Stand Up Against Meaningless Death Adopt A Cat For Life


May, 2005

Annemarie Lucas of ‘Animal Precinct’ on Animal Planet and Diane Leigh, co-author of "ONE at a Time: A week in an American Animal Shelter"

If there’s a season to adopt kittens from shelters, this is it. Many shelters across America are inundated, overwhelmed, absolutely flooded with kittens.

“Cats breed in the winter, so now is the time when people bring in these helpless kittens to shelters, says Annemarie Lucas, supervisor of special investigations at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and a host of “Animal Precinct” on Animal Planet. “There’s an onslaught! There are simply more kittens than there are available homes, and we need to do something about that.”

Both the Iams pet food company and Fresh Step cat litter have teamed to begin a Friend for Life campaign to donate $100,000 to the ASPCA.

“Truly these cats will be your friends for life,” says Lucas. “For all the love you give them, you’ll get more back in return.” Lucas knows from experience; her three cats all come from shelters.

Diane Leigh, co-author of “ONE at a Time: A Week in an American Animal Shelter” (No Voice Unheard, Santa Cruz, CA; 2003; $16.95) agrees, “Adopting a cat from a shelter is profound act, a stand for life and a stand against a meaningless death.”

According to the Humane Society of the United States, at least six to eight million cats and dogs enter shelters annually (this doesn’t count the millions of pets – mostly cats – just let outdoors and are never found). About 70 per cent of all cats in shelters are ultimately euthanized.

Leigh says, “They come into the shelter one at a time, so they can be saved one at a time.”

While this is the season when shelters are swarming with kittens, even finding the home for an adult cat will make a difference. “Rambunctious kittens aren’t for everyone,” says Lucas. “Kittens are curious babies who can get themselves into big trouble. So, families who are never at home and can’t supervise might be better off with an adult. Kittens are energetic and do crazy things, and some older people, in particular, may say ‘been there, done that,’ and might be better off with a more laid back adult.”

“Adopting any cat frees up cage space, especially at this time of year,” Leigh says.

Before you bring that new feline friend home, consider the Three P’s of adoption:

Prepare for your cat’s arrival. Involve all the members of the household in the decision, even bring the kids to the shelter. Having said that, understand the new pet is the responsibility of adults, and not kids – no matter how the kids promise to scoop the box or play with the kitty, don’t necessarily count on it.

If you have existing pets, speak to a behavior counselor about how to best introduce them to advance the best possible result. Just tossing a new cat into a home with other pets is not likely to be as successful as a deliberate and supervised meeting.

“Kitty-proofing’ is important because curious kittens can find corners to hide in or get into household cleaners,” Lucas says.

Every cat owner should have at least one interactive toy, such as a fishing pole-type toy with feathers or fabric; in addition to independent toys to pounce on or watch bounce when their people aren’t playing along.

Provide premium nutrition and veterinary care. Even if a cat is checked out by a shelter vet, it’s best to bring the new arrival to your own vet. “Getting a baseline physical exam is important,” says Lucas. “And it’s also about you establishing a relationship with your vet.”

Prevent overpopulation by spaying or neutering. Most shelters won’t adopt out a pet unless it’s already spayed or neutered, or you might sign a contract to use a coupon to take the pet to be altered. Lucas says, “Shelters wouldn’t be in this bind of being overwhelmed with kittens, if more people spayed or neutered in the first place.”

Lucas adds, “It’s important to keep cats safe by keeping them indoors. In my role (as a special investigator into animal cruelty) at the ASPCA, I tend to see the worst. And people sometimes do terrible things to defenseless cats. It’s horrible. But obviously it can’t happen to your cat if your cat is safely indoor.”

Leigh is all about being truthful, and the truth is sobering. “Every nine seconds there’s an animal who dies in shelter,” she says. “The best thing you can do is to adopt a new friend for life. The worst thing you can do is to make an impulsive decision to adopt, and then the cat goes right back into the shelter. Have realistic expectations of what you’re getting into. Having a cat is responsibility. Cats actually don’t ask all that much of us. The box requires scooping and litter requires changing. Of course, they need food and water. They also need play time. And, most of all, they need our love. Of course, if you adopt any pet – you’ll get at least twice as much of that love back in return.”

For further information about adopting kittens, and introducing them, check out,, or Email Leigh about your cat adoption story at and she’ll send a copy of her book to your neighborhood shelter. You can also check out “Kittens for Dummies,” by Dusty Rainbolt (Wiley Publishing, Hoboken, NJ, 2004; $16.99).