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Over the years of dealing with cats, I have come across too many cat owners who would still let their cat reproduce. "At least one litter… and I have good homes for all of the kittens!" Anyone who has volunteered at an animal shelter knows the bitter truth. Finding homes for kittens is easy. Finding good forever homes for kittens or cats is not.
If you have kittens that need to be re-homed, whether delivered by your own cat, born to a fostered pregnant cat or just rescued kittens from whatever source, you need to make sure that they go to good homes. That means a home where their physical, as well as emotional needs, will be fully met and where they will be treated as part of the family: never abused, declawed, or simply abandoned. Everyone loves playing with sweet kittens, but it's up to you to ensure that the kitty's adopting family will always be committed to taking care of unpleasant situations as well - if and when health or behavior problems develop over time (and they may).
Animal shelters are the true experts when it comes to screening potential adopters. Some people complain about shelters for this reason. They seem to expect shelters to be grateful to anyone who walks in asking to adopt a pet. In reality, a good shelter will make potential adopters fill in forms and questionnaires; go through a thorough interview, and pay money for the pet. It may seem ungrateful, or even greedy, but the truth is that this mechanism is there to increase the chances for the cat to end up in a good home… one that will be its last.
Screening Unknown Adopters
If you placed an ad in the newspaper to find homes for cats or kittens, you should thoroughly investigate the people who reply to make sure they are indeed who they claim to be and are not looking for cats for malicious reasons. Ask for IDs and write down the details. Make sure that the people who want to adopt are over 21. Let them talk to you for a while over the phone. Listen, don't just talk, and try to figure them out before inviting them into your home to see the kittens.
Never advertise your kittens as "free". Always charge a fee. If this feels too greedy, donate the money to a charity, but still, make sure the adopters pay you the money. That is your way to ensure a certain level of commitment, and also to filter out people who are looking to collect animals for laboratory research or just out there to abuse cats.
Try to ask as much as you can over the phone first. Go through the questions suggested below before you even ask them over. If they think you're asking too many questions, explain that you are trying to find a good home for the kitten, not just any home. If they are serious about adopting, they will be glad that you're taking the time and effort to do this.
For your own safety, don’t ask strangers into your house before you've talked to them at length and assessed their sincerity and level of commitment. When they arrive, make sure you have someone else at home with you.
What to Ask Potential Adopters
If you want to make sure that the kittens indeed go to good homes, here are a few things to check with your potential adopters, whether they've just replied to your newspaper ad, or happen to be your beloved auntie –
Are you able to commit to the care of the kitten throughout its life?
Your potential adopters need to understand that the cat will be their responsibility, come rain or shine, for decades to come. Ask them what would happen to the cat if for some reason they could no longer take care of it.
Who lives in your household and do they all want to have a cat join them?
Never adopt a kitten out to a family where one of the family members objects to having a cat. No, it will not work out over time. The cat is more likely to be shown the door as soon as a problem comes up if someone living in the house never wanted it there in the first place. This is also a good time to make sure that no one in the household is allergic to cats.
Do you realize the costs involved in keeping a cat and can you afford it?
Be direct and talk about the costs of quality pet food, vet care (and insurance), cat litter and all that jazz. They need to know about it now and they need to make sure that they will be able to afford it on their current salaries and also future ones. Sad as it is, people who don't enjoy financial stability are not good candidates for adopting a cat.
Have you owned cats before? If so, what happened to them?
Being a past owner can be a benefit. That person is more likely to realize what caring for a cat involves. However, if they end up telling you that they've had ten different cats over the past five years and none of them stayed there for long, you should probably keep looking for a different home. If they do have or have recently had cats, ask about their veterinarian and ask for permission to call them for references.
Are you prepared to accept a cat as being a cat?
This would be a good time to discuss things like hair shedding, chewing and scratching, scratching of furniture and jumping on counters. Explain that there are solutions to these problems, but that owners have to put in time and energy towards them.
Are you committed to spaying/neutering the kitten when it's time?
Read more about why cats ought to be spayed and neutered here. Better still, type out that article and hand it over to your potential adopters. In my opinion, it's best to actually have the kitten neutered while he or she is still in your household. If they are too young, then make sure that it will be done as soon as possible by the people adopting them. If need be, make them sign a contract to do so, and ask them to place a deposit with you, which will be given by you directly to the vet at the time of neutering.
Are you committed to keeping the cat's claws intact?
Never give the kitten away to someone who would amputate their toes. You can read more about declawing and why it should never be performed in the following articles: Declawing - More than Just a Manicure Declawing and Alternatives
Where will you be keeping the cat? Will it be indoors-only?
Make sure that the potential adopters realize the risks involved in letting a cat out where they live. If they live in an urban environment or where the risks outdoors are too high, make sure they know how to keep their cats indoors, safe and happy.
"Is there anything else you wish to tell me?"
Let them do some talking. Let them bring up any problems or issues now.
Does that look like too many questions? Trust me, it's not enough. Most shelters would go into more detail and for good reason. Remember, the kitten's fate lies in your hands and it is up to you to make sure that it doesn't end up being kicked out on the streets, or abandoned at a shelter later in life. Its best chance at finding a home is now, as a kitten. It's up to you to make sure that this will be the right home for your kitten.
Don't forget to keep track of the process. Schedule in advance and let the future cat owner know that you'll be calling them in the future, perhaps even visiting. A good schedule would be one day after the adoption, then one week, two weeks, one month, and in time to make sure they neuter the cat. Make sure they know they can call you with questions as well.
Sounds like a lot of work? It is. It's not pleasant either, having to interrogate people like that. It's why you should never let your cat get pregnant, thinking "I am sure I can find good homes for the kittens"… If you think you might enjoy doing this, my advice for you would be to volunteer at your local shelter and help re-home cats and kittens. I am sure they can use the help.
If you ended up having to re-home a cat or a kitten, for whatever reason, I hope you have found this article helpful and not too daunting. It can be done, and when done right, the effort is worth it, knowing you did all you could to truly help an animal.
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