Where to Adopt a Cat

Where to Adopt a Cat?

Local animal services, city animal shelters, rescues, and classified ads all offer cats for adoption. Each option offers something different, and the right choice for you depends on where you live and what you are looking for in your cat!

We have put together a quick guide to help you to decide where to go to adopt your next cat!

We will cover:

  • The four options for adoption.
  • How your location affects your option for adoption.
  • How your cat preference affects your option for adoption.

The Four Options For Adoption

Local animal services, city animal shelters, rescues, and classified ads are the four sources for cat adoption.

Local Animal Services

When we talk about local animal services, we are talking about animal control facilities and the county sheriff’s office. These are short-term solutions for holding homeless (or escaped free-roaming) pets.

Local animal service facilities have a limited capacity which means that animals in their custody are there for a short while.

A hold is usually seven to ten days which allows for owners to reclaim their missing pets. Once this short period comes to an end, these animals often get euthanized.

If you spot a cat that you want to adopt at one of these facilities, it is best to adopt them right away. If you do not adopt them when you first see them, you risk them undergoing euthanization.

Adoption Specifics

Adopting from a local animal service is one of the most affordable adoption options. Adoption fees tend to run between $25 and $50 depending on a cat’s age, and the adoption process is quite fast.

Keep in mind, though, that the cats at local animal services rarely (if ever) receive veterinary care, so you should head straight to the vet’s office before you bring your new cat home.

The cats at local animal services are often a little rough around the edges, and the odds are stacked against them, but these cats frequently turn out to be the most loyal and loving companions.

City Animal Shelters

City animal shelters commonly get referred to as “shelters” or “the pound.” Animal shelters tend to be one grade above local animal services, and their animals remain in custody for a longer time.

In fact, many shelters are no-kill shelters now and will not euthanize healthy animals at all!

City animal shelters often collaborate with local volunteers who foster animals to prepare them for adoption and complete veterinary treatment for serious illness or injuries.

When funds allow, pets at city shelters may receive a full vet check, including vaccinations and spay/neuter surgery.

Adoption Specifics

Adopting a cat from a city animal shelter is an affordable process – although not as cheap as local facility adoption.

Adoption fees at city shelters tend to range from $45 to $150. With that said, pets adopted from the city shelter are almost always spayed or neutered, are evaluated for temperament, and receive at least basic veterinary care.

If you adopt a cat from a city animal shelter, it will already be spayed/neutered, or your adoption fee will include a refundable fee. You will receive this fee for spaying and neutering your cat when they are healthy enough or old enough to undergo surgery.

Cats at the city animal shelter are the quintessential rescue cat. These cats often have a rough back story but are quick to settle into a new home and learn the ropes. Like the cats in local facilities, cats in animal shelters often become the most affectionate pets.


Rescue organizations are organizations that tend to focus on a specific subcategory of rescue. For example, some cat rescues specialize in certain breeds, age groups or cats with special needs, etc.

Rescues are non-profit organizations that run through the assistance of a network of volunteers. The rescue workers and volunteers work together to ensure that their animals are fully vaccinated, treated for any parasites/illness, spayed/neutered, given any surgery or medical treatment they need, and spend time living in homes with foster families.

Adoption Specifics

Adopting from a rescue organization is costly, but that adoption fee provides cats in the rescue with such thorough care. Adoption fees from rescue organizations can vary wildly, but the average adoption fee is between $100 and $150. Ironically, this fee rarely covers the cost of veterinary care that each cat receives.

Cats adopted from a rescue are always temperament assessed, and many of them receive obedience training too! Since rescues put so much time, work, and money into caring for their cats, they usually have a strict screening process built into their application. They can also be very selective about where each of their cats ends up!

If you are looking for a purebred rescue cat or a rescue cat that has received complete medical treatment and experienced life in a foster home, you are looking for a rescue cat.

Classified Ads

When we talk about classified ads, we are talking about traditional newspaper ads and online classified ads.

Adopting from a classified ad can be tricky because often the cats are not rescues or homeless cats, but they are cats being “rehomed” by breeders who are selling their kittens and calling their fee a “rehoming fee.”

Another problem with adopting through classified ads is that you have no idea what you are getting into. Another problem with adopting through classified ads is that you have no idea what you are getting into. For example, someone may be trying to get rid of a cat that is too aggressive, but they aren’t likely to tell you this if they want you to “adopt” their cat.

In short, adopting from classified ads is a poor choice. You have no idea the temperament or the health of the animal you adopt.

At the least, you could be supporting a backyard breeder and wind up with a cat that has chronic health problems throughout its life.

At worst, you could wind up adopting a cat that has been exposed to a fatal and infectious virus that quickly kills your new pet and passes on easily to the other pets in your home.

Adoption Specifics

Adoption fees for pets offered in classified ads vary significantly. Some people offer their pets for free, and breeders try to pass their animals off as adoptable pets with fees of $400 to $500.Although we advocate rescue and adoption, we do not recommend adopting your cat from a classified ad. There is just too much uncertainty and deception in the play.

Although we advocate rescue and adoption, we do not recommend adopting your cat from a classified ad. There is just too much uncertainty and deception in the play.

How Your Location Affects Your Options For Adoption

If you have limited transportation or cannot travel too far, you are limited to adopting from local organizations. Fortunately, most homes are close to a local animal service or city animal shelter.

If you are looking for a rarer breed of cat, however, the chances are that you aren’t going to find your cat in the shelter or local animal facility. Your search is more likely going to target rescue organizations.

The rarer the breed you are looking for, though, the harder it will be to find a breed-specific rescue which means that you should be prepared to travel or wait for a long while!

How Your Cat Preference Affects Your Options For Adoption

As mentioned above, the breed of cat that you are looking for can influence availability. For example, If you live in Nevada and are looking for a purebred Norwegian Forest Cat, the closest rescue group within five states is California!

If you are looking for a domestic shorthair cat, though, you will find them in every city of every state! So, your wait time to bring your new cat home will be significantly shorter!

The specifics of the cat you are looking for can also affect your adoption options. For example, if you are looking for a young litterbox-trained male calico cat, your adoption options are limited. Not only are you looking for a male calico (a 1 in 3,000 chance,) but you have narrowed your options further with other criteria!

Try to be open-minded when looking for your new cat – at the very least, be flexible! There are millions of cats up for adoption and in need of a good home like yours! Plus, research has shown us that mixed breed animals are healthier animals than purebreds in the majority of cases


Whether you choose local animal services and a cat that needs a little more TLC; or a rescue organization and a cat that is healthy and ready to go, it is up to you.

No matter where you adopt your cat, you play an important role in reducing the shelter cat population and freeing up shelter space (or a foster home) for one of the 860,000 cats euthanized in U.S. shelters each year.

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