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How to adopt a cat: a step-by-step guide
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How to adopt a cat: a step-by-step guide

Are you ready to welcome a new cat into your home? Adopting a cat is an exciting journey filled with love and companionship, but it's important to understand the process leading up to the adoption as well as how you can ensure your cat comfortably settles into your home as quickly as possible. 

From researching cat rescue centres to preparing your home for their arrival, this step-by-step guide will walk you through the entire process. Learn about the different adoption options available, including shelter cats, fostering, and owner surrender, and discover the requirements and paperwork involved.

Ensuring a comfortable transition for your new cat is key and will set the tone for your relationship with the cat. Find out how to set up a safe and stimulating environment, introduce them to existing pets, and establish a routine that will help them adjust smoothly.

Adopting a cat is a wonderful experience that requires careful planning and consideration. By following this step-by-step guide, you can make the adoption process in the UK as smooth as possible and provide a loving forever home for a deserving rescue cat.

Researching and choosing the right cat breed or type

When considering adopting a cat, the first step is to research and choose the right breed or type that suits your lifestyle. You may assume that most cats at rescue centres are moggies, but there are also a lot of pedigree cats that need a new home too.

If you do adopt a pedigree cat, remember that each breed comes with its own unique characteristics and needs. Some breeds are more active and require more attention, while others are more independent. Consider factors such as grooming requirements, energy levels, and any potential health issues associated with specific breeds. Research online, spend time with that particular breed and ask your vet or cat rescue team for advice. 

For example, as the most popular breed of cat in the UK, British Shorthairs are often up for adoption. This may be because they were former breeding cats and breeders don’t want them anymore, or it may be for other reasons. When adopting a British Shorthair, you must be aware of any health risks they may have (such as being prone to dental disease) or any dietary requirements (such as being prone to weight gain, so requiring a diet high in protein). 

If you adopt a moggy, they generally have less health issues than a pedigree. You will still need to consider the life it had before you adopted it including any health issues or trauma. This will help you decide if you can give them the lifestyle they need. 

Finding a reputable cat adoption organisation, cat rescue centre or shelter

Once you have decided on the type of cat you want to adopt, the next step is to find a reputable organisation to adopt from. There are numerous rescues and shelters across the UK that rescue and rehome cats in need. There are also organisations that act as networks or directories for rescues. Not sure where to start? Start by researching local shelters in your area. You can use Google to do this or there are amazing companies out there who will help you:

  • is a web-based registered charity sourcing new, loving homes for rescued cats and kittens, from rescue shelters and rehoming groups across the UK and Ireland through our Virtual Cat Shelters. Their on-line homing services are given free of charge to rescue centres large and small, from the numerous independent shelters and rescue groups to branches of the larger organisations. They also help vet practices to find homes for cats left in their care. The team at are incredibly helpful if you are looking to adopt for the first time and need any advice.
  • ADCH (Association of Dog and Cat Rehoming). The Association of Dogs and Cats Homes (ADCH) is the leading representative charity for dog and cat rescue and rehoming organisations across 8 jurisdictions in the British Isles.  Operating across England, Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey, the ADCH promotes best practice in animal welfare for dogs and cats. If you choose a cat rescue that’s a member of ADCH, you know they will be reputable. However, the converse isn’t true - just because a rescue isn’t part of ADCH doesn’t mean it isn’t reputable.

Look for reviews and testimonials to ensure the rescue you are talking to has a good track record of caring for their cats and facilitating successful adoptions. Reach out to them, ask questions about their adoption process, and express your interest in adopting a cat. They will guide you through the next steps. 

The adoption process - application, home visit, and interview

The adoption process typically involves an initial application (usually via an online form), a home visit, and an interview with the adoption organisation. This process helps ensure that the cat is placed in a suitable and loving home. 

The application form will require basic information about yourself, your living situation, and your experience with cats, whether you have a garden etc. Be honest and provide as much detail as possible. After reviewing your application, the organisation will likely conduct a home visit to assess the suitability of your home environment for a cat. They will check for any potential hazards and ensure that you have the necessary resources to care for a cat. This is a perfect opportunity to ask any questions you have about caring for your cat.

