Should You Adopt A Cat?

Muffitt's faceMuffitt by Christine Krebs

I got an email today from a man who wanted to adopt a cat from my rescue. Only problem was, he’d just gotten new furniture, and he wanted a cat who was guaranteed not to scratch his leather couch. Oh, and he needed a cat with perfect litter box habits.

I actually live with the perfect cat. Muffitt uses her scratching posts and tree trunks, not the couch. Her litter box habits are beyond reproach. And she’s sweet and gentle and a wonderful friend. She loves to go for walks with me, and she curls up beside me every night and licks my hand until I fall asleep. Really. She’s the perfect cat, and beautiful, too.

But I realize that Muffitt might not always be perfect. As she ages, she might require different litter box and scratching arrangements. Like older people, older cats sometimes require special accommodations and extra patience and love.

The man who wrote to me today got a snippy reply. I told him adopting a cat was probably not a good idea for him. My rescue gets too many pleas from shelters and people who just don’t have the patience and flexibility to live with a cat, or any kind of animal companion. I certainly wasn’t going to adopt to him and have the cat returned, or even worse, enter the kill shelter system, for “bad behavior.”

Over the years, I’ve come to realize that not everyone who wants a cat should have one. After all, adopting a cat is a long-term commitment. The average lifespan of a cat is 16 years, and many live much longer. It’s a financial and lifestyle commitment, too. If the thought of having litter boxes in places that are convenient for the cat, but not necessarily for you, doesn’t appeal to you, you probably shouldn’t consider adding a cat to your family. If your new furniture is more important to you than just about anything else, you probably shouldn’t have an animal companion to mess it up.

The thing to remember is that cats (and dogs) form strong bonds with their family members of all species and rehoming them or taking them to a shelter can literally break their hearts. Here are more things to consider before you adopt. And please take your decision seriously. Your new cat’s life depends on it!

If your wondering about Muffitt, a good Samaritan found her wandering the streets of Baltimore with a flea collar embedded in her neck. She spent an astonishing amount of money on vet care and planned to keep her. But her cat hated her so much, he got sick, so she gave her to the Howard County Cat Club. After a year in our shelter, I decided if no one else wanted her I did. Cat things usually happen for a reason, and maybe I was meant to have Muffitt, the perfect cat.

Ten Reasons Why Cats Are Given Up To Shelters

Belle in shelter

My beautiful little Belle was just four months old when she was trapped and taken to the awful, high-kill Gaston Shelter in Dallas, NC. The reason? She was a stray.

After a long car ride from North Carolina to Maryland, Belle lives with me now, and she will never see the inside of a cage on death row again. But not all cats are so lucky. These are the most common reasons for giving cats up to shelters.
“The cat was a stray I rescued, but I can’t/don’t want to keep it.”
“My new partner (baby, child) is allergic, and no we won’t do allergy shots.”
3. “He won’t use the litter box. He hasn’t for years, and we’ve tried everything.”
6. “We’re moving and can’t/don’t want to take the cat.”
7. “She’s diabetic, and we can’t/don’t want to/can’t afford to give her insulin twice a day.”
“He doesn’t like the new baby and is acting out.”
9. “He doesn’t like the new puppy and is acting out.”
10. “He was my mother’s cat. And no, no one in my family will give him a home, even though he was her closest companion for 16 years.

If you find a cat you don’t want to keep, can’t take your cat with you when you move, want nothing to do with your now-deceased parents’ beloved cat, have a family member who suddenly develops allergies or add a puppy to your family causing major trauma to the cat who was there first, keep this in mind: Cats who go to kill shelters rarely come out alive. Finding a way to keep the cat is always best. If that’s really not possible, there are always alternatives to kill shelters. You just have to be willing to make the effort to find them.

This is how Belle looks when she’s in a loving home, not a cage!

Charlie’s Cold Weather Cat Shelter – Keeping My Boy Comfy & Warm

Outdoor cat shelter

When I went to feed my Charlie Cat this morning, he was lounging in his shelter with his head resting on the frame just outside the door. Charlie has two shelters, but he loves this one for just relaxing and getting out of the rain.

