Questions to Ask When Adopting a Kitten or Cat

Once you’ve prepared your home and bought all your new cat essentials, it’s time to begin the process of finding the right cat to adopt. This is truly an exciting time.

But it can also be overwhelming and stressful. You may be asking: Where do I begin? How do I know which cat is right for me? Are there questions I can ask that will help me make an informed choice and avoid making a mistake?

This article provides a structured list of essential questions to ask as you meet adoptable cats and the people who have cared for those cats.

Three cats sun bathing in a window on top of cat a gray, carpeted cat tree.

Questions to ask when adopting a kitten or cat

The goal is to learn as much as you can about the cat. But beware that the shelter might be unable to answer several of these questions. Still, it can be very helpful to know whatever they do have answers for.

We’ve organized the questions into 4 sections, with a list of questions to ask in each section.

Section 1: Basic Information About the Adoption Process

  1. What are the eligibility criteria for a person to adopt a cat from this shelter/agency?
  2. What is the adoption fee?
  3. What does the adoption fee include?
  4. Are there requirements or necessary health care that are not included in the adoption fee?
  5. Can I place a hold on a cat I’m interested in so that I can take some time to decide?
  6. Is there any required follow-up I need to do with the shelter after I’ve adopted a cat?
  7. What can I do if I’m having difficulties with the cat I’ve adopted?
  8. What can I do if it doesn’t work out with the cat I’ve adopted?

Section 2: The Cat’s Background

1. What is the cat’s age or estimated age?

  • Note: kittens should be at least 8 weeks old before separation from their mother.

2. How long has the cat been in the shelter?

  • How has the cat’s behavior changed over time in the shelter?
  • What is the shelter’s protocol for care, attention, and socialization of this cat?

3. Is the cat a stray?

  • Where was it found?
    • In what environment?
    • In what condition?
  • How long has it been a stray?
  • Does it seem like it has had a home with people before?

4. Was the cat surrendered by its previous owner? If so, for what reason(s)?

  • Request specifics about each reason as relevant.
  • How many owners?

5. Is the cat spayed/neutered?

  • If not, at what age will this be done?
  • Is spay/neuter cost built into the adoption fee?

6. Has the cat been declawed?

  • If so, were – or are – there any complications?

7. What else is known about the cat’s history?

  • Any known neglect, abuse, or trauma?

8. Has the cat lived only indoors, only outdoors, or both?

  • Is it accustomed to going outside regularly?
  • Would it be difficult for the cat to adjust to being an indoors-only cat?

9. What is known about the cat’s birth and early rearing?

  • Where was it born?
  • In what environment was it born?
  • Where and how was it raised?
  • Was it raised with people or as a feral kitten?

Section 3: Health and Medical Care

1. What is the cat’s medical history?

  • Request that someone walk you through the cat’s medical records.
  • Are vaccinations current?
  • Has the cat been tested for leukemia and feline immunodeficiency virus?
  • Has the cat had any significant medical issues or surgeries?
  • Does the cat have any medical conditions or require any medications?
  • Will the cat have any special care requirements? If so, is this temporary or chronic?

2. What are the cat’s eating preferences, habits, or restrictions?

  • Any known food allergies or sensitivities?
  • Any known refusals of certain kinds of food?
  • What food has the cat been eating? Note the kind (primary meat source), wet or dry, and brand.

3. Has the cat been treated for fleas/ticks recently?

  • Are they on a treatment that needs to be continued? If so, get details.
  • Is the cat microchipped and/or collar tagged for identification?
  • What are the cat’s grooming needs?

Section 4: Temperament and Behavior

1. How would you describe the cat’s personality?

  • Active, laidback, fearful, curious, shy, high energy, etc?
  • Does this cat seek affection with people, merely tolerate affection, or avoid interaction altogether?

2. Has the cat used a litter box reliably? If not, ask the following…

  • What is the likely cause?
  • Has there been any troubleshooting and what were the results?
  • Has the cat been examined for potential medical reasons for not using the litter box?
  • What types of litter have been tried?
  • Are there any types of litter this cat is known to reject or prefer?
  • What litter is currently being used? Note specific type and brand.

3. How does the cat react to being petted, held, or picked up?

4. Does the cat show any destructive behaviors if bored?

5. Has the cat lived with children before?

  • If so, how does the cat behave around children?
  • Comfortable? Affectionate? Scared? Aggressive?

6. Has the cat lived with any other cats before?

  • If so, how was that?
  • Would this cat be compatible in a house that already has a cat?

7. Has the cat lived with dogs before?

  • If so, how does it get along with dogs?
  • Would this cat be compatible in a house with a dog?

8. Are there any known behavioral issues?

  • Aggression? Anxiety? Other?

9. What else can you tell me about the cat’s temperament and personality?

  • What does it like?
  • What does it dislike?
  • Anything I should avoid doing?
  • What do you think I should do to help this cat have a smooth transition to my home?
  • Any behavioral quirks to be aware of?

10. Take some notes

Jot down your impressions of each cat you’re interested in. If you don’t do this right after interacting with them, it’s easy to forget or get things about different cats mixed together.

Final Thoughts

The process of meeting adoptable cats is really exciting, but it can be pretty overwhelming.

Using these questions gives structure to the process, and might give you some valuable information that will help you make the choice that feels right to you. Good luck with your search!

Next up, the article about what to look for as you’re meeting and interacting with available cats: What to Look for When Adopting a Cat

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The information provided here is not meant to replace professional guidance from your own veterinarian or cat behavior specialist.

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