How can I Prepare to Adopt a Cat?

wiseGEEK Writer

If you are planning to adopt a cat, there are several preparatory steps which can help the cat smoothly transition from a shelter to home. One should develop a list of questions to ask the shelter about the cat, and be prepared to spend some time inspecting several cats and shelters. Also, making your home pet-safe is an important step that can minimize injury to the cat as it adjusts to its new home.

Learning about the cat's personality can help ensure a good match during the adoption process.
Learning about the cat's personality can help ensure a good match during the adoption process.

Always come up with a list of questions to ask the shelter about the cat and the shelter’s policies. For example you may want to know, before you adopt a cat what kind of health tests, inspections, procedures and vaccinations have been given to the animal. You may also want to ask about the cat’s personality and why it is at the shelter. For example, some abandoned cats and kittens go to shelters and show clear evidence of having been wild, which means they will not be as people friendly.

Wild cats are difficult to domesticate.
Wild cats are difficult to domesticate.

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Shelter workers may have observed the cat’s interaction with other animals, and can give you information regarding the cat’s personality. If you already have pets, particularly dogs, it may be helpful to know the cat’s reaction to a dog. While most kittens tend to accept a dog in the home, many cats have an unconquerable fear (or disdain) of dogs.

You will also want to ask the shelter about return policies should the animal become sick within a few days or weeks after you adopt a cat. Sometimes a shelter will allow one to adopt a cat on a trial basis. This allows one time to make a final decision about whether the cat is a good fit in your home.

Closely inspect cats and kittens for signs of good health. For example patches of missing fur might indicate ringworm. Diarrhea under the tail may suggest intestinal or parasitic issues. The cat’s eyes and nose should be clear of mucus. If the shelter does not medically inspect the animal, your first stop after adopting the cat should be to have it inspected by a vet.

Also take a good look around the shelter before you adopt a cat. It should be clean, and the animals should appear healthy and fairly content. Some animals are obviously not too pleased about being locked up in small cages. However, when the cat is let out of a cage, one can get a good sense about its personality by spending some time playing with it.

Some shelters also require a 24-hour wait period before one can adopt a cat. So bear in mind you may not be able to bring the cat home right away once you make your choice. Also, be prepared to sign a contract agreeing to spay or neuter the cat, and to pay a deposit that is returnable once you fulfill the spay/neuter contract.

Ready your home by ridding it of any plants poisonous to pets. Also purchase a new clean food bowl and water bowl. You may also want to buy a small cat bed to increase the cat’s comfort, and buy a litter box. Inspect the home for loose wires, bits of string, hanging cords from drapes, and anything that might endanger the animal. Be ready to keep the adopted cat indoors for at least two to three weeks or it may run away.

Once your home is ready, and you are ready to adopt a cat, make sure you are prepared for the commitment of caring for an animal. Cats can live for up to 20 years, and they will require supervision and support, as well as medical care, throughout their lives. Be sure you can make this kind of commitment to the animal prior to choosing to adopt a cat.

A new cat should be examined by a vet.
A new cat should be examined by a vet.

Discussion Comments


Good advice, but I have to say that in my experience, most shelter volunteers are so in love with the cats, they sort of "shade the truth" when introducing a cat to you. I also find that the ages listed for the cats on websites are optimistically low in most cases (Yes, i understand that estimate was made when they entered the shelter and several months may have gone by.)

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