A Complete Guide to Adopting a Cat

Adopting a Cat from a Shelter  

Millions of cats and dogs live in shelters and can only dream of finding a loving home. You can be the hero that changes someone’s life. Adopting a cat from a shelter or rescue gives them a chance at a new life, one filled with love.

According to the ASPCA, about 3.2 million cats and 3.1 million dogs enter America’s animal shelters each year. That’s a total of 6.3 million companion animals going to a shelter every year. While the total number of animals who have entered shelters has decreased since 2011’s peak of 7.2 million, the number of cats has sadly remained the same.

While the total number of animals who have entered shelters has decreased since 2011's peak of 7.2 million, the number of cats has sadly remained the same. Click To Tweet

About 810,000 of these animals will reunite with their human families but nearly all those who go home, however, are dogs. Of the animals that remain in the shelter, roughly 530,000 cats and 390,000 dogs are euthanized each year.

How Much Does Adopting a Cat Cost?

We’ve all seen the “free kittens” signs advertised but what does that really mean? Typically, when you see a “free kittens” sign it’s a good bet that the kittens have received no veterinary care. Kittens need to be dewormed, vaccinated, and all sorts of preventative care to make sure they are healthy and ready to be adopted.

Many people who give away free kittens do so before the kittens are old enough to be going to a new home. Kittens need to be eating independently before becoming adopted by a family and may go into a dangerous situation if the new home is unable to provide them proper care. Lastly, free kittens most certainly are not sterilized and could be going into a home where they will not be spayed or neutered, which will just perpetuate the endless cycle of accidental pregnancies with the already inflated cat population.

Adopting a cat from a shelter or rescue is a much safer way to go to ensure the cat has been properly cared for and is healthy. There are two important things that happens when adopting a cat from a shelter. They spend time vetting the kitten and vetting the adopter. That means preventative care is provided to the kittens which sets them up for success.

Adoption fees can range from $100-$300 depending on where you live and the organization. Some adoption fees are sponsored if someone has helped by donating the cost adoption, which is something we do often. We feel strongly that all cats deserve a chance at a loving home so we commit a portion of our proceeds from Scoop Buddy to support cats and rescues in need.

Adopting a Cat for the First Time?

One of the first things you should consider if you’re adopting a cat, is the age of the animal. Adopting a cat versus a kitten has very different responsibilities and needs as a cat parent. If you have a busy household with small children in the home, consider how your new cat will adjust. Small children need to be taught how to properly care for an animal and may be too rough just out of sheer excitement. For more information about helping your cat adjust, check out our 12 Tips to Prepare Your Cat for the New Baby.

Don’t let the age of a cat fool you, an adult cat still has plenty of energy too.  Depending on the breed, adult cats may also need a lot of social interaction and intensive play. A senior cat may be the right choice for a quieter household that does not have a lot of activity; a super busy atmosphere may be overwhelming to an older kitty. Be aware of any health concerns that may need medication to make sure that fits in your budget.  There is always the option of having pet insurance as well to help alleviate big costs associated with proper care.

rescue cat

What to Know Before Adopting a Cat

If you already have pets at home, spend some time thinking of how best to introduce the newly adopted cat. Slow and steady is always a good option. Consider if your current dog or cat will be welcoming to a new sibling. Even if your animal loves other pets, you’ll want to introduce the two of them slowly and really give it some thought. Ask advice of trusted people to see what has worked well for them.

Be informed of how to make adopting a cat a smooth transition for everyone involved. Of course, big changes like adopting a cat and helping him or her transition takes time, especially if you have another pet in the house. The success of the transition really depends on the amount of effort you’re willing to give to ensure a positive outcome.

Cats thrive on feeling safe and secure. Cat behavior problems develop when their sense of security disappears. You might be surprised to learn that an insecure cat won’t necessarily hide away in a corner. In fact, most of the time insecure cats become more aggressive.

3.2 million cats and 3.1 million dogs enter America's animal shelters each year. That's a total of 6.3 million companion animals going to a shelter every year. Click To Tweet

Dealing with a Dominant Cat at Home?

This aggressive or dominant cat behavior could be to make up for their feelings of inferiority when bringing home a new kitty. Some cats overcompensate for insecurity by trying to make themselves the most feared in the room. This behavior could ignite with the initial transition of adopting a new cat into an already established household hierarchy.

