Thinking of adopting a rescue cat but not sure where to start? We’ve put together a guide on the process and what to expect.
Confession time; we were never really cat people. In fact I was never much of an animal person full stop. I liked animals, but didn’t really feel a particular connection with them, or a need to become an owner. That all changed just under 3 years ago when we decided we’d like to own cats. Actually, my wife decided she wanted to own cats. A couple of friends had bought cats into their homes, and after talking it through I was convinced, to the point where we both thought ‘Why not?!’. What's followed since then hasn't always been easy, but has been thoroughly rewarding, and our home just wouldn't be the same without our two fur balls.
So once you've made the decision to become a cat owner, the next question is where to get them, and the decision to adopt rescue cats was an easy one. We loved the idea of giving a rescue cat a loving environment and a second chance, so we turned to the local RSPCA shelter. Browsing the website, we spotted a lovely white and ginger chap called Fred who looked perfect. A quick call to the centre and unfortunately he was already reserved, but two cats had just been brought in. 6 months and 9 months old respectively, they'd been found abandoned in a house as part of two different litters. The boy was called Alfie; naughty, cheeky but in need of plenty of fuss, and the girl was Ali; shy, reserved but a sweetheart once she got to know you and a secret adventurer. We fell in love and reserved them on the spot.
Why adopting a rescue cat is amazingDuring 2015 alone, the RSPCA found new homes for almost 48,000 animals. That’s a staggering number, especially when you consider that all animals re-homed by the RSPCA have suffered from neglect, cruelty or abandonment. Despite this there are still thousands upon thousands of animals waiting to find a new owner and settle in to their new forever home. Our decision was simple; we wanted to provide a safe, warm and loving environment for a couple of animals that hadn’t had the best start in life due to neglect or abandonment, rather than buy from a breeder or local ads.
Adopting from a charity also means the animals have been cared for short-term (sometimes longer) and will be neutered or spayed, microchipped and vaccinated, given a complete health checkup complete with all of the documentation and up-to-date certificates. Many will also come with a month to 6 weeks' worth of insurance. This in itself is worth the cost of adopting, which totalled around £120.00 for our two cats.
Adopting a rescue cat — who to adopt from
Once you’ve decided on adopting a cat, the next step is to find a local rescue shelter. There are lots of shelters around the country, and we’ve put together a quick overview of the most popular charities below:
Registered charity number: 219099
The RSPCA is the oldest animal welfare charity in the UK. They were the first to introduce laws to protect animals and work hard to ensure that all animals can live a life free from pain and suffering. As well as the work they do to help protect animals and prevent animal cruelty, they also run a national network of rescue centres for re-homing cats and dogs of all breeds and ages.
Registered charity number: 203644 (England and Wales) and SC037711 (Scotland)
From humble beginnings in 1927, Cats Protection has grown to become one of the UK's leading feline welfare charities. They help almost 200,000 cats and kittens every year through their network of over 250 volunteer-run branches and 32 adoption centres, where you can begin the process of adopting a rescue cat.
Their work doesn’t stop there: they also provide an array of cat care information via publications, the website and a Helpline; promote the benefits of neutering to prevent unwanted litters from being born and help to educate people of all ages about cats and their care and wellbeing.
Registered charity number: England and Wales (224392) and in Scotland (SC040154)
Pets are at the centre of everything Blue Cross does. Each year thousands and thousands of cats, dogs, small pets and horses turn to their animal hospitals, clinics and rehoming services for treatment and to find them the forever homes they deserve. Their 'Education and Behaviour Teams' also prepare future pet owners in order to take responsibility and look after their pets for life.
Support Adoption for Pets
Registered charity number: England and Wales (1104152)
Support Adoption For Pets is a registered charity based in the North West of England, near Manchester, established in 2006 and existing to help give abandoned and homeless small animals a second chance at happiness and finding a forever home. In addition to their 372 pet rehoming centres, they are also the UK’s number one grant giving animal charity. Since 2006 they've supported over 1,000 animal charities across the UK and Northern Ireland.
Adopting a rescue cat — the pre-adoption home visit
As part of the adoption process, a member of the RSPCA visited our house to check that we’d be suitable cat parents. This is a little nerve-wracking at first, but in reality is really straightforward and there's nothing to worry about. The volunteer visitor isn't there to judge, just check that your home is suitable for an animal (in reality this is probably more important for people looking to adopt a dog). Our assessor was lovely and just wanted to check that our home would be suitable to accommodate a couple of cats. We already had a cat flap (more on this in a bit) but more importantly the indoor environment was safe, spacious and there were plenty of places for a cat to climb, explore and nap. You can find out more on the RSPCA's rehoming process.
