when I adopted her because she barely ate during her month-long stay at the shelter. When I agreed to bring her home it was clear the entire staff at the shelter was relieved; partly because Callie is such a sweet cat, and partly because they knew how difficult it can be to adopt out older cats (in fact, the shelter's price for adopting older cats is significantly reduced, in order to encourage their adoption).
Even though I'm perfectly happy with Cal and our one-to-one cat to person ratio, I find myself occasionally back on the shelter's website to look at the available cats for adoption. And it is so, so, SO sad to see how many cats are there because their owners lost their jobs and their homes...just awful. Many of these cats are older, which makes it even more sad to think about - losing their homes and their families in one fell swoop. I know they are cats, but change is traumatic for them, especially when (even in the best of shelters) they spend good chunks of time in cages. My apartment is small, but at least Cal has plenty of soft and warm places to sleep, windows to watch the birds from, and open access to food, water and a clean litter box.
So if you are considering adding a feline to your family, PLEASE consider adopting from your local shelter, and PLEASE consider bringing home an older cat. For one thing, they are already litter trained. While there can be an adjustment period, most will transition with few if any accidents. For another thing, the shelter most likely has an idea of what sort of personality they have - whether or not they are child friendly, or whether they can cope with other pets. With kittens, it's trial and error guesswork as to how they will adjust. And, particularly with indoor cats, the lifespan of a healthy cat can be upwards of 16+ years, so they will still be part of your family for a number of years to come. And, if Callie is any indication, they will be all-too-grateful to be welcomed into your home.
It is true that Callie came with a tapeworm and a heart murmur; in the first 6 months I've spent at least $500 on vet bills, medicine, food, and kitty litter. Oh, and let's not forget the toys and the cat perch...yikes! Happily, the tapeworm went away and the heart murmur has been deemed benign. But kittens can have exactly the same issues, so there's no guarantee of perfect health with them either.
And if for some reason your personal situation doesn't allow you to adopt a cat - allergies, what have you - please consider making a donation (even a small one) to your local no-kill shelter. Many have been inundated as a result of the mortgage crisis, as people have had to give up their homes and their animals. Many shelters are also in need of bedding, food, and litter donations as well. The kitties (and the shelter volunteers!) will thank you very much.