11 Expert Tips for Adopting a Cat

iStock
iStock

If you've been thinking about adding a fuzzy little friend to your household, there's more to consider than whether to name it Pearl or Pickles, or Zoroaster or Apollinaris, like Mark Twain named two of his many cats. So if you're planning on celebrating June's Adopt a Cat Month quite literally, here are 11 tips straight from the pros. Mull them over, then head to your local shelter!

1. BE CHOOSY ABOUT THE SHELTER YOU ADOPT FROM.

A family pets a grey striped cat at an animal shelter.
iStock

According to Gail Buchwald, vice president of the adoption center at the ASPCA in New York City, assessing shelters in person is a must. "I think it's a great idea for a prospective adopter to go to the shelter and check it out, get a visual. If they see animals that don't look healthy, they should ask some questions," she told WebMD. Furthermore, talk to shelter employees to get an idea of what they know about the animals' health and behavior. Shelters that don't do behavior assessments or disease testing aren't able to give you the appropriate information to make a match that truly works for you and for your prospective pet.

2. KNOW THAT YOU'RE IN THIS FOR THE LONG HAUL.

A cat is sleeping on its owner's lap.
iStock

Cats are long-term roommates, so make sure you're ready for the commitment. According to Gwen Sparling, the owner of Camp Kitty boarding facility in Atlanta, over the course of a cat's 15- to 20-year lifetime, a pet owner will spend approximately $1000 annually on vet care, food, treats, toys, kitty litter, and more. "There is this general thinking that cats are no-fuss pets, which couldn't be further from the truth," Sparling told Mother Nature Network.

3. SHELTER CATS ARE GREAT OPTIONS.

A black kitten peeks out from behind the bars of a shelter cage.
iStock

There's a misconception that animals in shelters have physical or behavioral issues; most of the time, that's not the case. "Animals primarily end up in our care because of challenges and transitions that exist in the lives of the people responsible for their care," Michael Keiley, director of adoption centers and programs at Boston's Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, told Country Living. Often animals can end up in shelters when their humans move, lose a job, or have to focus on non-pet-related stressors—and that's not a reflection on the cats who now need a new home.

4. ASSESS YOUR NEEDS BEFORE YOU GO IN.

A cat snuggling with a young blonde child while she reads.
iStock

"The goal is for the adoption to work out well for everyone," Susan Daffron, the author of Happy Tabby: Develop a Great Relationship with Your Adopted Cat or Kitten, told LovetoKnow.com. Before you fall in love with the first cute face you see at the shelter, make sure you know exactly what you and your family need in a pet. Do you have small children? Are you away from home a lot? Do you have other pets? None of those things preclude you from adopting a shelter cat, but they definitely help set parameters about the personality and type of cat that would be ideal for you and your family.

5. CONSIDER MULTIPLE CATS.

A black cat and a grey cat snuggle together in a wicker basket.
iStock

If you're going to jump in, do it with both feet, right? But there's a method to this madness—according to the American Humane Society, cats provide each other with exercise, mental stimulation, and social interaction that humans just can't quite match. And if you're at work or otherwise occupied during the day, having the companionship can be extra important to your cat(s).

6. PREP A SPECIAL PLACE FOR YOUR NEW FAMILY MEMBER.

Three grey and black kittens lounging on a piece of carpeted cat furniture.
iStock

Cats are territorial, so entering a new space is stressful for them. Before you go to the shelter, create a special spot in your home to make kitty feel more comfortable when it arrives, writes Sara Kent, the former director of shelter outreach for Petfinder. A quiet spot stocked with a litter box, toys, food, and water will help—let your cat get familiar with the sights and sounds of the room on its own time.

7. VET A VET AHEAD OF TIME.

546088
iStock

Before you choose a cat, choose a vet by getting referrals from people you trust. The American Humane Society recommends making an appointment for an overall check-up within the first few days of the adoption. Be sure to take the vet any medical records provided by the shelter.

8. BOND THE RIGHT WAY.

A young girl in a blue shirt nuzzles a grey kitten.
iStock

You will, of course, want to spend some time bonding with your cat. But how you do so depends on what stage of life the cat is in, Samantha Bell DiGenova, the cat behavior and enrichment lead at Best Friends Los Angeles, told Bustle. "When bonding with kittens, you want to handle them, hold them, let them look at you and see your face," she said. "You want to have as much contact with them visually and tactually as you can so that they grow up understanding that's how they should interact with people."

On the other hand, adult cats require their space. "If you adopt a cat that's four months or older, let them make the decisions. If you … allow the cat to come to you when they want affection, and let them show you that they want to interact, the bond you create will be so much stronger."

9. INTRODUCE THEM TO YOUR OTHER CATS.

An adult cat touches noses with a grey, fluffy kitten with a background of fallen autumn leaves.
iStock

But do it the right way. According to cat behaviorist Jackson Galaxy, just letting two cats "work it out" is not the best way to get your felines to be friendly. Instead, he wrote on his website, keep your cats separated by a door, but let them sniff each other under the door. Feed them both on their respective sides of the door so they get positive associations with each other. And eventually, swap bedding between your two pets so they get familiar with each other's scents. After a period of familiarization—which can sometimes last weeks—any hissing and growling should subside, and they'll be able to interact without fighting. (Have a dog? You can find some tips for that scenario here.)

