How To Adopt A Cat: A Step-By-Step Guide, Tips, and Checklist

So you want to adopt a cat? You’ve been searching cats for adoption near me and feel overwhelmed. Can you adopt a cat for free? Read our step-by-step guide to adopting the perfect cat for your family including questions to ask before adopting a cat, what is the cost for a cat, the answer to should I adopt a cat or a kitten, and a cat checklist of what you need for your new fur baby!

How to Adopt a Cat a fluffy striped cat laying on back on a floor


Looking to adopt a pet is serious business and adopting a cat is no different. 

But first, let’s cover some FAQs when you adopt a cat:


Can you adopt a cat for free?

You can find cats to adopt for free. Many shelters offer periodic “free adoption days” where they waive all fees associated with adopting a shelter pet that day.

You may have also searched online for something like “baby kittens for free near me” and found listings from there.

However, be sure that you completely research these listings and why the person posting about free cats.

Where did the cats come from?

Is it because they are not properly spay or neutering their pets?

Also, there are no guarantees for cat health or anything else if you get a free cat from someone (or an “organization”) online that you are not familiar with other than seeing them offering free kittens.

Be sure to do your research!

How much does it cost to adopt a cat?

When you adopt a cat from a shelter, there are often associated fees to take care of application processing, sometimes any spay or neuter fees, and other fees for shots or other things your cat may need. Fees vary by location, so if cost is a concern be sure to call the animal shelter or rescue center ahead of time so you fully understand the payment needed.

What about purchasing a cat from a pet store or breeder?

Ahhh, yes. The old adopting vs buying a pet argument. Here’s the thing: You local animal shelter is full of pets of all kinds that need people to give them homes. There 3.4 million cats that enter shelters every year in the United States. 

(Let that sink in for a minute.)

They need homes!

Also, there can be all kinds of issues with buying a cat from some pet stores or breeders.

Is owning a cat expensive?

Owning a cat is not necessarily expensive, but you do need to plan for regular expenses in your budget after getting a pet. When owning a cat, regular, ongoing expenses include:

  • Cat Food
  • Cat Litter
  • Veterinarian Expenses
  • Kennels or pet sitters (when on vacation)
  • Toys

You’ll also have expenses for things like food bowls and other supplies specific to your cat’s needs.

How do I adopt a kitten?

Adopting a kitten is a little different than adopting a cat. Although the process is the same, most shelters will not allow people to adopt a kitten until it is the 8-12 week old range.


Is adopting a cat a good idea?

Before you fall in love with those cute cat pictures online or browsing baby kittens for adoption, you need to understand everything that goes into the cat adoption process and what it takes to adopt and care for a cat. It’s not a decision that should be made spur of the moment without proper research.


25 Questions To Ask Before Adopting a Cat

25 Questions To Ask Before Adopting A Cat

  1. Do I have the time, energy, and money to take care of a cat or kitten?
  2. Do I understand the costs associated with cat adoption and owning a cat?
  3. Do I understand the steps involved in adoption?
  4. Have I read about the pet adjustment period and understand what happens when moving cats to a new home?
  5. Is my home prepared or set up for a pet rescue animal?
  6. Do I have the right supplies for a rescue cat? (See Our Checklist Below!) 
  7. Is the cat coming from a legitimate rescue? What kind of person/organization is it?
  8. What is the return policy for the pet?
  9. What age is the feline?
  10. How has the cat been living in the current situation? (In a cage, open room with other cats, etc.)
  11. What is the adoption fee? (Are there additional fees for adoption day?)
  12. What is the cat’s history? (Where did it come from? How did it get here?)
  13. Are there any health or behavioral issues with the cat or kitten?
  14. Is there a medical history for the cat?
  15. Is the cat already spayed or neutered?
  16. Are the cats shots up to date? Has the he/she been tested for FELV and FIV?
  17. Do I need to keep the new pet isolated from my other pets for a period of time?
  18. Who will be the cat’s veterinarian?
  19. What kind of upcoming shots or medical visits will the cat need?
  20. What food (style and brand) has the cat been eating?
  21. Is the cat litter box trained?
  22. Does the cat get along with other cats (or dogs)?
  23. How is the cat with children? (If you have kids.)
  24. Who will care for my new cat when I am out of town?
  25. Have I spent one-on-one time with the cat and given pet adopting serious consideration?


Should I adopt a kitten or a cat?

Should I adopt a kitten or a cat?

We get it: all those baby kittens for adoption are tempting, but before you adopt a kitten there some things you need to think about:

  • You should never adopt (or take a kitten away from the mama cat) that is younger than 8-12 weeks.
  • Kittens shouldn’t be left alone for very long (more than a couple of hours at a time). So, if you have long periods of time, like a job, where you are gone from the house, you need to consider this. Kittens six months and younger should never be left home alone overnight.
  • Kittens need more positive attention, play time, and socialization in order to prevent behavioral problems later. 
  • Costs the first year for kittens may be more than cats because they have more veterinarian checkups, shots, etc.
  • There are more older cats in shelters that need homes than kittens. If you really don’t have a preference, consider adopting an older cat.


So, I’m adopting a cat.

Now what?

Adopt a Cat Checklist

What do you need when adopting a cat? [CHECKLIST]

Now that we’ve discussed how to adopt a cat and you’ve done your research, let’s take a look at what should you buy for a rescue cat.

We discussed some of them above, but here’s a checklist.

What do you need before you adopt a cat?

What to bring with you when adopting a cat?

What dog supplies should you bring with you to the shelter when adopting a cat or a kitten?


  • Cat carrier with a blanket or old towel

You will not be able to leave the shelter without a cat carrier. 

If you don’t bring one with you, then you may have to buy one from the shelter before you go.


What other questions do you have to adopt a cat?