People usually come out of the loss of a beloved pet with 1 of 3 basic thoughts:
- I never want to feel that pain again!
Some cat moms and dads swear off adoption because they literally cannot bear the idea of another loss. These cat lovers are perfect candidates for volunteering at a shelter where they can get their “fur fix” with much less risk of grief.
- I need a new cat right meow!
These folks are already surfing the websites and cruising the shelters looking for another purrfect companion… or two.
- I want another cat but I’m still grieving. How will I know when I’m ready?
This is me.
I am procrastinating. There is a kitty at the shelter whom I have decided to adopt. Or not. Or maybe wait and see if someone else wants him first. Or run right over, sweep his floofy self into my arms, and carry him away to his forever home.
That’s where I stumble, on the forever part. What if something goes wrong? What if it doesn’t work out? What if I can’t keep him? As a shelter volunteer, I see the trauma cats suffer when passed through sheltercare and truly believe that adoption should be a lifelong commitment to our animal friends.
Having just come from the recent passing of 2 dear cats, I am raw with grief and loss. I hold my 1 remaining cat closer than ever. I know I need to continue the journey, but I am afraid. I wish I could be sure, but certainty eludes me. Adopting requires a compulsory acceptance of change and a huge leap of faith. There are pros and cons to adding to my feline family. There are unknowns and unknowables. There are questions, but if I consider them carefully, logically, one by one, I will find my answer.
Here are some things to consider when adopting a new family member (NFM):
- I already have a cat. How will she accept the NFM?
Has your current cat had experience with a new cat in the house? If so, how did she react? A little hissing is normal, but growling and attacking are traumatic for both cats. Get information from qualified sources on how to successfully introduce them.
- How will the NFM accept my home?
Learning as much as possible about the NFM’s history gives clues to his personality, likes, dislikes, and general adaptability to your situation. If adopted from a shelter, get the previous owner questionnaire. Ask how he did at the shelter. Then consider how that tallies with life in your own home.
- Does the NFM have health issues?
Many health issues are manageable but time consuming and may be expensive. Are you willing and able to deal? If the illness is chronic, can you face the possibility of another early loss?
- What about lifestyle issues such as work or travel?
Most adult cats can deal with time alone as long as you make it up with quality time spent playing, grooming, and interacting. Though many cats don’t like car rides, they can often be retrained in time. A pheromone spray or vet-prescribed sedative may help, or if all else fails, hire a cat sitter and leave him home.
- I love him!
What does your heart say? There is no wrong answer to this question. Take a deep breath; sit in quiet meditation. Adopting a new cat will have unforeseeable consequences, most of which will be good. As with any addition to a family, you will need to be tolerant, accepting, and ready to learn new things.
Post Script: For better or worse, I went ahead and adopted Oscar. He’s still adjusting, I’m still learning, and Little is still hissing, but not as badly as before.
For another look at adopting after loss, read Bernadette E. Kazmarski’s insightful blog: Adopting Again After Loss: Why and How We Adopt Again