14 Tips for Adopting a Rescue Cat

Couple adopted new rescue cat

Adopting a cat from a rescue is a fantastic way to find a loving companion who needs you as much as you need them. But, there are several things you want to consider before you run to the closest shelter and pick out the first cat you see.

Our goal is to make it as easy as possible for you to get your new furry friend, and this is why we put together several tips for adopting a rescue cat. We’ll give you several things to consider and keep in mind to help ensure you find a happy and healthy best friend.

14 Tips for Adopting a Rescue Cat

How hard can be it be to adopt a rescue cat? If you don’t put a little thought into it, you could end up with a situation where neither one of you are happy, and you don’t want to take them back.

1. Be Wary of the Shelter You Pick
Not all animal shelters have the same standards, and this is why it’s so important to shop around and look at several different ones around your area. If the animals don’t look healthy or socialized, be sure to ask the staff about their processes.

Most reputable shelters do extensive behavior and personality testing and training before they will put a cat up for adoption. Ask about the cat’s health, personality, and any known issues they may have. The shelter may even give you the name of the veterinarian they use.

2. Consider the Cat’s Age and Personality
Are you looking forward to welcoming a rambunctious kitten into your home, or do you want a more laid-back older cat to grace you with their presence? Do you want a cat that sticks to you like glue, or are you after a more independent feline that will mostly stick to themselves?

Get a good idea of what you’d like and how much time and money you have to invest in them. Kittens and older cats require more time and money while adult cats are slightly more self-sufficient and inexpensive.

3. Be Ready for a Long-Term Commitment
Although many people believe that cats are no-muss pets that require very little in the way of maintenance or expenses, any cat is a long-term investment. Depending on your cat, it could easily live and thrive for more than 20 years with proper care.

Additionally, expenses like cat toys, litter, leashes, collars, vet visits, and more can add up to more than $1,000 per year. If you’re going to get a cat, make sure that you’re ready to take on a long commitment because it isn’t fair to the cat to dump them later in life.

4. Make Sure You Have the Financial Means
Even though cats are relatively low maintenance, it’s important that you have money set aside for things like emergencies or unexpected expenses that could crop up. You will save a little money by getting your cat from the shelter because most of them will spay or neuter your cat before you get it.

However, you want to have money set aside in the event of an unexpected vet visit. Your cat depends on you for all of their care, and you want to be able to give them the best care possible without bankrupting yourself.

5. Consider Further Health Testing
Most shelters will test for feline leukemia virus and feline immunodeficiency virus because these are two potentially fatal and communicable disease. If your shelter doesn’t test for these things, consider taking your cat to the vet and requesting these tests.

This is especially important if you have more than one cat in the home already because you don’t want to spread any diseases to your cats. The vet will check for mites, fleas, and ticks while you’re getting them tested for the other diseases as well. Keep your new cat separated until you get a clean bill of health.

6. Consider Adopting in Pairs
Unless you work from home, it can be difficult to ensure your cat gets all of the attention and interaction they need to stay happy and healthy. The American Humane Society shows that adopting cats in pairs gives them a bond and mental stimulation that a person can’t.

Maybe there are already two cats at the shelter that get along very well. If you think you can handle it, seriously consider getting two cats instead of one. This will impact your finances, though, so carefully think about it before you act.

7. Confine Your Cat at First
When you first bring your cat home, it’s essential that you confine them to one area of the house or a room for at least the first seven days. Make a point to go into the room for several hours each day to interact with your cat and start forming a bond with them.

Confining your cat will help to ease the transition from the shelter to your home, and it’ll help your cat start to trust you. As your cat gets more comfortable, you can slowly give them the run of the house and help them settle in.

8. Pick Out a Reputable Vet
If you don’t have a vet that you go to, take steps to decide which vet in your area is the best choice for your needs. Ask family and friends if they have any recommendations, or you can ask the shelter staff which vet they use or recommend.

Once you bring your new cat home, make a point to make a general checkup appointment within the first few days. If the shelter has records, make sure you request a copy of them to have on-hand. You can address any concerns you may have at this appointment, and the vet can give your cat a clean bill of health.

9. Don’t Rush Through the Adoption Process
Although it’s exciting to pick out a new best friend, you want to take your time with the adoption process and ensure you find the perfect match for your wants, needs, and personality. Ask to see several different cats and make a note on how they reacted to having you in the room with them.

Come back a second time and see how the cat reacts, and bring your kids with to see how they all interact. If you have other pets in the house, make sure you ask the shelter staff how this cat gets along with other species like dogs.

10. Set Aside Bonding Time
How you go about bonding with your cat will depend heavily on the cat’s age. For example, kittens need you to hold them, talk to them, pet them, and look you in the face to form a strong bond. However, older cats are much different.

If you get a cat that is over four months old, you let the cat dictate how long it takes the bond to form. Let the cat come to you when they want attention or affection, and let the cat initiate all of the contact. This will build a much stronger bond that lasts throughout your cat’s life.

11. Keep Your Cat Indoors
One of the best things you can do to keep your new cat safe is to keep them indoors unless you take them out on a leash or in a controlled environment. If the cat stays indoors, you won’t have to worry about ticks, other cats, cars, dogs, or environmental hazards that could hurt your cat.

Once your cat settles in, you can start training them with a harness and leash to go outside. This way, your cat will get the best of both worlds while you get the chance to let your pet explore in a safe and contained matter.

12. Get Pet Insurance
Pet insurance works just like regular human insurance, and it can help save you thousands of dollars in vet bills over your cat’s lifetime. Ideally, you’ll purchase this insurance when your cat is healthy and doesn’t have any problems to lock in the best rate.

You can shop around and use comparison tools to find the best pet insurance in your area. Just make sure you double-check and see what the insurance covers, what it doesn’t cover, copays, deductibles, and any maximum coverage limits.

13. Slowly Introduce Other Pets
If you have other pets in the house, it could take weeks until your new cat fits in with the rest of the family, and you want to do introductions very slowly to avoid any fights. Keep your cat separate for the first few days you bring them home and make sure you introduce new pets with a door between them.

This will allow your cat and other pets to smell each other without being close enough to grab onto one another. Eventually, you can allow your pets to see each other and make face-to-face introductions. This is usually easier with dogs than other cats.

14. Have Patience
You’ll want to be very patient with your cat as they learn what is and what isn’t acceptable behavior in their new home. Everything from remembering where their litter box is to interacting with kids and pets will take time to learn. However, your cat will reward you with a relationship that will stretch over the years.

Bottom Line

Picking out a cat from the shelter and bringing them home can be a daunting task, but your cat will be a constant companion for years to come. Following these 14 tips can help ensure you find a healthy cat that matches your lifestyle and slips into your family as if they were born to be there.