How to Adopt a Cat From a Shelter | Lola The Rescued Cat
Monday, June 21, 2021

How to Adopt a Cat From a Shelter

Welcome back to our Adopt-A-Cat Month series. Many people want to adopt a cat from a shelter but are unsure how to go about it. (Especially since there are still COVID-19 restrictions in many places.) Today's post will give you some advice on steps you can take to find your perfect purring family member and how to go through the process. 

how to adopt a cat from a shelter

How to Adopt A Cat From a Shelter

Choosing Your Cat

The first step in adopting is choosing your cat. You can start the process in one of a few ways. 

Online Pet Finders

You can go online and search for adoptable cats in your area. Petfinder, ASPCAShelter Pet Project, and Adopt-A-Pet all have online search engines you can use to find adoptable cats in your area. 

Local Shelter Websites

Your local shelters should have the cats in their care who are ready for their forever homes on their website. 

Tabby Cat on a T-Shirt
Photo by

Meet and Greet 

Once you have found the cat you think is the purrfect match for you and your family, contact the shelter so you can have a meet and greet.  Many shelters still have strict COVID visiting protocols in place and request that you call ahead and make an appointment. 

Take advantage of the opportunity to get to know your chosen cat before bringing them home. Spend as much time with them as you can so you can get a good idea about their personality and energy level. Staff should be available to answer questions and give you as much detail as they know about your chosen cat. When you’re meeting cats who could potentially be new family members, it's a good idea to bring everyone in the household with you for a visit.

Couple with an adopted ginger cat
Photo by Pet Barn

Adoption Application

After you have made your final decision, you will have to fill out an adoption application. Adoption applications can be lengthy, but don’t let that deter you or make you nervous. The shelter wants to be sure the cat is going to a good home and will be taken care of responsibly. Every shelter has its own unique application, but some of the information requested may include: 

  • Information about other pets in the home, including if they are spayed/neutered, declawed, and veterinarian information
  • How many people are in the household, and is everyone agreeable to having a new cat? Have young children been taught to interact with a cat and will they be supervised with them?
  • If you are a renter, do you have permission to have a pet? Is there a limit? Landlord info may also be requested   
  • Have you ever had a pet before?         
  • Do you have screens on all of your windows? 
  • How many hours a day will your cat be alone? 
  • When you travel, who will take care of your cat?   
  • Are you prepared to support the cat for its entire life?
  • Is anyone in the house allergic to cats? 
  • What are your thoughts on declawing?

Some shelters have adoption counselors who oversee the adoption process. Adoption counselors often review applications, interview potential adopters, observe interactions at meet and greets, educate adopters about proper pet care, and help match potential adopters with a cat that matches their lifestyle and personality.    

siamese cat with a notebook
Photo by Deposit Photos

Adoption Fees

Once your application is approved, there will most likely be an adoption fee. Adoption fees help the shelter maintain its services and care for animals. Adoption fees cover vaccinations, spay/neuter procedures, cost of food and supplies, medical care, and transportation fees while the cat is in the shelter’s care. Depending on the organization, fees could range from free to up to a few hundred dollars. When I adopted Lexy in 2010 the fee requested was a donation to the shelter, and I think I donated about $150. 

Note: Lola The Rescued Cat is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.

It’s Time to Go Home! 

When you’re ready to take your new cat home, make sure you bring a safe carrier to transport them in. Two of my favorites are the Sleepypod Mobile Pet Bed and the Cabrio Multi-Functional Carrier by Catit. (You can read my in-depth reviews of the Sleepypod and the Cabrio for more information on each.)

cat in cabrio multifunctional carrier catit

Don’t forget to make sure that your home is ready for your new cat. We have a post about the eight essential supplies you’ll need for your new cat,  complete with a printable checklist that you can print here

how to adopt a cat from a shelter
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Make sure to catch up on our other post in this series, five things to consider before adopting a cat for even more information. 

Adopting a cat can bring many years of endless joy to your life. If you’re still on the fence about adopting, read our Top Five Reasons to Adopt a Cat

Have you adopted a cat from a shelter? Tell us about your experience in the comments.


About the Author:
Dawn White is an award-winning writer/blogger and the author of Lola: Diary of a Rescued Cat.  Dawn has been writing in the pet industry for over seven years and has been a contributing writer for the Jackson Galaxy Project’s Cat Pawsitive Pro Program, BlogPaws, and

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  1. You have provided a wonderful service. I wish it was available in public places where it can vibe seen by general populace..

  2. Great article, and good info - y'all are rocking this!

  3. Good comprehensive information! We hope all adopters will go by these protocols!

  4. Yes, I'd seen Manny and Chili Bruce on, but it was much too soon after losing Chuck.
    Then, by chance, I walked into our local pet food store, and there they were!
    An employee was in the cat center, playing with the two, and I stepped in and fell in love. I completed the paperwork, gave my credit card, and then called The Hubby, who amazingly did not put up a fight!
    Since I was at work, I didn't have transport devices, so the store gave me two cardboard boxes, and one of the rascals broke out when I was driving home...and sat in my lap.
    I just about cried with delight, but pulled over at first chance to reinstall said rascal into his box.
    We will do the same with every other cat brought into the house, unless one just turns up at the door!

  5. Great post. I have adopted from shelters a few times, but most of mine just appeared. XO

  6. Great Post Dawn. There needs to be plenty of into available for those who adopt out in the web!

  7. I was adopted from a shelter...but the mom found me on petfinder first. ~Ernie

  8. Wonderful, comprehensive post! I met Sashi and Tara at pet store adoption events, but found Truffles and Mudpie online and filled out the adoption application before even meeting them. Sometimes the heart just knows!

  9. I love all the info in this post! Binga was a shelter kitten, and since my human already had a cat at home, she figured she already had what she needed. She was pretty naive!

  10. Great info and we all highly recommend adopting shelter pets, they rock!

  11. Awesome article, Dawn! You have explained the steps for adopting a cat from a shelter of rescue perfectly. :)


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