Consider These Factors Before Adopting a Cat

cheerful woman stroking her cat

Key Points

  • Adoption processes and requirements vary by state and agency, so research before visiting their facilities.

  • Some cats are more hypoallergenic than others, producing less dander.

  • There are potential age-related health issues that you need to consider when adopting a senior cat.

Adopting a cat can be fun and rewarding, but it also takes some thought. Adopting a cat isn't a simple decision. Several essential factors are involved when bringing home a new family member.

Understanding the adoption process, evaluating your lifestyle, and considering the cat's age are a few major things to consider before adopting a cat. This article looks at the process in more detail to cover the key points you need to know.

Adoption Process

The adoption process varies by state and agency. Some require adopters to be at least 18; others set the minimum age at 21. Before deciding if you should adopt, find out if you can. You don't want to fall in love with a fabulous feline only to have the shelter attendant hand your driver's license back to you and say, "We seem to have a problem here."

Before starting the cat adoption process, familiarize yourself with the adoption agency's requirements. These often include completing an application form, providing references, and demonstrating a stable home environment. Some agencies insist on a certain level of experience with pet care.

If you're a young adult looking to adopt your first pet, this sounds unfair. Some shelters are reluctant to let first-time pet owners adopt an animal. It sounds a lot like, "How can I get job experience if you don't give me a job," but they have their reasons.

The Humane Society of Missouri lists the requirements of St. Louis City and Best Buddy Pet Center Adoption Facilities. They advise, "Please allow sufficient time to get acquainted with the pets as well as complete an adoption application. Completing the application can take 45 minutes or longer; the purpose of the application is to allow clients to consider the care and finances that go into raising a companion animal for — depending on the pet — 15 years or longer."

Adoption From Animal Rescues

When considering where to adopt from, don't overlook local animal rescues. Many rescue centers are overpopulated with cats in desperate need of loving homes. Adoption from a rescue agency contributes to the important cause of reducing overpopulation, which often leads to euthanasia.

Unless it's a "no-kill" shelter, a sad fact of life is the facility has to make room for the many animals needing their services. There are more domestic pets in need of shelter than there are cages and kennels to house them. The rescue workers want to free up that space by placing the animals in loving homes. When that isn't possible, there may be only one alternative.

Pre-Adoption Home Check and Interviews

Most adoption agencies conduct home checks before allowing someone to adopt an animal, so prepare yourself for this visit. This process often includes an interview to make you fully aware of the responsibilities that come with pet ownership.

Remember, these shelters want to say "Yes!" However, they're quite prepared to say "No!" if they detect red flags indicating the cat may be neglected, in danger — say, from an aggressive dog — or likely to be returned to the shelter or abandoned to fend for themselves.


If you're allergic to cats, you may think owning one is impossible. That isn't necessarily the case. Some cats are more hypoallergenic than others. The type and severity of your allergies also make a difference.

If you're mildly allergic to a cat's dander, a cat that sheds less than others may work for you. Bengal, Siamese, and Russian Blue breeds are mostly hypoallergenic. There are no completely non-allergenic cats because almost all shed to some degree. The exceptions are hairless breeds like the Sphynx. Even hairless cats produce dander, though regular bathing reduces the amount.

Your Lifestyle

Another important consideration is the type of lifestyle you lead. If you have children, you must consider how kids typically interact with animals and their excited nature. A senior cat who isn't used to children isn't a good fit. Kittens match a child's energy level and playfulness.

If you live alone or travel frequently, look at potential adoptees with more independence and are less likely to have or develop separation anxiety.

Time Commitment

You must also consider your time commitment to pet ownership. Do you have time to settle a new cat into their new home? If you adopt a kitten, are you willing to set aside time for the engagement and training they need at that critical stage of life?

Every cat needs love and attention, but kittens require even more because they're still learning and navigating their environment. Consider adopting two kittens at once. They learn from one another and keep each other company.

Space in Your Home

Before you adopt two cats — or even one — look around your home. Do you have enough space for a cat? It's not just about room for the cat to roam and play. Their litter boxes, beds, cat towers, food and water stations, and toys all require some space.

