As the housechecker, you play a valuable role in the successful placement of the foster cat/kitten. So, when you enter the home, take your time and follow the guidelines below in interviewing the adopter and in checking out the home this cat/kitten may live in for the next 10-20 years. We’re looking for committed, caring, knowledgeable, and educable adopters for our rescued animals.
* Take a “cat’s eye view” of the home. Look for any potential risks. Consider whether you would entrust your cat to these people.
* Have the whole family present for the home visit so you can meet and evaluate them as well as educate them on the care of the cat/kitten they have selected.
* Strongly advise the adopters to get books on cat/kitten care. Suggest they go to the library or a pet or book store. Encourage children to read about cats/kittens. Search the internet.
* You do not have to approve a home visit. If you have any doubts, tell the applicants you will report back to the adoption coordinator and they will hear from PAW in a few days.
* If you are comfortable with the results of the home visit, then you can do the contract (make two copies – one for the adopter and one for you to send in with the check. You may also want to make a third copy for your files or the foster’s files). Make sure you complete the contract and take the nonrefundable donation at the end of the visit. Send the contract and check to the P.O. box on the top of the contract immediately.
* The Humane Society of the United States recommends that homes with children under six years should not adopt animals under six months. Exceptions certainly can made. However, if you feel that the animal would be in jeopardy because of the behavior of any child (or adult for that matter), you may not want to approve the application for that animal. If you feel that the home is good but not for that particular cat/kitten, recommend another one (if you know of one specifically) or suggest they visit with us again to look for a more compatible animal.
* Explain the importance of keeping doors to the outside closed (possibly locked) so that no one can easily open a door and let the cat/kitten out. Some cats could care less about the great outdoors and others will find any way to escape.
* Observe how the resident animals are being cared for. Look at their food/water bowls. How clean are they? Look at bedding and toys. What condition are they in? You can assume that however current animals are being taken care of is how our cat/kitten will be cared for. Make sure the adopter meets our standards.
* For those people who have never had a cat, you may have to spend time helping them adjust to the idea of having an animal to care for. Are they prepared to make sure the cat/kitten gets plenty of exercise and human companion time? Are they ready to fit their animal’s needs into their schedule; i.e., how will the animal be cared for when the adopters go on vacation or business trips? Although cats can be left alone longer than dogs, they cannot be left alone for days on end.
* Are they ready to find fur on their furniture and clothes, hairballs on the sofa, scratch marks on their coffee table, dried flower arrangements chewed to pieces? Although none of this may happen, have they thought through what is more important to them – their belongings or the animal?
* Although most kittens are litter-boxed trained by the time they are 4-6 weeks of age, cats and kittens may have accidents the first few days in their new home or when they are ill. Are the applicants prepared to clean up after the animal?
* Do they have a separate room to confine the cat/kitten for at least the first few days (or longer depending on the presence of other animals in the household)?
* If the cat is being picked up at a show or the foster’s home, tell the applicant to bring a cat- approved carrier (either cardboard or molded plastic). Cardboard boxes not specifically designed as a cat carrier are inappropriate.
* Items to have on hand when the cat/kitten arrives:
* The cat/kitten may experience any one or several of the following reactions to moving into a new home. Remember, kitty needs time to adjust and transition from wherever he or she was living to this new environment.
* Are screen/storm doors locked? Are screens secure? Could kitty bat at the screen and go out the window with it?
* Make everyone in the family aware of the need for safety when entering or leaving the house. Children and adults both must use great care to make sure they know where the cat is when doors to the outside are being opened.
* Suggest keeping screen/storm doors locked so that if someone comes to your door and you open it, you know the screen/storm door is still closed.
* Are there hanging blinds, cords, etc., that kitty could hang him/herself on? Cut/untie the strings.
* Check all rooms for possible safety hazards. Cats, but more often kittens, will chew on electrical cords and lick outlets. Make sure adopter knows what hazards exist in his/her home and make sure those hazards are taken care of before placement.
