Considering cat adoption? Congratulations – adopting a cat is incredibly rewarding. Not only will you be providing care and shelter for an animal that desperately needs it, but their companionship will bring plenty of joy to your life as well.
Animal shelters around the world deal with overcrowding, which makes it difficult for them to effectively care for each individual cat. When a cat is in the shelter for a long period of time, they’re more likely to experience health issues and may feel stressed.
When you adopt a cat, you’re giving them a chance at a happier, healthier life.
Having a cat at home can also help you feel happier. Studies have shown that pet owners feel less stressed and are less likely to deal with anxiety and depression. Pet owners may also have better self-esteem, are less likely to suffer with substance abuse, and have better cardiovascular health.
Since mental and physical health are connected, reduced stress levels can also reduce your chances of experiencing chronic health conditions.
Before you adopt a cat, it’s important to make sure you’re equipped to properly take care of them. In this guide, we’ll cover many important aspects of cat adoption to help you determine whether you’re ready for a new pet.
What This Article Will Cover
What to Consider Before You Adopt
While cats make wonderful pets, they aren’t for everyone. It’s important to make sure you’re in a good position both financially and emotionally before you head to the shelter. Here are some important questions to ask yourself before adopting a cat.
Is your lifestyle suitable for a cat?
Not every lifestyle is cat-friendly. You’ll need to make sure you have enough time and energy to take care of your cat. While cats are much more self-sufficient than dogs, they’ll still need plenty of affection and playtime. You’ll still need to feed and water them twice daily, clean out their litter tray, and give them some companionship.
If you work long hours or travel frequently, you may not have enough time to care for a cat. In addition, cats thrive in stable environments as they’re easily stressed by changes in their routine. If your life is hectic or you suddenly get called away on business a lot, adopting a cat may not be for you.
What kind of home do you have?
It’s important that your space is suitable for an animal. While cats don’t need a particularly large home, it’s important that you have enough space for them to relax and play. If you live in a tiny studio apartment, things may start to feel cramped once you introduce a cat. However, cats don’t always need outdoor access- we’ll explain more in the next point.
Will your cat be an indoor or outdoor cat?
This will depend on the area you live in as well as your cat’s temperament. If you live in a rural or suburban area, your cat may enjoy getting to roam outside. However, if you live in an urban area, it will likely be safer for your cat to stay inside.
There are also modern options such as attaching an outdoor run to the house (known as a ‘catio‘), cat-proofing your garden to prevent escape, or walking your cat on a harness and lead to allow them to experience the outdoors safely.
If you’re going to be letting your cat outside, it’s extremely important to have them neutered, not only to avoid unwanted pregnancy but because being unneutered may increase your cat’s chances of being in a road accident.
You’ll also need to ensure they’re vaccinated.
It’s important to note that outdoor cats are far more susceptible to illness or injury that could shorten their lifespan. On the flip side, though, indoor cats are more prone to stress, urinary disease, and obesity.
What are you looking for in a pet?
Knowing what type of cat you want can help you narrow down your options at the animal shelter. Do you want a quiet, shy cat or would you prefer an animal with a more energetic, extroverted personality?
Keep in mind that cats living in shelters often feel stressed, so you may not get a full feel for their personality until you’ve lived with them for a few days.
Are there any other people or pets in your household?
It’s important to make sure that everyone else in your home is comfortable adopting a cat. If you’re living with children, you’ll need to get a cat that’s relatively patient and laid-back.
If you have other pets in the house, you’ll need to make sure that they have the right temperament to adjust to a new pet.
You’ll also need to find a cat that does well with other animals- the shelter may be able to test your cat’s temperament with other animals if asked. Many shelters will also let you take a cat for a week or two on a trial basis (sometimes called ‘fostering to adopt’) to check the cat will settle in before a decision is made.
Who will take care of your cat when you are out of town?
You’ll need to make sure you have a support system who can take care of your cat when you go on vacations or business trips. If you don’t have family members or roommates living with you, neighbors or friends living nearby might be willing to catsit for you.
If this isn’t an option, make sure you have the funds to hire a professional catsitter or take your cat to a boarding house.
Kitten vs. Adult Cat: Which is Right For You?
