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How to Adopt a Cat

A step-by-step guide on how to adopt a cat — from where to begin looking to what the adoption process entails to how to prepare your home for your new pet.

Adopting a cat, especially if they’re your first, can feel like a terrifying jump into an ocean of the unknown. How do you adopt a cat? How do I choose a cat? What do I need to have at home? What does the application process look like? What if they hate me? As overwhelming as these questions can feel, most of them can be dealt with by taking a deep breath, doing some prep, and working your way through our step-by-step breakdown of the whole process.

Haven’t adopted yet? Use the Find a Catsearch to see adoptable cats and kittens near you. If you don’t see your perfect match, sign up for Pet Alerts so new matching kitties will be emailed to you daily.cat bed furniture

Step-by-Step Guide on How to Adopt a Cat

Step 1 Determine what sort of cat are you able to adopt.

Quite possibly the most important part of the whole adoption process is establishing what sort of cat you want, and are able to, adopt. Are you looking for a young kitten? How about a fully grown cat? A senior? Are you able to adopt a cat with special needs who otherwise might not find a home? Are you able to adopt more than one cat at a time? Many are bonded with another cat, and even if not, will be far happier living in a situation with another cat. You never know who you’re going to meet at a shelter and fall in love with — so keep your mind open!

  • 10 Things To Consider Before Adopting A Pet
  • Should I Adopt a Young or Adult Pet?
  • Wisdom of the Elderly – Adopt a Senior Pet!
  • Why You Should Adopt a “Less Adoptable” Cat
  • Chemistry: picking the right pet for you
  • How to pick a pet if you have allergies

Step 2 Browse local cat adoption listings.

Nose around for what cats and kittens are available in your neck of the woods. Adopt-a-Pet lets you search through tens of thousands of listings around the country and allows you to specify by breed, age, sex, and color — plus, if you don’t see the perfect match right away, you can set up an alert to let you know as soon as one matching your parameters is listed. Adopt-a-Pet works with shelters, rescues, and private individuals looking to find homes for cats — but also spend some time searching for local rescue and adoption organizations on the off chance they’re not listed on Adopt-a-Pet.

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  • Hairless Cat Breeds
  • Does coat color determine a cat’s personality?

Step 3 Arrange a visit.

How people adopt cats has changed in recent years. Covid has meant that many places can no longer allow you to just show up at their door and spend time with all the animals looking for a perfect match — but with a bit of foresight, you can still drown in a pile of kittens. Many rescue organizations and cat cafés allow you to book a time to meet their adoptable cats to find out how well they mesh with you. For as cute as a kitten seems on an online listing, sometimes it’s just not the same in person — and you might fall in love with a critter that you never expected.

  • 10 Questions to Ask a Shelter About an Adoptable Cat
  • How to Prepare for an Adoption Home Visit

Step 4 Fill out all the paperwork.

Every adoption organization has its own paperwork requirements, so before you can take the pet home you’ll need to fill it in and file it. These can vary hugely in how long and intensive they are. They’ll often ask questions about you and your household — the ages of people there, if there are any other pets, does anyone smoke, etc. Some may ask you what you’re looking for in a pet, and others may ask you to describe what sort of space you have set up for the animal (see more on that below). Most will require you to agree to registering your pet’s microchips, keeping up their medical care, and more. All of this is with the aim of making sure that the cat goes to a suitable and loving home that can meet all of their needs.

  • Why there is a Fee For Adoption
  • Bringing Home Your New Cat or Kitten
  • Your New Cat or Kitten’s First Day

Step 5 Buy important supplies.

Once you know for sure you’re going down the pet adoption road, make sure to stock up on all the important items you need to have at home before your cat moves in. You’ll need cat litter and a litter box — one sized for the age of your cat. A kitten will need a small litter box with low edges to climb in and out of (you can often buy disposable ones for this first stage of life), and as cats get old and can’t jump as well, you’ll want an easy entry point into the litter box. For adult cats, the rule of thumb is that a litter box should be 1.5x as long as the pet themself.

Beyond litter and a litter box, you’ll need food (again, as appropriate for the age of your potential pet), enrichment toys, a scratcher, treats, a brush, nail clippers, and somewhere comfy for them to cuddle up — though many of those can come with time.

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