Be mindful and watch for signs for this type of behavior from developing. Check with your veterinarian for some tips and read up on some cat behavior solutions. You can even set up a consultation with a cat behaviorist like Dr. Marci Koski. Also find out about the importance of playtime, favorite cat toys, best litter boxes, eco-friendly cat litter, major feline illnesses, and how to keep your cat safe from the top 5 household hazards. Easing the transition is best through a thoughtfully developed plan.

And yes, cats do have a long-life span. The average life span of a cat is 12-17 years. Some cats even reach the wise old age of 20! Be sure you are ready for a commitment this long!

The average life span of a cat is 12-17 years. Some cats even reach the wise old age of 20! Be sure you are ready for a commitment this long! Click To Tweet

Adopting a Cat Who Chooses You

When you’re adopting a cat, take a moment to look around and notice who has been looking at you. Cats often choose us, rather than the other way around. I fondly remember the day when my husband and I were thinking of adopting a cat and “just browsing” at a weekend adoption event at Petsmart.

It was a frenzy of people oogling over these adorable kittens and they were all scooped up so fast that we almost walked away empty handed. Then a foster mom came in a little late with four black kittens that everyone seemed to ignore. Later I found out, Black cats are two-thirds less likely to become adopted compared to white cats and only half as likely to be adopted as tabby cats. When I looked in the cage Penelope made eye contact and meowed right at me. I had to scoop her up and she just completely relaxed in my arms.

Black cats are two-thirds less likely to become adopted compared to white cats and only half as likely to be adopted as tabby cats. Click To Tweet

That’s it, when you know you know! As we started to walk away, another black kitten in the crate started going crazy and clung onto the cage meowing at us. The foster mom told us that one was Penelope’s brother and they had a special connection. That’s the story of how one kitty turned into two!

So, the moral of the story is this: as you are walking around the rescue or adoption event, take a moment to notice which cat may be choosing you! Usually, the cats who choose us end up being our the purrfect one.

adopting a cat

Adopting a Cat Essentials

Cats need supplies to be happy, healthy, and fulfilled in their new space. Here are some must haves if you’re adopting a cat!

Food Bowl and Water Dish

We suggest using ceramic or stainless-steel bowls as they are healthier choices. In other words, plastic bowls are okay but do become scratched easily and bacteria can grow in the scratches.

Cat Scratcher

Cats need to scratch something! Cats scratch to stretch their backs, relieve stress, and sharpen their claws. Your cat will scratch something; either a scratcher or your furniture. We suggest investing in a scratcher.

Cat Toys

Cats love to play! Playing reduces anxiety, provides stimulation, eliminates boredom, and helps cats sleep better at night. Therefore, it’s best to find some toys your cat will love like a laser pointer, a food puzzle, a jingle ball, or even a box until you find out what your cat likes best.

Cat Litter Box

The rule of thumb is one litter box for each cat, plus one extra. Ideally, one litter box on each floor of the home is best. What kind of litter box is best? Check out our 10 Best Litter Boxes Cat Parents Love.

Cat Litter

There are many types of cat litter to choose from on the market. Select the one that fits best for you and your kitty. Traditional clay-based litter clumps well and is easy to scoop. However, some cat parents prefer entirely natural or biodegradable options for a greener and eco-friendlier option. Using cat litter made from soft wood, walnut shells, recycled paper, wheat or corn, can even reduce the amount of dust and debris your cat tracks around the house.

Cat Tree

Creating vertical space in your house with a cat tree increases territory and can help maintain peace in a multi-cat household. Simply adding more vertical space with a cat tree or shelving can promote more peacefulness among cats who are forced to share territory. Vertical space gives your cat a way to be part of the action from a safe distance and offers them comfort and security. It provides a vantage point without feeling vulnerable. Therefore, vertical space is so important for your cat to have a place to retreat when they feel like they need to get away.

For more cat parent tips, check out 10 Tips to Be a Better Cat Parent.

shelter cat playing

Improve Your Happiness by Adopting a Cat

Adopting a cat isn’t just for the cat, it’s actually a two-way street. Adopting a cat offers many benefits to both of you. It has been proven that cats improve our mental health!  Studies have shown that cats improve your mental health by helping to reduce stress and even lower blood pressure. Not sure how many more reasons you may need to find your new best friend!

A cat’s purr is known to lower blood pressure, improve bone density, and even aid in healing tendons and muscles. Click To Tweet


Have a question about adopting a cat that you’d like answered?

We’d love to hear from you!

Send us an email at meow@catsavant.com


For information about adopting a cat in your area, check out  Adoptable Cats in Your Local Shelter l Adopt a Pet l ASPCA