One of the biggest decisions you’ll need to make during the adoption process is whether you want to adopt a kitten or an adult cat. There are advantages and disadvantages to either approach, and ultimately you’ll need to choose a pet that fits your lifestyle.
The advantage of adopting a kitten is that you get to develop a bond with them from the beginning of their life. Young kittens are not only adorable, but they’re also very energetic and fun to play with.
However, kittens require a lot more attention than adult cats, and they can be destructive.
Kittens need to be trained to use the litter tray, and anything else you want them to learn. They also need to go to the vet frequently for check ups and shots, so you’ll need time during the day to attend to this as well as the extra funds for one-off treatments they need at this time such as neutering and microchipping.
Adult cats, on the other hand, are much more relaxed and self-sufficient. This means they will require less direct attention from you. They already know how to use the litter box, and are less likely to scratch and chew on your furniture and clothing.
Most shelters will have neutered and microchipped your cat so they can be cheaper to adopt in the long run.
Adult cats are also less likely to be adopted from the shelter, so you’ll be providing an at-risk pet with a good home. It is important to note that you won’t know exactly what happened in their past. Because of this, you’ll need to watch for signs of previous abuse and provide plenty of emotional support.
Older adult cats may also have chronic health conditions that need ongoing care, so it’s important to discuss this with the shelter and ensure you’re prepared emotionally and financially.
Should I Adopt Multiple Cats?
Some cats do better with a companion, particularly if they are still young, or if they have been taken to the shelter as a ‘bonded pair’- cats that are completely relaxed in one another’s company and groom one another. If this is the case, it’s generally best to adopt both cats, as they’ll definitely miss their companion otherwise.
If you’re getting a kitten, it can be a good idea to adopt two- they’ll have someone to play and cuddle with when you’re not around. However, cats are highly territorial and most prefer to have their own territory.
Whilst cats can co-exist, it’s often a strained relationship unless they become a bonded pair.
You also need to remember that two cats require twice as much attention and cost twice as much to support – you should budget twice as much for food, toys, litter, insurance, and veterinary care.
Keeping the peace in a multi-cat household can be difficult.
If you already have cats at home, you’ll need to be very cautious when introducing a new cat to the family. While some cats do better with some companionship, they can also get quite territorial. Be realistic about how many animals you can properly care for.
Where Should I Adopt My Cat?
There are many different organizations that help cats find loving homes. It’s important to make sure you adopt your cat from a reputable organization that treats their animals well.
Here are the some of the places where you can adopt a cat, and the advantages and disadvantages of adopting from each.
There are two types of animal shelters – municipal shelters, which are run by the government, and private shelters, which are usually run by non-profit organizations. Some shelters euthanize cats after a certain period of time to prevent overcrowding, while no-kill shelters will give their cat a home for as long as they need it.
Animal shelters do not sell cats, but they do charge reasonable adoption fees for their cats. These adoption fees help keep the shelter running. Some animal shelters also provide veterinary care for cats prior to adoption, including spay and neuter surgeries as well as vaccines, so your adoption fee helps to pay for the veterinary care the cat has received.
Rescue groups operate with the goal of providing local cats with the care they need and connecting them with forever homes. Instead of housing them in a shelter, rescue organizations place cats with foster families, who take care of them until they are adopted.
When adopting from a rescue organization, check to make sure that they have been providing the cats with regular veterinary care. Some of these rescues are breed-specific and are a good place to go if you are looking for a purebred cat.
As with shelters, rescue organizations charge adoption fees. These fees can vary depending on the individual organization. As they’re smaller, cat rescues can sometimes be more flexible, providing you with foster-to-adopt options or helping you with cat care when you are out of town.
Local and national pet stores often have cats available for adoption. Many partner with nearby shelters and rescue organizations, but some get their cats from breeders.
It’s important to do your research and find out where your pet store is getting their cats before you adopt. Whilst there’s nothing inherently wrong with buying from a breeder through a pet store, you will encourage further breeding of cats rather than rescuing a cat that needs a home.
Adopting from a pet store is generally more expensive than adopting from a shelter. You’ll need to be wary of pet stores that focus more on making money than the well-being of their animals.
Many shelters, rescue organizations, and pet stores post profiles of adoptable cats on their websites. This is a good place to browse and see if there are any cats that really catch your eye. Of course, it’s always best to meet the cat in person before you finalize the adoption.
