Here's How To Adopt A Cat Step By Step

Get ready for a new BFF 😻

person holding a bunch of kittens

So you’ve decided to adopt a cat — congrats!

Adding a cat to your family’s super exciting, but there’s a lot to know first.

The Dodo spoke to Mary Shaughnessy, a founding member of Kitt Crusaders in Los Angeles, and Susan Courtney, a rescue partner with Kitt Crusaders, to find out what you need to know about adopting a cat.

What to consider before adopting a cat

You should definitely adopt a cat — if you’re ready.

You’ll want to make sure you’re totally prepared because when you adopt a cat, you’ll be responsible for all of his care and well-being.

Here’s what you need to consider before you adopt.

Time commitment

Adopting a cat’s a major time commitment. Cats may seem like they’re low maintenance, but they actually need a lot of quality time with their owners. You’ll have to spend time every day feeding him, playing with him and cleaning up after him.

When you first adopt your cat, you’ll have to spend extra time making him feel at home and helping him warm up to his new space, too.

Cost of owning a cat

Cats aren’t cheap. The ASPCA estimates that owning a cat can cost more than $800 per year.

Not only do you have to think about the cost of actually adopting, but you’ll have to budget for all of the recurring expenses, like food, litter and trips to the vet. Plus, you’ll have to buy a ton of initial supplies to prepare your home for your new cat, like a bed, litter box and cat tree.

And keep in mind that unexpected injuries or illnesses can come up at any time, so you should be prepared to pay for treatment.

Other members of your household

If you have other people living with you, think about how they’ll react to having a new cat — and how the cat will react to them. Some cats may get overwhelmed by a household with kids or a lot of people.

If you have other animals living in your house, you’ll have to spend time introducing them safely so you don’t have conflict.

And if you’re not sure if you’re ready to adopt just yet, you can always foster a cat!

Where to adopt a cat

There are lots of places to adopt from. Research shelters and rescues in your area to see the cats they have up for adoption.

Shelters house animals on-site, so you can browse the adoptable cats in person and sometimes on the shelter’s website. Rescues usually use volunteers to provide foster homes for their adoptable cats, so in most cases, you’ll be looking through online profiles and will need to make an appointment to meet a cat face-to-face.

Some rescues specialize in purebred cats, so if you’re looking for a cat of a specific breed but still want to help out a cat in need, consider these types of groups in your search.

Certain organizations only have cats available, which can be good for first-time cat owners because the staff will have specialized training and knowledge about how to care for your cat that they can share with you.

To find adoptable cats in your area, try sites like Petfinder, which even let you add filters, like age, breed and size, to find a cat who’s perfect for you.

How much does it cost to adopt a cat?

The cost of adopting a cat can vary depending on a number of factors, including the age and breed of the cat, where you adopt from and where you live.

“[Costs] can vary from state to state, even town to town,” Shaughnessy told The Dodo. “For example, veterinary expenses, food and litter, etc., may cost less in [a rural] area than they would in a large city.”

To give you an idea of what sort of price range you could be looking at, Shaughnessy broke down what adoption costs are like in one of the biggest cities in the U.S.

“Here in Los Angeles, I can tell you it would range somewhere between $50 to $200 for one cat or kitten,” Shaughnessy said. “Lots of groups will give you a discounted rate if you adopt a pair.”

The adoption process

Knowing what to expect when adopting a cat can make it a lot easier.

Research shelters and rescues

Look up shelters and rescues nearby to see what cats they have up for adoption. You can even go visit some locations and see the cats in person.

Fill out an application

You’ll be asked to fill out an adoption application with information about yourself, like your lifestyle, your experience with pets and if you have other people or pets living with you. This is so the organization can find a cat who’s a good fit for you. Some places, especially rescues, will also ask for references and a home visit.

Meet cats

Once your application’s approved, you can meet with cats to find one that you want to adopt. Bring everyone who lives in your home with you to be sure the cat gets along with each person in your household.

Taking your cat home

Once you’ve found your perfect cat, you’ll be ready to introduce him to his new home.


Start to make your house cat-ready before your cat comes home. First, you should get all the supplies you’ll need for him.

According to Shaughnessy, you need to have:

  • Food (both wet and dry)
  • Cat litter
  • A litter box
  • A litter scoop
  • Toys
  • Bedding
  • A scratching post

Cat-proof your house

Cats are mischievous sometimes, so be sure to remove anything dangerous, like poisonous plants or cleaning products, in your house or make them inaccessible to your cat.

“Cat-proof the [house] by removing any cleaning supplies, wires [and] anything with sharp edges or that can break easily,” Courtney told The Dodo.

Give your cat a place to stay

Once you have all your supplies, decide where your cat’s going to stay for the first few weeks.

“When cats first go to a new place, they like small and safe places, such as the bathroom or [a] small bedroom,” Courtney said.

So for the first week at least, your cat will stay in his separate room to allow him to get used to his new environment.

Introduce other pets

If you have another cat or a dog, you’ll have to take the appropriate steps to introduce them.

When you bring a new cat into your resident pet’s home, he could get scared or aggressive if he feels that his territory is being threatened. That’s why it’s really important to make sure your pets start things off on the right paw.

Keep your pets separated in different rooms at first. Once they seem comfortable smelling each other through the door, you can introduce them while keeping them separated by a pet gate. If everyone gets along, you can transition to supervised playtime.

Settle him in

If you adopt a rescue cat, you may have to spend extra time helping him settle in.

“[A rescue cat is] a cat or kitten that was neglected, abused, homeless, abandoned or at risk of being euthanized at the shelter,” Courtney said.

Because rescue cats came from difficult backgrounds, they often need some time to warm up to their new homes. Your rescue cat might be scared and a little skittish or shy when he first gets to your house.

“[Having] patience and understanding how scary a new home can appear to a cat goes a long way [toward] building trust and a lifelong relationship together,” Courtney explained.

Adopting a cat’s definitely a commitment, but if you do all your research and prepare your home ahead of time, it’ll be so worth it. You might even rescue your new best friend!