The other shelter — we call it the Gucci shelter — is back further in the woods. It’s big enough for three or four cats, although I don’t know if Charlie ever has overnight guests there. And it’s so heavily insulated, it kept him warm, even when the temperature dropped to seven degrees last week. A man who advertises on Craig’s List built it to our specifications especially for the trapped/neutered/returned feral cats who live in our neighborhood.

It seems that different cats have different tastes in shelters. Some of our neighborhood ferals like the Rubbermaid storage boxes we gave them. A friend cut two six-inch holes in the sides, so the cats would have an entrance and an emergency exit if a raccoon or other animal decided to join them inside. The storage boxes have pieces of Styrofoam against the sides, and Mylar, to reflect the cats’ body heat, covers the Styrofoam. They’re filled with straw, because straw is warmer than blankets and stays dry.

The “Gucci shelter” also has an entrance and emergency exit. There’s a shelf inside for added safety and to provide more stretching out space for the cats.

I chose Charlie’s shelter because, well… I chose it because that cat face is awfully cute. And I liked that it’s off the ground and has an entrance and exit, so my Charlie boy won’t get trapped inside. I also liked the awning that keeps snow from piling up at the doors.

Charlie loves it. He can stretch out inside and hold the door open with his head so he can see what’s going on outside and when his breakfast and dinner are about to be served. I often find him there just hanging out and relaxing until I show up with his food.

If you live in a cold climate, having a warm shelter can make the difference between life and death for your outside cats. You can read more about DIY cat shelters here.

December 20th, 2013

Cats And Heart Disease: Sizzle And I Begin Our Journey

Sizzle orange cat

Our journey began just over a month ago, when my huge, beautiful Sizzle went into congestive heart failure.

They call heart disease in cats the silent killer, and that was nearly true of my beloved Sizzle. In the morning, he was fine. That evening, he could barely walk and was meowing the loudest, saddest most desperate-sounding meow I’ve ever heard.

At the ER, I wasn’t prepared for such awful news. His blood pressure was so low it didn’t even register, and the doctor said his low temperature meant his body was shutting down. But I don’t give up without a fight, and I asked him to please save my boy’s life.

Throughout the night, Sizzle made steady progress, and the next day he was stable enough to be transferred to a specialty hospital about an hour away. He was there for a week!

I lived with a cat with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy several years ago, and I knew my newly diagnosed heart cat was going to come home with a truckload of medicine. My challenge was to get all that medicine into him every day without turning my close friend into an arch enemy.

So this was our plan. First, I swapped out all the pills for chicken-flavored liquid because liquid is more pleasant for the cat, and he can’t spit it out. And I decided to mix the Tumil-K potassium powder into chicken baby food. That worked for about two days, and then he decided he really didn’t like baby food with medicine in it. But Sizzle will do almost anything for treats, and when I put treats on top of the baby food, he ate it happily. Since then, I’ve added some supplements from our holistic vet to the baby food, and Sizzle still licks the dish clean.

Needless to say, we go through a lot of treats at our house now. Many other cats live here, and we have a treat party every time Sizzle gets his medicine. I sit on the floor with him while he eats his baby food and dole out treats to Myles and Boccelli on my left, Ginger on my right and Muffitt behind me. I toss treats over Sizzle’s head to Katie and Honey Cat. The whole thing is sort of involved, and, as I said we go through a lot of treats. But it’s all worth it because my big boy thinks taking all those meds is sort of fun.

Do you and your cat fight over his medicine? There are lots of tips and tricks for giving a cat a pill here.

Christmas Cats – Some Thoughts On Giving Cats As Gifts 

Picture© Synchronista

Mary Mac and Tiddly Wink got adopted today! They’re going to be a Christmas gift! All the volunteers at my rescue’s shelter are so happy for them. They found the “purrfect” forever home.

There was a time, not so long ago, when shelters and rescues wouldn’t adopt cats out during the holidays. Schedules are too full, and people are too busy to pay attention to their new family members, we thought. People aren’t home enough over the holidays. And besides, cats given as gifts are likely to be returned after the excitement of the season and the novelty wear off.