Before adopting a cat, research the organization in-depth to learn more about their practices. You should always avoid adopting from kitten mills, which breed cats purely to make money, without much regard for the health and safety of the cat. You should also be on the lookout for adoption scammers online.
What To Look For In A Cat
When choosing a cat from the shelter, you’ll need to decide what kind of personality you want in a pet. You’ll need to make sure that your personalities are a good match. If you’re social, you may want an extroverted cat with lots of energy to match you. If you’re introverted, you might prefer a quiet, relaxed cat to snuggle up with.
When meeting cats, look for one that is comfortable and active around people. A cat who is comfortable socializing will have an easier transition into your home.
Keep in mind that many cats are shy at first, and may need some time to warm up to the people around them.
There’s also something special about taking the time to allow a shy cat to come out of his shell.
Look for a cat that has got bright, clean eyes and thick, shiny fur, as these are good indications of their health, although don’t let any problems put you off – you can always talk to the shelter about any health problems. Keep in mind that cats with chronic health conditions will need ongoing veterinary care and more attention at home.
Questions To Ask The Animal Shelter
Before finalizing any adoption, you’ll want to talk to the shelter staff to learn more about the cat’s health and behavior. Here are some key questions to ask when adopting a cat.
What have you observed about the cat’s health and behavior?
These observations can help you better care for the cat and avoid any surprises when you finally bring them home. The cat’s shelter staff and foster parents can recommend appropriate toys, food, and care strategies based on their experiences with the animal.
What veterinary care has the cat received?
If your cat hasn’t yet been spayed or neutered, received their vaccines, or received dental care, you’ll need to take care of these important healthcare procedures on your own. Having this information ahead of time can help you budget for future veterinary appointments.
What is the adoption process?
Every organization has their own unique procedure for cat adoption. Some will allow you to take the cat home right away, while other shelters may require a more in-depth screening process to find the right forever home, including a home visit and a wait period to prove the adoption isn’t a spontaneous, poorly-thought-through one. Some shelters will also perform a mandatory spay or neuter surgery before they let you take the cat home.
Are there any adoption fees?
The cost of adopting a cat can vary between organizations, so be sure to confirm the fees with the staff before finalizing your adoption. Some shelters offer promotions with lower adoption fees during certain times of the year.
Is there a return policy?
While you likely aren’t anticipating having to take your cat back to the shelter, it’s important to be prepared just in case. Some shelters and rescue groups have mandated trial periods before the adoption is final. Some will ask that you always return the cat, even many years down the line, if you can’t look after them anymore.
Inside The Adoption Process
What To Expect
If you’ve never adopted a cat before, you may be wondering what to expect when you go to adopt a cat. The shelter or rescue group will usually start by having you fill out a few forms. These forms will ask questions about your lifestyle to confirm that you can comfortably take care of a cat.
Some organizations may also want to have a phone call or video interview with you before you come to meet the cat in person. If this interview goes well and your forms are approved, you will then schedule a meet and greet with the cat.
Most shelters will allow you to schedule meet and greets with several cats so you can choose the best one for you.
Once you’ve met the cat you would like to take home, you’ll need to sign an adoption contract. These vary by organization, but generally certify that you will provide appropriate care for the animal and provide other details necessary to legally finalize the adoption. You will usually need to pay an adoption fee, which varies shelter-to-shelter.
Some shelters have a waiting period before you can take the cat home – many require a final check-up or even a spay/neuter surgery before adoption. You may also be required to do a home check. After everything is finalized, you will be able to take the cat home with you.
How Can I Prepare For Adoption Day?
You and your family will need to prepare before you bring your furry friend home with you. Make sure everyone in your home knows how to safely interact with the cat – this is particularly important if you have children.
If you have other animals at home, have a plan to introduce them safely. This may require you to keep your new cat in their own room for a while and gradually introduce them to the rest of the house.
The next step is to develop a budget for pet care. Make a list of all cat-related expenses you expect to incur, such as food, litter, toys, grooming tools, vet care, and more. Review your finances and make sure you can afford these extra expenses before proceeding with the adoption.
Now is also a good time to find a local vet. If you’ve never chosen a vet before, take your time to find one you trust, as your vet will be a critical partner in caring for your cat. Check what your vet’s protocols for emergencies are- some will require you to go elsewhere, so if this is the case you should familiarise yourself with the location of your emergency clinic as well.
