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.
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.