Finding a Home for a cat

On this page:

  • Handling an injured or sick cat
  • Rescuing a cat
  • Fostering a rescued cat
  • Rehoming your own cat
  • Increasing chances of getting a cat adopted
  • What about shelters?

If you see a cat that needs rescued:
Please rescue the cat. The SPCA has an injured pet hotline, but their van covers the entire Harris County area; it may be hours before they can help an animal. If you call the hotline, stay with the animal until help comes.

If you can, move the cat off the road, into the shade if possible on a sunny day, and if it's cold, cover it with a blanket.

If you see a cat that needs rescuing, please, do not hesitate to rescue it yourself.

Here are some guidelines:

  • Never assume that a found cat will not bite you, no matter how sweet it seems. Do not cuddle, do not get your face near, do not attempt to look into the mouth of a strange cat. Get the cat into a carrier or confined to a cage or small room before attempting to make friends. Do not open the carrier until you are in a room with the door closed so that it cannot escape.
  • If the cat is injured, and you cannot pick it up to take to a vet, or you can't afford to take it to a vet, call the Houston SPCA 24-hour injured pet hotline: 713-880-HELP (713-880-4357). Someone will come out to get the injured pet (713-880-HELP (713-880-4357). Sadly, it will take some time.
  •   There is no ambulance for injured animals.
  • Many emergency clinics have a "Good Samaritan" price if you can afford to take the injured cat for emergency care, either at your own or the nearest vet, or after hours, at a veterinary emergency clinic.
  • If the cat is in immediate danger, use your best judgment about picking it up. Keep it warm, call or visit veterinarians or emergency clinics.

NOTE: If you are short of funds, and the cat is not in immediate danger, your own vet may be willing to give you a rescue discount. There are also grants available (American Association of Animal Hospitals--a member vet must apply, United Animal Nations Lifeline grants, etc.) that may help.

  • If the cat seems friendly, you can buy a carrier at pet stores, most grocery, Target, K-Mart, or Wal-Mart stores if you're not near a pet store. Put some sardines in the carrier and urge the cat into it, if it can walk. Wear gloves (gardening, leather, welding) when picking up a stray or injured cat, if you're not familiar with its personality. You can also put a blanket or coat over a cat and push or lift  it into the carrier. You can call the SPCA or Humane Society or a vet's office for advice on getting the cat into the carrier. Do not endanger yourself, get help from the police or a passing car if need be. If the cat is in the street and hit by a car, you may need to slide the cat gently into a carrier, using gloves and a towel or blanket. Do not allow yourself to be bitten!
  • If the cat seems skittish or feral, you can contact the Feral Cat Assistance Program through Citizens for Animal Protection ( ) and ask for the help of a trapper (who is also a volunteer with a full-time job, so don't get upset if someone can't come immediately). If nobody can come to help immediately, feed and water the cat daily until someone can. If the cat is injured, follow the guidelines about injured cats, taking special care not to get bitten.
  • NOTE: If you cannot afford treatment, call vets anyway, and explain that you haven't the funds for helping the cat, but if they can help the cat at a low cost, you'll raise money and find placement for the cat later. Often, the concern of the vet is being stuck with a cat or the cost of treatment after treatment is over. Reassure them you will be good for the money and for taking the cat back. You can also apply for a "Care Credit" card online, which is a no-interest credit card. Some rescues may help you raise money toward a vet bill. 



Handling an injured or sick cat:

If the cat is in the street, you need to move it out of danger.Do not endanger yourself in the process. Do not let emotion override common sense. If it's a busy street, either set the flashing lights on your car, or get another person to stop traffic for you, or both. If you have a carrier, box, or transport device, put the cat into it from the street so as to reduce the times you have to move the cat.

