Cat Adoption Checklist

Thinking of adopting a cat? Turns out you’re not the only one. Whether you’re going the cat adoption route or buying from an ethical breeder, research shows these furry feline friends have already taken over more than 1.2 million households across the country. Let’s have a look at what to look for when you adopt a cat and how to be part of the successful adoption of a new pet.

Tips for adopting a cat

Adopting a new cat or kitten is an exciting time for you, the cat and the shelter. So how will you know which is the right cat for you? Being an animal lover is a good start. But what else should you consider before adopting a new cat?

Consider the following:

  • Are you single, a couple, a family? If you are a family, how old are your children? What are their temperaments?
  • Are you home a lot, or often away for work? For how long? Who will care for your cat while you’re gone?
  • Do you often have friends or family over?
  • Are you looking for a kitten or considering a senior cat? Keep in mind that kittens will respond much better to a little training while senior cats have set ways.
  • Can you afford cat care and vet bills?
  • Do you have (or plan on having) any other pets?
  • Do you have allergies? For example, a Maine Coon cat will likely play havoc with your hay fever. Perhaps opt for a hypoallergenic breed instead?

Answering these questions will help guide you towards a cat with the attributes that suit your lifestyle.

What to do before heading to the shelter

When you decide you’re ready to start visiting shelters, be sure to have a particular personality in mind for your new cat. This will help you avoid that overwhelming urge to impulsively adopt the first cute kitten that you see.

It’s also worth noting that kittens are rehomed more easily than adult cats. If you’re open to adopting an adult cat you’ll not only be gaining a friend but also potentially saving them from being put down.

Shelters will know a lot about the cat, their quirks, their loves and their personality. So be sure to ask lots of questions. Take your time. This is a life changing commitment for both you and your new feline friend.

Cat adoption checklist

No matter if you’re adopting a senior cat or a small kitten, our checklist helps you tick the boxes for before, during and after they come home.

One key thing to note is that many shelters offer essential vet services prior to cat adoption. This will usually include initial vaccinations, cat microchips, and cat desexing. These are some of the cat health milestones you’ll need to ensure are covered in the first year. It’s important to find out when the next pet vaccinations are due so you can follow up with your vet at the appropriate time.

Usually you have time to prepare for your new arrival, so some prep now will enable you to spend quality time with your new fluffy friend when the big day arrives.

There are five main things you need to consider:

1. Find the best environment for your adopted cat

Ask yourself the following:

  • Do you live on the 10th floor with no access to grass?
  • Will your cat have access to a balcony or be able to sit on a wide-enough windowsill to see outside?
  • Are you living on a farm or just in the suburbs?
  • How safe are your boundaries?
  • What’s the traffic like around your home?

Practising keen pet safety after you adopt a cat is about more than just ensuring they get their vaccinations on time.

Cats can get injured from falls, wildlife, other pets, traffic and more. It’s important to protect against the financial stress of such situations, as well as the emotional ones.

Sometimes you may also need to protect others against them. Remember that, as natural hunters, cats can impact local wildlife. Before bringing your new cat home you should research cat enclosures if yours will have outside access, so it doesn’t get a chance to be the predator.

2. Make sure to buy the right cat food

Talk with the adoption centre about what food your cat’s been eating while in the shelter. Sudden changes to their diet might cause gastrointestinal upset.

Before bringing your new cat home, it’s important to also consider their age in relation to food. A kitten has different nutritional needs to a senior cat. If you do plan to change their diet, do it slowly and only after your new cat has adjusted to your home.

Also be aware of things that can poison your pet in and around your home that your cat might take a liking to tasting.

3. Sort out a litter box

A cat’s got to go when a cat’s got to go. And they like a little privacy. Ideally, the litter box needs to be easily accessible and private. Anywhere tucked in a corner, away from the spotlight, is best.

There are many types of litter, such as clay, paper and crystals. Talk with the adoption centre about what litter they’ve been using. Each cat has its own preference, so it might be a case of trial and error. Don’t commit to a 20kg bag of litter just in case your adopted cat dislikes it.

4. Create a sleeping space

Where do you envisage your cat will sleep after the adoption process? Most cats will work out on their own their preferred location within the house to snooze. If you want to try and get your cat to commit to certain areas then you might need to consider special bedding. Cat beds and caves, cat trees and blankets all make for comfy catnaps.

If you have small children then it’s ideal to find somewhere the cat can reach but kids can’t.

5. Purchase cat toys

Speaking of cat trees, depending on your cat’s personality you may want to consider toys. This will all depend on the personality of your cat but many cats love a good scratching post.

If you have a cat who prefers to lay on your lap, then toys might not be important. However, if you have a cat who prefers to dash around the house, chasing imaginary mice, then a few interactive toys should help keep them happy and active.

How long does it take a new cat to settle in?

Adjustment will all depend on the cat, its backstory and your home. A senior cat who’s spent the last few years as a companion to an elderly couple will likely take longer to adjust if its new home has a toddler and another cat to share with.

After bringing your new cat home take things slowly and follow their lead. Once the cat adoption process is complete you’ll need to allow your pet to explore its new home without stressors, such as loud and sudden noises or surprise ambushes from other pets.

Many experts recommend putting your new pet in only one room at first so it doesn’t get stressed or overwhelmed in the first few days. This gives your adopted cat a chance to hide if they want, as well as providing isolation from other pets.

How to help your adopted cat comfortable

When you first bring your cat home, sit quietly on the floor and allow your new companion to explore and approach you when they’re feeling ready. Spend lots of time with them after the cat adoption process, talking with them so they learn your voice.

As your cat begins to feel safe, you can open the door to the room and sit outside, allowing them to exit when they feel ready. This may take a few days. Keeping your adopted cat in the room also allows any other pets to become accustomed to the new smell. Just as it gives your new cat some time to learn the smells of the other pets.

What if you already own a pet?

Cats greet each other by sniffing, so allowing them to smell each other is exactly what’s required. As long as there’s no aggression, this should be allowed to occur.

There may be setbacks but this is normal with pets cohabitating. Gently separately them (if possible – if not then pop a blanket over one to take it away safely) and allow them to reintroduce again a little while later.

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About the reviewer of this page

This report was reviewed by Canstar Content Producer, Caitlin Bingham. Caitlin is an experienced writer whose passion for creativity led her to study communication and journalism. She began her career freelancing as a content writer, before joining the Canstar team.

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