Wednesday 6 June 2012

Are Cat Adoption Applications Too Strict?

Are cat adoption applications too strict? Have any of the readers here even looked at a cat adoption application lately? Gone are the days when you went to your local shelter, picked out a cat, paid a fee and took him or her home.

Pippa - one of my rescued cats. Photo by Elisa Black-Taylor

Thanks to the internet, both good and bad have come out of what used to be the pleasure of adopting a cat. We've all heard the horror stories of how animal abusers will search the freebie advertisements for animals to abuse. Some will even go so far as to pay the price a shelter asks for a cat just to have a new cat to torture. It's these abusers who have paved the way to turning a simple adoption into a nightmare.

That and a lot of other questionable information most shelters and rescues have the right to investigate before adopting out a cat. Some of the information that may get you turned down for a cat adoption include the following:
  • Age. Some shelters and rescues require an adopter to be over the age of 21 but under the age of 60.
  • Who will care for your cat should you become unable to?
  • Whether you have children, plan to have children, how many children and how old they are.
  • How will you handle any health problems that may come up concerning your cat?
  • Vet reference. This can be a tricky one if this is your first cat.
  • Have you ever euthanized a pet?
  • Have you ever turned a pet into a shelter?
  • What happened to any previous pets you've had?
  • Do you have a full time job? This is a tricky one. Some shelters and rescues believe one person should always be home with the cat.
Are ALL of these questions really necessary? They're standard on many rescue adoption websites as well as many shelters. Most rescues will tell you these questions are necessary to prevent the cat from going to a "bad" home.

How is it a person can be called to war at 18, yet be unable to adopt a cat until the age of 21? I feel sure cat lovers over the age of 60 will have some objections to being denied because of their age.

I can understand questions on whether or not you plan to declaw a cat and whether the cat will be kept indoors at all times.  Some potential adopters have compared certain questions to an inquisition. Questions that have nothing to do with declawing or where the cat will spend its time.

Some shelters are extremely strict and cats die because of this on a daily basis. Not because a home couldn't be found. Because a "perfect" home couldn't be found and the cat is euthanized when the end holding date is reached.

I never would have thought having a full time job could make a person ineligible for cat adoption. With some shelters and rescue groups it can.

This is one reason so many people turn to the freebies. It's created a dangerous situation for many cats and also contributed to the overpopulation of cats. The person placing the ad for free kittens really has little to go on as to who gets a kitten. And the adopter is as likely as not to allow the cat to remain intact because spay/neutering can be expensive in areas without a low cost clinic. These free cats eventually end up in the shelter system. Usually shortly before or after that first unwanted litter comes along.

Rescues are also scaring away prospective cat owners by continuing to claim ownership in the contract the adopter must sign before taking the cat home. This basically states the adopter is responsible for food, shelter and medical care. It also gives the rescue the right to drop in at the adopter's home unannounced for the rest of the cats life to be sure a good home is being provided. Most rescue centers also take away the option of the adopter finding the cat a new home should the arrangement not work out. Again, a measure meant to protect the cat is causing some to shy away from rescue adoption.

I'm not saying these precautions aren't necessary. Only that some are a little excessive.

Have any of you ran into these questionnaires that border on the extreme? Were you turned down because of your answers? How far should a rescue or shelter be allowed to go in placing a cat with it's forever home. I welcome your comments on what you consider good adoption questions and questions that are more of an invasion of privacy.


  1. I thoroughly agree that some of the qualifications are too restrictive. If over 60s are taken out that would cut out Ruth (AKA Kattaddorra) and me. What I find strange is that a lot of these cats are euthanised when it would be better to be in a less than perfect home.

    I don't agree with the shelter retaining ownership either. That can take away responsibility can't it? It could affect the relationship negatively.

    Thanks for the post Elisa.

  2. I find the full-time job thing entirely ridiculous, personally. Cats are the perfect pet for a working couple! A huge part of their appeal is that, unlike dogs, they're okay for five or six hours on their own (although, honestly, I've had a dog and we left her alone for a weekend a few times, with people stopping in to feed and walk her every few hours, and she was fine). They sleep a lot and, if the owner is willing to spend their evenings at home and play with the cat a few times a day, it'll be fine. They're not that needy.

    The age restrictions, on the other hand, I kind of get (the under 21 one, not the over 60 which is so stupid it doesn't even bear discussing as those are exactly the people who CAN stay home with the cat all day), but for people over 18 and under 21, maybe a better policy than a blanket ban would be to require a full adult, preferably a parent, to co-sign (which is pretty in common in other contexts, like credit cards or renting an apartment). I don't think all 18 year olds are ready to own pets, but I imagine many are perfectly capable of taking care of a cat and the parents and the individual volunteer are in a better position to judge that specific adopter. Some teenagers that age are more responsible than some 30 year olds, others can barely feed themselves and I don't think a blanket ban is a great solution if you want to encourage adoption over buying.

    As for some of the other requirements, I think having a back-up caretaker is a great idea, and have several lined up for my cat, but not having one shouldn't be a dealbreaker as it's not something most people think about (I'm in the medical field so I've left detailed instructions of what's to become of me if I meet an untimely end, but fully acknowledge that's not normal). As for kids, I don't think it should disqualify anyone but maybe it would be a good guide as to what types of cats they should be looking at, as some are more tolerant than others.

    The rest of the questions I think are fairly reasonable, although all answers should be taken in context. But the "we still own your cat" thing is ridiculous and was why I ended up going out and finding my own kitty rather than going through a group. I did my legwork and read into rescues, decided I'd really rather not submit my life to a stranger's inspection if I had another acceptable option and asked my vet if he knew of any cats needing a home, which worked out great. If you have a good relationship with your vet, it can't hurt to ask! They're often the first people to know if a pet's current home isn't working out and can help you without putting you under a microscope. If submitting to a shelter or rescue's inspection was the only way I could have a cat, I'd fill out all the forms they wanted and maybe even agree to a home visit (of which I am not a fan, for reasons of both safety and privacy), but with so many options to get a cat, why would I?


Your comments are always welcome.

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