How To Adopt a Cat - Cat Info Detective

How To Adopt a Cat

Skye Blake-updated, white background

Hi there, Skye Blake here. Thinking about adopting a cat or some kittens? How do you do it? What’s the process like? Is it expensive?

Let’s discover what you need to know to adopt the right kitty for you and your family…

paw prints coming in from a distance

Who Is Skye Blake?

Skye Blake-updated, white background

I’m a curious cat researcher (not a veterinarian) who sniffs out expert, reliable sources about cats, reviews their information, then passes it on to you!

Sometimes there’s not enough evidence for easy answers, so you’ll see claims from all sides, along with explanations given as thoroughly and clearly as possible, linking you to experts on each page. 

All sources are given at the bottom of each page so you can do more snooping. 

How Do I Get Ready to Adopt a Cat?

stray cat on rocks by a tire

If you’re interested in adopting a stray or rescued kitty, there are things you should know before deciding what to do.

If you’re not experienced in caring for a cat, prepare before going to a shelter or rescue (or getting one from your neighbor).

Think about your lifestyle…

What Do You Want?

man sharing cantaloupe with kittens
  • high energy bouncy kitten climbing the curtains?
  • quiet senior cat curled up contentedly in your lap?
  • talkative attention seeker?
cat with eyes closed
  • shy wallflower needing extra patience?
  • special needs cat who takes daily thyroid pills or insulin injections?

Questions You Should Answer

2 cats hanging out together, friends
  • Do you have time to play with them and care for their needs? Are you away often?
vet removing cat from carrier

These are just a few things you’ll need to think through before making any decisions.

You’re Ready to Adopt – Now What?

dark tabby cat on cat tree looking down

So, you’ve answered these questions and want to adopt the right cat (or two) for you and your family.

Where Do You Go?

graphic of dogs in cages-adopt, shelter, rescue

There are any number of places you can go to find cats and kittens.

Here are some options…

Your Local Shelter or Rescues
dark tabby at shelter on cat tree

Local shelters and rescues are often a great way of finding the right cat for you.

You can meet the cats first before choosing and the adoption counselors usually will ask questions to help find the right match.

Some rescues also bring cats to PetSmart®, Petco®, and other pet-related businesses so the public can see and adopt them.

pet adoption center, store

Adopting from a local shelter or rescue is a great way to support their work.

You can also volunteer, foster, and/or donate to help them.

It’s worthwhile to evaluate (“vet”) any rescue or shelter to be sure they’re properly run and not a hoarding or other bad situation.

You can use this handy form…

Craigslist & Social Media
social media icons

Craigslist and social media sites often have sections for available pets, but you don’t know who you’re dealing with or the health of the cat.

The main concerns with these unvetted sources are…

3 kittens in a basket
  • dealing with an irresponsible “backyard breeder”
  • getting a sick or unsocialized cat
  • getting a stolen cat
white cat stretching front legs

Some people charge a small adoption fee to weed out dog fighters who want to use cats for bait and others who might want to hurt them.

This is appropriate, but if it’s more than a nominal amount (say, $25-$50), be suspicious of an irresponsible breeder.

This especially true if the cats are being sold as “purebred” at a “bargain” price.

persian cat-white facing forward

This is a way unscrupulous breeders can dump sick or defective kittens and cats and make some money doing it.

There are legitimate, reliable breeders who post on social media, so don’t count someone out simply because they’re on social media.

Just be sure they truly are legitimate.

Tabby, white cat playing

You can also find specific breed rescue groups on Facebook, which can be a good source for adopting various breeds, such as Burmese, Persian, Siamese, Sphynx, and so many others.

Rescue groups and shelters also have social media accounts, and again, they should be vetted properly before assuming they’re good sources.

If you’re willing to handle the unknown and have some experience with cats, this can be a way to help somebody place a needy cat.

Petfinder® & Adopt-a-Pet
tabby Maine Coon cat stretching front legs

Two popular internet sites for finding adoptable pets are Petfinder® and Adopt-a-Pet.

Shelters and rescues post information on these sites about the cats, dogs and other critters available so millions of people can see them.

You can contact the shelters and rescues directly from these sites if you wish to pursue an adoption.

cats sitting on piano keyboard-music

Adopt-a-Pet also helps pet owners find new homes for their pets so they don’t have to go to shelters.

Both of these sites are chock full of helpful information and have plenty of kitties available for adoption.

What’s the Adoption Process Like?

insurance contract

When figuring out how to adopt a cat, a major cause of confusion is the adoption process.

This can range from someone handing you a free cat in a parking lot to filling out loads of paperwork, passing a background check, and paying a hefty adoption fee.

Shelters and rescues typically require you to start the process either online or in person.

tabby kitten on top of barrel

They tell you upfront what fees are involved.

You’ll fill out basic information about how to contact you, set up an appointment to meet with them and greet the animals.

Many also require information about your lifestyle, interests, what characteristics you’re looking for in a cat, and tell you the adoption fee.

dog's paw in person's hand - animal rescue, shelter

Those in charge of shelters and rescues have a legal responsibility, as well as investing a lot financially and emotionally in caring for these animals.

Unfortunately, some aren’t as good with people as others and can make you feel like you’re being interrogated as a criminal suspect.

In that case, you’ll have to decide if you want to put up with it to get the cat you want or go to a friendlier shelter or rescue.

Mother tabby cat licking kitten

But overall, they do their best to properly match you with a pet that fits your temperament and lifestyle, as well as be sure you’ll be a responsible pet owner.

Experience has taught them this helps keep cats from being returned and makes cat owners happy.

A veterinarian reference is usually required, but if you don’t have one yet, you can tell them who you plan to use.

What’s In An Adoption Fee?

roll of money, bills

There are big differences in adoption fees among various rescues and shelters.

