It's a big decision to adopt a cat. But with thousands of cats and kittens across the country waiting to be adopted from shelters, the love and rewards you'll get in return are immense.
How to adopt a cat
If you’re a first time pet parent looking to adopt, it’s important to know what to expect, and what you’ll need to do, before and after your new furry friend arrives.
A good first step is to make a list of any animal rehoming centres near you. Start with the large national organisations that have rehoming centres across the country:
Next, consider smaller and more local cat rescues. You might find them with a Google search, or through social media. CatChat is a brilliant resource and lists cat rescues by area. It also tells you which ones are registered charities.
Where to adopt a cat
You can visit each charity's website to view their cat profiles and learn more about the needs of each cat and whether they're a good match for you.
Once you've found a potential match, make sure you look at the rescue centre's rehoming policy and procedures. You may need to fill in an information form so they can check you're a match, or contact them to show your interest.
Larger animal charities such as the RSPCA or Cats Protection will ask you to complete an application form when first applying for adoption. Other rehoming centres may ask that you call your nearest branch or send an email when beginning the adoption process.
Some larger rescue centres might have a cattery you can visit to see the cats in person before you narrow down your search, or they might run open days.
Meet your cat for the first time
Once your initial application has been approved and background checks carried out, you'll get the chance to meet your new friend in person.
How your first meeting takes place will again depend on the rehoming centre, but you'll usually be invited to the centre for your first meeting.
Charities like the RSPCA also arrange home visits before you take your cat home, and you should check with the rehoming centre whether this is part of the adoption process. Sometimes this can be done with a video call.
A home visit can be helpful for new pet owners as staff from the rehoming centre can provide tips and advice on caring for your new cat.
How much does it cost to adopt a cat?
In most circumstances, you'll need to pay a fee to adopt a cat. How much it'll cost depends on the organisation. Even if you’re adopting a stray cat, you’ll still need to pay for medical check-ups, vaccines, and other potential procedures down the line.
Adoption fees help pay for the care of animals during their time spent at a rehoming centre. Even smaller animal charities can rack up thousands of pounds of vet fees every month for the cats in their care.
Fees are generally good value when you consider that the cat you're adopting will usually have been neutered, vaccinated, microchipped, and treated for fleas and worms. They may also have had expensive veterinary treatment to get them into good health for rehoming.
How long does it take to adopt a cat?
The time it takes to complete the adoption process will depend on where you’re adopting your cat from, and on the cat itself. If you’re adopting a rescue cat, the shelter will typically conduct a visit to check if their new home is suitable. Similarly, some cats may need to undergo medical procedures before they can be adopted, while shelters may require new owners to complete paperwork.
Remember: these pre-adoption processes are very normal, and are intended to help and protect you and your cat.
Should you adopt a cat?
Not every cat is going to be suitable for every owner and it’s important you take the time to decide whether you can give your adopted pet the safety and happiness that it needs over the course of its life. Think about the following factors before you decide to adopt:
Free time: Will you be able to give your cat the time and attention that it needs? Cat ownership involves socialising and playing with your cat, feeding it, and cleaning its litter tray.
Home environment: Make sure your home is going to be safe and comfortable for your cat. Beyond potential health risks, you’ll also need to be able to give your cat space to exercise and explore.
Long term: Cats can be companions for life, which will likely mean scratched furniture and other accidents over the years. Similarly, you’ll need to feed your cat a nutritious diet and, when necessary, take it to the vet or buy it medicine.
Why do cats need rehoming?
There are lots of different reasons why animals need to be rehomed. A change in someone's circumstances, like a relationship break-up or moving to a new house, can mean that a cat will need to find a new home.
Sometimes an owner may discover too late that their cat is pregnant and that its kittens will need to be rehomed as they cannot look after them.
Most pets that need rehoming will be older animals but you can still adopt kittens and younger cats.
If you choose to adopt an adult cat, you should remember that they will come with a fully-formed personality, character, and a history that's unique to them. The benefit of adopting older cats is that they are often already house trained and may require less attention than kittens.
When choosing a cat you can always speak with staff at the rehoming centre who can tell you more about how and why your cat was put up for adoption.
