How to adopt a shelter cat

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By: Jody Smith | Reviewed by Dr. Clayton Greenway, B.Sc., DVM | Jun 20, 2018

How to adopt a shelter cat

Cats can be very enigmatic. As anyone who has a cat knows, these furry companions don’t seem to care too much about what we think of them.

But whether they care or not, it’s always good to know the truth. There are plenty of myths out there concerning cats especially when it comes to adoption so let’s look at 8 important reasons to adopt a shelter cat.

1. Adopting a shelter cat helps with cat overpopulation.

In a country like Canada, twice as many cats are being admitted to Canadian shelters as there are dogs, according to the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies. Some of these cats are strays, and some are brought in by owners who can no longer take care of their pets.

Things have been improving. In 2015, for instance, the Toronto Humane Society reported that 57 percent of our homeless cats are being adopted. This is good news but even so, we have a long way to go. The CFHS said that more than 82,000 cats went to Canadian shelters in 2015.

2. Cats from a shelter are affectionate.

Despite their aloof reputation, you may be surprised to learn that cats love us more than some of them let on. And this goes for shelter cats too.

This may come as a surprise to some cat owners. But there’s even been a study on it. Oregon State University researchers published in the journal Behavioural Processes that cats will actually choose to be with people over food. Believe it or not!

3. Cats available for adoption are clean and healthy.

By the time you meet them, every cat will have been examined and treated for any possible health and reproductive issues. You can count on your new pet having been vaccinated, neutered and well-fed. Any medications required will have been administered.

4. You’re getting a good value for your money.

Fees vary from shelter to shelter but whatever the amount, you’re getting good value for your dollars. You’ll find that the cost of adoption covers a wide variety of important things like medication, microchipping, neutering and a healthy diet. This package deal may even be cheaper than what all these treatments would cost in a typical veterinarian visit.

5. Many shelter cats are friendly.

There are many reasons a perfectly friendly cat might find itself in need of a home. For example, the owner may have been dealing with situations that make caring for a pet impossible. Allergies, loss of a job, or moving to a non-pet apartment building are all factors that can leave a cat in need of a new home and family.

Any extremely dangerous cats from the wild are not put up for adoption, for the protection of you and your family.

Cat rooms in a shelter provide the chance for a cat to become or to remain socialized and familiar with human involvement. So being in a shelter can actually improve some cats’ interactions with humans.

6. Paperwork and information is available, for some more than others.

Many owners who must give up their beloved pets will provide any paperwork they have. In such cases, medical history and descriptions of the cat’s personality and habits may be available. And the people who run the shelter will also pass on whatever they have observed about an individual cat.

7. Not only adult cats but kittens are available for adoption too.

Shelters get plenty of kittens, individually and in full litters. Cute little kittens can get picked up pretty fast but you’ll find them. You may need to show up early in the day, or you can request to be put on a waiting list.

8. You can adopt purebred shelter cats with certification.

Think all you’ll find are old tabbies? Not so. Being purebred does not offer some elitist protection from homelessness. Not all of these cats will have papers, but many will come with certification if their previous owner could provide it.

Adopting a rare breed may not be as easy as finding a more commonplace type of cat, but they can be found.

So whether you’re looking for a kitten, a purebred, or just a friendly kitty who needs a new home, there’s no better way to celebrate than visiting your local shelter and bringing home a new family member. Thanks for considering adoption!

For a brief overview of the 8 reasons to adopt a shelter cat take a look at the clip below!

Each year, roughly 3.4 million cats enter an animal shelter in the United States. When these cats are adopted though, sometimes their new homes aren’t forever homes. For example, an older adopted cat may not be the best fit for a household with young kids. Perhaps the new owner doesn’t have the patience or know-how to give the cat a chance to adjust. If you’re considering adopting a cat, you might want to take note of the most common reasons for returning a cat to the shelter in order to prevent these issues from arising with you and your potential new companion.


