Thursday, November 11, 2004

Does That Cat Like You?

How can you tell if a cat "likes" you, particularly when you're at the shelter?

This may seem like a dumb question, but it's an important one. After all, you're going to have to spend 15 to 20 years with this animal. What kind of relationship do you want to have?

Some pet owners I've seen live in a cold peace with their cats. They feed them and take them to the vet on occasion, but the cats and people don't enjoy each other's company. In some cases, this is the human's fault for not caring enough, but in many cases I've seen, people adopt cats that hide out all the time and don't like human contact.

To me, the worst thing that could happen is for me to get stuck with a cat that acts like it doesn't really want to be here. What's the point of having a pet if all you do is feed it and take care of its basic needs?

Here's my very amateur theory. I think most people who go to the shelter to adopt cats are thinking "I'll pick the cutest one," but some of those people get the cat home and they're disappointed b/c they may have adopted a cat that just doesn't bond with them.'s Franny Syufy has a great set of tips on choosing a cat from a shelter, but even after reading her article, I don't feel more confident. She says to "let the cat choose you" but how can I tell? What if no cats choose me? This is bringing back memories of my high school gym class!

Last Saturday, I went to 4 different shelters and I didn't really run into a cat that "liked" me. There were a couple of nice close calls, though:

  • At the ASPCA, I saw an older female cat who had been injured. We're looking for two young, healthy cats to adopt together so she wasn't right for us, but when we approached her cage, she rolled onto her back and stuck her paws through the bars as if to say "play with me." That's the kind of cat personality I want and I think most people would want.

  • At the local Petco, there's a shelter that shows cats for rescue. I saw a young cat there named "Spike" (he has an ad on Petfinder) who was very quiet and passive, but he let me pet him and turned his head to let me scratch his chin.

    Since the Petco is right around the corner from my home, I went by there again on Sunday and talked to the rescue people about him; they said he doesn't like to be picked up and you can tell he's either sick (they said he has a cold) or out of it b/c while the cat will let anyone touch him, he doesn't get up and walk around his cage and he's not interested in toys or other things that stimulate other cats. He just sits around staring into space. So either there's something wrong with him or he just doesn't respond to me. Too bad, because he seemed like an interesting cat. But the last thing I'd want is to bring home a cat that just sits in the corner.

The quest continues.


Anonymous said...

I think it takes time to find cats that really fit your personality and what you're looking for. I would suggest visiting a cageless cat shelter if there's one close to where you live. You get to see the cats interacting with eachother and you can better interact with them and you get a better sense of how they will act when they are at home. I volunteer at a cageless shelter in Chicago and we normally have a lot of kittens that have to be adopted in pairs/groups. Some are littermates and others just paired up at the shelter and became friends. Anyway, good luck!!

Anonymous said...


Take into consideration that a kitty in a shelter is a poor soul. Many times they are scared, frightened, suffering from a traumatic experience, untrustful or simple feeling unloved. How can a kitty like you at first sight under these circumstances?.

Adopted pet companions need time to adjust to a new and loving home. Sooner or later they will thrive in a warm home where they are loved and can love in turn. It is a whole process, for good.

My experience with three rescued/adopted kitties is "feel it". Do not expect to meet a gorgeous, happy kitty at the shelter. For example, I adopted a deaf kitty. I wish you could open your heart to the adoption of the neediest, Avram. Love and commitment work wonders.

To your question "How can I tell?", may I say that life is like this, should we always knew beforehand, we would live in eternal happiness. Feel it and go for it!.

All the best,

Carmen and her three feline soul mates

Anonymous said...

Are you absolutely committed to two younger cats? There's older cats in shelters everywhere who need homes.

Anonymous said...

When my fiance and I began looking for our new cat many people told us to "let the cat pick us" as well. We went to a few shelters looking for a female kitten, preferably under 2 months old.
What we found was Blueberry, a six month old, male, black cat with a heart that was too big for his little body. We knew right away that that he had picked us!

The right cat is out there!

socidoc said...

Yes Avram, I suggest you go to a shelter with lots of cats, and TAKE YOUR TIME!! Sometimes a cat or cats will 'reach out' to you right away, sometimes it takes a visit or two to find 'your' cat. Whenever I go to find a new best friend, I will pick some of them out of their cages and see how they respond to me. I can tell if they are feeling 'huh, this one's OK but nothing special' and another will be feeling 'PLEASE! I LOVE YOU! I PICK YOU!' To me, it's always an obvious choice. And since I love cats so much, personally, I KNOW I will find 'my' cat EACH time I go! I simply cannot leave a shelter without adopting at least one! I agree that it's best to adopt two-at-a-time (let them play together before you go home to make sure they will get along) as they will keep each other company when you are at work or away for the day. GOOD LUCK! and bless you for being open-minded...

