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How Old Do You Need to Be to Adopt a Cat? Vet-Reviewed Guidelines & Info

Written by: Christian Adams

Last Updated on June 6, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

cat snuggling with owner

How Old Do You Need to Be to Adopt a Cat? Vet-Reviewed Guidelines & Info

VET APPROVED

Dr. Luqman Javed Photo

REVIEWED & FACT-CHECKED BY

Dr. Luqman Javed

DVM (Veterinarian)

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

Learn more »

Adopting a cat is a process that involves planning and preparation, as well as the signing of documents. Because of this, most shelters will need you to be either 18 or 21 (the legal age of responsibility) to sign for and adopt a new cat. This helps to show that you are responsible enough and prepared to look after your cat for the whole of its life and can legally sign documentation for insurance and liability purposes. However, it’s best to contact and check with your prospective shelter or point of contact, as there might be exceptions in some circumstances or in some jurisdictions.

There are other requirements that you will need to think about when adopting a cat. The shelter will likely walk you through them when you adopt a pet, as most have their own adoption processes.

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What Other Requirements Are Needed When Adopting a Cat?

The cost involved with adoption varies drastically depending on where you reside. For example, the cost to adopt cats in the US varies and can differ according to the area you live in, the type of cat you want to adopt, the cat’s age, and any history or health problems the cat may have. There’s no blanket answer to this question, but adoption costs usually cover more than the cat itself. Food costs, medication costs, the running of the shelter, and any health procedures carried out on the cat can all factor into the cost of adoption.

Other than adopting for free (which is rare but does happen in some circumstances), the price (within the US) is between $50 and $200 for one cat. However, even this can vary with breed. If rarer breeds, such as Bengal cats, are up for adoption or if you’re adopting from a breed-specific rescue, the price can be as much as $500.

cat at an animal shelter
Image By: JW Design, Shutterstock

How Much Does It Cost to Adopt a Cat?

The cost to adopt cats in the US varies and can differ according to the area you live in, the type of cat you want to adopt, the cat’s age, and any history or health problems the cat may have. There’s no blanket answer to this question, but adoption costs usually cover more than the cat itself. Food costs, medication costs, the running of the shelter, and any health procedures carried out on the cat can all factor into the cost of adoption.

Other than adopting for free (which is rare but does happen), the price is between $50 and $200 for one cat. However, even this can vary with breed. If rarer breeds, such as Bengal cats, are up for adoption or if you’re adopting from a breed-specific rescue, the price can be as much as $500.

Why Would I Have to Pay an Adoption Fee?

The adoption fee for your new cat covers more than just the food and care for them. These costs often cover the running cost of the shelter, food and care for the other cats, and any other veterinary costs the shelter might incur.

The adoption fee for one cat could cover the following:
  • Microchipping
  • Parasite control (for both internal and external parasites)
  • Blood tests such as FeLV (feline leukemia virus) & FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus) testing
  • Food
  • Shelter (including bills)
  • Comfort and the cost of hiring assistants

Shelters can continue to operate because of donations and the costs of adoption.

Can You Adopt a Cat if You Already Own One?

It is possible to adopt a cat if you already own one. However, this depends on your cat’s temperament, and the shelter will check whether or not your cat is used to or can tolerate other cats. Sometimes, they will perform a cat test, which is a slow introduction of the new cat to the existing one. As cats are generally territorial in nature, many will be happy on their own.

However, cats can definitely coexist with each other, provided each cat does not view the other as a competitor for resources they value. It also depends, to a large extent, on their personalities, experiences with other cats as kittens (especially between the ages of 3 – 9 weeks), and their neuter status (intact cats are often more likely to display signs of sex-hormone driven aggression).

cat smelling kitten
Image By: Irina Kozorog, Shutterstock

Can I Adopt More Than One Cat?

You certainly can, and sometimes shelters will offer a discount on the adoption fee for bonded pairs or more than two cats adopted at the same time. Of course, the number of cats you can adopt depends on how many cats you already have in the home; the shelter will often consider the cat’s welfare when doing home checks.

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Final Thoughts

Adopting a cat from a shelter is a big decision that takes lots of careful consideration. That is why the minimum age for adoption is usually between 18 and 21 years because legally binding documents must be signed. The shelter does this to ensure that you are legally responsible for your new cat and that the cat will go to a good home. Other factors to consider when adopting include your housing situation and other pets in the home, which a shelter will guide you through as they usually have processes for addressing these issues. Lastly, if you are younger than 18 and still live with your parents, they must agree to adopt and sign the papers themselves on your behalf.


Featured Image Credit: cottonbro, Pexels

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