KITTENS

How to Adopt a Cat: Everything You Need to Know Before Bringing a New Cat Home

close-up of a cat in a shelter
Stella Noble
Written by Stella Noble

People used to think that there was something “wrong” with cats that end up in a shelter. Today, more and more are starting to realize that the main reason why these cats are waiting for someone to take them to a loving home is that their previous owner let them down. Cats in shelters are just as healthy and loving as the kittens available in pet shops or catteries.

Still, some prospective owners find the process of adopting a cat from shelters daunting. Don’t let fear of the unknown keep you from saving a life; learn all you need to know about how to adopt a cat here in this article.

If you are set on a particular breed of cat, chances are that you will find your furry bundle of joy in your neighborhood shelter. It’s unnerving how many cats of all breeds end up in shelters nowadays, and your helping hand is sorely needed. We know you want to make a difference, but the fact that the shelter staff will ask you questions about your lifestyle and housing conditions is the daunting part.

grumpy cat in a cage ready to be taken home from the shelter

You don’t want to fall in love with a cat just to be disappointed if the shelter considers you an unfit parent. Don’t worry; with our tips and tricks, you will breeze through the test and bring home the perfect cat for your household.

In this article, you will learn all the information you need to know on how to adopt a cat, how to prepare your house for a new household member, and how to introduce your family and pets to a new cat. If you’re still unsure of whether you should go to a shelter or a cattery instead, we will explain why it is important to open your home to a rescue kitty.

Why Should You Adopt a Rescue Cat?

Taking a shelter cat home will give her a new chance at life, and your kitty will have a lifetime to express her gratitude by being your special furry companion. Other than the obvious benefit of getting the loving that you need from a lifetime companion, here are the main reasons why you should adopt a cat:

Adoption Saves Lives

Did you know that every year approximately 3.2 million cats end up in shelters in the United States? And every year around 860,000 cats get euthanized because no one wanted to give them a second chance.

Image showing two cats in a shelter

These numbers are overwhelming, but it is important to let them sink in. We need to first get acquainted with the harsh truth before we can make a difference. Every adopted cat is one life saved. When you adopt a kitty, you get a real companion who will never forget that you are the reason why they have a chance at a new beginning.

Adoption Costs Less

If you are wondering how much adopting a cat can cost, and if you are worried that you wouldn’t be able to afford to get a cat, you’re in for a surprise. Depending on the shelter and the kind of treatments your kitty received, you can expect adoption fees ranging from $50 to $150. This is a lot lower than what you would have to spend to get your kitty from a breeder. Just for comparison, getting a cat from a reputable breeder can cost from $500 to $3000.

For symbolic adoption fee, you will get a cat who is already spayed/neutered, vaccinated, de-wormed and has a microchip. Some shelters will give additional vaccines and run tests for FIV and FeLV. In case you want to buy a cat, you will have to pay for all of these procedures, and they can be costly.

Two kittens in an animal shelter

Some people consider catteries because they are set on a particular breed of cat, and they think that only mixed breed cats end up for adoption. But that isn’t a case. It is estimated that 25% of cats who are living in shelters are purebred. That means that from the 3.2 million cats currently living in the shelters, 800,000 of them are purebred.

An additional thing to consider if you are on a tight budget: shelters often lower the adoption costs of cats who have smaller chances of getting adopted. Senior cats, cats with disabilities or health problems, and black cats will cost you even less to adopt. So even if you are set on adopting a kitten, don’t shy away if a senior cat catches your eye or it is love at first sight with that black cat with only a little spot of white on her paw.

It is the Humane Thing to Do

By adopting a cat, you’re not only giving her a second chance, but you also help with the problem of overpopulation. Spaying/neutering is mandatory for every cat that ends up in a shelter, and it is the only way to keep them from reproducing and bringing more homeless cats into the world.

Close-up of a cat in a shelter wanting to play with the photographer

But shelters can’t keep taking in new cats if the ones they currently have aren’t getting adopted. As it is, today there are more homeless cats than available homes to house them. Simply by adopting a cat, you are helping to alleviate a worldwide problem.

How to Adopt a Cat

Even though you are set on bringing a rescue cat home, you need to consider that you might not be a suitable candidate. That may seem strange because there are so many cats that are waiting to get adopted, but shelters have certain procedures to ensure that the cats who get adopted don’t end up in there again.

The main goals of rescue organizations and shelters are to pair their cats with new owners according to personality and lifestyle, and to ensure that every kitty gets a long-lasting home, and not suffer the stress of ending back in a shelter again. Usually, most shelters have the same rules regarding the adoption process, and it looks like this:

Step #1: Submit an Application

Simply choose a neighborhood shelter and apply a prospective cat adopter. You may be asked to provide some basic data such as your address, workplace, etc.

A person complete an application form

Afterwards, simply wait for the shelter to contact you to schedule an interview.

Step #2: The Interview

During the interview with the shelter’s counselor, you would need to answer some personal questions. Some people find this intruding, and it can often lead to giving up from the adoption process. But you should keep an open mind.

The interview is designed in a way that can help the shelter’s counselor get to know you and your living situation better. It is meant to help you find the cat who will have no trouble adapting to your lifestyle. These are some of the questions you can expect during the interview:

  • What is your housing situation? Do you own your home, or are you renting? What type of property do you have? Do you plan to move in the near future?