To move the cat, use gloves. A frightend, injured cat may bite. If you do not have gloves, use a blanket, towel, or coat to gently place over the cat (including the head) to pick it up and slide it into the carrier or lift it into the box. Scruff the cat if possible as you move it. Here's an article about how to scruff a cat: 

When you scruff an injured or sick cat, do not suspend it in the air to move it. Put a towel over the head,scruff it with your dominant hand, gently slide your other hand under the hindquarters, and slide it into a carrier. If the cat is frightened or feral, this is better done as a two-person operation. You can also tip a carrier on end, open the door and prop the carrier against a wall with your knee, then put a towel over the cat, scruff under the towel, lift, and insert into the carrier by the hind quarters. Again, do not put yourself at risk of being bitten. Call someone for help if you are fearful or the cat is fighting. Sometimes a passerby may help you.

  You can put a large bath towel over an injured or sick cat, then gather them up into the towel.

You can put a towel over the cat's face, then place a sturdy box over an injured cat, then slide a thin board under the cat. This is best as a two-person operation.The person holding the box lifts it enough to allow the person working with the board to see where the cat's face is, and what the demeanor is.

  If you've rescued a cat:

You found a stray in a parking lot, on your street, in the road, and now you wonder what to do. Take the kitty home, confine it to a large dog carrier, a cage (2x4 feet), or a bathroom.

Try to find the owner.

Call local vets and find one that has a microchip scanner--have the new kitty scanned for a microchip.

  NOTE: Some clinics scan cats only in the spot where they would insert a microchip--which should be in the shoulder area. However, the older microchips may have migrated, some individuals insert their own chips and may not do it in the usual spot, and some vets have a preference for a different spot to insert the chip. One vet we know of inserts chips in dogs near the groin. Because the cat is a stray or lost, make sure your vet scans the entire length (and sides) of the cat.

Go to and click "Classified Ads" at the top menu bar, and then follow the instructions for posting a Found Pet ad.

Call the SPCA , Humane Society, and the local Animal Control offices to report it as found. (In Houston, contact both BARC (Bureau of Animal Regulation and Control) and Harris County Animal Control. In other cities, contact the city and the county animal control. Call local shelters to report the cat found. Some neighborhood shelters are the first place an owner goes to look for a lost pet, and the last place a rescuer takes them.

Post large, flurescent posters with FOUND CAT in very large letters at intersections near the site where you found the cat. See and follow the instructions for creating "lost cat" posters, but in reverse. Use "FOUND" in place of "REWARD."

If the cat is not altered, please get it altered as soon as possible, seeking one of the low-cost alternatives if necessary. Get it a rabies shot. Apply Revolution topical flea/parasite treatment to deal with fleas, ticks, roundworms, hookworms, ear mites, etc. Or apply Advantage topically for fleas alone. Your vet or local feedstore can help you with these products. Here is a list of some of the low-cost vet clinics for spay/neuter or treatment (call first, some do not see sick or injured animals):  

If you have cats of your own, please keep the new kitty ISOLATED from your own cats for a minimum of two weeks (in case the new kitty was exposed to a kitty cold or other illness outside, you want your cats to stay healthy). Make sure to get a "combo" test for FIV or leukemia before mingling with your cats. While the kitty is isolated, treat her as if she were in isolation in the hospital - wash your hands up to the elbow before and after you enter the room. Wear an old robe over your clothes and leave it in the room, wear socks and toss them in the dirty clothes as soon as you exit the room.

What NOT to do with the rescued cat:

Don't mingle the new cat with your own cats for a couple of weeks. If the cat has been on the street, chances are it has fleas or other parasites, or it's been exposed to a virus of some kind, even if it doesn't show symptoms of illness. It could carry ringworm, mange, upper respiratory infection, or more deadly diseases. So isolate it in a bathroom or closet, cage or large carrier with food, water, a towel to sleep on, and a litter box (a plastic shoe box will work okay for a few days in a large carrier). If your cat has access to the cage or carrier, cover it with a sheet so if the new cat has symptoms of an upper respiratory infection, it won't pass it to your cat. Don't put the cage outside, where the cat can escape when you open the door. Don't keep it in a closed garage in the summer time, don't leave the cat without a place to use the toilet or without food and water. If you have no place to keep the cat, ask your vet to board it temporarily, and start calling friends and neighbors.