But in our area at least, things are different this year. With no-longer-wanted cats flooding the shelters, most are working frantically to get their cats into homes in time for Christmas. They’re reducing and even waiving adoption fees just to get their cats out. Even my rescue had a Black Friday special and waived adoption fees for our black cats, including Tiddly Wink and Mary Mac. Their adopters didn’t know about that, though. They just saw our beautiful girls’ pictures online and knew they wanted them.

But while I’ve changed my mind about giving cats as Christmas gifts, I do have a few suggestions for holiday adopters. After all, receiving a cat as a gift means adding someone to the family. And adopting a cat should be a lifetime commitment, not a holiday whim. The cat deserves that.

So here are some things to think about if a cat is on your last minute shopping list.

  • A cat should never, ever be a surprise. Make sure the recipient of your gift actually wants a cat and is prepared to care for her and love her for life. And the cat and her new forever human should meet each other before she goes home. Remember, every cat is an individual with her own quirks and personality traits. She and her new person need to like each other because they’re going to be together for a long time.
  • If your holiday schedule is filled with shopping, parties and travel, think about adopting from a no-kill rescue. The rescue will probably be willing to keep the cat for you until all the holiday excitement is over and your schedule is back to normal. If you adopt from a kill shelter and take the cat home the same day, plan on spending a large, relaxed block of time with her before you dash off for more shopping or another party. She needs to be reassured and know she’s loved and safe.
  • Cats are creatures of habit and prize nothing more than a daily routine. No matter how busy you are, try to feed the cat at about the same time every day and schedule in some play and cuddle time, also at about the same time every day. She doesn’t care about last minute shopping or gift wrapping. She just needs to know what to expect when.
  • If you’re giving a kitten as a gift, please give two. Kittens need to grow up with other kittens to be healthy and well-socialized. And one kitten will want to play and cuddle nonstop. Many kittens are returned to shelters because they’re “too playful.” If your kitten has a playmate, she’ll pester her buddy, not you. Be sure to kittenproof your Christmas tree!
  • Set aside a quiet room where the cat can retreat from holiday guests. Give her a litter box, food, toys and a bed to snuggle in and shut the door when you have company. She can be the life of the party next year. This year, she just wants to feel peaceful and safe.

Here are some more tips for enjoying the holidays with a cat.

After several months in our cageless “kitty group home” with 16 other cats, Mary Mac and Tiddly Wink are looking forward to a quiet Christmas with the single mom who adopted them as a gift for her 19-year-old daughter. Our two sweet, gentle sisters have come a long way from the high-kill shelter in Georgia, where we rescued them from death row. As I’m writing, I’m thinking about all the other shelter cats and wishing they all could be as fortunate as Mary Mac and Tiddly Wink. Every cat deserves to go home, not just for Christmas, but for life.

Today’s Recommendation
Every cat deserves to find at least one of these under the Christmas tree!

December 17th, 2013

Cats And Christmas Trees: The Two Can Coexist

PicturePhoto: © Dbrus |

One of my clients has a huge, lavishly decorated Christmas tree outside on her deck this year. It was in the family room until Pi and Tinkerbell decided to climb it.

Cats and Christmas trees can coexist. But keeping your cat away from the Christmas tree may take some ingenuity on your part. Here are some ideas to get you started.

  • Put the tree in a heavy stand so it’s stable and can’t be knocked over.
  • Screw a hook into a wall and attach a string to both the hook and the tree. Or screw the hook into the ceiling and connect the string to the hook and the top of the tree.
  • Before you decorate the tree, spray it with Bitter Apple. You won’t notice the smell, but the cats will hate the way it tastes.
  • Use an electronic deterrent, like a ScatMat, which causes a tingling sensation when stepped on. Other electronic deterrents that are safe for cats include devices that emit a blast of air or make a high-pitched noise that only cats and dogs can hear. Or try putting pine cones around the base of the tree. While they’ll look festive to you, the cats won’t like walking on them.
  • Leave the bottom third of your tree undecorated or use unbreakable ornaments and tie them on with twist ties. Don’t put tinsel where the cats can reach it. It can be a choking hazard.
  • Tape down excess wire from the lights or wrap it around the base of the tree. Dangling wire can look like an enticing toy to a cat.
  • Put a corrugated cardboard scratcher near the tree. Use an inclined scratcher and sprinkle it liberally with catnip to give the cats something even more fun than the tree to sink their claws into. 
  • My favorite idea: Give the cats their own little tree with lots of dangling kitty-safe ornaments to bat around. Make your own, or buy felt ornaments and remove all the tiny pieces that could be a choking hazard.

