Should you have your chosen shelter cat checked over by a veterinarian before adopting?

I am sure that a very high percentage of shelter cats ready for adoption are clear of all health issues. However is it fair to say that a small percentage do have a health issue of some sort which has been missed by the shelter staff? Although, it must be said that shelter cats are routinely spayed, neutered, immunized, dewormed and microchipped.

Questions to ask when adopting a cat from a shelter

Questions to ask when adopting a cat from a shelter. Photo Mendocino Animal Care Services.

A page of questions to ask the shelter when adopting. It may not be complete. Please add to it in a comment.

Does anyone visiting a cat shelter to adopt consider carrying out immediate medical checks? You sign a contract with the shelter when you adopt one of their cats. It’ll probably state, in an English translation, the old Latin legal term: caveat emptor — buyer beware because there will be no guarantees that the cat is healthy.

Or do you have a different experience? Do all shelter contracts contain a clause which states that the adopter understands and accepts that the cat might be unhealthy and which also contains a disclaimer to protect the shelter?

This article is not criticising shelters or saying that people should not adopt from them. Of course it is far better to go to cat shelter if you want a cat. There are so many advantages one of which is that you are saving a life. Adopting a shelter cat is the last stage in the cat rescue process.

However, there are no guarantees the cat will be in perfect health. It would make sense to have the cat checked over by a vet some time soon after adoption and perhaps to place him in quarantine if there are other cats in the house before the vet gives the all clear.

Do shelter contracts allow you to take your cat back if she/he is found to have a health problem? I’d doubt it because as mentioned the onus is on the buyer to take precautions. I am sure many others have fist hand experience of this.

The reason why I ask these questions is because there is a story about a couple who adopted a cat from Lincoln County Animal Services. The cat had ringworm which is very contagious and as consequence two children in the family got it from the new cat. It is very hard to get rid of ringworm. The couple complained but had failed to read the contract which prevented them complaining or taking any other action.

Note: sources for news articles are carefully selected but the news is often not independently verified.

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 74-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare. If you want to read more click here.

You may also like...

7 Responses

  1. M E King says:

    Almost all shelters here offer a vet visit after adoption, usually within 3 days to a week. In fairness if the cat you choose had a medical condition you couldn’t handle you can return them but your adoption fee is considered a donation. Little Mercy came with issues. She required oral surgery to remove excess gum tissue. We don’t care. She was our cat from the moment I held her and the shelter worker had to pry her off me. I do notice many adopted cats that people say looked healthy come home and succumb to an URI within days. Shelters should give more advice on stress reduction and the use of L-lysine at this time.

  2. Cat's Meow says:

    I think there are times when the shelter staff is unaware of health issues. I also think other times they know and are afraid the animal won’t be adopted because of the health issues. That’s sad and most unfortunate both for the pet and adopters.

    If my heart picks out a new fur-baby, my brain needs to know how best to take care of him especially knowing my heart will NOT let him go.

  3. Elisa Black-Taylor says:

    Good luck talking the shelter into allowing a vet to examine the cat before adoption. You pretty much have to judge on your own i.e. no watery eyes, congested breathing, etc.

    • Michael Broad says:

      There is no better advice than yours when adopting from a shelter.

      • Elisa Black-Taylor says:

        Just being realistic. The shelter isn’t going to allow the at to leave before adoption and most vets keep hours similar to a shelter and won’t take the time to go to the shelter to examine the cat-IF the shelter would even allow another vet besides their contract vet. You’ll usually know whether the cat is FIV/FeLV+ or – and that’s it. Everything else you have to self-examiner. It’s OK if you really want to adopt a sick cat. Usually, a round of antibiotics can clear up a URI. We saved one in full-blown renal failure once and the shelter didn’t tell us about it. She went straight to the vet (I always took new kitties straight to the vet) and she died a few days later.

  4. Albert Schepis says:

    I’ve adopted one cat (out of 18) from my county-run (VC) Animal Services “shelter”. “Rocko”, a very dear little guy, trusting to the end, turned out to have a perforated ulcer in his duodenum, which turned fatal within 3 months. I’ve also had other unfortunate interactions with VCAS besides that one, so my overall experiences don’t give me much confidence in that particular facility at least. I tried.
    I haven’t heard any very positive comments from anyone about it, and I’ve been in its’ sphere of influence since ’87. It’s so, so sad for all the animals that enter there.
    I’d advise everyone to have any animal completely checked; I mean really look for what could be wrong – especially stress-related illness so you can help them, not avoid them. I’m actually more predisposed to adopt an animal who needs extra help.

Leave a Reply to Michael Broad Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *