Adopting a Cat


This article is written by Pet Circle veterinarian, Dr Josepha Cox BBiomedSc(Hons) DVM and updated by Vickie Davy, Co-founder of PetRescue.

Deciding to adopt a cat or kitten is an exciting time for any household. With the quality of care for our pets improving over the years cats are living longer than ever before! A cat can easily live up to 20 years so, adopting a cat is a decision and commitment that needs to be taken seriously.

1. Choosing the right cat or kitten
2. Where to adopt
3. Considerations when adopting a cat
4. Before bringing your new friend home
5. Tips for introducing a new cat to your cats

Choosing the right cat or kitten

Each individual or family has unique living circumstances and some cats will be better suited to certain lifestyles than others. Young kittens need a lot of care and attention so are better suited to homes where they won't be left alone for long periods. On the other hand, senior cats may enjoy peacefully basking in the window without being disturbed so a large family with young children may not be ideal.

Regardless of markings or breed, each cat or kitten is an individual with their own unique quirks and perks, but with more than 3000 cats a month available for adoption via, it won't be hard to find the perfect match!

Some important questions to ask yourself when deciding what type of cat to adopt are:

  • How much time will I be able to spend with the cat?
  • Should I consider adopting a bonded pair or two kittens for companionship?
  • Can I afford food, health care, toys, bedding or pet insurance?
  • Can I commit to regular grooming?
  • Is my house or yard safe and secure enough for a new cat?
  • Do I want an outgoing, playful cat or would I prefer a more sedentary, lap cat?
  • If there are other pets in the household, how will they feel about a new addition?
  • If there are children in the household, will I be able to appropriately supervise them and the cat?

Where to adopt

Find your new family member on, where hundreds of trusted rescue organisations across Australia list the cats for adoption, complete with detailed profiles, personality traits and health information.

PetRescue sees over 40,000 cats in need of homes each year, so choosing to adopt rather than purchase from a breeder helps to give a cat a much needed second chance. Not only that, adopting is often very cost-effective as they already come desexed, microchipped and up to date with vaccinations and parasite control.

Considerations when adopting a cat

The 'meet and greet' is an important part of the adoption process. Before making the final decision, visit them at their foster carers' house or the shelter. Spend as much time with the cat as possible. Some cats will immediately want to interact with people, while some shyer cats may hide until they feel more confident.

Here are some questions to ask the rescue organisation:

  • How did the cat come into their care?
  • How long have they been in their care?
  • How long did it take for them to feel comfortable in their new environment?
  • What is their personality like?
  • Do they have any medical issues?
  • Have they been tested for Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) or Feline leukaemia virus (FeLV)?
  • Have they been desexed, microchipped and vaccinated? (This is mandatory for cats listed on PetRescue and the law in most states).

Before bringing your new friend home

Territory is the most important thing for a cat, so moving to a new place (even your loving home) is stressful. Understanding that your cat will need a safe place to hide and slowly get used to a new environment will set you both up for success.

When first bringing your new cat or kitten home, confine them to a small, safe area of the house. This prevents them from getting lost or overwhelmed. Have all their essentials in this area, such as food, litter, water, toys, bedding and a cat tree. As your cat gets more comfortable, you can slowly start allowing them to explore more of your house.

Your cat needs to be kept inside for at least four weeks before considering giving access outside.

Ensure you have all the right equipment to make your cats transition as comfortable and as smooth as possible. Ideally you should ask what the cat/kitten has been eating and purchase this food in preparation for their arrival. Even if you intend on changing the food, it's best to feed them what they are used to for the first week or so to avoid a tummy upset and any new introductions should be made gradually. A great guide on how to do this can be found here.

You'll also need litter, bowls, bedding, toys and parasite control. For kittens we stock the Better Kitten Bundle with all the essentials needed to bring your kitten home in the one handy package.

Shop All Cat Supplies

Coming into a new and unfamiliar environment can be quite stressful for a new cat or kitten. You can make their transition an easier and more comfortable one by using Feliway. Feliway is a synthetic pheromone based on the appeasing Feline Facial Pheromone which is incredibly effective at soothing cats. Veterinary clinics and rescue shelters all over the world use Feliway to help calm nervous feline patients.The Feliway diffuser is recommended over the spray in this situation as it provides a constant airborne stream of pheromones compared to a temporary spot on dosage with the spray.

When first bringing your new cat or kitten home, confine them to a small, safe area of the house. This prevents them from getting lost or overwhelmed. Have all their essentials in this area such as food, litter, water, toys and bedding. As your cat gets more comfortable you can slowly start allowing them to explore more of your house and yard.

Tips for introducing a new cat to your cats

As mentioned earlier, bringing home a new cat can be stressful not only for the new addition but also for any existing pets. Further to the tips above:

1. Keep the cats separated but allow them to smell each others scent

Over the first few days, the purpose is to allow each cat to get used to the smell of the other. You can do this by switching their toys and bedding, stroking one cat after the other or gently rubbing each cat's face with a piece of a soft cloth and leaving it with the other to smell.

2. Supervised meetings with opportunities to exit

After the cats are used to each other's smell you can allow them to meet. The meeting should take place in a neutral space where they can see each other from a distance and the cats should be able to escape somewhere safe should they want to. A hallway is a good option for a first meeting.

If either cat shows signs of distress they should be removed and the process re-attempted later. Repeat this process until the cats appear comfortable and no longer need separating.

3. Allow them to interact freely but with individual resources

Once the cats are comfortable with each other, allow them free access to the house. However, continue to provide individual litter trays, food and water in separate areas to prevent any fighting over resources.

Ensuring you provide plenty of different hiding spaces, climbing areas and sleeping options will ensure they can keep a comfortable distance from each other.

Further reading

How to Reduce Anxiety in Cats

Bring home twice the love

5 Reasons to Adopt an Adult Cat

Your Guide to Using Feliway