Choosing a rescue kitten

Deciding on a non-pedigree moggy could be the best decision you ever make, but only if you consider all your options. If there’s one thing you can count on, it’s that your local rescue centre will be fit to burst with cats and kittens needing new homes. Litters of kittens are often handed over because people can’t cope with them all; especially in the spring and summer months.

While it is important each animal is found a new home, it doesn’t mean adopting a cat is as simple as just choosing a rescue kitten one and taking him home. It is vital that you and your new pet are suitably matched so the rescue organisation will do all it can to pair you with the cat most compatible with your lifestyle. They should give you all the information they have on his past and on their experience with him. This can include details provided by the previous owner, or if the mother cat has come in as a stray

she will have been assessed by staff. Betty Boud, manager of Cats Protection’s National Cat Adoption Centre, says: “We want to make sure that the cat coming into your life is the right one for you, your family, your lifestyle and your plans for the future. “That way, the process of settling your new family member into his new home will be that much easier and means you have the best chance of a long and happy life together. Unfortunately, some cats do get returned to us after being rehomed so we want to make sure that everyone, puss included, is happy with the arrangements.”

At the rescue centre Staff should give you plenty of advice and information about the kitten’s background, although this may be rather vague if he arrived as a stray with his mum. Expect to be asked for a donation to the charity in exchange for your new kitten. Most charities will however carry out health checks and vaccinate. Many will also neuter the kitten or, if he is too young, insist you sign an agreement to have him neutered once he is in your care.

Most charities understand the importance of socialisation and do what they can to encourage this. Some, like the Cats Protection National Cat Centre in Haywards Heath, West Sussex, have a socialisation room where staff and potential owners can handle and interact with the kittens. One of the reasons non-pedigrees are rehomed at a younger age is so that new owners can introduce them to home life as soon as possible. The cats at the charity should be relaxed and healthy, although some may be recovering from injury or may be nervous or feral, so you need to take this into consideration when viewing a kitten and consider if you will be able to dedicate enough

time to this type of kitten. The charity/rescue facility should be clean and the cats housed individually (unless they arrived with other cats) and the proprietor should be knowledgeable and organised. Have a good look around the charity’s premises. Pens should be in a good condition, well ventilated and with minimal smell. There should also be barriers between the pens to prevent infection spreading.

The cats should have fresh food and water in clean bowls. Litter trays should be regularly refreshed and bedding should be clean and cosy. When viewing the kittens it’s a good idea to choose the one with the best personality – ideally, you want the kitten who shows a little bit of interest in everything rather than the one who is hiding in the corner and not interacting with the others, or the one who pounces on you straight away. He should be confident enough to greet you, but not be climbing the walls with excess energy! Ready to go home Sarah Dickinson, media and communications officer at The Mayhew Animal Home, adds that providing all goes well with the home visit, the reserved cat can go home with his new owners. Before they go, there’s a further chance to obtain more useful information.

Sarah says: “There is an ‘outtake’ talk about the aspects to take into account when settling a new animal into their new environment and tips on dietary needs and settling in behaviours, in addition to the importance of registering with their vet and keeping up with vaccinations.” This charity also offers advice leaflets which explain how to introduce new cats to members of the family and other pets.


Begin your search Look in the ‘Yellow Pages’, online at or in the classified section in Your Cat magazine for cat rescue organisations in your area. There are many small organisations that are very well run, so size is not necessarily an indicator of quality. It may also be worth visiting your local veterinary surgery and asking which local rescue organisations they would recommend (don’t forget to check notice boards too) as many locally based charities do not have the funds to advertise.

Check you out Most organisations will carry out an interview, either over the phone or face to face, to select the serious from the not-so-serious potential owner. It’ll also give you the chance to think about exactly what you’re taking on. A home visit is likely to be required and, if you’re successful, this may be followed by a post-adoption visit. Some organisations ask you to fill in a questionnaire to help them find a match. Sarah Dickinson, media and communications officer at The Mayhew Animal Home, says: “When people arrive wishing to adopt one of our cats, they have to fill in a Cat Adoption questionnaire and book an appointment with our Cat Adoption Officer to chat through the different elements that will suggest what cat is right for them. “We ask questions about lifestyle, other animals and people in the house, and job hours.

Once we’re sure the potential adopters are in a good position to adopt, they can visit the cattery to see which cats are suitable for them. “Usually the cat they have come to see will be the right one for them, but this may not always be the case as we may not be prepared to rehome young kittens to an elderly person with no dependents, or a very hectic young family. “When these elements have been covered and the adopters have reserved their cat, we make arrangements for a pre-home visit. This is to ensure the environment is safe for a cat and there is garden access. For older cats a terrace or large balcony may be suitable.” Indoor-only homes are sought in a few cases.

Sarah explains: “We only accept indoor-cat adoptions in cases of FIV [feline immunodeficiency virus] positive cats, or on occasions where the cats are from multi-cat households and the cats are incredibly overwhelmed by space after having lived in a cramped and tense environment – often for their whole lifetime.” The cost of adopting You should expect to make a donation for your new cat. This varies depending on the organisation.

Alan Maskell, centre manager at The Blue Cross adoption centre in Cambridge, says: “We charge $40 to $50 for a cat, and this goes to help with the cost of their care at the centre and any veterinary treatment they may have had. The average cost to The Blue Cross is around $400 to $500 per cat.”

Ready for a rescue kitten?

Questions you may be expected to answer:

  • Have you had cats before?
  • Do you have other animals?
  • Are they vaccinated/neutered?
  • Why do you want a cat?
  • How many people will be living with the cat?
  • How old is the youngest child?
  • Are the children used to having cats?
  • Do you have a garden?
  • How busy is the road you live on?
  • Have you or your neighbours lost a cat on the road?
  • Do you have a catflap?
  • For how long will the cat be left on his own each day?
  • What arrangements will you make for your cat’s care when you go away?
  • What sort of cat are you looking for?
  • Do you have a preference for male or female and why?
  • Are you going on holiday or moving house in the next two months?
  • Do you know of a local vet?
  • Are you happy to groom the cat regularly?
  • Where will the cat sleep?
  • Where will the cat’s litter tray be kept?


Choosing a rescue kitten


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