If you adopted your cat from a shelter, how did they tell you that they were the right cat for you?

There is such a high degree of variability in the behaviour of shelter cats and their potential adopters that there is no one single sign or M.O. which represents all the encounters. This is my thought about this topic. I have skimmed some stories and I can’t really see a pattern. It is surely a two-way street by which I mean there are two parties involved, the potential adopter, and the cat or kitten. Both influence the outcome.

Selecting a shelter cat
Selecting a shelter cat. Infographic by MikeB at PoC.
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The selection of the lucky cat partly depends upon what is in the head and heart of the human when they walk into the shelter. They may have a gut feeling as to the kind of cat they want to adopt. They may have a rough goal but it may well be totally overturned by the behaviour of a particular individual in the shelter who changes their mind.


I think that a lot of people who go to shelters to adopt a cat are going to be sensitive towards vulnerable creatures. They want to help. They are not buying a purebred, pedigree cat, they are giving their home to an unwanted cat. A permanent home.

It is a gift and in the spirit of giving they might be attracted more often to a cat which they think is more vulnerable than the others. This might be a disabled or an elderly cat. Although there is a barrier towards adopting an elderly cat which is that they have more health problems. This is partly why kittens are more popular, that and the fact that they are very cute.

Black cats are vulnerable, particularly black, elderly cats with a disability! Some people might go into a shelter with such a cat in mind. But the outcome depends so very much on the confidence of the cat concerned. Often it is not the person who selects the cat but the other way around. The cat comes towards the potential adopter and asks to be picked up. Or they ask to interact. That movement towards a large human requires confidence.


The difficult environment of shelters can sometimes suppress this confidence. It can make rescue cats frightened. They want to hide in the corner of their cage. They don’t want to come out. The ones who do come forward are more likely to be selected unless the person is, as mentioned, particularly looking for a vulnerable, timid cat who is frightened. That’s the nice aspect of adopting a shelter cat.

You will find people with that mentality. The ones who simply go for a cute kitten and who are in shelters because they want to adopt a cat but can’t afford to buy a purebred cat, are more likely to go straight for the kittens, the cutest available.

Adopting two old adults

I can remember one woman adopting two elderly cats at the same time at a shelter. She picked the two most unlikely cats to be adopted. The two cats that were most likely to be left on the shelf and indeed never be adopted. She single-mindedly targeted the most vulnerable and the least desirable as a way to counteract the opposite attitude. It was redressing the balance and doing something really good for animal welfare.

Seek to adopt one and come out with two

Sometimes people going to shelters looking for, for example, a ginger tabby because in general they have nice characters although it is debatable whether you can attach a particular character to a particular coat type! But then when they enter their local shelter a large white cat catches their eye. They go up to the cat and she purrs affectionately. She looks a little weary but beautiful nonetheless. And down the corridor is a male ginger tabby cat, exactly the type that they wanted to adopt.

Two can be better than one

They come home with two cats rather than one! That can happen too. You go into a shelter with a generous heart which opens the door to taking on the responsibility of two cats rather than one. There is a happy spin-off and it actually reduces the responsibility when you adopt two at the same time. Provided they get along, they can entertain each other. They can play with each other if they are minded to do so. That takes a little bit of responsibility away from the human caregiver because playing with cats is an area of cat ownership which is lacking very often.

The only difficulty is ensuring that they get along because if they don’t you can end up with an intractable problem which may even need to the rehoming of one of those cats. And how do you know if they are going to get along? There’s the difficulty.


Personally, I’m in the group of adopters who would go for the most vulnerable. When you adopt a cat that nobody else will adopt you have a clear conscience and an immediate bond which I think is stronger than normal. The glue for that bond is the added animal welfare that you bring to the world. And your chosen cat will probably be all the more thankful and all the more loving for being selected. This will lead to a lifelong relationship which is full of warmth, companionship and giving.

Do you have a story to tell? Please share it.

2 thoughts on “If you adopted your cat from a shelter, how did they tell you that they were the right cat for you?”

  1. I’ve always been fond of black cats, so after one of my black beauties passed away I went to the shelter fully intending to bring home another black cat. To my absolute surprise, there was not a single black cat. However, a medium-haired tabby boy who’d been at the shelter for months caught my eye. I was actually somewhat leery about his wild tabby looks and feared he’d nip at me. A wonderful shelter worker offered to let me spend time with the tabby, but explained he was very fearful and would hide if taken out of his cage. So she opened up the cage and let me attempt to get to know the tabby while he was in his cage. I put my finger up to let him sniff it, and he almost immediately began to lick my finger and then rolled on his back. After that, there was no question that he was the one.

    It took years for him to fully become comfortable in his new home. But, I find it extremely rewarding to see a fearful cat gradually become a confident cat. One thing I never expected is how readily he takes to new cats. When I brought my last cat home from the shelter, the introduction period took about 2 seconds before they became best friends.

    After that experience, I think I would definitely seek out the fearful cats when adopting from a shelter. Also, I have a soft spot for bonded pairs. Occasionally, I’ll see adoption notices for pairs of cats the shelter attempts to adopt together. It breaks my heart when I check back and find only one of the pair remaining at the shelter. Not only had the feline friends been taken from their original home, but they’d lost each other.


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