What you should know before adopting a cat

By Tom Musbach

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Adopting a cat is a great way to reap the rewards of pet ownership and provide a caring home for a cat in need. But it's not right for some people.

If you are considering adopting a cat into your household, two veterinarians on JustAnswer offer the following bits of advice to make an informed decision.

Early questions to consider

If you are unsure about whether to adopt, these questions can help bring clarity.

Are you allergic to cats? "Many people don't know about their cat allergies until they live with one," said Dr. Gary Ryder.

Do you have the time and means to care for the cat? "You should consider how often you are home, whether you vacation much, and if you can afford the cat's medical care," said Dr. Dan Makin, another veterinarian on JustAnswer.

Do you want a house cat or a "functional" cat? A functional cat is one that is outdoors or in a barn killing mice and rats, according to Ryder.

What to check for a specific cat

Medical condition: Find out if the cat has been spayed or neutered, which some adoption agencies will perform before adopting. Also check for its history with worms and pre-existing conditions.

"Older cats may have long-term disease conditions requiring lifelong medications or vet visits," said Makin. "Or if its teeth are dirty, you may need to get dental care soon after you adopt."

Vaccine history: "Many cats will acquire upper respiratory infections in rescue organizations, so having them up to date on vaccines will lessen the severity of the infection," said Ryder.

Prior home information: What type of home did it come from -- single-cat vs. multiple-cat? Was the cat kept indoors or outdoors? 

"This is especially important if you have other animals in the home," Ryder said. "Most cats can be temperament tested with other cats and dogs to see if they tolerate each other."

One vet's experience of cat adoption

Makin adopted a stray 4-month-old cat that was a "real character" at the clinic. He took in the little guy (Milo, a black-and-white short-haired cat) after "careful consideration of my ability to provide a good home with continued care."

"That was three years ago, and Milo is an amazing cat," Makin said. He is kept entirely indoors because Makin lives in an apartment. "But I make sure he has lots of toys and time spent with me. Taking him in was one of the best and most rewarding decisions I have made!"