* Other hazards include shopping bags with handles, plastic bags, plants (see handbook for extensive list), toxic substances in basement, kitchen, bathrooms (again, see handbook for extensive list).
* Suggest adopter kitten/cat proof one room to start out, a place where the cat/kitten can’t get into too much mischief. As the new arrival proves him or herself, give the feline more freedom.
* If possible, start the cat/kitten out on the same food he or she was eating in foster care and gradually change over to the food of choice if different.
* We are what we eat and that goes for our cats as well. High quality food does not have to be costly. Suggest that adopters read labels, compare brands. Become educated consumers. Let them know that they can add fresh vegetables and plain, low-fat yogurt to the cat’s diet and even home prepare cat food and treats.
* Cats generally sleep anywhere they want to! Make special places for your feline friend but don’t don’t be surprised to find him or her on your head at 2 a.m.!
* Is the cat allowed on your bed, is it okay for your cat to get up on other surfaces? The adopters must make a decision as a family what they want and then all family members must abide by those decisions. Consistency is critical.
* Adopters can buy scat mats to dissuade the cat from getting on specific surfaces, or use reverse sticky tape, or plastic runners with the nubby side up to keep cats off where they don’t want them.
* Discuss with adopter ways to train kitty to use proper scratching surfaces (cat trees, specially designed cat scratching boxes, pieces of carpet, etc.). Let adopter know that the pet stores sell products to cover corners of couches and chairs to protect them until kitty knows what’s right. Discuss using deterrents, i.e., squirting kitty when he or she scratches in the wrong place.
* Is the adopter going to clip claws? If so, they need to have the right tools.
* Is the adopter going to bathe the cat? What are the right shampoos for him or her?
* Different coat lengths might require different brushes. Suggest the right one for the cat’s grooming needs. Brushing is good for the skin and coat. Brushing every few days may be necessary. Brushing can be a “bonding” experience.
* Flea combs are not just for fleas. You can use the comb for grooming as well.
* Discuss with veterinarian flea products like Advantage, Program, Topspot, etc.
* Is the adopter ready to keep the cat up-to-date on shots and have yearly physical exams? Explain that magazines like CatFancy and groups like the Humane Society of the United States state that it costs between $300-500 a year to maintain a cat in food, litter, toys, bedding, and veterinary care. That figure does not include extraordinary vet care – only routine care.
* Recommend that the adopter regularly check the cat’s ears, eyes, claws, and anal and genital areas.
* Are adopters ready to clean their cat’s teeth? Cats need clean teeth just as much as we do. Use cat approved toothpaste and brush his or her teeth a few times each week.
* Make sure that all current cat residents have tested negative for feline leukemia and FIV before placing a new cat in the household and that all resident animals are current on vaccinations.
* Make sure all animals in the house are indoor animals; i.e., dogs are not left outside when no one is home and resident cats are not allowed outdoors without human supervision or to roam the neighborhood.
* Make sure that all resident animals are spayed/neutered (unless there is a medical reason the surgery cannot be done or the animal is not yet 6 months old).
* Make sure the adopter understands that he or she must spay/neuter the kitten by the date in contract if not already done.
* Let adopters know that it is their responsibility to contact animal control in their jurisdiction to license the cat (must have rabies certificate to do so).
* Recommend the adopter visit several clinics before choosing a veterinarian.
* Strongly suggest that adopter schedule a well-kitty appointment with their new family member. Make sure that the vet has all the animal’s records shortly after the adoption (let adopter know they will most probably receive those records at the time of adoption or in the mail several days to a week following the adoption).
* Why would you? Actually cats can be trained – do you think those cats in commercials hit their marks? If adopters are interested in training their cat, there are several books on the subject. Check out the library. If nothing else, a cat can be trained to respond to his or her name. Cats can also be trained to stay off surfaces, to scratch where appropriate, to fetch.