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3 things to consider when adopting a cat

Adopting a cat can be a wonderful and exciting time! But before you bring your cat home, it is important to seriously consider if you can commit to providing the time and care they need for the rest of their lives.

Temperament, health needs and activity level are all points to consider when deciding which cat to adopt. We encourage adopting from a reputable shelter as these pets have been vet-checked, vaccinated, desexed and had a behaviour assessment. If adopting from the RSPCA, they will help you decide if the pet is a good match for your family.

Individual characteristics and care requirements

It’s important to consider the type of cat you like and can spend the necessary time with – a longhaired cat will need regular (or daily) grooming, and possibly clipping by a professional groomer. Cats with flat faces (brachycephalic) may suffer from eye, skin and breathing problems and need expensive surgery and ongoing vet care to help them breathe. Research which cat breeds may have the characteristics you seek or consider a moggie rescue cat and get the joy of seeing their personalities develop. Rescue groups and reputable shelters like the RSPCA will be more than happy to help you on your road to cat adoption!

Household dynamics

Your household dynamics will help determine if a cat is a good match for your family. All cats are individuals and need their physical and behavioural needs catered for. Especially if your family is noisy, ensure you provide quiet spaces for a cat to retreat to for rest. It isn’t a good idea to adopt a pet if your family is going through a lot of stress and uncertainty. While helping to feed and care for animals is a great way for young people to develop empathy for others, it's not realistic to expect a child to take on the sole care and responsibility for a pet.

Longevity and commitment: Planning for a lifelong feline companion

Shelters are often inundated with cats and kittens looking for new homes, and desexing is vital to help minimise the number of cats being surrendered to shelters. Cats should never be adopted on the spur of the moment. Plan ahead to ensure you can provide a lifetime of care, including vet treatment and holiday care if you are away. Pet insurance is a great idea to consider to help you with unexpected vet bills due to eligible accidents or illness.

Age and health needs

Cats can live a healthy life well into their teens so it is well worth adopting a mature cat if you prefer a more settled companion than a lively young kitten. Consider if you have the time to devote to a cat and understand the level of daily interaction and care required.

If you prefer to adopt a kitten, ensure the kitten is weaned from their mother, at least eight weeks old and has been given at their first vaccination, flea treatment, worming and are microchipped. Adopting from a shelter ensures these things will already be done, they are also likely to be desexed already, saving you this expense. Kitten adoption may involve choosing an individual from a litter of kittens. If you prefer a purebred cat, check your local shelter – many purebreds end up being rehomed due to people-related reasons, like their owner moving to a rental where pets aren’t allowed or a change in family circumstances. You could also contact a breed society to find a reputable breeder or breed-specific rescue group.

Some cats have special health needs, such as requiring daily medication or a particular diet. Think about whether you can take on the time and cost of this ongoing commitment.

What should I buy before adopting a cat?

Before adopting your cat, ensure your house is set up to safely contain your cat whilst they become acclimated to their new home. A quiet room away from noisy appliances and people is ideal. Ensure that you have these items:

  • Bed
  • Water and food bowls
  • Litter trays (one per cat plus at least one extra, in various locations in the house)
  • A diet suitable for the cat’s health and life stage
  • Toys and environmental enrichment such as climbing towers, hiding spaces, scratching posts and puzzle feeders
  • Parasite (e.g., worm, flea) prevention
  • Ability to provide for the cat’s ongoing health care and vet needs

If you aren’t sure that you are ready to adopt a cat or kitten, fostering through a reputable rescue group or shelter may help you see what it’s like before you decide and may even encourage you to adopt one of the animals you foster.

Remember that all cats should be kept at home, whether indoors with a secure outdoor area or just indoors. Read our Safe and Happy Cats guide to find out more about how to do this.

They deserve the best of care

Cats are beautiful, intelligent animals and deserve the very best of care. Speak to your vet if you have any questions about caring for your cat, and consider RSPCA Pet Insurance as a way to help provide peace of mind for eligible costs of treating unexpected illness or accidents. If you’re with RSPCA Pet Insurance, a portion of first-year premiums will go towards supporting the valuable work of the RSPCA.

Dr Catherine Tiplady bio image

Dr Catherine Tiplady

Dr Catherine Tiplady studied veterinary science at the University of Queensland. After graduation, Dr Catherine worked in veterinary practice whilst undertaking postgraduate research in Animal Welfare, gaining additional degrees in Bachelor of Applied Science (Animal Studies) (Hons 1) and a PhD. Dr Catherine has published widely in peer reviewed scientific journals and has also authored a book, ‘Animal Abuse: Helping Animals and People’. Currently working in small animal practice, Dr Catherine also has her own business performing gentle in-home pet euthanasia and provides veterinary care and desexing services for animal welfare charities. Dr Catherine brings her passion for animal welfare, love of writing and scientific training together to contribute quality content to RSPCA Pet Insurance’s Pet Care blog.