  • What is your family situation? Do you have kids? How many kids live in your household? Are your family members open to the idea of a new pet?

  • What is your experience as a pet owner and do you have any pets now? Do you know how to socialize a new cat with your other pets? What happened with your previous pets?

  • What is your work situation? Are you able to assume financial responsibility for a cat? What are your working hours? Would you have time to integrate your new kitty with your pets and family? Will your kitty spend too much time alone while you work?

  • What kind of lifestyle do you have? Do you travel much? Would you be able to take your cat with you? Are you in a relationship? How will a new kitty fit in?

  • Do you have a vet? If you have had pets before, you will need to provide the contact information of your veterinarian. If you don’t, the shelter staff will make a recommendation for a vet who will be able to provide good care for your kitty.

This procedure can be a little different depending on the organization. Some will do a more detailed background check on you, some will request to take a tour of your home to see if it is cat-friendly, and some will ask for a letter of recommendation from your neighbors or friends.

A woman with her cats after the adoption interview

You may think that those questions are overly personal and that there is no real need for them, but that’s not the case. Abandonment is the number one reason why animals end up in shelters, followed by strict landlords, financial problems, and lack of time due to work commitments.

Bearing that in mind, these questions are not designed to invade your personal life—they are the key in keeping an adopted cat in her new home for the rest of her life, and not back in the shelter after a few months.

Step #3: Choose the Cat You Want to Adopt

If everything is clear, the counselor will take you to see the available cats. The biggest mistake you can make is to fall in love with a cat just for her looks. Yes, we know how adorable cats are, but you need to consider their personality too.

Fluffy white cat in a shelter

You need to adopt one that will suit your personality and lifestyle. For example, taking home a kitten when you have a busy work schedule is bound to cause trouble. Kittens require a lot more attention than an adult cat which is already toilet trained.

And if you are not set on a particular breed or a cat of a particular age, we urge you to consider some of the cats that have fewer chances of getting adopted. Black cats, older cats with or without some conditions, and disabled cats really need your help. Being a senior citizen doesn’t mean that the cat won’t fit in perfectly with you and your family.

Group of kitten sitting in the same box in a shelter

Once you’ve found the right cat, all you have to do is pay the required fees, and the two of you will be home-free.  From personal experience, we know how hard it can be to choose one cat and leave the rest of them to wait for someone else to take home. It makes you wonder if there is anything else you can do—maybe take two of them home instead of one.

The best way to help is to spread the word about your great experience with cat shelters to other people to make them embark on this life-changing experience. Next, you’ll have to provide the best possible environment for the cat you choose.

Step #4: Introducing Your Rescue Cat to Her New Home

The day when you bring your rescue cat home is finally here, and there are certain things you should do to keep this transition less stressful for your new kitty.

  • Choose a room in which you will keep your kitty for the first couple of days until she gets used to her new environment. You can turn your bedroom into a safe room for your kitty. The transition from a cage to a new home can be overwhelming. If you have more pets, it is better to keep your new cat secluded until she gets used to you.

  • Equip the room with cat essentials such as the litter box, food and water bowls, and a cat bed.

  • Spend as much time as you can with your new arrival. Engage in play sessions if your cat is up for a little fun. Pet her as often as you can and talk to her with a soothing voice. That will let her know that she can relax with you.

  • After a couple of days, your kitty will start to explore your room. At that point, you can introduce her to the rest of your house. When you are introducing your family to a new cat, don’t introduce everyone at once. That can be overwhelming, and your kitty can get scared. If you own a dog, use a leash to restrict his movements when he is meeting your new cat.

Every cat is different, and no one can tell you exactly how long it will take for your rescued cat to settle into her new home. But be aware of small victories—the first time your kitty approaches you for a cuddle, or the day when she is ready to meet the rest of your family. Soon enough your cat will be completely relaxed in her new environment, and you will spend evenings together cuddling on the sofa.

Wrap Up

Many people go straight to the pet shop or a cattery whenever they think about getting a new addition for their family. It is a shame because so many cute cats in need of a new home are waiting for their fated person in animal shelters.

Ask yourself if you have enough time, energy, and financial means to bring a new feline home. If the answer is yes, consider adopting instead of buying a cat. All the kitties that are waiting to be adopted are healthy and loving; some of them are even house-trained.

Black and white picture of a cat looking at the camera

Shelters are full of cats of all shapes and sizes—that means you will certainly find the right companion for you and in that process, you will save a cat’s life. Added bonuses of adoption are that it costs less and that you don’t have to spend a lot of money for vet bills right away. By opening your heart to a rescued cat, you may also be saved in the process.

Many shelters and rescue organization have all of the necessary information to prepare you for the adoption process on their websites, so it isn’t scary at all. Just be honest with shelter staff and yourself, and you will have a rescue cat in your home in no time.

If you already have adopted cats, share your story with us and our readers in the comment section below. Maybe your story will encourage someone to give a second chance to one or more cats that are waiting to be adopted.

About the author
Stella Noble
Stella Noble

Stella Noble lives in Warren, Michigan with her family and three cats. She is a Certified Cat Trainer and a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants.

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