What to do with the rescued cat:

There are low-cost treatment alternatives available, such as
SNAP in Montrose, Saving Animals Animal Alliance clinics in LaMarque, Houston Humane Society, the Greater Good, and many more. Your own vet may give you a discount for a rescued animal. Get the cat checked out by a vet as soon as possible, and get a "combo" test (for FIV and FeLV) so that you know what you're dealing with. Don't worry: neither disease is a death sentence, but it does mean you must take precautions. You can search the Internet for information about these diseases. Here again is the list of some low-cost vet care:  

If you've ascertained (through Internet searches, posters, ads in the paper) that the cat you found is not being sought after as someone's lost pet, go to PetFinder and search on your zip code for a list of rescues, adoption agencies, and shelters in your area. Go to your local PetsMart and Petco stores on both Saturdays and Sundays to find out which adoption agencies do adoptions through that store. Ask about how you can register the cat in the program so you can find it a home. They will help you.

  Getting help from a rescue or adoption agency:

  Every rescue agency and adoption agency in the Houston area is 100 percent full all the time. That's why we have such a huge number of animals executed on a daily basis in Houston. Yes, there are foster families available, but most foster families already have large numbers of foster cats in their homes, more than the average person would want. Or, they are one-time foster families who, like you, have a cat or a litter of kittens they want to place. To get your found cat into a program, the best thing you can do for the cat is to foster it for adoption yourself.

  What does fostering consist of?

This depends on the group. Some large, long-time, non-profit agencies have fund-raising activities and volunteers to raise money year-round, and these groups may be able to pay the medical expenses for the cat--such as spay/neuter, vaccinations, testing, parasite control. Other groups, like ours, are small, without the volunteer power or access to large donations that would enable payment of medical expenses for all foster animals. Therefore, check with the group you are considering, if cost is an issue to you. Going to a low-cost spay/neuter clinic could cost you anywhere from $60 to $125 for full basic medical costs. If money is an issue, but you can afford a little, ask the agency you are considering to refer you to low-cost alternatives. Sometimes an agency has a vet they work with who will give fosters a rescue rate.

  At the least, your fostering experience will include housing the cat at your home, or boarding the cat at a kennel. You will pay for food, treats, toys, beds, etc. If you want to separate the cat from your pet cats, and you don't have an extra room to close off, you may want to borrow a cage from your agency.

  If your agency does in-store pet adoptions, you will bring your cat to adoption days (generally once a week) as often as you can--the more the better. You will want to provide a few good photos for the agency to post on their website, generally a full face photo as well as a full length. You will want to write up a little profile about the cat--what you notice about its habits and personality.

  Approaching the adoption agency

Bring a flyer with a photo or more of your cat, and include this information:

  • Cat's name--you'd be surprised how often people forget to tell us the cat's name, or haven't named a found cat. You need to make the cat personal to us.
  • Cat's gender--male or female.
  • Cat's age, approximate if you don't know.
  • Description of the cat--yes, I know you have the photos, but a written description helps. Use DLH (for long haired cats), DSH (for short-haired cats), DMH (medium hair), or the closest breed (Maine Coon, Siamese, etc.)
  • Description of the cat's personality (playful, mellow, gentle, loving, sweet, nips if frightened, shy, outgoing). You can read some of the bios on our website for ideas.
  • Why you are adopting the cat out (rescued cat, neighbor moved out and left it, you're moving, sick, etc., relative died, etc.). We want to know the circumstances so we can email others if we can't help.
  • Describe what you've done to find placement so far if it's your own cat (like, "I've tried to find a friend or relative to take her, but with no luck.") Do not be offended if the agency gives you some additional ideas. Remember, there are cats on the street waiting for rescue and a place in the program, so if you can find a home on your own, that's the best.
  • Describe what you are willing to do (pay for basic medical, help with medical expenses, make a donation, foster, volunteer, etc.)
  • Give your contact information. Many people leave photos of their animals at the desks of adoption agencies with the name on the back and no contact information. Yes, they told someone, but the information didn't get passed on to the person who is doing intake. Include phone and email.
  • Give the area of town where you live.
  • If there is a deadline for rehoming, give the deadline. If you have six months to live, tell us. If you are moving next week, tell us.

