Cat Care, For People

How to Pick the Best Shelter Cat For You

How to Pick the Best Shelter Cat For You - Cats Will Play - Image by Kishore Ragav Ganesh Kumar

Both your heart and your home are open: you're ready to adopt a kitty. That is exciting news! But how do you find the best feline for you? If you choose to go through a rescue, this important step might be simple – after all, rescues know their wards pretty well and will be able to help guide you. If you don't have any rescues nearby, though, you can still find your perfect new friend in a shelter. In this article, we discuss how to pick the best shelter cat for you and your household.

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Step One: Start at Home

Before you even start looking for your perfect shelter cat, take some time to evaluate what, exactly, makes that cat perfect for you, and consider how it will fit into your life. Is your ideal feline a kitten, adult, or a senior? Is it high energy or calm? Will it require a lot of hands-on care or is it a fully independent creature?

And what about you: are you a homebody or a social butterfly? Do you own or rent? Is your house full of people or do you prefer to live alone? If you have people living with you, how old are they? What about other pets? All of these questions are very important when picking the perfect shelter cat, and by creating a sort of profile of both you and your new friend beforehand, you are more likely to make a good match.

Step Two: Search Online

This part is optional; however, it's a good idea to look for your new shelter cat online – not only will you save yourself some time, you will also help to reduce stress on the critters residing in these establishments. This step is important if you're choosing to go through a rescue instead of a shelter, though, as many rescues do not have buildings that are open to the public but, instead, opt to keep their kitties with foster families.

Once you have done a basic search for shelters – or rescues – in the area, browse their list of adoptable pets. Most shelters will have at least a simple search function on their website. If yours does, take advantage of it, and narrow your search down using your “perfect shelter cat” list from earlier. If your shelter does not, though, that is all right. Jot down the names or numbers of any kitty that catches your attention, and send out a quick E-mail to the shelter. Ask them what they know about your chosen felines or, if you're unsure which kitty to inquire about, ask if there are any that they think would match your specific criteria.

Step Three: Do a Walk-Through

By now, you will likely have a good idea of what – if not who – you're looking for. If that's not the case, though, then now would be a great time to drop by your shelter and have a face-to-face meeting with all of the adoptables.

Most shelters have open floor plans, meaning you should be able to walk around the kitty areas. If that's the case, then go ahead and walk through. Take your time and note down any felines that particularly catch your eye. Be open-minded at this stage. It's important to remember that shelters can be scary spots for sensitive little critters, and some otherwise amazing cats may become reserved or even aggressive. If you can, speak with a shelter representative to see if they can tell you more about the seemingly-shy felines. Though not always the case, shelter workers can sometimes tell you more about your chosen kitty's background, what they're like in calmer settings, and tell you a bit about their unique personalities.

Step Four: Meet Your Kitty

Now for the fun part: meeting your shelter cat! Speak with a shelter representative to see what your options are. Unfortunately, some shelters are not equipped for one-on-one meetings, so you will have to visit through the bars of your kitty's crate. In other cases, though, the facility will have a dedicated meeting room. If that's true of your shelter, then be sure to take plenty of time with this step. As we've already mentioned, shelters can be a stressful place for our feline friends, and it may take a little while for your cat to settle down. Just be patient and easy, and don't try to move things along too quickly. After a while, your shelter cat will likely come around – especially if it is quite young or naturally confident.

If not, don't worry! Instead of trying to interact right now, simply observe. Though your cat may not be very social at the moment, is it at least curious? Interested in the toys in the visiting room? Generally pretty even tempered? How do your observations match up with what you're looking for? Although you may not develop a rapid-fire kinship during this relatively short visiting window, there is still a good chance that – provided you like what you observed – you will have found a marvelous companion that will flourish with time and care.

Step Five: Stop and Consider

Now that you've done your research and had a good visit, you will probably have a kitty – or two... or three – in mind. That is fantastic! But although you may be ready and raring to go, just give yourself a moment to stop and think. Animal shelters can be overwhelming for humans, too, and it's so easy to let your emotions get the best of you – after all, you're there to save some kitties! But it's vital to remember that you are making a lifetime commitment to this creature, so don't let the heat of the moment force you into making a rash decision. Take a few hours – or even a few days – to consider your chosen feline. Ask yourself important questions like: what good qualities did I observe? What less-than-ideal qualities did I notice? How will this cat fit into my life, home, and family? If after your cooling-off period you still feel good about your decision, then go and get that kitty!


Adopting a shelter cat is kind of a big deal – after all, you are saving a life, and making a friend that will stick with you forever – but it can be so hard to pick the ideal new companion. Hopefully, with this article, you will be better prepared for the journey ahead!

Although cat adoption month is coming to an end, that doesn't mean you've lost your chance! If you're still unsure what sort of cat would be best for you, click here to find out which breeds match your personality. Already know what sort of feline you're looking for, but not sure how to go about it? Then visit our comprehensive guide here!

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Image by Kishore Ragav Ganesh Kumar via Unsplash under Unsplash License

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