Anonymous said...

well i think that people shouldn't go throught a 100 question list to find the PERFICT cat thety should just try and find the cat they want to fit there life styles not based off fur color or stuff like that and i thing there will never be a cat who hates your gust for the rest of its life

Anonymous said...

When my 16 year old died, I went to the shelter to pick out a "Kitten" to be a companion to my 9 year old since she had never been without a pal. Everyone said pick a kitten so that was my mindset. I went in and in one room, next to each other, was an adorable kitten and an older black cat that was way back in the corner of the cage and would not come up for anyone. She was about 3-4 months old - a stray off the street. The adoption counseler was with me and I first got the kitten out and held him - he was rolled onto his back and gave me this "Aren't I just the cutest thing" look. As I was doing this, I felt something pulling (pawing) at my arm. We looked down and the black cat was there pawing at me and looking at me. The adoption counseler nearly fell down in shock and said she never came out for anyone and wouldn't scratch but didn't like to be held. I took her out and held her, she cuddled into my arms.

I was torn between them because I knew the kitten would go over easier with my older cat so went out to the reception area to think about it. The counselor talked me into the kitten. As we walked back into the room we could see the black cat in the corner again. The MINUTE she heard my voice she came to the front of the cage, put her paw thru and meowed. Well, Kenzie came home with me that night and yes, it did take a little time to get along with Gwyneth but they did make it.

She is now 10 years old, not really a lap cat(but sits next to me) and does come for affection and to play and sleep with me (and her other 2 sisters).

Incidentally she had a cold when I got her (just starting and not sure if it was or not that night)I had no problems with her having a cold, had to give her baby food as she could not smell the dry and vet said baby food. We actually used this to bond more as I used a spoon to feed her instead of putting it in a bowl and she got to where she would get on my lap to get her "treat". She hated the vet(at the shelter, I took her back there to be treated as it was within the 7 day period and a Saturday)and would not let her take her temp or give her meds or anything and the vet thought I should turn her back in (in which case she would have been immediately euthanized) or get someone to help with giving her the meds (as I lived alone she didn't think I could do by myself). Well, Kenzie NEVER gave me any problems with giving her meds or taking her temp or anything else for that matter.

Sorry for it being so long but I guess what I'm trying to say is you can't always go by what the shelter workers say and even if they are sick it may not be that much of a big deal. Kenzie would never come to any of the shelter workers and they were good people and cared - she was just very unsure and shy. She knew I was for her and she was for me the minute she saw me. If I had followed the counselers advice instead of my heart, it would have been a little smoother for the first few months of the two cats getting to know each other but I would have lost out on so much more than you can possibly imagine. Kenzie is still pretty much a one person cat (although I do live alone so that may be part of it)but she is loving and a great friend.

So don't worry so much about age or if they don't seem to be real friendly or may have a bit of a cold - these things won't really matter in the long run when YOUR cat finds you because you will find that they will be the perfect cat for you and will be a best friend for life. Good Luck.

Anonymous said...

"How can you tell if a cat "likes" you, particularly when you're at the shelter?"

You really can't tell, and why would a cat "like" a total stranger personally? You might tell if a cat is more outgoing and less stressed than the others.

The only way to develop a bond is to be in a relationship, having lived together and had good experiences together.

You're making too much out of this whole cat adoption thing. Just get two cats in the age range you want, take them home and be nice to them. Give them a reason to like you and trust you. If you are an average decent person, things will be fine.

"To me, the worst thing that could happen is for me to get stuck with a cat that acts like it doesn't really want to be here. What's the point of having a pet if all you do is feed it and take care of its basic needs?"

That won't happen if YOU make the cat feel loved and wanted, for it's own unique self, and not only acceptable according to some predetermined list of requirements you have.

You're thinking of all this from your side, what will please you, make your life happy. Think about how you can please the cats, touch their hearts, make them happy. To get love, you have to give it. Unconditionally.

Anonymous said...

"To me, the worst thing that could happen is for me to get stuck with a cat that acts like it doesn't really want to be here. What's the point of having a pet if all you do is feed it and take care of its basic needs?"

The difference between a cat lover and a cat "owner". If you want a guarantee then get a robotic cat.

