Shelters, breeders, cat cafés—these and other places to adopt a cat hold incredible potential to find your new fuzzy friend!
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woman petting her adopted cat
Credit: Delmaine Donson / Getty

Throw out the question, "Where can I adopt a cat?" among the kitty lovers, and be prepared for a wild round of waving hands and eager "Ooo! Ooo! I know! I know!" responses. Feline fanciers can't wait to make meaningful connections between fluffy and human friends, and there are numerous resources to ensure you discover the cat of your dreams.

What to Evaluate Before You Adopt a Cat

Here you are: totally smitten with the thought of a purring furball curled up on your lap. We're right there with you! But in what ways will your lifestyle accommodate them? Samantha Bell is the cat expert for Best Friends Animal Society. She tells Daily Paws a little forethought before adopting a cat makes all the difference.

For example, if you're not home much, kitty will miss you and might even develop anxiety as a result. So consider adopting a bonded pair—usually two kittens or adult cats who have grown up together. "It's really heartwarming to see a pair of cats who are already friends stay together. And while you're away, they'll have each other for company," Bell says.

If you're around more often, then you'll have plenty of time to play with an active kitty. Bell says it would also be wonderful for prospective pet parents who are home a lot to consider adopting a solo adult or an older cat who's not great with other felines. "There are so many cats in shelters that are great with people but terrified of other ones. They don't always make a great first impression on potential adopters because they're surrounded by other cats," she says. "But once they're home with you, they'll flourish." 

Finally, Bell adds that it's important to keep an open mind. "Not all cats' personalities fit into stereotypes. Each one has their own personality, so never discount a cat because they aren't male or female or a certain color or age. By doing so, you'll have the best odds of finding a great match."

Where Can I Adopt A Cat?

The best place to adopt a cat is from an organization or breeding program that puts the welfare of the animals first. Let's review these options.

Animal Shelters and Rescues

According to 2021–2022 data from The Humane Society, 3.2 million cats enter the shelter system each year. There are approximately 3,400 public, private, and rescue organizations in the U.S. (and thousands more not registered in a national database). While roughly 2 million kitties are adopted annually, there are still a million more in need of good homes like yours!

So if you wanted to adopt a cat today, your local shelter is the best place to start. Bell advises asking some key questions of the shelter or rescue personnel about adoptable cats who catch your eye:

  • They "should let you know as much as they know about the cat's medical history. But in case they do not, you want to ask about this."
  • Also find out what the cat is currently eating, what kind of litter they're using, and if there are toys or scratchers they enjoy.

"But please keep in mind there are a lot of questions that are too difficult for them to answer," she adds. "For example, you can ask if the cat is good with other cats, but unless they know what a cat is like [in this environment], they can't say for sure. This is why it's so wonderful to get cats into foster homes. Shelters can be terrifying for some cats, so their behavior in a shelter isn't always the best indicator of how they'll act in a home."

The average cost to adopt a kitten or a cat from a shelter is $50–$200, but this fee varies greatly, based on the facilities' cat care needs. However, there are frequent adoption specials that discount or waive these costs, and you can count on a number of services to be covered within the fee.

"They generally cover the spay/neuter procedure, vaccinations, and often microchipping, and sometimes health exams and medical care," Bell says. "Having all these things included in the adoption saves money and gets you off to a good start as a responsible pet parent."

Reputable Breeders

Another place to adopt a cat is from a reliable breeder. Marilyn Krieger, CCBC, is a certified cat behavior consultant, owner of The Cat Coach, and former coordinator of the California Bengal Cat Rescue. She has some helpful tips to make this process easier.

"People need to do their homework. They should start by finding catteries that are registered with either The International Cat Association or Cat Fanciers' Association," she tells Daily Paws. "Ask questions, find out how many years breeders have been breeding cats. Additionally, go to cat shows—meet the cats and breeders."

If your heart is set on a particular cat breed, Krieger suggests looking on social media for groups dedicated to them, as these are great outlets to network and ask questions. Rescue organizations dedicated to that breed often have groups, too.

Your thorough research upfront also helps you avoid online scams—approximately 20 percent of the 'product' from fake pet sellers is cats and kittens. "Remember, anyone can create an impressive website and say anything they want. It doesn't mean they're a legitimate breeder," she adds.