How much does it cost to own a cat?
Adopting a cat is a long-term financial commitment. Make sure you think about the cost over their whole lifetime, not just the first few months or years.
The biggest cost to take into account will be veterinary bills.
Vaccinations: We found that the average cost of an annual cat booster was £49.55
Neutering, You’ll need to neuter your cat, if this wasn't done at the shelter. Our research shows that theaverage cost to neuter a cat is £92
Dental care: You may need to pay for preventative dental care for cat likecleaning and scraping
Additional treatments: Your cat may need additional treatments, such as Flea tick and worm treatment.
We understand that lots of rescue cats might have been ill in the past. Most insurers can't cover pre-existing medical conditions, but all our policies cover conditions that ended more than two years ago and we even have a pre-existing policy that can cover more recent problems.
Ask the experts: our panel of feline pet parents
We're huge cat fans at ManyPets. We didn't have to look far to find some top cat experts on our team to answer your top cat adoption questions.
We asked our three experts at ManyPets about their own experiences of adopting a cat to put together a guide on everything you need to know about finding, choosing and settling in a shelter cat.
Sarah's a former vet nurse and our vet relationship and technical claims manager. She specialises in feline welfare and behaviour.
Our chief commercial officer who has a black cat called Wilbur.
Our office manager Jen is owned by a 14-year-old tuxedo Moggie called Sparky.
How do you choose between a kitten and an adult cat?
Jen: Make sure you meet with the cat first so they can get used to you. If you're getting a kitten, they WILL scratch everything, so be prepared.
Sarah: I would always recommend looking at older cats as well as kittens to see which best fits in with your lifestyle.
Kittens are more inquisitive, playful and go through lots of behavioural changes as they grow and develop, meaning their personalities can change a lot as they approach adulthood.
With older cats, often what you see is what you get – their characteristics and behaviours will remain the same throughout adulthood.
Charlotte: Definitely consider rehoming an adult cat – because you'll know their personality and cats live a long time! If you live anywhere near a busy road consider an indoor cat."
What cat breed should I choose?
Sarah: Research is key. You need to understand the needs of cats and how different breeds have different personalities. Siamese cats can be very vocal, Persians need lots of grooming to maintain their coats, and Bengals can be quite needy.
Charlotte: I agree with Sarah. Consider breed characteristics and your family dynamic (if you're getting a pedigree) – they vary a lot. If you're getting a kitten, you should really check their background to check health and socialisation in advance.
Breed aside, what kind of cat should I get?
Jen: Your family dynamic is important. You wouldn't want a cat that's scared of kids if you have little ones running round the house.
Sarah: Cats are naturally solitary creatures and enjoy their own company, although there are always exceptions. Territory is the most important thing to our cats and naturally, their territory can span up to 25 miles.
In today's society with houses being closer together, more neighbourhood cats and outside access not always being possible (for example living in a block of flats). This can have an impact on our cats' physical and mental wellbeing.
What should I do when I bring my new cat home?
Sarah: Allow your cat or kitten to explore their new home in their own time. Let them approach you and give them a private area with everything they need – food, water and a litter box – then allow them to explore in their own time.
Allowing your cat to approach you and learn what they like and what they don't. Most cats don't enjoy being handled too much, especially as they're still learning what's safe and what isn’t in their new homes.
As they gain confidence they will explore more and interact as they check out their new home.
Jen: Use Feliway when they first come home so the place smells inviting.
Have lots of places for them to hide or climb up high. Don't put their water bowl next to their food bowl (they like to eat and drink in different places).
Sarah: Pheromone products can make a big difference settling your cat into their new home. I would highly recommend a Feliway Diffuser.
Charlotte: Cats are incredibly territorial – this means that a new home will probably completely throw them off their game for a good while. Just be patient.
How much attention will my new cat or kittens need?
Sarah: As cats are natural hunters, it's important to invest in interactive toys and to make time to play the occasional hunting game with them. This can include encouraging them to chase a piece of string.
You can buy artificial plants and grass with an array of climbing and scratch posts to give them that outdoor feel indoors.
You can also find apps and DVDs dedicated to cats that will make a huge difference.