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3) Adopt the cat into the best home possible.

  • Ask questions before you meet. Once you start hearing from people, be prepared to screen potential adopters over the phone. Ask them questions to understand why they are interested in the cat, what kind of prior experience they have had with companion animals, and what sort of environment the cat will be in.

  • Ask potential adopters to fill out an application. See a sample adoption application. Alley Cat Allies follows certain guidelines for potential adopters, and you will want to decide on the things that are important to you. When a potential adopter contacts you, you may want to give him or her adoption guidelines, so that they will be aware of everything that being a cat owner entails. This will also be a way for you to screen adopters that may not be good candidates. Some areas you should consider covering, both in the application, in the guidelines, and on the phone include:

    - Spay and Neuter – If the cat is not already, ensure spay or neuter will be fulfilled post-adoption. You may want to consider getting the surgery done yourself before adoption. 

    - Don’t Declaw – Removing a cat’s claws is inhumane and painful. Make sure adopters agree to not declaw.

    Home environment and other residents – Confirm that the cat will be considered a member of the family who will share the house with everyone else, and not be confined or restricted to the outdoors.

    Ask about children in the house. Young kittens are fragile and also playful, and so homes with children under six years of age may not be the best home for young kittens. Young children can severely injure a young kitten accidentally. Some cats are skittish around young children as well.

    Ask the adopter if they have other cats or dogs, and if so, if they get along with other animals. Having animal companionship is sometimes important, especially for younger cats. Your cat may not like other animals; be certain of this so you can advertise this fact.

    - Housing – Make certain that cats are allowed in rental or condo properties. Ask the adopter to provide documentation and their landlord's contact information so you can call and confirm that cats are permitted.

    - Medical care – Talk to the adopter about potential veterinary care and make sure they have a veterinarian in mind. If they have had a companion animal before, ask for a veterinary reference. Ask the potential adopter what happened to their previous animals and if they have ever surrendered an animal to a shelter. These answers can tell you a lot about the person’s understanding of how to be a good cat guardian.

    Adoption fee – Charging a fee for the cat’s adoption can help you avoid dishonest people. A “free to good home” policy can attract people who will pass the cat on to research facilities or another horrible end.

    Trial period – You may feel more comfortable having a trial period so that the potential adopter can spend some real time getting to know the cat and you can visit to see how she is doing. During this time, either side can cancel the arrangement. 

    Post-adoption – Ensure that the potential adopter will agree to follow-up calls or visits to the cat. Also consider requiring the adopter to return the cat to you (and not a shelter), in the event the cat must be given up.

  • In order to ensure all these requirements are met, make sure you put together an adoption contract that you and the adopter will sign once you have approved them.
  • Require a meet and greet. Once you are ready to move on to the next step with a potential adopter, set up a time to meet in person. Because cats are often uncomfortable when out of their normal surroundings, it is best to have the person come to you. If you live alone, make sure you have another friend there for your safety. For further knowledge about the potential adopter and his/her home life, you may also want to consider requiring a visit to their home.

    The most important thing during the meeting is to closely observe how the person interacts with the cat, and vice versa. Ask them as many questions as you can. Ultimately, your instincts should steer your decision-making process. Don’t be afraid to recognize any doubts you are having and either address them with the person or cut the meeting short. But also be aware of the fact that not everyone will interact with the cat the way you would; that is normal—no adoptive home will replicate everything you do exactly. Remember, it is up to you to find the cat the best home possible.

  • Finalize the adoption. When you have found a suitable home, sign a contract with the adopter and collect the adoption fee. See a sample adoption contract. Make copies for you and the adopter. Set up a time to transfer the cat, and make sure you provide the new guardian with any of the cat’s medical records, as well as her toys and special food or treats. Be prepared to follow up and stay in touch.

And then let them bond. You will certainly miss the cat, but you should also be proud of a job well done. It took a lot of energy for you to find her a home, and you did it!

Finding adoptive homes takes time and creative effort, but it is not impossible. Thousands of grassroots groups and rescuers find homes for animals every day by following the steps above, being persistent and diligent, and remaining positive.