Cats are individuals, just like people, and have varying personalities. While many cats are very affectionate, social and even dog-like, others are more reserved, independent and solitary. Not surprisingly, one of the reasons cats are returned to shelters is because of their aloofness. Many people want a more cuddly pet, and they may not be able or ready to appreciate their cat’s unique personality.


Cats need to scratch; it benefits their bodies and their minds. Cats scratch to file their claws, mark their territory and to stretch their bodies. It’s not unheard of for cats to scratch furniture, walls and other inappropriate places. Because of this, many owners find themselves quick to return their adopted cat in an effort to save their home and belongings. Unfortunately, this behavior is often the result of poor planning on the owner’s part. Owners are likely not providing enough scratching areas for their cat, or the scratching areas are too small. Before you return a cat to the shelter for her natural scratching habit, make sure you’ve consulted a professional about the behavior. This can usually be resolved by providing an adequate scratching post. You can even create your own cat scratching post.How to adopt a shelter cat

Health Issues

It’s understandable that new cat owners want to adopt a healthy animal. Not only are sick or injured cats tough to care for, veterinary bills are an expense many people are not ready to afford. Understanding the financial responsibilities of getting a cat is important to know before ever going to a shelter. Understanding that vet bills can occur will help make the adoption process much easier for you and your family.

Getting Along With Children and Other Pets

Many families want a cat that gets along well with their children and other pets. While shelters observe the cat’s temperament prior to adoption, it can be difficult to get an accurate assessment of the cat’s personality in a shelter where so many different things are happening. Some cats live happily with well-behaved children and other animals, but others are spooked by children and pets. She may need time to warm up to everyone or she’s just the type of cat that needs to be left alone. If your cat is easily frightened, it’s not a reflection of her sweet and loving manner, but rather she doesn’t like a lot of boisterous activity.

Housing Restrictions

While it is much more common with dogs, a large reason why cats are brought back to shelters is because of rules and regulations about having pets in places like apartments or condos. If you rent a place, be sure to check with your landlord that there aren’t any issues with getting a cat. Checking ahead of time will save you the pain of having to take your little buddy back to the shelter. This is also something to consider if you have a cat and are relocating to another rental property. If you know their pet policy ahead of time, it will help you decide if it is the right new home for you and your cat.

There are other reasons adopted cats are returned to shelters, but these are the most common ones. A little research and patience can go a long way when making your home comfortable and pleasant for you and your new cat, so don’t rush back to the shelter right away. Knowing what you’re getting into and being prepared to put forth some effort will give your new cat the best chance to adapt successfully to your home. After all, she’s just been in a shelter with a lot of other animals, sounds and people around. A little time to adapt to her surroundings and get to know you and your family will go a long way. With the chance to truly be happy and comfortable, you might find she’s well on her way to being the perfect companion.

Contributor Bio

How to adopt a shelter cat

Katie Finlay

Katie Finlay is a pet trainer who lives in Southern California. She has been working with dogs and their owners both in person and through her online content for over six years.

How to adopt a shelter cat

So you’ve decided to open your home to a shelter cat. Congratulations! You are helping to stem the cat overpopulation problem and have possibly saved the life of this cat.

It will be helpful to know what to expect when you bring him home. There will be a number of things to watch for, both physical and behavioral. The cat who seemed affectionate while in a cage may suddenly become shy, withdrawn, or even aggressive. Careful pre-planning will help avoid many inherent problems.

Your Shelter Cat May Have Medical Problems

Because of the crowded conditions of many animal shelters, if is almost inevitable that your newly adopted cat will have one or more medical problems. It is important that you have him vetted prior to bringing him into your home, especially if there are other cats in your house. The best plan is to set the appointment with your veterinarian for the day you will pick up your cat. He or she may ask you to bring a fecal sample, and will want to see whatever medical records the shelter can provide. If this is your first cat and you do not have a veterinarian, the shelter officials can probably make a recommendation. Here are a few of the things your vet will check for:

