How to Adopt a Cat

If you're reading this, you're likely considering adopting a cat, and big congrats are in order, both for you and your future feline friend! With millions of adoptable pets currently awaiting their forever homes in shelters, rescue groups, and foster homes across the country, adoption is a great way to help a cat in need and give back to your community and offers countless mutually beneficial rewards for everyone involved. Before you begin your search, however, there are a few key things to keep in mind that will help you get an idea of what to expect throughout the adoption process, and may help you find a companion who will be a great fit for your home.

Cat laying  in the glassify cage
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Where to adopt a cat from

If you're not sure where to begin looking for an adoptable cat, the process can seem overwhelming, but we promise it's not as complicated as it may appear. One thing that may help alleviate your anxiety is to become familiar with the different types of places to adopt from. Animal shelters are the first place most people look and are brick and mortar buildings which house adoptable animals found or surrendered within a certain physical limit, like a city or a county. A rescue, on the other hand, does not usually have a physical location as it is made up of a network of volunteers who foster pets in their own homes or raise funds to board them in a facility. Rescues will often pull special cases from city or county shelters, like elderly pets, animals overly stressed in shelter environments, or certain breeds, if it is a breed-specific rescue. A humane society also works to adopt pets into their forever homes, but usually works to address a much broader mission of reducing animal suffering.

To find a shelter or rescue organization in your area, you can search on websites like Petfinder or Adopt-A-Pet, both of which offer location-based lists of adoptable cats. A visit to a pet store in your area may help as well, as most will be familiar with local shelters and rescue groups, and may even feature available cats from those facilities. If you have your heart set on a specific breed, a simple online search will help you get started. For example, if Scottish Folds are your thing and you live in Tennessee, searching "Scottish Fold rescue Tennessee" yields multiple results, including a Facebook group dedicated to placing homeless Scottish Fold cats with potential adopters nearby.

Lonely cat in cage
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What does it cost to adopt?

The price range for adopting a cat is wide and varies depending on the organization as several factors affect the cost of an adoptable cat. Some shelters or rescues can cost up to a couple hundred dollars to adopt a cat, while others will charge considerably less. Some organizations will offer reduced-rate fees for adoption at certain times of the year, or for specific animals, like senior cats, or cats who have been waiting for their adopter for a longer amount of time.

There are usually certain things that are included in the cost of adoption, although every situation will depend on where you adopted your cat from. Most often, adoption fees include a spay or neutering procedure, which may be done before or after adopting, depending on the organization. A basic round of vaccinations is also usually included. Some agencies may offer additional perks, like a complimentary vet visit or a free bag of cat food. If you're unsure what comes with your cat's adoption, just ask — it's perfectly reasonable to know what you're getting, and will help you make future plans for your cat's care if certain things are not included.

Family adopting cat from animal shelter
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How to find the right fit in a companion

When choosing the companion for you, it's important to ask the right questions, so don't be afraid to inquire with staff or volunteers! So to start, asking questions like how old the cat is, her background, if that information is available, what her personality is like, if she has any medical needs or requires special care of any kind, and if she has any behavioral issues you should be aware of. If you share your home with young children or other pets, it's important to ask whether this cat does well in an environment with kids and other animals, or if she's more comfortable living solo.

Making sure that you are able to give your cat what it needs, and that this cat will work well with your needs and availability is the best way to ensure a long and happy relationship with your new companion. For example, if you're looking for a cat who will lay around and keep to herself for most of the day, it's probably best that you find an adult or senior cat rather than a kitten, who will require a lot of time and stimulation. If you seek an affectionate cat who looks forward to cuddling when you come home, a cat who values independence and does her own thing may be better suited for another home. Finding a good match where everyone has their needs met reduces the chance that a cat be returned to the shelter, which is hard on both you and your feline friend, so always make your needs and what you have to offer clear, and take your time searching — the right fit is definitely out there for you.