Schedule an initial check-up within the first week of adoption to make sure your cat is healthy and develop a care plan going forward.
You may also want to consider taking out pet insurance. Pet insurance requires ongoing monthly payments or an annual premium, but covers unexpected hospital stays and vet care should your cat need it. Whilst pet insurance isn’t mandatory to adopt an animal, many shelters will ask that you have a plan for unexpected medical bills in place before adopting from them, as lack of funds is a common reason for cats to be surrendered to shelters.
Ideally, you should have a plan to get hold of $3000 immediately to cover many eventualities, although some insurance policies will cover as much as $15000 to give you complete peace of mind.
Must-Have Cat Supplies To Stock Up On
A trip to the pet store will be in order to get food and other supplies for your cat. Here’s what you should make sure to pick up before you bring your new cat home.
To ensure your cat is getting everything they need, look for food that is labelled as ‘complete and balanced’ and has the AAFCO statement to indicate it contains the nutrients required for a particular life stage. Make sure the food you choose is age-appropriate, as kittens have different nutritional needs than adult cats.
You can choose wet or dry food, or both- most cat owners choose a combination to give their cats extra variety. It’s worth finding out what food your cat has been receiving in the shelter and buying a bag of this so that you can transition them slowly onto your preferred diet rather than shock their intestines with the change.
Food and water bowls
You will need food and water bowls for your new cat. Ideally, you should choose ceramic or glass bowls- they may be less likely to cause feline acne. Avoid the bowls that hold both the food and the water together- cats generally prefer to eat away from where they drink. A flat, wide water dish is generally best, as cats don’t like their whiskers to touch the sides. A pet water fountain can be very useful to encourage cats to drink more water.
Litter and litter box
Look for a setup that is easy to clean and neutralizes odors. You should also make sure your litter box is an appropriate size for your cat. Try to find out what sort of litter your cat used at the shelter at first to minimise the chances of an accident.
One common mistake that new owners make is not to have enough litter boxes – you should have one per cat, plus one spare.
Therefore, if you have one cat you should have two boxes; if you have two cats you should have three boxes, and so on.
Get a few different types of toys to see what kind of stimulation your cat enjoys most. The shelter staff may be able to help you find out what your cat has shown most interest in.
Cat furniture/scratching post
A scratching post will give your kitty a healthy place to sharpen their claws and prevent them from damaging your furniture. A good scratching post will be tall enough for your cat to stretch out fully- 3′ is generally a minimum. They should also be stable enough not to tip over when being used.
Cats also enjoy being up high and will enjoy a cat tree that gives them a good vantage point.
Cats love to stay warm, so your new pet will really appreciate having a soft place to sleep. Radiator beds always seem to be a favourite!
If you have a shorthaired cat, you won’t need to do much grooming unless they are unable to do it themselves. Nail clippers are a must, though! For long-haired cats, daily brushing is important, so find a couple of different brushes and combs to help keep them matt-free.
You’ll need this to take your pet to and from the vet comfortably. Not all carriers are created equal- try to find one large enough for your cat, that’s easy to clean, and has a detachable lid for easy access at the vet’s.
Prepping Your Home For Your New Cat
Before you bring your cat home, you’ll need to make some changes to your space to ensure that it is safe. Keep in mind that your cat will likely be overwhelmed in the beginning as they adjust to a new environment.
Designate a small sanctuary area just for them – a bathroom, laundry room, or small bedroom works well. This will help them to acclimate and reduce their stress levels. Make sure there’s somewhere your cat can hide whilst they come to terms with their new living area.
After a day or two, your cat will likely be ready to explore the rest of the house. When setting up their space, ensure that their food and water are placed away from the litter box. Cats don’t enjoy having the smell of the litter box nearby while they are eating.
Set up your cat furniture in an accessible place, making sure they have a good vantage point, places to scratch, and places to hide.
In the beginning, you’ll want to keep your cat away from other animals or young children, as this can be stressful. Over time, introduce your cat to others in small doses.
You’ll also need to make sure your home is cat-proof. Tape down any loose cords that your cat could climb or chew on. Move any fragile items that your cat could knock over, and keep food out of reach.