If you have more than one cat or other pets, you need a space the new cat can call their own. They need a place to retreat to when they seek solitude or refuge from other family members.

Financial Responsibilities

Look at your budget before adopting a cat. Besides the adoption fee, initial costs include their bed, litter box, food and water dishes, grooming tools, and scratching posts. These costs may be minimal, but the bulk comes later. Routine continuing expenses include food and treats, litter, and vet visits. After a while, these add up.

Besides those daily life expenses, emergencies happen. Unexpected health issues arise, and you must prepare yourself to deal with these. Some surgeries and other procedures easily cost thousands of dollars. Make sure you're financially able to handle these expenses. Pet insurance protects against expensive vet bills but involves paying a monthly premium.

A young girl kisses her kitten.

Age of the Cat

As they age, a cat's needs and personality change. Choose a cat that's age matches your lifestyle and time commitment. Whether you choose a playful kitten, a mature cat, or a senior feline, understand that each age has its own demands. Thoroughly research potential health issues and costs related to the cat's age before committing.

Kittens require plenty of time, engagement, and patience as they learn. Kittens can be demanding and require a lot of time, which might not suit those with a busy schedule. Young kittens' medical costs include vaccinations and spaying/neutering.

Adult cats typically have established personalities and adapt easily to a new environment. These felines generally require less active playtime but still need companionship and commitment.

Senior cats are lower-energy but may require special care and frequent veterinary visits for age-related ailments like diabetes or arthritic conditions. They may require ongoing medication for chronic conditions. They aren't as active or "fun," but compensate with their calm demeanor and need for less training.

Cat's Temperament

All cats are the same, right? Wrong! They each have individual preferences and personalities. Where do you think that old saying, "He's a different breed of cat," came from?

Some cats love playing in the water and don't mind baths; others avoid it at all costs. Some cats crave being outdoors, while others are perfectly content to stay inside and may treat your backyard's green grass like molten lava. Some cats hate to be picked up and held; others love cuddling when you cradle them in your arms.

Before deciding on a particular cat, spend time with them and determine their temperament.


Cats have a relatively long lifespan compared to other pets, but your cat isn't going to be around forever. It isn't a pleasant thought, but you must face this reality. If you get a kitten, it's pretty likely that they may live into their late teens. You have fewer years of companionship with an adult or senior cat.

Every cat needs love, so consider adopting an adult or elderly cat who may not find a home in their remaining years. You must also consider the impact a loss might have on your children or other family members. Awareness of cats' common health problems and following your vet's advice promotes a longer life in your feline.

Compatibility With Other Pets

If you already have pets in your home, consider the impact a new cat might have on them and vice versa. Many cats get along with other cats and dogs easily. Others may need — shall we say — "some adjustment" to their new housemates.

Ask the shelter attendants about your potential adoptee's history with other animals. Sometimes, the background of a cat is completely unknown when they come into the shelter. You may get lucky and learn a wealth of information that influences your decision and makes the transition to their new home less stressful. The simple fact is, you can't know if you don't ask.

"We Got That Cat!"

Perhaps you have preconceptions about cats in shelters or adoption facilities. You may think they're all feral strays in lousy shape and poor health. This simply isn't true.

A TikTok video posted on July 25, 2023, by the Animal Care Centers of NYC shows the variety of cats available for adoption. This is true of many adoption centers around the country.

Consider the cat's age, temperament, longevity, and compatibility with other pets before deciding. You must also do some self-examination. Do you have the time, space, and finances to deal with a new pet? Is adopting a cat compatible with your lifestyle and your home environment?

If everything points in a positive direction, go to your local shelter and spend some time with the cats available for adoption. Considering the many cats that come into shelters daily, you're likely to find a cat who's perfect for you.

There's a special cat out there who needs your love and care. When you find them, you can say you got that cat!

For more helpful tips regarding adopting a new cat and other feline-related topics, subscribe to Cattitude Daily.

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