Are poinsettia plants really toxic to cats? Do cats make good Christmas gifts? What did my cats ask for in their letter to Santa this year? Check their list of favorite toys to find out.

Cat Food Customized For Me!


Hey, World! Ginger here! I don’t do much blogging because I have important things to do outside. But I just had to tell you about this new dry food The Human found. It can be customized just for me. How cool is that?

So The Human went to the Petbrosia website and typed in some information about me. She told them my age and said I’m young, active and beautiful. Well, I don’t know if she mentioned the beautiful part. But I am. Don’t you agree?

In just a few minutes, the behind-the-scenes cat nutritionists came up with a special blend that matches my size, age, activity level and lifestyle. It doesn’t have any grain, and The Human and I like that all the ingredients are sourced in the US.

It sounds so good! I love chicken. I’m not so sure about the kale, but The Human says it’s good for me, and maybe I won’t be able to taste it because it’s mixed in with lots of other things. Can’t wait until it gets here, and I might share with Boccelli. I won’t share with Belle, though, because she’s a bit pudgy and might need a different recipe.

DIY Cat Rescue

orange cat

This is a story about a cat who’s no longer wanted. His name is Santee. His people say he’s very lovable and affectionate. Cuddling is just about his favorite thing, and he’s a great lap cat.

So after eight years with his family, where did Santee go wrong? He swatted a young child who was chasing him. Santee was banished to the basement and is now looking for a new home. His people (does it matter that they’re young and in the military?) want to find the perfect home for him. But, they say, they’re “running out of options” and may have no choice but to take him to a shelter, where he’ll most likely be killed.

We could talk about teaching children to treat all animals, including the family cat, gently and with respect. We could suggest that any child who is allowed to chase a cat is sure to get scratched eventually, and that it’s the parents who are to blame, not the cat. And we could mention that if parents can’t teach their children how to play nicely with the cat, the cat will become the child’s self-appointed teacher.

But for Santee, none of that matters now. What matters is that he needs a new home, and his people are unwilling to make the effort to find him one. So they’ve contacted every rescue they can find, begging for someone to take poor Santee off their hands.

They seem to think they’re entitled to this service because they’re young and in the military and stressed. And then there’s the threat: They’ll take him to a kill shelter if one of us doesn’t rescue them.

To those of us who rescue, though, no one is entitled except the cats in our care. Your age, profession and life circumstances are all irrelevant to us. All we’re interested in is saving your cat’s life. And as far as I’m concerned, no one is better able to do that than you. I’ll be glad to help in every way I can, but the cat will be much happier and more adoptable if he can stay with you until his new home comes along.

These are some of the things I’ve learned in 15 years of rescuing cats.

  • A no-kill rescue sounds like the perfect, guilt-free solution if you want to give up a cat. But the sad truth is that most cats are miserable in rescue. That’s especially true of old cats and cats who have always lived in the same home. They’re confused and unhappy about being in a strange place, usually with a lot of other cats they don’t know, and it can take them a very long time to get used to their new lives. Some never do.
  • Your age, life circumstances or the promise of a large donation cannot create room where there isn’t any. Most no-kill rescues are almost always full. The only way we can make room for new cats is through adoptions, which can be few and far between. And when a cat does get adopted, that space is usually filled instantly.
  • Finding a new home for a cat is a lot of work. But with patience and persistence, it can be done. Just be prepared for a marathon, not a sprint. And keep reminding yourself that the cat is more adoptable if he’s at home with you instead of with a rescue.

I believe so strongly in DYI cat rescue, I’ve written an article with tips on how to rehome a cat. I also wrote an article about what to do about a stray cat you can’t keep.

Unfortunately, I have no idea what became of Santee. His people didn’t reply when I wrote to them to ask. I just hope he’s with a rescue or in a new home. Ensuring that he’s happy and safe is the least his people can do for someone who was loving member of the family for eight years.