Don’t use any cleaning products that could be toxic to cats, and remove any plants that are dangerous for them. You’ll also want to make sure your air ducts are covered and that you don’t leave windows or doors open.
Even if you eventually intend your cat to be allowed outdoors, they need time to get used to their new home first.
Interacting and Bonding With Your Cat
Be gentle with your cat for the first few days as they get used to you. Depending on your cat’s personality, they may need time to build trust before you can hold them or play with them.
Let your cat explore the house at their own pace – don’t push them into a stressful situation before they are ready. Check in on them regularly, and just sit in the same room with them to help them get used to you.
When your cat is stressed, talk to them in a slow, soothing voice to calm them down. Don’t make any sudden moves.
Once your cat starts to become comfortable with your presence, you can play with them and show more physical affection. Start with gentle petting and work your way up to holding and snuggling with your cat.
Keep in mind that some cats are more protective of their personal space than others. It’s also important to play with them regularly. Playing is an important bonding activity that helps keep your cat physically and mentally active.
As your cat adjusts to your home, it’s important to positively reinforce good behavior. Give them praise and affection when they eat their food, use the litter box correctly, and play with their toys.
However, avoid punishing your cat for bad behavior. For example, if your cat is scratching on the couch or lounging on the dinner table, just pick them up and move them away.
Avoid yelling or other forms of punishment, as the cat won’t understand this behavior and may feel stressed out.
Your cat will understand that you’re angry, but not why – leading to more stress, and more bad behavior.
How To Keep Your Cat From Getting Bored
Keeping your cat stimulated is very important for both their physical and mental health. When cats get bored, they can get destructive and stressed. Here are some tips to help prevent your cat from getting bored throughout the day.
Make sure your cat can easily look out the window
They love watching birds, squirrels, and other critters outside. If you can, get a bird feeder and put it outside your window – your cat will be thrilled to watch the birds fly by.
Invest in puzzle toys for your cat to play with while you are out of the house. These toys have space to put treats in the middle, which your cat can ‘unlock’ by playing.
You can also place catnip toys and small balls throughout the house for your cat to find and play with. It’s a good idea not to leave all of your cat’s toys out at once, as they can become bored with them. Instead, hide some away and rotate them out so there’s always something ‘new’ to play with.
Make sure your cat has plenty of space to explore. Cat trees are great for preventing boredom because they make it easy for your cat to get up high. Boxes and other hiding spaces are also fun for cats to play in.
If you work outside the home, set aside time to play and snuggle with your cat in the morning and evening. This bonding time will help prevent your cat from getting bored.
What To Do If Issues Arise
For the first few months, monitor your cat closely for any health or behavioral issues. Make sure you have a vet you trust, and don’t hesitate to call them if you run into any issues.
It’s common for cats to pick up feline flu or other health issues in the shelter, which is why it’s so important to get your cat a check up once you adopt them.
If your cat is being aggressive to other animals or people in the house, it is likely because they are stressed.
Try to identify what is triggering the stress so you can remove it. Your cat may need more personal space, stimulation, or affection. Sometimes aggression can be triggered by loud noises or movement – things that you can easily prevent.
Another common problem is urinating outside the litter box. If this happens, make sure you are cleaning the box regularly, and that you have enough litter boxes for every cat in your home. Some cats are picky about their litter, so consider trying a different brand. Bullying and other causes of stress can cause urine problems, so it’s best to talk to your vet early to help determine what’s wrong.
Cats love to scratch, but you probably don’t want them scratching on your furniture. Make sure they have easily accessible scratching posts.
If you find that your cat is scratching the same furniture items over and over, try using a pheromonal spray to deter them. Scratching is often also a sign of stress – and again, you should contact your vet sooner rather than later if you’re struggling with cats scratching the furniture.
Adopting a cat is an incredibly rewarding and worthwhile thing to do. Cats are very affectionate and entertaining pets that can bring so much joy to your life.
There is so much satisfaction in providing an animal with the love and care that they need to survive. Additionally, having a cat can help reduce feelings of depression and loneliness.
Before adopting, it’s important to prepare your home and make sure you’re really ready to take care of a cat. Just a few simple changes can make your home cat-ready. Luckily, cats vary widely in terms of their needs and personalities, so it won’t be difficult to find a cat that is a great fit for your home!