Considering that rescue cats are arguably the most in need of a home, it can come as a surprise to many applications that want to adopt a cat from a shelter are rejected. It’s common to see examples of this on web forums where potential owners have complained about how hard it is to adopt a cat from a rescue home.

It can be difficult to get your head around it sometimes, as we’re always told to go to a local shelter rather than a breeder. If you end up being rejected, it can feel all the more frustrating: what’s the point in telling us to go to a local cat shelter in the first place? Why isn’t adopting a cat at your local shelter as easy as getting a cat from a breeder or a pet store?

Why Is It So Hard To Adopt A Cat From A Shelter?

Given that rescue cats often come from difficult backgrounds, they often require specific living requirements and more specialist care that the average aspiring cat owner, while it’s no fault of their own, is unable to provide, making the adoption process very hard.

If you end up being rejected in your application to adopt a rescue cat, it’s important to not take it personally.

Although you may end up being rejected by one cat shelter, another cat shelter may be more than happy to move your application forward. While you might not be the right fit for one cat, another cat may just end up being your perfect companion.

If you end up being rejected from adopting a shelter cat, the first thing you should do is to open up a dialogue with them.

Most Common Reasons For Applications To Be Rejected

There are many reasons why your application for adopting a local shelter cat may be rejected.

While it can seem as if the reason for being rejected is minor and unfair, there’s always a lot of reasoning behind it, and everyone involved in the decision-making process undergoes a thorough process before determining whether they will accept or reject your application for a specific cat.

1. Your environment
Cat shelters can be stringent about the environment where the cat grew up in. The shelters number one priority is security, so don’t be surprised if people from the shelter will want to come over to check your home as part of your assessment.

Another example of an application being rejected is if you only have your home on a short-term lease (i.e. 12 months or less), as the shelter may well deem that as not being a secure enough environment to bring a lifelong companion to. What if your next place didn’t allow pets?

2. Your lifestyle
Your lifestyle habits are equally as important to adoption assessors and can have a huge impact on how hard it is to adopt a cat from a shelter.

It’s important for cats to get a lot of 1:1 care and attention, so although it may not necessarily be a deal breaker if you’re a full-time worker (you need to work to live, after all!), it may become an issue if you need to work a lot of long hours or night shifts – you’ll rarely see the cat, and they could get lonely.

Speaking of loneliness, if you’re someone that often travels frequently and often goes away from home a lot, you could very well run into a lot of the same barriers to a healthy cat.

3. Other members of the home
This often refers to both pets and people. It goes without saying that if you live with other people, and perhaps one person is allergic to cats or simply doesn’t like them, that isn’t going to make for a harmonious environment with your new cat.

The same could be said if you live with young children: they may be too young to understand how to behave appropriately with a cat, which may lead to one or the other being scared or otherwise coming to harm as a result.

Knowing The Adoption Process For Shelter Cats

If you still want to adopt a shelter cat, it’s worth noting that while each shelter may differ in their specific requirements, the broad process tends to stay the same.

For some people, some areas of the application might seem too personal or intrusive, however, these are all necessary steps that aim to ensure that the cat is always a good match for the owner and that they don’t end up in the shelter again.

Below are recommendations. This could make the difference between you being able to adopt a cat from a rescue, or being turned down.

With that in mind, the broad process of adoption for shelter cats is as follows:

1. Submitting an application form
For most cat shelters, it’s likely that you’ll be able to find the application forms on their website. Or, you can visit them in person, as they’ll probably give you a printed copy.

Whether you need to email or post of the application form is dependent on the shelter you’re using. You should expect the application form to contain somewhat intrusive questions about your living situation and finances.

On a positive note, the form will aim to match you up with the right cat for you, so it will ask you to identify what kind of personal qualities you’d want in a cat (i.e. a cat that’s good with children/cats; a cat that’s affectionate/independent). This is all part of the matching process, and once you have sent off the application form, you’ll go on to the next stage.

2. Going through the interview process
This stage of the process involves an interview with someone who works at the cat shelter. It may even be at your own home so that they can assess your living situation, or down at the shelter so they can see how you interact with the cat in question or rescue cats in general.

Again, while some of the questions may seem intrusive and personal, they’re fundamental in assessing whether a cat is a right fit for yourself and your family.

By answering the questions honestly and truthfully, you will stand more chance of being successful.

3. Paying the adoption fee and getting ready to bring it home!
While it may be strange to pay a fee, it’s worth bearing in mind that most shelters are not-for-profit and rely on funding from the government along with charitable donations in order to continue their operations. 

Before bringing them home, all that is left to do is to make the appropriate preparations (i.e. Set up pet insurance, and buy food and supplies) and then take your new best friend home.


The process of adopting a cat from a shelter can sometimes feel like a really tough job application with little to no reward. Although it can be very hard to adopt a cat from a rescue, please don’t let that put you off, as it’s always worth it in the end!

With perseverance, the right mindset and the right advice, there is no reason why you can’t adopt a cat from your local shelter soon and make your family and home complete.