Fees usually are designed to help cover costs of care and relate to…

  • type of pet you’re adopting (dog, cat, horse, rabbit, etc.)
  • age of the pet (kitten/puppy, adult, senior)
White cat with one blue, one gold eye, licking paws
  • amount of vet care invested in the animal (exam, vaccinations, deworming, microchipping, spay/neuter, sick animal care, etc.)
  • popularity of the type, age, and medical condition of the pet
  • general expenses of the shelter/rescue for the animal’s care
Mother cat and 3 kittens

You’ll find that most of the time, puppies and kittens are more expensive than adult dogs and cats.

Seniors and special needs cats usually have discounted fees or even can have fees waived for the right adopter because they’re harder to place.

Before you choke on paying $300+ to adopt a cat or dog, consider the value you’re getting.

tabby cat yawning with tuxedo cat

Shelters and rescues usually pay significantly more than that for the animal’s care, including medical bills, food, litter and shelter.

They depend on donations to make up the difference between adoption fees and their operating costs.

Let’s compare what you get in an adoption fee to what you get for a “free” cat.

The Shelter/Rescue Cat

Adoption sign-rescue
  • has already gone to the vet
  • been dewormed
  • gotten all vaccinations
cat at adoption fair-rescue
  • helped with any medical conditions
  • is spayed or neutered
  • microchipped
  • often comes with food, a litter box and litter
black cat sitting in grass

The “free” cat…

  • probably has not been examined by a vet unless the person gives you medical records/receipts that you can verify
  • might have a number of different diseases, injuries or conditions, not necessarily visible
ginger, orange tabby cat scratching ear
  • might have worms, fleas and/or ticks
  • probably not microchipped
  • sometimes comes with food, litter box and litter
  • if you’re paying more than a small amount, it could be a bait-and-switch
tuxedo kitten showing tummy, napping

Your “free” cat can end up costing you a lot of money in vet bills.

Something to consider when deciding how to proceed with adopting a cat.

Discover

tuxedo cat in shelter cage

Discover things you need to know about rescues and shelters at “Cat Rescue & Adoption“.

You’ll find info like…

Wet stray black & white cat looking around a corner
  • What rescues and shelters do
  • How you can help
  • How to find them in your area
  • TNR (Trap-Neuter-Return, a.k.a., Trap-Neuter-Release)
tabby, white cat putting paw in coffee mug

Which shelters and rescues do you like?

Contact Skye and let us know what city you live in, what shelters/rescues you like and why.

We can help fellow felines find homes to rule!

In the meantime, we’ll keep tracking clues…

paw prints coming in from a distance

Sources

Sources used on this website are either primary or secondary.

Primary sources are always preferable and have the most reliable information because they’re original and directly referenced.

Scientific abstracts and data are good examples of primary sources.

Secondary sources are weaker because they usually consist of opinions or articles that give no sources of their own.

So, sometimes they refer to primary sources.

When I use secondary sources, most are those with some authority, such as veterinarian or cat behaviorist books and articles.

List of Sources

13 Most Inspiring Animal Welfare Organizations“, Dog Product Picker, December 13, 2021

30 Great Animal Organizations Worthy of Your Donations 2020” – Best Choice Reviews

501c3Lookup.org – U.S. IRS 501(c)(3) Non-profit List

A-B

Adopting a Pet From a Rescue (And Why the Rules Sometimes Seem Wacky)” – Petful

Animal Shelters & Rescues for Pet Adoption“, Petfinder

Animal Shelters & Rescues Work Together“, Best Friends Animal Society

Animal Shelter and Rescue Program“, Mass.gov

Animal Welfare Act Quick Reference Guides“, Animal Welfare Information Center, NAL, USDA

“ASPCA Grants“, ASPCA

Behavioral Assessment in Animal Shelters” by Sheila Segurson D’Arpino, DVM, DACVB (maddiesfund.org), 2007

C-G

Cat Rescue Groups | Life Saving Organizations and Resources” (cat-lovers-only.com)

Charity Navigator – Advanced Search

Choosing a Reputable Rescue Group” – RedRover

“Facility Design, Shelter Animal Housing and Shelter Population Management“, Library – University of Wisconsin-Madison Shelter Medicine Program (uwsheltermedicine.com)

Game Changer Celebrates Facility’s 50,000th Spay-Neuter“, Analysis by Dr. Karen Shaw Becker, Mercola, January 21, 2021

Game Changer Wants to End Pet Homelessness and Suffering (mercola.com)“, Analysis by Dr. Karen Shaw Becker, February 25, 2021

H-R

How to Start a Rescue or Other Animal Nonprofit” (bestfriends.org)

The Importance of Animal Shelters“, Richell USA, November 25, 2019

Laws Regulating Rescue and Foster Care Programs for Companion Animals“, Animal Legal & Historical Center (animallaw.info)

NYC Pet Adoption Guide: Animal Shelters For Dogs And Cats” – CBS New York (cbslocal.com)

Original Purpose of Animal ‘Control’ Shelters, that you might not know” by Donna, bostonterriernetwork.com

Position Statement on Responsibilities of Animal Shelters“, ASPCA

Rescue Bank” (greatergood.org)

Rescue Best Practice Guide” (humanepro.org)

Rescue or Rotten?” – Catwatch Newsletter

S-Z

Shelter/Rescue Transport Programs” – Animal Shelter, Inc. of Sterling (sterlingshelter.org)

Shelter Resources“, Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine

Shelters and rescues FAQ“, The Humane Society of the United States

Starting A Pet-Adoption Organization“, Petfinder

Understanding Your Local Government & Animal Control Information for Cats” (alleycat.org)

“What Is Hoarding Disorder?” (psychiatry.org)

Updated April 5, 2024

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