Everything you need to know about adopting a cat

14 December 2023 - 8 min read
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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.

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A Value policy with £3,000 of lifetime vet fee cover.

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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:


  • Blue Cross

  • Cats Protection

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.

Should I adopt an older cat?

Lots of people think predominantly about kittens when they decide to adopt a cat, but it’s worth remembering that older cats also need safe, loving homes. Older cats are as adorable and have just as much affection to give as their kitten counterparts, and might actually be a better fit for some owners. 

Let’s explore some of the reasons why adopting an older cat might be the right choice for you:

  • Accidents and injuries: Older cats still suffer the odd bump and scrape but are typically more experienced navigating the world, and avoiding mishaps, than kittens. 

  • Personality: Older cats arrive at your home with fully-formed personalities, so you can decide ahead of time if they’re the kind of cat you’ll enjoy spending time with. 

  • Peace and quiet: Older cats often like to take things slower than energetic kittens, who will be running around and getting into trouble from day one. 

  • Low maintenance: Older cats often like to lie on their beds or simply snuggle for longer periods than kittens. If you need a lower maintenance pet to fit your busy schedule, an older cat might be for you. 

  • Child friendly: Older cats are more likely to be familiar with children and will have developed the temperament to deal with them. 

If you’re wondering how to adopt an older cat, get advice from your vet or talk to fellow cat lovers on social media groups. Call your local rescue centre to learn if they have older cats available for adoption, and consider visiting to meet them in person. And if you’re worried about insuring an older cat, explore your options: many companies, including ManyPets, offer insurance cover for older cats to keep them purring for years to come.

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.

You can take out cat insurance to cover unexpected accidents and illnesses, but pet insurance doesn't cover everything. You'll still have to pay for routine, planned treatments yourself:

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.

A cat with its arm on a woman, they are looking at each other

All our policies cover conditions that ended at least two years ago.

A cat with its arm on a woman, they are looking at each other

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 Dawson

Sarah's a former vet nurse and our vet relationship and technical claims manager. She specialises in feline welfare and behaviour.

Charlotte Halkett

Our chief commercial officer who has a black cat called Wilbur.

Jen Brindlow

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.

Digby Bodenham
UK engagement team lead

Digby is an experienced journalist in various fields but has specialised in insurance for more than six years. Before joining ManyPets in 2013 he was part of the editorial teams of various magazines, including Retail Week and Drapers. He has a degree in journalism and a cat called Potato.