10. CONSIDER PET INSURANCE.

A vet is holding a stethoscope up to a small brown kitten.
iStock

Even if your cat is the picture of health when you first adopt, you never know what medical issues could arise down the road. As with human insurance, veterinarian Tracy McFarland wrote that it's a good idea to purchase pet insurance while your ball of fluff is totally healthy. It could eventually save you a bundle and make sure your cat is around for a long time.

11. HAVE PATIENCE.

A broken pot and soil on the ground with an innocent-looking cat sitting next to it.
iStock

Renowned cat behaviorist Pam Johnson-Bennett, author of Think Like a Cat, reminds new owners to have patience with their new pets. From remembering the location of the kitty litter box to interacting with your family, it takes them some time to learn the ropes. Have patience as they are learning, and you'll be rewarded with a relationship that lasts for years to come.

Do Dogs Understand What You’re Telling Them? Scientists Are Scanning Their Brains to Find Out

iStock/kozorog
iStock/kozorog

We all know that dogs can learn to respond to human words, but it’s not always clear what’s happening in a dog’s brain when they hear and recognize words like “cookie” and “fetch.” Do they have to rely on other clues, like gestures, to figure out what we mean by that word? Do they picture a dog biscuit when you say “cookie,” or just the sensation of eating? In a new study, scientists from Emory University and the New College of Florida tried to get to the bottom of this question by training dogs to associate certain objects with words like “blue” and “duck,” then using fMRI brain scanners to see what was happening in the dogs’ heads when they heard that word.

The study, published in Frontiers in Neuroscience, examined the brains of 12 different dogs of various breeds (you can see them below) that had been trained to associate two different objects with random words like “duck,” “blue,” and “beach ball.” Those two objects, which were different for each dog, were brought by the dogs’ owners from home or chosen from a selection of dog toys the researchers compiled. One object had to be soft, like a stuffed animal, and the other one had to be something hard, like a rubber toy or squeaky toy, to make sure the dogs could clearly distinguish between the two. The dogs were trained for several months to associate these objects with their specific assigned words and to fetch them on command.

Then, they went into the fMRI machine, where they had been trained to sit quietly during scanning. The researchers had the dogs lie in the machine while their owners stood in front of them, saying the designated name for the toys and showing them the objects. To see how the dogs responded to unknown words, they also held up new objects, like a hat, and referred to them by gibberish words.

Dogs in a science lab with toys
Prichard et al., Frontiers in Neuroscience (2018]

The results suggest that dogs can, in fact, discriminate between words they know and novel words. While not all the dogs showed the same neural response, they showed activation in different regions of their brains when hearing the familiar word versus the novel one.

Some of the dogs showed evidence of a greater neural response in the parietotemporal cortex, an area of the dog brain believed to be similar to the human angular gyrus, the region of the brain that allows us to process the words we hear and read. Others showed more neural activity in other regions of the brain. These differences might be due to the fact that the study used dogs of different sizes and breeds, which could mean differences in their abilities.

The dogs did show a surprising trend in their brains’ response to new words. “We expected to see that dogs neurally discriminate between words that they know and words that they don’t,” lead author Ashley Prichard of Emory University said in a press release. “What's surprising is that the result is opposite to that of research on humans—people typically show greater neural activation for known words than novel words." This could be because the dogs were trying extra hard to understand what their owners were saying.

The results don’t prove that talking to your dog is the best way to get its attention, though—it just means that they may really know what's coming when you say, "Want a cookie?"

Scientists Find Fossil of 150-Million-Year-Old Flesh-Eating Fish—Plus a Few of Its Prey

M. Ebert and T. Nohl
M. Ebert and T. Nohl

A fossil of an unusual piranha-like fish from the Late Jurassic period has been unearthed by scientists in southern Germany, Australian news outlet the ABC reports. Even more remarkable than the fossil’s age—150 million years old—is the fact that the limestone deposit also contains some of the fish’s victims.

Fish with chunks missing from their fins were found near the predator fish, which has been named Piranhamesodon pinnatomus. Aside from the predator’s razor-sharp teeth, though, it doesn’t look like your usual flesh-eating fish. It belonged to an extinct order of bony fish that lived at the time of the dinosaurs, and until now, scientists didn’t realize there was a species of bony fish that tore into its prey in such a way. This makes it the first flesh-eating bony fish on record, long predating the piranha. 

“Fish as we know them, bony fishes, just did not bite flesh of other fishes at that time,” Dr. Martina Kölbl-Ebert, the paleontologist who found the fish with her husband, Martin Ebert, said in a statement. “Sharks have been able to bite out chunks of flesh, but throughout history bony fishes have either fed on invertebrates or largely swallowed their prey whole. Biting chunks of flesh or fins was something that came much later."

Kölbl-Ebert, the director of the Jura Museum in Eichstätt, Germany, says she was stunned to see the bony fish’s sharp teeth, comparing it to “finding a sheep with a snarl like a wolf.” This cunning disguise made the fish a fearful predator, and scientists believe the fish may have “exploited aggressive mimicry” to ambush unsuspecting fish.

The fossil was discovered in 2016 in southern Germany, but the find has only recently been described in the journal Current Biology. It was found at a quarry where other fossils, like those of the Archaeopteryx dinosaur, have been unearthed in the past.

[h/t the ABC]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER