11 Surprising Facts About Cat Adoptions

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Adopting a furry friend can bring a lot of joy into your life. In addition to providing a pal for life, getting a cat can lower stress and potentially save your life, so you should get one (or two) immediately. In celebration of National Adopt a Shelter Cat Month in June, here are 11 things you might not know about cat adoptions:

1. FEWER CATS ARE ENDING UP IN SHELTERS THESE DAYS.

While plenty of cats still enter shelters each year, that number is on the downswing. The ASPCA estimates that across the U.S., about 3.2 million cats enter animal shelters each year, which is down from just a few years ago.

2. ADOPTION IS ONE OF THE MOST COMMON WAYS TO GET A NEW CAT.

When it comes to getting a new cat, most people are heading to a shelter according to the ASPCA's figures, not a breeder. About 31 percent of cats entering new homes come from shelters, according to the association’s estimates, while 28 percent come from friends or relatives. Just 3 percent come from breeders. (Some 39 percent come from "other" sources.) The American Pet Product Association’s annual survey is even more hopeful: The 2016 survey found that 46 percent of people acquire their cats from a shelter, up from 43 percent in 2013.

3. KITTENS ARE EVEN MORE POPULAR THAN YOU THINK.

Gray kitten playing on a mat.
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People prefer adopting kittens over cats more than they do adopting puppies over dogs, according to an analysis of Petfinder.com adoptions by Priceonomics. While 95 percent of puppies get adopted compared to 75 percent of young dogs and 68 percent of senior dogs, the rates drop much faster for cats. About 82 percent of kittens get adopted, but as they get older the likelihood drops, and once they pass around 18 months old, only 60 percent of cats get adopted.

4. BLACK CATS DON’T HAVE TROUBLE GETTING ADOPTED.

It’s a myth that black animals are adopted at lower rates than pets of other colors, according to data compiled by the ASPCA. In a review of 14 regions of the U.S. and about 300,000 dogs and cats up for adoption, the study found that black cats comprised 31 percent of cat adoptions, compared to 20 percent gray cats and 18 percent brown cats. The overabundance of black kitties in shelters may just be a matter of numbers: The genes that cause black coloration are dominant, so it stands to reason that there would be more black cats in general.

5. BUT COLOR DOES SEEM TO MATTER.

According to that same Priceonomics study, tuxedo cats—meaning black and white—get adopted at lower rates than any other color. Gray cats and orange tabbies get adopted at the highest rates, according to their numbers. (However, those numbers vary from what the ASPCA estimates—in the Priceonomics study, brown cats were more likely to get adopted than black cats, for instance.)

6. MANY CATS END UP IN SHELTERS BECAUSE OF HOUSING ISSUES.

Person's hand petting a cat who is sitting in a cage.
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The kitties that end up waiting for new homes at rescues and shelters aren’t necessarily there because they were strays or because of behavioral issues. A high number of people who relinquish their cats do so because they have to move and their new housing situation doesn’t allow pets. In a study of pets given up for adoption from dozens of shelters run by the Australian Royal Society for the Protection and Care of Animals, the most commonly cited reason for giving up a cat was housing related. Only 4 percent of relinquished cats were given up because of behavioral issues.

7. TWO MIGHT BE BETTER THAN ONE.

Adopting a pair of cats might actually be less work than getting a solo kitty. That’s because bonded pairs can keep each other company, meaning they need less attention from you, and are less likely to take out their boredom or anxiety on your house. Since they’ll be eating at the same time and likely using the same litter box, it’s not that much different from dealing with a single cat. Shelters often give discounts to adoptees who take home a pair of cats, too, so it’s much cheaper (not to mention less stressful) than going back and getting another pet a year later once you realize that you can never have enough cats.

8. OUTGOING CATS GET ADOPTED FIRST.

In a 2012 study of 1600 people who adopted dogs and cats, behavioral characteristics tended to influence cat adoptions more than any other factor. While dog owners were more likely to cite appearance as the deciding factor in choosing their new pet, cat adopters were more concerned with how their new kitty acted, and how shelter workers described its behavior. Most cat adopters reported that their new pet approached and greeted them at the shelter, indicating that people like to adopt cats that are outgoing from the start.

