Rescue vs. Retail: What to Know Before Adopting a Cat

by | Jun 26, 2024

After being a part of almost 13,000 adoptions I have seen the full spectrum of people who take adoptable kitties into their furrever home, from young couples getting their first pet in the house to an older single widower adopting a bonded pair of 15-year-old brothers.  There are so many rewarding examples of how animal lovers in our community have given hearts to these furrbabies.  Day after day this is what I get to see.  Have I told you I love my job?  But, in any walk of life, if you expose yourself to enough good humans, you are bound to find a bad one or two.  

In 2023 over 2.6 million kitties were adopted and that is up over 14% over 2019.  Does this have anything to do with Cat Cafes?  I would say so.  With over 220 cat cafes across the United States now, we have seen some real impact on kitty adoptions.  Each cafe does something a little different and some cafes adopt out more than others but at the end of the day, more kitties are being saved. 

More Cats Are Waiting For Homes Than Ever Before

Even with these substantial increases, more kitties are waiting to come into the shelters, especially during kitten season.  The storyline is the same every year.  People find a momma and her kittens next to the dumpster or someone loses a family member and cannot re-home their kitty.  So they call the shelters, and they are full, but despite this, they do their very best to take in the rescues and find homes.  You would think it would make sense for anyone and everyone to take these kitties home but not everyone is a good fit.  

Having owned a cat cafe for 7 years now, I can tell you the most emotionally defeating part of what I do is hear complaints from people who “bought” a cat and verbally shower myself, our establishment, and our shelter partners with bad reviews for selling them a bad cat.  Believe it or not, I understand.  You come to find a furrever friend, bring it home and it becomes a sick kitty.  That is stressful and we do not like to see it any more than adopters do.  

Unfortunately, this is the reality of rescue.  No, it’s not due to the negligence of the Purrfect Day Cafe, our shelter partners, or any other shelter or adoption center.  From time to time, Mother Nature sneaks up with her misfortune and all we can do is try to handle it with care and compassion.  So, before you adopt an animal from your local shelter, here are some truths that you should be aware of and understand.  Again, it is OK to be disappointed.  After all, you care about your new furriend.  But before you walk into that shelter or Cat Cafe, be aware of the reality.

1. Most Cafes and shelters follow a standard medical protocol 

Upon intake, all kitties go through an evaluation process to ensure they are healthy and symptom-free.  They are given a series of vaccines (FVRCP – a mixture of vaccines for common diseases) and receive flea medicine and a dewormer.  They are spayed/ neutered and typically microchipped.  There is a slight variance in the number of shots and what kinds of medicines are used but they all want to do what is best to prevent future illnesses.  They are not in this business to make a ton of money and they all love animals, sometimes more than humans.  

2. Most Animal Shelters Don’t Charge Enough

I have 3 cats, one I found as a stray in a bush, and the other two I adopted from our shelter partner.  The cost of getting our stray the standard medical protocol was 3 times as much as it was through the shelter.  The cost is lower at shelters because they are either county or city-subsidized or they are a part of a non-profit that raises funds to subsidize the cost of medical care. 

3. Rescue Cats Have Had A Rough Journey

Their typical journey starts near a dumpster, they get caught in a trap, go into a shelter cage, get poked and prodded then go into surgery, then go up for adoption.  If they are lucky some fosters help socialize them and then you get to meet them.  Just understand how much has gone on before you meet the kitty and there is much more to be done when that kitty goes home.

4. They Get Sick

es, it’s that simple, and unfortunately, the process of adoption and transportation into your home can make that worse.  Cats can be very susceptible to sickness due to high stress and the most common illness is an upper respiratory infection. (URI).  The good news is that there are about 7 days worth of liquid antibiotics but you must treat it ASAP.  The best practice is to schedule a new pet vet visit the minute you get home from your adoption.  

5. Kittens Get Sick More Than Adult Cats

Kittens are so cute but just like our human children, their immune system is just not as strong as it is for adults.  If you love kittens and want to adopt, just know it comes with a higher risk.  Inevitably, a kitty gets sick on the weekend when your vet is closed, and the cost of an emergency center can be quite costly. 

6. Cats Don’t Come With a Guarantee

Some shelters and Cat cafes will take back kitties who are not fit and some do not.  Some will offer an exchange but most do offer a refund.  It is important to ask those kind of questions during the adoption process.  Even if they do offer these items, it is important to know that they cannot control bad genetics or pre-existing conditions that no one is aware of.    

7. Prepare and Budget For Something To Happen

Most people will agree that cats can be low-maintenance and low-cost pets.  That being said, I would recommend having a budget set aside for your first vet visit and a little more should the kitty get a cold.  If you are having difficulty affording the adoption fee, I would wait to save up for a sneezy day.  

Ready to Rescue? Patience and Understanding are Your Superpowers

I am now going to make a plea on behalf of all our heroes at the shelters who put their hearts and backs into the care of these strays.  If they chose not to do what they do, what kind of world would we have?  Please, don’t get angry at them for “selling” you a bad cat.  This is not Walmart or Target where manufacturing and quality control standards are implemented on the assembling line.  We are so used to the efficiencies with online ordering, overnight shipping, refunds, and sending back products because of a manufacturing flaw. 

Cats and kittens are not related to that part of our society.  These are live creatures found in the streets that have flaws, which is why we help and why it means so much to the rescue community to find good homes for them.  Please, be kind and patient not only to them but to the situation your kitty is in.  It is OK to disagree with my thoughts on these items above but if you do, I would not encourage you to rescue.  Again, not everyone is a fit, and that is OK