We took in 3 feral kittens 10 years ago when their mother died. One just loves to cuddle - be held on his back and scratch his neck and tummy. One tolerates us and allows us to pet her sometimes. One has never allowed us to touch him. He will follow us from room to room, like to be in the same vicinity - as long as its not within arms reach. If he feels cornered or threatened by us he will put his ears back, hiss and scratch. The only time he was ever touched was when he was neutered and had his first shots. Why do we keep him? Because he deserves as much love and care as any cat. Most of our cats are difficult adoptees because of medical problems, and I don't expect the average cat owner to take care of these hard to care for kits, we're experienced, but I hope you and the people following your adventure realize every animal is special in its own way and doesn't deserve to be abandoned because its not perfect.

I'll get off my soapbox now and wish you luck.

Anonymous said...

Remember cats are cats and will do exactly what they want to do. Give them a loving warm home and plenty of food and the chances are they will respond to you. You cannot buy a cats affection, if they want you fine, if not, well, thats a cat

Anonymous said...

We adopted two tiny males a few months ago. Their personalities are totally different. One thing I do remember is Chuckie displayed a strong interest in me right away. The shelter people let both kittens out of their cage, I sat there very quietly and after a few minutes of warm-up, both kittens were around me - Chuckie displaying gregariousness and friendliness. They both allowed me to pet them and even licked my hand. Kittens that shy away or hide are probably going to continue that behaviour. Buster was shy but didn't hide or run away. Today, he still displays that kind of behaviour but will be very affectionate and friendly - especially if Chuckie isn't around. According to the vet, Chuckie is the dominant male and Buster defers to him at all times. Good luck and have fun!

Anonymous said...

Hi. If you live near PetCo at Kipps Bay, you're not far from a wonderful place to adopt cats where the animals are allowed out of the cages for most of the day. It's called Ollie's Place, and it's located at 203 East 26th Street near 3rd Avenue. The first floor is a store where the proceeds go to a rescue group, but upstairs there are about 20 or so wonderful cats that you can interact with on your own for hours at a time if you want! Please give it a try. If you want more on Ollie's place, there was a story in the Animal Alliance Oct. newsletter (go to

Good luck in your search! I got a wonderful cat two years ago from the ASPCA..and I would never have chosen him hadn't my friend been with me and pointed him out. Now Shadow and I are very bonded and happy together.

Julian Silvain said...

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Anonymous said...

I hope someone responds. I live in a townhome with 3 other guys, I recently fell in love with a kitten at a fsoter home, but my application got usuruped by a resident of that county. I ended up going to a petsmart with my roommate and his brother (who will be moving in with us in a few months), and we all foudn ones that we 'liked.' The brothers got a pair of brothers and i seperated mine (male) from his sister who was not playful and mean (the vet was happy we were seperating). Now the kitten i was in love with is available again, and they want me to adopt him. Would it be a good idea to have the fourth so my cat has a companion, like the brothers? What would the work load and price differeces be in the DC area... I need advice soon!

Anonymous said...

nice tip but i already have 4 kitties + they all love me.though i almost used your style i just didn't look they loved me anyway!

love from;
Lauren,(Beth,Bess,Ingeborg and Gertrude)-my cute felines! said...

I agree with the comments made about how cats are in a hard place when in a shelter. it's like when i was arrested, in jail for three days, then put in front of the judge in my bloody dirty clothes with no shave an d my hair everywhere. you get judged on your current state which is not really how you would be in a normal situation.
My aunt has the animal hording syndrome and she has about 35 or so cats. it's horrible. I chose to adopt one, and after fingering through them all, i chose to go for the underdog. He was SUCH a lover of a cat, i fell in love with him. No one else at the house would even pet him because he had a Cyst on his neck, that one of the Huge Boxer dogs actually popped and cleaned completely and it healed perfectly. He had a big bald patch on his neck. this cat captured my heart. i thought if i didn't take him, no one ever would because he had a cyst on his neck and they found that unattractive. I ended up taking the cat, his wound was fully healed, he even got all his hair back. I had just had a cyst removed too! I named him shadow because of his long fluffy black hair, and the fact that he would follow me literally anywhere like a loyal dog! even follow me out the door, into my car hahaha. i really felt that i saved the cats life from the shelter he would face and the eventually being put down because no one wants a "sick cat". he was my buddy and i loved him. I was trying to let him get used to the idea of being outside one day, he hung around for three hours, then i never saw him again. my eyes are getting glossy even telling this story - i really loved my cat. the point of my story i guess is, dont overlook a cat that's in need. theyre helpless animals and they just need to feel loved. my "sick" cat ended up being such a lover. I'm a guy and i seem to bond with male cats the best for some reason. I have since adopted his two brothers, both longhair blonde cats and i love them as well. I have a photo of my first kitten on my wall.
Love you piff wherever you are