9. IF YOU WANT TO ADOPT, YOU'LL NEED REFERENCES.

Gray Maine Coon kitten looking at camera.
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Getting a cat from a rescue group often requires more than just showing up with the adoption fee. You’ll probably need to fill out an application that asks about your experience with pets, your plans for caring for your new cat, and a list of references that can vouch for the fact that you're a compassionate human capable of taking on a new pet. Sometimes these applications can be extensive, but they exist for good reason: In a survey of more than 570 pet adopters in several U.S. cities, 11 percent relinquished their pet back to the shelter within the first six months [PDF].

10. YES, YOUR CATS CAN LEARN TO GET ALONG.

While experts recommend introducing a new cat into the household gradually to ensure a good relationship between it and the cat you already have, getting the process just right might not be totally necessary. A 2005 study of 375 cat adopters found that 44 percent of owners introduced their new cat to their established pet immediately, while 22 percent introduced the cats to each other after a few days and 33 percent introduced them more gradually. However, the method of introduction didn't make or break the situation, at least when it came to overt fighting—22 percent of owners, regardless of introduction method, said their cats accepted each other immediately, while 40 percent said it happened within a month. While gradual introductions might help reduce the stress of meeting a new cat and ensure they become friends later, many cats will learn to at least tolerate each other regardless. (But again, almost all experts do recommend the gradual introduction approach to keep everyone happy.)

11. IT'S A LONG-TERM COMMITMENT.

Even if you adopt an adult cat (and you should!), your new friend will likely be with you for years to come. While the 38-year lifespan of Creme Puff, the world’s longest-living cat on record, might be unusual, indoor cats live for an average of 12 to 15 years. And it’s not rare for well-cared-for cats to live longer, depending on the breed—the average lifespan of a Persian is 17, and it’s perfectly normal for some cats to live to be 20 years old.

The Time German and Russian WWI Soldiers Banded Together to Fight Wolves

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During the winter of 1917, Russian and German soldiers fighting in the dreary trenches of the Great War’s Eastern Front had a lot to fear: enemy bullets, trench foot, frostbite, countless diseases, shrapnel, bayonets, tanks, sniper fire. Oh, and wolves.

In February of that year, a dispatch from Berlin noted that large packs of wolves were creeping from the forests of Lithuania and Volhynia into the interior of the German Empire, not far from the front lines. Like so many living creatures, the animals had been driven from their homes by the war and were now simply looking for something to eat. “As the beasts are very hungry, they penetrate into the villages and kill calves, sheep, goats, and other livestock,” the report, which appeared in the El Paso Herald, says. “In two cases children have been attacked by them.”

According to another dispatch out of St. Petersburg, the wolves were such a nuisance on the battlefield that they were one of the few things that could bring soldiers from both sides together. “Parties of Russian and German scouts met recently and were hotly engaged in a skirmish when a large pack of wolves dashed on the scene and attacked the wounded,” the report says, according to the Oklahoma City Times. “Hostilities were at once suspended and Germans and Russians instinctively attacked the pack, killing about 50 wolves.” It was an unspoken agreement among snipers that, if the Russians and Germans decided to engage in a collective wolf-hunt, all firing would cease.

Take this July 1917 New York Times report describing how soldiers in the Kovno-Wilna Minsk district (near modern Vilnius, Lithuania) decided to cease hostilities to fight this furry common enemy:

"Poison, rifle fire, hand grenades, and even machine guns were successively tried in attempts to eradicate the nuisance. But all to no avail. The wolves—nowhere to be found quite so large and powerful as in Russia—were desperate in their hunger and regardless of danger. Fresh packs would appear in place of those that were killed by the Russian and German troops.

"As a last resort, the two adversaries, with the consent of their commanders, entered into negotiations for an armistice and joined forces to overcome the wolf plague. For a short time there was peace. And in no haphazard fashion was the task of vanquishing the mutual foe undertaken. The wolves were gradually rounded up, and eventually several hundred of them were killed. The others fled in all directions, making their escape from carnage the like of which they had never encountered."

Afterward, the soldiers presumably returned to their posts and resumed pointing their rifles at a more violent and dangerous enemy—each other.

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