We’ve all heard a lot about pandemic puppies, but what about kittens, adult cats and senior cats needing homes? Why aren’t we hearing about those? We explore this question with the help of three experts: Jamie Gay, director of operations for Tree House Humane Society in Chicago, a cat-only VCA partner shelter; Cherie Wachter, vice president of marketing for Humane Society of Broward County (HSBC) in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, another VCA partner shelter; and Colleen Currigan, DVM, medical director of VCA Cat Hospital of Chicago.
The Cats vs. Dogs Debate
To begin to answer these questions, it’s important to look at the differences between dogs and cats. Jamie from Treehouse Humane Society points out that dogs generally require more time and attention than cats, who conversely tend to be more independent and easier to care for.
“When you talk to people about why they adopted a dog during the pandemic, it was because they were home and could spend the time on obedience training, potty training, and walks,” she says. “So the pandemic provided an opportunity for people who have always wanted a dog but knew they couldn't provide the time and attention needed.”
Dr. Colleen Currigan wonders if the focus on pandemic puppies has more to do with society’s attitudes toward cats.
“Cats have always gotten the short end of the stick in many ways,” she says. “But what people don’t realize is that just like people – and dogs – cats have unique personalities. Some are friendly and outgoing, while others are sociable on their own terms. There is a perfect cat out there for everyone.”
Cherie Wachter from Humane Society of Broward County (HSBC) agrees.
“Our society tends to put more value on dogs, who can fill roles in the community like search and rescue and K9 police officers,” she explains. “But I always say that if you’ve never been owned by a cat, you’ve never experienced life.”
Cherie reports that in the period between December 2020 and February 2021, her shelter adopted out 471 felines compared to 689 dogs. She acknowledges that less kittens are born in winter months than warmer times of year, but also points out that HSBC sees a consistently higher demand for puppies than kittens.
While the pandemic may have made it easier to train a new puppy, Dr. Currigan says more people working from home means that it’s also a great time to get a cat.
“It’s important to spend time with your cat to get to know them,” she says. “Understanding your cat’s behaviors not only lays the foundation for bonding, it will make it easier to notice changes in behavior later on, which can be a sign of illness.”
In general, cats are considered to be excellent companion animals.
“They do funny things that will keep you entertained,” says Jamie, who has owned many cats in her lifetime. “Sense of purpose, having to care for an animal – it’s just such a rewarding experience. One of my cats greets me at the door when I come home and that is such a lovely feeling. “
Jamie points out that in colder climates like Chicago, owning a cat is much more pleasant in the winter (“No one wants to go outside during a polar vortex,” she jokes). Additionally, it’s easier to find a friend to pet sit when you go out of town since it tends to be pretty easy.
While kittens are in highest demand, Cherie urges people to consider adopting an adult cat.
“Kittens are fun and cute, but they’re also more work,” she says. “Adults cats are more relaxed and make better cuddle partners since they’re not always on the move. But most importantly, it’s much easier to get a sense of an adult cat’s personality before you adopt.”
Cherie points out that senior cats can make wonderful companions for people who are looking for an especially laid back cat, as long as they are willing to open their heart to a pet that may have some medical issues.
Jamie recommends fostering a cat before adopting, since it allows you to spend time with them in your home and see if they are a fit for your household.
An Added Incentive to Adopt: The VCA Healthy Start
Although cats are typically easier to care for than dogs, Dr Currigan emphasizes that cats do need regular care, which includes providing a cat-friendly and enriched home environment to help prevent boredom and resulting behavioral issues, as well as timely and regular veterinary care.
Adopted pets can get a healthy start in their new home thanks a partnership between VCA Animal Hospitals and over 100 animal shelter and rescue organizations all over the country. The VCA Healthy Start program gives adopters peace of mind by offering a free initial health exam and treatment of any minor illness up to 14 days after adoption (up to $250) at any VCA Animal Hospital.
Visit our website to find out which shelters near you are VCA animal welfare partners.
““Cats have always gotten the short end of the stick in many ways. But what people don’t realize is that just like people – and dogs – cats have unique personalities. Some are friendly and outgoing, while others are sociable on their own terms. There is a perfect cat out there for everyone.””