How do I adopt or rescue a cat?

There are many benefits of choosing to adopt a cat. You’re considering giving a pet a second chance at a fulfilled family life, an opportunity that every animal should have.
Woman cudling Cat
Woman cudling Cat
Woman cudling Cat

With so many cats looking for new homes in the UK, there is sure to be your purr-fect partner out there somewhere!

It’s an exciting time, but don’t rush the process. Read on for top tips on adopting a cat, the bonuses of cat adoption over getting a kitten, and a guide on how to settle your new family member in during their first week home.

Why adopt a cat?

  • When adopting a cat, you’re getting an animal with an established routine and personality.
  • Cats from reputable rehoming charities will have had a thorough medical check-up, and be neutered, vaccinated, wormed, treated for fleas and microchipped.
  • You’ll be spending less on those expensive early years in a kitten’s life, and they will have learned a few lessons from life’s hard knocks—so fewer vet bills in the long-term!
  • Older cats are much more content to lie back and chill out than kittens, demanding less of your attention day-to-day.
  • Cats are more robust, and less likely to be hurt by younger children’s rough love.
  • Adopting a cat is great for people with busy lifestyles who don’t have the time to train a kitten.
  • For older people, a grown cat will be more placid and suited to a relaxed retirement!

There is no hard and fast rule as to whether you should adopt a cat or get a kitten. You need to think carefully about your home and lifestyle before making the choice.

Things to consider when adopting a cat

  • Check if the animal you’re considering adopting is an outdoor or indoor cat. It will be hard for a cat to adapt to a radically different environment.
  • In some sad cases, cats have ended up in rehoming centres because of difficult lives or maltreatment. If you adopt a cat, they might come with some baggage such as health or behavioural problems.
  • Think about your lifestyle, home, family members, and existing pets.
Cat being scratched

Cat breeds

Just like deciding whether to adopt a cat or get a kitten, choosing what breed of cat is right for you is a really important consideration. Although personality traits vary between individual cats, you can learn a lot from breed.

If you or a family member has allergy concerns, the Devon Rex breed might be best for you. For a household with young children, the Ragdoll breed make a fantastic family cat: unlikely to ever scratch or bite, and up for lots of cuddles and attention—even if it is a little over-zealous at times!

Read up on the various choices, and talk to staff at your local rehoming centre. They will have a lot of insight into what breed might be right for you. You can also read more information about different types of cats with our cat breed library.

First week home

The first weeks in a new home can be a challenge: make sure you’re prepared by following our ‘first week’ guide to bringing your new cat home.

Before they come home:

Preparations before you finally adopt a cat are just as important!

Cats are territorial, so put them at ease in their new environment by creating a safe, small space just for them. Furnish the room with litterbox, food, water bowl, and scratching post. Cats feel safest in enclosed spaces, so create their own little haven in something like a cat carrier or cardboard box.

Day one

Don’t put pressure on the relationship!

Put the cat carrier in their new home, open it up, and then leave the room, shutting the door behind you. Letting them acclimatise in private is the best way to put your new cat at ease, but check on them later.

Day two

Time to start bonding!

When you enter the room, sit or lie down and encourage your cat in a soothing voice. Allow them to approach in their own time. Repeat this process until they feel comfortable in your presence.

Day three

Your cat might not eat much to begin with—this is quite normal—but as they acclimatise to their new home their appetite should gradually return. It’s best to feed them the same food they’re used to, giving them as much familiarity as possible.

Day four


Try grooming or playing with your new cat to increase your bond, but don’t go in too strong! Introduce your cat to toys or brushes by letting them have a good sniff before using them.

Day five

Time for them to start exploring!

Leave the door of their room open, so your cat feels free to come and go as they please. But ensure that doors and windows in the rest of the house are kept shut, so your cat can’t escape outside too soon.

Day six

By now your cat should be acclimatising to the rest of your family as well as the rest of your house. Allow people to be introduced one by one, so you’re cat doesn’t feel overwhelmed. Teach children how to stroke them gently, and avoid picking up your cat to begin with.

After two weeks

The great outdoors!

If you’re rehoming an outdoors cat, wait two weeks before letting them out. When you first let them out, it should be before a meal, so that they have reason to come home soon—for their dinner! Allow them to explore the garden for a while before encouraging them back with a treat.

FAQs on adopting a cat

Cat sitting on lap

Where do I go to adopt a cat?

  • Once you have located a rehoming centre, you should speak to the staff there for advice on the kind of cat you’d like.
  • Some centres make a home visit before you adopt a cat to ensure that it will be a suitable environment.

Does it cost money to adopt a cat?

  • You will be asked to pay an adoption fee, which varies. This fee covers the care and treatment your cat received during its time at the center.

What do I do if I find a stray cat?

  • Ask around the neighborhood to see if you can find its owner: you can put up posters or ask on social media.
  • If an owner doesn’t come forward, take the cat to be checked for a microchip by the vet.

Can I adopt a stray cat?

  • Although most people plan to rehome a cat, sometimes the unexpected happens! Once you’ve determined the stray cat is definitely homeless, you should take it to the vets for a full check up before offering it a home for life.