Here are additional ways to avoid disreputable breeders:

  • Kittens shouldn't be let go before 10 weeks of age. If an operation pushes for this release, say no.
  • "Be alert when a breeder insists on meeting in a parking lot," Krieger says. "It's a red flag when breeders don't interview buyers and/or don't want to see what the new environment looks like."
  • Cats/kittens from legitimate breeders should come with papers that show lineage. If these aren't provided, move on.
  • Review the breeder contract carefully. "Find out how old kittens are when they're adopted out, how many litters there are every year, and if the kittens are raised 'under foot'—which means in the house with the rest of the household," she adds.

Adoptable cats from breeders vary considerably in price, and specialty or rare cats definitely cost more. For example, a popular yet common favorite such as a Siamese might start at $200 per kitten, whereas a Scottish fold could be as high as $3,000.

Cat Cafés

If you wonder "where can I adopt a cat but play with them for hours beforehand and enjoy a nice latte or glass of wine" then dash off to the nearest cat café! All across the country, these innovative businesses are changing the way we adopt by helping shelters and rescues showcase kitties in a more relaxed environment.

For example, Tori and Justyn Cozza of North Spokane, Wash. own and operate Kitty Cantina—a feline sanctuary and cat café—and partner with local shelter SpokAnimal. By allowing people to mix and mingle with adoptable cats, it's easier for prospective pet parents to get a feel for their temperament and habits, while gauging all-important characteristics such as cuddle and play appeal!

Each cat café requires scheduling and a nominal entrance fee. Usually there's a book on hand that describes each kitty in attendance. If one tickles your fancy, you should be able to work out adoption details and take them home within a day or two.

Friends and Family

There are numerous reasons why a pet parent might have to surrender a longtime fuzzy friend to a shelter, and it's always heartbreaking. So rehoming is often a better alternative. Pay attention to conversations, social media posts, and bulletin boards to see if there's a cat in need. Rehoming also gives you the opportunity to have a little tête-à-tête with the kitty in question to see how well you two communicate and they way they act in a home environment.

Most people just want the assurance that their beloved pet can move into a new home without a lot of stress, and will give you kitty and all their supplies for free! (At least, that's what I did when my darling furball transitioned to a new owner before I married someone with severe cat allergies. I'm confident I'm not the only person to do this.)

Online Resources to Find Cats for Adoption

Knowing where to adopt cats might just be a simple click away! National programs work with thousands of local organizations to help you find the purrfect cat to adopt near you. Each program has specific guidelines, so review the FAQs carefully.

Questions To Ask Before Adopting a Cat

Whew! This is a lot of information to take in about where to adopt a cat. But remember: the ultimate goal for everyone is to make sure all the good kitties find their forever homes!  

Now that you have options, both Bell and Krieger encourage you to make a list of questions. Here are some of their suggestions:

  • How much should it cost to raise a kitten in the first year? 
  • At what age do the breeders/shelters let people take home kittens? "They should stay with their moms and siblings until between the age of 12-16 weeks. They learn very important social skills during that time," Krieger says.
  • What kind of health guarantees does the organization or breeding program have? What happens if a kitten or cat is sick? Will they allow them to be returned? What happens to that sick animal? 
  • What essentials are necessary to have ready at home for your newly-adopted cat's arrival?
  • What special care do senior cats require?
  • Should a new cat be declawed? Most advocates say no. "Look for a cattery that includes a 'no declaw' policy and a clause that stipulates that cats and kittens are indoor only," Krieger says. 
  • Is it possible to meet the kittens/cats in their environment? "Most breeders will say 'no' but it's an important question to ask," Krieger says.
  • What steps should you take to introduce cats to new family members? Krieger advises setting up a private room for your new furbaby with all their essentials for a few days until they gradually feel comfortable socializing. "Many cats are stressed when they're in an unfamiliar environment. As they start feeling safe and secure, they typically will venture out from their hiding places to explore," she adds.

Bell says if you can't commit to adoption right now or aren't sure if a purr machine will work with your lifestyle, fostering a cat is a great solution. "As a foster, you can give them a break from shelter life and be their gateway to finding a great adopter. You're also emptying a cage in that shelter so they can save another cat's life!"