Choosing a Cat for Adoption

Adoption centres & shelters put a lot of stress on whether or not you are suitable to care for a cat. And so they should. But there is little guidance to be found on how to choose a cat that is suitable for you.

This is a little guideline to help you find a cat with the right fit.

This is Maru

Basic Questions

  • How old is the cat? Is the date of birth known?
  • What is the gender?
  • What is the breed?
  • Is she litter trained?
  • Is she sterilized?
  • Has she been vaccinated? Is there a vaccination card?
  • Is she a stray or has she always lived in a home?
  • Is she used to going outdoors or is she strictly an indoor cat?
  • What is the fur like? Soft or coarse? Long or short?

Remember that while kittens may be very cute, they need a lot of attention and may not be toilet trained. Older cats are more independent but may have a harder time adjusting to your other pets.


  • Does she scratch or kneed furniture or other items?
  • Does she shed excessively?
  • Is she a jumper? Does she like to jump onto shelves and other high places?
  • Does she have cat frenzies*?
  • Is she comfortable with [children|dogs|cats|rabbits|etc]
  • Does she like to be petted?
  • Is she needy? Does she require lots of attention?
  • Is she OK with having her nails clipped?
  • What kind of noises does she tend to make?
    • Hissing?
    • Growling?
    • Meowing?
    • Purring?

Hissing and growling can be very scary and are signs of fear and aggression. The temperment of the cat will determine how often she makes these noises and in what situations.

*Cats are crepescular, meaning they are most active at dawn and dusk. Some cats can be VERY active: they will go into a frenzy in which they run about at high speed as if chasing something you cannot see. This usually happens in the evening but can take place at any time of day. Not all cats exhibit this behaviour and the intensity of the sessions vary from cat to cat.

Health & Hygeine

  • Does she keep herself well groomed?
  • Does she require bathing?
  • Is she helathy?
    • Nice coat
    • clear eyes
    • normal gait
    • no breathing difficulty or sneezing
    • not diagnosed with disease/virus

Cats can pick-up coughs and viruses from a shelter. If your cat has runny eyes or is sneezing, take her to a vet if the symptoms don’t subside after a few days.

Before you arrive at the shelter

Make a list of your deal killers and preferences. Understand that you may end up seeing a LOT of cute cats desperately in need of love and a home. It is not wise to simply play saviour and toss your list out the window once you see their sad faces. In the cool light of day, you may regret it.

My Ideal Cat

Must Haves

  • Doesn’t scratch furniture
  • Not aggressive towards humans/animals
  • No excessive shedding

Nice to Have

  • older & independant
  • less agile / not able to jump more than 3 feet
  • already sterilized
  • no sneezing / colds
  • round face
  • soft fur
  • dark coloured
  • female

Of course before getting your cat, you should prepare your home to be cat safe/friendly. This includes

  • getting all necessary supplies including a scratching post,
  • ensuring there is no way for the cat to jump out of a window / off a balcony

Before leaving the shelter

  • Take time to play with the cat to see her personality. This also gives you a chance to inspect her health and see how much she sheds.
  • Gently roll the cat on its back and hold it down lightly with your hand on its tummy. Its reaction will give you an idea of whether it is comfortable or distrustful/agressive.
  • Try get a sample of the food the cat is eating
  • If possible, try get them to clip the cats nails so you can see how it reacts


  • Give a cat at least 2-3 weeks to adjust to the new environment
  • Be prepared for diarrhea due to change in diet / stress
  • Take her into the vet for an initial check-up within the first 2 months.

Lobsters: Yes it Hurts

In a wonderful article written in 2004, David Foster Wallace asked us to Consider the Lobster:

So then here is a question that’s all but unavoidable at the World’s Largest Lobster Cooker, and may arise in kitchens across the U.S.: Is it all right to boil a sentient creature alive just for our gustatory pleasure?

While much urban lore along with pamphlets from the Maine Lobster Promotion Council propagate the idea that lobsters do not feel pain, there is growing scientific evidence that this is simply untrue:

Ripping the legs off live crabs and crowding lobsters into seafood market tanks are just two of the many practices that may warrant reassessment, given two new studies that indicate crustaceans feel pain and stress. The findings add to a growing body of evidence that virtually all animals, including fish, shellfish and insects, can suffer.


Sadly DFW did not live long enough to see this little bit of science supporting his view as he so eloquently illustrated in that article:

However stuporous the lobster is from the trip home, it tends to come alarmingly to life when placed in boiling water. If you’re tilting it from a container into the steaming kettle, the lobster will sometimes try to cling to the container’s sides or even to hook its claws over the kettle’s rim like a person trying to keep from going over the edge of a roof. And worse is when the lobster’s fully immersed. Even if you cover the kettle and turn away, you can usually hear the cover rattling and clanking as the lobster tries to push it off. Or the creature’s claws scraping the sides of the kettle as it thrashes around.

The lobster, in other words, behaves very much as you or I would behave if we were plunged into boiling water (with the obvious exception of screaming). A blunter way to say this is that the lobster acts as if it’s in terrible pain, causing some cooks to leave the kitchen altogether and to take one of those little lightweight plastic oven timers with them into another room and wait until the whole process is over.

There happen to be two main criteria that most ethicists agree on for determining whether a living creature has the capacity to suffer and so has genuine interests that it may or may not be our moral duty to consider. One is how much of the neurological hardware required for pain-experience the animal comes equipped with—nociceptors, prostaglandins, neuronal opioid receptors, etc. The other criterion is whether the animal demonstrates behavior associated with pain. And it takes a lot of intellectual gymnastics and behaviorist hairsplitting not to see struggling, thrashing, and lid-clattering as just such pain-behavior.


The idea that we had managed to convince ourselves that some species had evolved without a meaningful sense of pain seems ridiculous given that all life survives around the the response to the pain/pleasure dichotomy. It is primal. To assume the imperative of this experience is proportional to brain size is convenient but is impossible to know and unlikely given that evolution would have honed every creature’s desire to avoid harm.

The more important point here, though, is that the whole animal-cruelty-and-eating issue is not just complex, it’s also uncomfortable. It is, at any rate, uncomfortable for me, and for just about everyone I know who enjoys a variety of foods and yet does not want to see herself as cruel or unfeeling. As far as I can tell, my own main way of dealing with this conflict has been to avoid thinking about the whole unpleasant thing.

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