  • Parasites
    Fleas, ticks, and worms are common in crowded shelters. Ringworm, a zoonotic disease may also be found. If a fecal test discloses worms (most often roundworms or tapeworms), you will be given medication to rid the cat of worms, along with advice on treating the fleas with a bath and/or a topical flea control product.
  • Test for Life-Threatening Diseases
    Many shelter cats lived rough on the streets and may have been exposed to FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus) or FeLV (Feline Leukemia Virus). You won’t want to bring these diseases home to other cats, so testing for them is of high priority. If the cat tests negative, you should discuss having him vaccinated against these diseases. Much will depend on the known history of the cat. If he was an indoor-only cat, he may not need the vaccines.
  • Check for Other Communicable Diseases
    A larger percentage of cats in shelters carry the baggage of URIs (Upper Respiratory Infections). The most common are: Feline Panleukopenia Virus (Feline Distemper), Feline Calicivirus, and Rhinotracheitis (Feline Herpes Virus) The symptoms include runny eyes, sneezing and an elevated temperature. By far, the most serious of these is panleukopenia, especially for young kittens. If your cat tests positive for any of these conditions, your veterinarian will discuss treatment options. If he gets a clean bill of health, he will be given vaccinations for these three diseases – these are called “core vaccines,” and are recommended for all cats except the very old or very sick.
  • Perform a Physical Exam
    While checking for the afore-mentioned conditions, your veterinarian will perform a complete physical examination of your new cat, including palpating his abdomen, and checking for lumps and bumps.He will then give the indicated vaccinations. If the cat has not been neutered, an appointment will be made at this time for a spay or neuter.

Bringing Your Shelter Cat Home

Your new cat has had a rough day already, and will probably be stressed by the time you bring him home. He is most likely used to the closed environment of a shelter cage, so it would be best to keep him confined in a small safe room for the first few days, especially if there are other cats in the house.

Let your cat set the rules at first. Don’t be surprised if the cat hides under the bed for several days. As long as he or she has food, water, a litter box, a place to sleep, and a toy or two, he will be okay. Chances are when you are not in the room, he will be coming out to eat, use the litter box, or explore.

Gradually increase your together time. Talk to your cat when you are in the safe room. You may want to sit in a chair and read a book. He’ll come around when he finally feels safe with you, but don’t rush it. Count your victories in small increments: the first time he peeks out at you from under the bed; the first time he plays with a wand toy with you; the first time he takes a treat you offer him. When he finally jumps up and settles in on your lap, you’ll know that he is now your cat, and no longer a shelter cat.

How to adopt a shelter cat

Fine Wines & Felines 2021: Whisker Me Away! MEOW Luau 2.0.

Thank you to everyone who joined us, bid online, donated and supported MEOW. Although results are preliminary, we are thrilled, awed, and humbled, as it looks like we will raise over $120,000 for the animals of MEOW!

Shelter Hours Update – September 24, 2021

If you are looking to add kittens or an adult cat (or two) to your family, we can help. We have many kittens and cats in foster care, and as they become ready for adoption, we are welcoming them into the shelter for weekend adoption days. We would be thrilled if, by closing time on Sunday each week, they had all found their forever homes. Be sure to check our Available Cats page.

Our current open hours are Saturdays and Sundays from 1pm to 5pm. We HIGHLY suggest setting an appointment with us in advance (interest from the public has been higher than expected the last few weekends); however, we are happily taking walk-ins as allowed by our shelter’s capacity. Please note that potential adopters with an appointment will receive priority, whenever shelter capacity is an issue.

Our staff and volunteers are fully vaccinated and will be wearing masks for their safety and yours. We respectfully require visitors to also wear masks, use sanitizer provided, and be aware of social distancing.

Before meeting any of our adoptable animals we will ask you to fill out a pre-approval application. The in-shelter adoption process may be streamlined by submitting your application in advance for pre-approval.

To complete and submit an Adoption Application and schedule an appointment to visit prior to your visit, and to access other information about MEOW, please see our adoption process webpage.

The majority of our available cats and kittens are posted on our A vailable Cats webpage. Click h ere to learn more about how COVID-19 is impacting our shelter operations and our animal population.

How to adopt a shelter cat

MEOW is a limited admission cat shelter located in Kirkland, WA.