12 Important Questions to Ask When Adopting a Cat

Last Updated on: September 28, 2020

Adopting a cat is a wonderful and rewarding way to welcome a new feline into your home. There are so many cats waiting patiently in shelters to find their new forever home. Whether you’re looking for a kitten or an older cat of a specific breed or you simply want to do good by giving a shelter cat a new home, we bet that you’ll have no trouble finding your perfect match at a local shelter.

Before you fall head over heels for a particular cat, it’s worth keeping a sensible head and preparing a list of questions to ask the shelter. This will help you work out if you can provide the environment that a cat is going to need to thrive in a new home.

We’ve put together a list of 12 questions to ask when you’re getting ready to adopt a cat.

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1. How much is the adoption fee?

While adopting a cat might not be as expensive as buying a purebred kitten with an impressive pedigree, you shouldn’t expect it to be free. Shelters have to cover their costs, including vaccinations, veterinary care, and other expenses, like food, bedding, and toys. Most shelters will have a set adoption fee that covers some of these things. If you can, consider donating a little extra, or ask the shelter if they need anything like food for the other cats still waiting for their forever homes.


2. What does the adoption fee cover?

abandoned cat in shelter
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As well as finding out how much the adoption fee is, find out exactly what it covers. Many shelters will only adopt out kittens and cats who have been microchipped, vaccinated, and spayed or neutered. Check if the fee also covers initial de-worming and de-flea treatments. If your kitten is young, the shelter may give you a voucher to cover the cost of getting them spayed or neutered at the appropriate age.


3. What’s the cat’s background?

Finding out more about the cat that you’re interested in will help you figure out if you’ll be a good match, which is incredibly important if you want to maximize the chances of a successful adoption. Some cats are surrendered to a shelter, and the previous owner will provide details of why. Other cats may not have any history other than what the shelter has been able to work out while the cat has been with them.


4. Does the cat get along with other animals?

dog and cat cuddling
Image Credit: Chendongshan, Shutterstock

Sadly, some cats get surrendered if they don’t get along with other pets or a new baby. It’s important to let the shelter know your home environment, and they will do their best to match you with a suitable cat. Some cats don’t mind being part of a busy, multi-pet household full of kids, and others will much prefer living in a quiet home as an only pet.


5. Has the cat spent time with people, or was it feral or a stray?

A cat who used to have a home but has been surrendered to a shelter will be used to spending time with humans and will quickly acclimatize to living in a home again. Stray or feral cats may take a little longer to adjust, so it can be useful to know which bracket your new cat falls into.


6. Has the cat been litter trained?

If a cat has been in a shelter for a while, then it’s highly likely that they’re already used to using a litter tray. But if you’re adopting a kitten, then you might need to be prepared to spend a little time training them to use their litter tray. Shelter staff will be happy to give you advice on how to start the training process so it’s as straightforward as possible.


7. Does the cat have any known health conditions?

cat being wrapped up in gauze
Image Credit: Sergey Gerashchenko, Shutterstock

Some cats will have been given a clean bill of health, and others may have ongoing medical issues that will require consistent medication to keep in check. Some cats are surrendered to shelters because their previous owners couldn’t keep up with the cost of their medical treatment, so it’s important to consider whether that’s an ongoing expense you can afford going forward.


8. Has the cat been tested for feline leukemia (FeLV) and/or feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV)?

Some shelters won’t test for FeLV and FIV simply because it’s expensive and time consuming. Others will test each and every cat, so it’s important to find out which bracket your shelter falls into. Cats with FeLV or FIV sometimes need ongoing medication.


9. How long has the cat or kitten been at the shelter?

If a cat has been in the shelter for a long time, then you will probably need to allow them plenty of time to acclimate to their new home environment. The sounds and smells of a home, as well as the size, can feel overwhelming for a cat who has been in a shelter for a long time. With patience and care, every shelter cat will be able to adjust to feeling comfortable in their new home.


10. Can you spend time with the cat before you take them home?

man cuddling cat
Image Credit: Veera

Some shelters will have dedicated areas where you can hang out with a cat and get to know them before you sign up to adopt them. Bear in mind that some cats will seem withdrawn and quiet in a shelter environment but will soon come out of their shells with one-on-one attention and plenty of affection.


11. What kind of accommodation has the cat been living in?

Some shelters will keep their cats in individual pens, and others will be allowed to interact with other cats during the day and then kept alone at night. Kittens may be kept in a group, and some shelters will foster cats out in homes. Knowing what sort of accommodation your new cat has been living in can help you work out how long it’ll take them to adapt to your home.


12. Which cat do you recommend for me?

You might be dreaming of a particular breed of cat, and if your local shelter has one, then it can be tempting to choose that cat as your first pick. But it’s always worth asking the shelter if they would recommend a different cat, and that kitty might suit your lifestyle better! Shelter staff will likely ask you to fill out a questionnaire, and they have plenty of experience matching prospective owners with their new perfect feline partner!


Featured Image: Anika Moritz, Shutterstock, Shutterstock