Should people adopting a shelter cat have their vet perform a health check before adopting?

Are shelter cats more likely to have a medical problem due to being in a crowded shelter than adopting from a breeder or from a neighbour? The same question can be asked with respect to pet shop cats. If so can adopters sufficiently rely on the shelter’s veterinary care to adopt a cat and take him home without getting an independent opinion on health from a veterinarian hired by the adopters?

Beautiful shelter cats who are best buddies.
Beautiful shelter cats who are best buddies.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

That may sound impractical, strange and overdoing it or even insulting. But it depends on how thorough the shelter is with respect to guaranteeing that their cats are healthy. Do adopters expect to find that their chosen cat may have some health issues but accept this? Or do some potential cat adopters avoid adopting from a shelter because they feel, incorrectly, that they cannot rely on shelters to supply healthy, well behaved cats?

When we buy a house we usually have it surveyed by a qualified person to check that there are no hidden problems. When we buy a second hand car sometimes the buyer has it checked over by an expert. Is it wise or is it overdoing it to have a health check carried out before adopting a shelter cat? Buying a house and adopting a cat are different situations but when one adopts a cat it is for the cat’s lifetime. That could be fifteen or more years. This requires commitment. There is an emotional involvement. You don’t want to be landed with large veterinary bills soon after adopting a shelter cat or worse, see you cat become ill and die.

Franny Syufy writing on About.com says that it is likely that a shelter cat has one or more medical problem. She recommends that cats are vetted prior to bringing him home especially if there are cats at home. She says that the best way to deal with this is to make an appointment with your veterinarian for the day your cat is picked up. This implies that the adopter makes arrangements for a veterinary check-up after selecting a cat and signing papers. Is that wise? Is it more sensible to select a cat and then make arrangements for a check the same day (this is impractical, I suppose).

The vet check should be before adopting and signing papers unless the terms and conditions allow for an independent check within a set timeframe and allows the adopter to return the cat if the cat fails the check. I have not read a shelter contract but I’d suspect that they allow a period during which the cat can be returned for good reasons and monies reimbursed.

This no doubt sounds harsh, almost cruel because it might mean a death sentence for a cat. But how else can one proceed? Are new adopters expected to nurse sick cats from day one?

There is also the matter of ensuring that the incoming cat does not transmit disease to resident cats. This is almost the most important reason for an independent health check. It is said that incoming, adopted cats should be quarantined for a set time before integrating him/her with the resident cats.




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4 thoughts on “Should people adopting a shelter cat have their vet perform a health check before adopting?”

  1. It may be the prudent thing to do but, as Sandra wrote, it would be pricey for the adopter.
    As all know, I don’t trust most shelters, especially, kill ones at all. No real testing or health checks are done on admission by anyone qualified.
    However, it may improve the conditions of shelter cats if potential adoptees insisted on second opinions at the expense of the shelter (county).
    I’m dreaming now…

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  2. Just to add to my comment. The cost for a blood panel runs about $200, but this could be shopped to find a lower price, but $100 might be the lowest. This would be in addition to the cost for exam, which averages $40-60 in California.

    And, I would expect the vet to find “something” to treat. I think it would be highly unusual for a vet to give any animal a “clean bill of health”.

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  3. Although it seems like a wise move for an adopter, I doubt if that many people will do it, mainly because of the extra cost involved.

    To be honest, I never even thought of the possibility of my adoptive cat having health issues, even though she’d lived as a feral for her first year.

    Actually, she was very healthy for the first 5 years, previous to seeing the vet for constipation. She was given Baytril because the vet thought she “might” have a UTI, although she had no symptoms and there was no testing done.

    Since that treatment, she’s had multiple health issues, and each vet visit has resulted in drug reactions and lowered immunity.

    I’ve learned the hard way that to blindly trust any vet can lead into an unhealthy condition for your pet.

    What could a potential adopter ask for when getting a health evaluation? Blood test, for sure. But what else?

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