It’s worth noting that if you're a tenant, you’ll need written permission from your landlord in order for the RSPCA to consider your application. Cats can sometimes be a bit destructive (although products such as the Feliway diffuser can help mitigate this), so understandably landlords and property owners want to know if you’ll be keeping an animal in their building. Ours was a star, and had no problem providing us with an email to forward on to the rescue centre.
Collecting your cats and settling in
Our two had been slightly poorly, so we postponed collecting them until we received a call from the shelter to say they were ready. We arrived with a travel case, some toys and some food to donate to the shelter. We asked if we could have the cats’ blankets from their cage in the shelter and put this in the bottom of the carry case to make them feel at ease. We then kept it at home on the sofa so that they had something familiar whilst they acclimatised to their new surroundings.
On the drive home they were whisper quiet, but we finally got indoors, opened the door to the travel case and they took their first tentative steps into their new home!
Depending on the cat's history, they may take some time to settle in. Not all rescue cats are friendly immediately, and building up your trust can take some time, so don't be alarmed if they disappear under the bed or on top of a bookshelf. Give them a little fuss and encourage them with toys and treats, and over time they'll develop a bond with you.
If your rescue cat was abandoned, it make take them some time to settle in to life in their new forever home. Don’t worry, just be patient and give them lots of love and affection, and when they feel safe and secure they’ll come to you. The first time our cats came and sat with us was a really wonderful moment.
What you'll need
Once you've had your application to adopt accepted, you're almost ready to go! There are a few things you'll need as a new cat owner:
An obvious one, but speak to the shelter and find out what food your cat has been used to. Introducing a completely new food can take bit of time, so ease them in with something familiar. Generally we're fans of wet food, but we do tend to add some kibble to their diet as well as toys. Check out the ranges offered by the following:
A suitable carry case is essential for taking your cats home safely. You probably won't use it often, but it's also necessary for trips to the vets and relocating. Spend more on a spacious model; two kittens will be happy enough in a large carry case for short trips, but adult cats will be much happier in their own travel case. We opted for a foldable carry case to save space when stored.
A soft cat bed is a great way to make your new cats feel welcome. Line it with a blanket from the shelter so they have something familiar, and they'll settle in in no time. These radiator beds also make a lovely warm place for a cat nap!
Cat litter and litter boxes
Another essential, especially if you choose to keep your cats as indoor cats. Rescue kittens may not be 100% toilet trained (Alf took to weeing on our plush living room rug, which we didn't notice for a couple of days...), so keeping the lid off the litter box may help at first. Ultimately though cats need privacy just like us! The Catit litter box below also includes a filter, great if the box will be placed in a living room or bedroom. Litter is somewhat down to yours and your cats' preference, so have a read off our 3 favourites here and try them out.
Cats can be funny creatures, and more often than not the expensive toys will be neglected or ignored in favour of a cardboard box or piece of ribbon. That said, it’s worth buying a few small toys (catnip-infused toys seem to go down well). We’re big fans of the Catit Senses 2.0 range.
Cat scratch posts
Cats love to scratch! Save your furniture and invest in a good-quality scratch post or scratch lounge, something your cats will start to use more and more as they become familiar with their new home. We wrote about 5 of our favourites here.
The big decision — indoor or outdoor cats
This is a fairly contentious issue amongst cat owners, and we won't begin to pretend that we're qualified to make a judgement on this either way. All we will say is that it depends on the particular cat and your circumstances. We had a cat flap and were all ready to let the cats outside, but after doing some research we made the decision to keep them as indoor cats. A few things contributed to this decision:
Ultimately, whether you've adopted rescue cats or not, this is your decision as an owner to make, no one else, and just because you've adopted cats doesn't mean you should feel pressured either way.
There are pros and cons to both, but if you do decide to keep your cats as indoor cats, this article from the RSPCA is really useful and includes some great tips.
Indoor cats are more prone to becoming overweight, so make sure you keep a close eye on their diet. A high-quality cat food tailored towards neutered cats does help, as cheaper supermarket brand food contains lots of fats and fillers. Also make sure you give indoor cats plenty of fuss and attention; contrary to what some think, cats do need stimulation and can't just be left to their own devices.
Were our circumstances to change, we'd love to give our cats the best of both worlds and install a cat fencing system such as the kind produced by the wonderful ProtectaPet, who wrote this great article for us all about keeping cats safe outdoors.
Adopting rescue cats is a big decision to make, but one that we'd thoroughly recommend. Giving cats a second chance at a happy and loving environment is a wonderful thing to do. Rescue cats can be naughty, timid, shy and dare we say it hard work sometimes (our rug was never the same again), but the investment is absolutely worth it.
If you're considering adopting, we hope you've found this article helpful, and we'd love to hear from owners of rescue cats.