Finally, an interview will be conducted to get to know you better and understand your expectations and commitment to cat ownership.

Preparing your home for a new cat - getting food, litter, cat-proofing, supplies, and setting up a safe space

Before bringing your new cat home, it's crucial to prepare your home for their arrival. This involves cat-proofing your living space to ensure their safety. Remove any toxic plants, secure loose wires, and block off any small spaces where they could get stuck. 

Invest in essential cat supplies such as a litter tray, scratching posts, toys, and a comfortable bed. Set up a designated safe space where your new cat can retreat to when they need some alone time. This space should include their litter tray, food and water bowls, and a cosy bed. Gradually introduce them to other areas of the house once they feel comfortable in their safe space.

Moving house can be extremely stressful for a cat, so it’s best to minimise all other change during the process including:

  • Feed your new cat the same food they had in the rescue and gradually transition to new food over 2 weeks
  • Use the same litter and ideally same type of litter tray that they had in the rescue
  • Try and take some blankets or toys that have your cats scent on them for continuity and to reduce stress

Introducing your new cat to your home and existing pets

Introducing your new cat to your home and any existing pets should be done gradually to minimise stress and ensure a smooth transition. Start by keeping your new cat in a separate room for the first few days, allowing them to adjust to their new surroundings. During this time, exchange scents by swapping bedding or rubbing a cloth on each pet and placing it near the other. 

After a few days, you can begin supervised introductions. Use baby gates or crates to create a safe barrier between the pets and allow them to see and smell each other without direct contact. Gradually increase their time together and monitor their interactions closely. Provide positive reinforcement and rewards for good behaviour, and never force them to interact if they seem uncomfortable. Patience and a gradual approach are key to successful introductions.

Cat care essentials - feeding, grooming, and vet trips

Proper cat care is essential to their wellbeing and happiness. Feeding a balanced diet suitable for their age and specific needs is crucial. Consult your vet to determine the best food options and feeding schedule for your cat. Regular grooming, including brushing their coat and trimming their nails, helps maintain their health and hygiene. Schedule regular vet visits, vaccinations, and preventive treatments for parasites such as fleas and ticks. Establishing a good relationship with a trusted vet is essential for your cat's long-term health care.

Bonding and building trust with your new cat

Building a strong bond and trust with your new cat takes time and patience. Allow them to approach you on their terms and respect their boundaries. Provide plenty of positive reinforcement, such as treats and praise, when they exhibit desired behaviour. Engage in interactive play sessions to stimulate their natural hunting instincts and provide mental and physical stimulation. Spending quality time together, such as petting and grooming, helps strengthen the bond. Remember, each cat is unique, and it may take some time for them to fully trust and feel comfortable with you. Be patient and understanding throughout the process.

Common challenges and how to overcome them

During the transition period, you may encounter some challenges with your new cat. Common issues include:

  • Peeing or pooping outside the litter tray
  • Scratching furniture
  • Excessive vocalisation. 

Understanding the underlying causes of these behaviours is crucial. Consult with professionals, such as vets or your rescue to address any concerns and receive expert advice. Most rescues will provide support on whatsapp or text for a few weeks after the adoption as they are heavily invested in ensuring your cat is as happy as possible. They can help identify potential triggers and provide guidance on how to modify behaviour through positive reinforcement training or environmental enrichment.

Resources and support for new cat owners

As a new cat owner, you are not alone in your journey. There are numerous resources and support available to help you navigate the joys and challenges of cat ownership. Online forums, social media groups, and rescues are great platforms to connect with fellow cat owners, share experiences, and seek advice. Remember, the cat community is a supportive and welcoming one.

Conclusion and the joys of cat ownership

Adopting a cat is a rewarding and fulfilling experience. By following the step-by-step process outlined in this guide, you can ensure a smooth transition for both you and your new cat. From researching and choosing the right breed or type to preparing your home and introducing them to existing pets, each step is crucial for a successful adoption. Remember to provide love, patience, and a safe environment to help your new cat adjust and thrive. If you need any support with your adoption, please reach out and we will be happy to help or put you in contact with someone who can.

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