Ten thousand humans are born each day, and for every human birth, 45 cats are brought into the world, according to the Animal Rescue League of El Paso. The result? Three to four million cats and dogs euthanized each year due to overpopulation.

“The last thing we want to do is to put the animals down,” says Richard P. Gentles of New York City’s Animal Care & Control (AC&C). Opening your home to just one shelter cat can help wipe out the discouraging statistics.

To Adopt or Not to Adopt
When you decide to share your home with a shelter cat, you not only save a feline life and free up shelter space; you also gain a loving companion. “Adopting from a shelter was a no-brainer,” says Cara Anselmo, a nutritionist who brought home her own cat from the AC&C in 2002. “I wanted to adopt an animal that might not have otherwise had a chance at a life,” she says.

After a few visits, Anselmo noticed that only kittens were getting adopted; that’s when she spotted the perfect older cat, Maggie.

Could a match with a cat like Maggie work for you? Consider the following pros of adopting an adult cat. Older cats:

  • Require less supervision Older cats are less destructive than energetic kittens. They are litter box-trained and don’t do a lot of scratching. “Staff and volunteers socialize the cats before they get adopted,” says Gentles, so a cat that has been at the shelter for a while will already have basic social skills.
  • Make great companions If you spend a lot of time at home, an adult cat is more likely than a playful kitten to sit on your lap while you watch TV. If you are usually away, consider adopting two cats: They will entertain each other without requiring your full attention when you return.
  • Have a fixed personality Adult cats have already grown into their personality, so no new traits will surprise you along the way. A kitten, on the other hand, may evolve into a very different creature than the one you originally fell in love with.
  • Are safer for children An adult cat is more likely than a kitten to have been exposed to children and other pets, and therefore may adapt more easily around them. A kitten that hasn’t learned to be around people yet may get frightened easily and scratch your over-eager child.
  • Save you money Aside from needing initial vaccinations and spaying or neutering, kittens have weaker immune systems, which may raise your veterinary bills. Adult shelter cats, however, are usually up to date with their shots and are already spayed or neutered. Some organizations, like the AC&C, even waive fees for adult cats. “It doesn’t devalue the animal’s life in any way; it’s just a creative way to get them adopted,” says Gentles.

The Matchmaking Process
Are you ready to take the leap and welcome an adult shelter cat into your home? Here is a suggested five-step process:

  1. Explore your resources Locate shelters and rescue groups near you through the Petfinder Web site. For a larger selection of pets, visit various shelters and rescue groups.
  1. Consider your needs Since adopting a cat will affect everyone in your household, “do your research and understand your lifestyle and the needs and interests of any family members,” advises Gentles. Consider personality type and such preferences as gender, color, breed and hair length.
  1. Get to know kitty Before you adopt, spend some time with your potential pet. Ask the shelter staff if you can visit with the cat in a more private area, and bring your family to make sure they get along with the cat.
  1. Be patient The approval process may be lengthy at times and may include an application, interview, references and fees. “Don’t get discouraged; it’s worth it,” advises Anselmo.
  1. Know your cat’s health Ask if the cat you want to adopt has a medical condition. If the condition is long-term, be sure you’re ready to attend to special needs. Also, get a copy of the cat’s health records. A few days after adoption, introduce your new pet to the veterinarian, who will ensure its health and administer necessary shots. 

By advocating adoption, Gentles hopes that one day, euthanasia will come to an end. “It’s going to take a lot of work and community involvement,” he says. As for Anselmo, she and Maggie are still a happy pair. Says Anselmo: “Maggie is brave, affectionate and intuitive. She is my all-around best little friend.”