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How Long Does It Take to Adopt a Cat? 3 Vet-Approved Factors to Consider

Written by: Christian Adams

Last Updated on February 23, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

adopting a cat

How Long Does It Take to Adopt a Cat? 3 Vet-Approved Factors to Consider


Dr. Luqman Javed Photo


Dr. Luqman Javed

DVM (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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If you want to adopt a cat, you might wonder how long it will take to bring them home. If your area has more cats than people wanting cats, you’ll likely be able to find one quickly. However, in areas where kittens are less common and hard to come by, you may sit on a waiting list for months.

Furthermore, different agencies require different steps before you are allowed to adopt. In some cases, you only have to fill out some paperwork. However, in other cases, you may have to do an interview and complete a home study, and even then, you may not be chosen to adopt a pet. Some agencies are very strict about who adopts, while others overflow with more pets than they can help. In general, adopting a cat can take anywhere from a couple of hours to a few weeks.

Here, we look at the factors determining the length of time it may take you to adopt. Please note that this topic is about adopting a cat through an agency; at times, a cat can be rescued and make their way into your life that way. Felines can also sometimes be adopted through non-agencies.

divider-catclaw1 The 3 Factors at Play When Adopting a Cat

1. Location

Your location will play the biggest role in the length of time it takes you to adopt. If your area has many cats looking for homes, you probably won’t wait long. However, areas with fewer cats will often require adopters to jump through more hoops, which means you’ll spend longer before adopting.

Let’s look at a few examples to see this concept in action.

If you live in an area with lots of cats, your local shelter and rescues likely have more animals than they know what to do with. Often, these agencies are just trying to get animals adopted so they have room for more. No one wants to turn needy animals away, after all. Therefore, in such circumstances, you may be able to walk out with a cat the same day that you go in.

However, if your area has more people looking for cats than there are cats available, agencies have to find a way to choose who gets to adopt and who doesn’t. Usually, this involves interviews, home visits, and similar steps. Often, you’ll have to apply and get approved before you get to pick your cat.

The process can be much longer, and you may sit on a waiting list until an appropriate cat comes into the agency.

cat getting adopted
Image Credit: Anika Moritz, Shutterstock

2. Type of Agency


Rescue organizations are often stricter about whom they let adopt their pets. Many of them do not adopt out to first-time owners and require many references. Usually, these agencies are also picky about the pets they take and do not receive surrenders from the public. Therefore, they have fewer pets available and don’t have to worry about getting overrun.

At times, you’ll have to fill out an online application, though some do accept applications in person. Because these agencies are often run by volunteers, it usually takes several days for your application to be read and replied to. They may require a home visit too.

Either way, you can usually only take a cat home after you’ve been approved and an appropriate cat has been given. As you might expect, this can take weeks, depending on your location.

Adopting from a shelter or a Humane Society is a bit different. These agencies often accept surrenders straight from the public, as well as any stray dogs found wandering around. Usually, you can walk in, find a pet, and take them home the same day.

Shelters are typically cheaper because they are mostly focused on getting cats through the door as quickly as possible. They need to keep the room open for new pets at all times, so they can’t risk holding onto a cat for very long. If you’re willing to adopt, they are usually very willing to work with you.

3. The Cat Themselves

If you’re set on adopting a specific cat, the time frame may differ in some special circumstances. For instance, adopting kittens may require that you wait until they are weaned. So, even if you walk into a shelter and find a kitten, you may have to wait a few weeks before taking them home.

Cats with special needs may also have a longer adoption process. You may need to learn about certain medications your cat is on and establish care with a vet before the agency allows you to adopt.

Similarly, cats currently sick or in need of extra care may not be able to come home until after their treatment. Sometimes, expectations are made for more common conditions, such as renal issues. However, many agencies will keep the cat until they have a clean bill of health.

siberian cat close up
Image Credit: Pixabay

3 cat divider

Where Can I Adopt a Cat Fast?

You should never rush into adopting a new pet. It is a serious responsibility you should only make when you’ve thought it over for a while. However, there are many cases where adopting a cat fast may be the best course of action. At other times, though, you may randomly find yourself being a cat parent due to other circumstances.

For most planned adoptions, the fastest way to adopt a cat is to go to your local animal shelter. In many cases, you can take home one of the cats the same day. However, you may have to spend a bit of time filling out the paperwork.

divider-catclaw1 Conclusion

Adopting a cat through an agency can take anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks. It depends on various factors, like where you live and what agency you decide to use. Many animal rescue agencies have a long list of requirements and a lengthy adoption process. However, animal shelters usually aren’t as picky about who adopts and often let you adopt on the same day.

If you’re looking for a cat fast, your best bet is to visit your local shelter. In many places, you’ll be able to adopt a cat quickly from there.

However, if you live in an area with very few cats, then you may have to wait weeks or months for adoption through an agency or organization. While not everywhere requires sitting on a waiting list to adopt, many places do. If there aren’t many cats looking for homes near you, you may have to “compete” with other potential adopters.

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Featured Image: Susan Schmitz, Shutterstock

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