The days when kids sat outside grocery stores with cardboard boxes full of kittens seem to have passed. Where do you go to get a kitten?
It doesn’t hurt to ask around. You may be surprised to discover you know somebody who just happens to know a very surprised and alarmed somebody who has a very pregnant mother cat at home.
Absent word-of-mouth, I recommend the Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland at 449 Stroudwater Street, Westbrook, Maine 04092, 207-854-9771.
What should you expect when you visit the League?
1. Prepare to wait.
If you go on the weekend, the place may be (very) busy. I went on a Saturday and waited approximately 45 minutes for my interview with an employee. The time wasn’t wasted! I occupied myself studying the kittens and watching excited families pick up their animals.
Check the website or call for The ARL’s schedule. It does vary. Currently, The ARL is closed Wednesdays.
2. Be prepared to return.
The shelter may not have kittens. I happened to visit at a propitious time; it was the end of August, and there were over a dozen kittens waiting for a home.
Even if there are kittens, take your time choosing a kitten that fits “you.” Almost all kittens are hyper, but extremely shy kittens stand out. You can also sometimes spot the “I want to crawl into your lap and never leave” types versus the “I guess, I’ll live with you” types.
3. Be prepared to answer questions.
An employee will ask you questions about your living situation, whether you own other pets, whether the animal will be indoors or outdoors, your work schedule, and so on. You will also be asked to agree to not de-claw (see my article coming soon about why you don’t need to de-claw!).
Keep in mind that the employees at The ARL do have their own set of priorities. The pleasant employee who interviewed me tried to convince me that I (the owner of an older, female cat) should adopt another older cat rather than a (male) kitten. I understood her concerns. The older cats do need adoptees! However, as a working cat owner with limited space, I am not comfortable placing an older cat with an older cat. Talk about territorial battles!
On the other hand, female cats, no matter how elderly and spayed, have been known to dredge up maternal instincts with a kitten and even get a little livelier! (Please write me if you have had good experiences matching up older cats with older cats.)
In any case, the questions are well-meant! Answer kindly, fully, and responsibly, and keep in mind that going to The ARL is not the same as buying a kitten from the mall. The Animal Refuge League has a duty to place kittens, and cats, in situations where they won’t be forced to need to place them again.
4. Bring some money.
The adoption for a kitten under six months costs $125. There are also gift shop items. I purchased a small bowl, small litter box, and toy for $15. The ARL does take most credit cards.
Overall, this is an excellent price. My approximately 10-week-old kitten, Bob, came neutered with his first set of shots. He was also in good health, well-groomed, and free of fleas. Additionally, I received one free visit to a participating vet. The shelter will also send your new kitten home in a sturdy, cardboard carrier (not a plastic bag!).
The Animal Refuge League truly is the place to go when you want to make that new addition to the household.
Disclaimer: I am not a veterinarian, behaviorist, or professional animal trainer. My observations and advice are the result of on-the-ground, real-time exposure. My perspective is that of an experienced cat-owner searching for practical solutions. When a suggestion does come from an expert source, this will be noted in the article.