Rehoming your own pet cat:

Please read the previous section, on getting help from an agency.  The first thing we, or any other rescue agency will want to do is to see if there is a problem that might be resolved so that you can keep your pet. Below are some of the common reasons people give up their cats. If you can resolve the issue, perhaps your baby will still have a home. When you approach us, bring the flyer described above, or if you email, attach the flyer or include the information in the email. Title your email carefully. Use the words, "urgent" and "Immediately" with care. We take this to mean an animal's life is in imminent danger. Remember, we adoption agencies are getting about 100 emails  a day from shelters, other agencies, and individuals. Don't cry wolf. Good subject lines can be straightforward, creative, funny,or eye-catching:

Sammy the red cat needs a home

Susie's mom died and she needs a new home

Can you help me place a cat?

Found kittens, need help finding homes

Fluffy found herself foodless, now needs steady diet

    Here are some issues that have made people want to contact us:

Litter box issues:
Many litter box issues can be resolved with patience and some behavioral training. Your first stop, of course, is the vet's to see if your cat has a urinary tract problem. In a male cat, it can become an emergency if the cat has crystals in his urine.

Some declawed cats develop litter box problems later in life because of "phantom limb pain" in their amputated toes. These issues can be worked with.

Is your cat altered? Unaltered cats, especially males, can spray to mark territory. Females do it too. If your cat is medically okay, altered, and still going outside the box, it's time to look at the environment. Sometimes it's a matter of a change in boxes or litter or the spot the box is located or just keeping it a lot cleaner. Sometimes it's stress and we look to reduce stress and tension in the home. Sometimes it's a learned bad habit that can be changed with the help of a pet behaviorist.

There are litters that help, such as Cat Attract litter. Sometimes a different style box helps, and most cats like open boxes. Sometimes you need to change the type of litter, or its placement. Look online for possible solutions.

See for some remedies and the phone number of a pet behaviorist, as well as free articles about various pet issues. Search the Internet for local behaviorists. Yes, this takes some work and patience on your part, and costs some money, but if your cat's life is saved and your relationship with him is saved, it's worth it.

Maybe someone in the family has developed an allergy. Have you checked with an allergist to see if there's something you can do for yourself to reduce the allergy? Is it possible to move the cat into one room, and let the rest of the home remain "dander free"? We've seen folks on dialysis who created "clean rooms" for themselves, and "cat rooms" so that they could enjoy their beloved cats without contamination. Is there a creative way to reduce the allergens without getting rid of your companions? Please see the website for some other solutions to the allergy problem. Again, see the website
and consult their library section. Worst case scenario, you may create an outside house and yard for your cat(s) by building a small shed and insulating it, putting in a room AC, and making a small screened-in porch. Family members who are not allergic can go inside and visit with the kitties; the allergic folks can look out the window.

Maybe you're moving and think a) your cat won't tolerate the move or b) you can't find a place that will take pets. Planning ahead can help. Sometimes talking with the potential landlord about the cleanliness of the cats, or about confining the cats to one room of the apartment helps. Sometimes it's as little as a promise to keep an automatic litter box so the cat won't be tempted to go out of the box, or the promise to keep your cat in one room only when you're not home, that will turn a landlord's heart.

Sometimes, relatives or friends can baby-sit your cat while you search for a different home.

If you're moving and can't find a place that will take your beloved pet, you can't find relatives or friends to take her, and you can't NOT move, please consider keeping your cat in a cage in your new home and putting it up for adoption through an adoption agency. If you've started looking for a home soon enough in your old home, you have an opportunity to find a home right now. Please don't wait until a few days before you move, then contact a rescue agency and expect them to immediately take your kitty in. Foster homes are HARD to find, and we're all generally already full. Plan ahead.

    Moving overseas

As soon as you find out you are being transferred overseas, or if you even THINK a transfer is possible, check into the quaratine laws of the country. Some require a quarantine; some don't, but generally they will accept as an alternative a rabies "titre test" which tests for the existence of antibodies to the disease. A friend or relative may keep your cat for you here while your cat completes the months of titre testing to allow it to go with you to the new home.

Is it money? Help is available for low-income people who want to keep their pets. Contact the United Way, the SPCA, the Humane Society, and the Citizens for Animal Protection for information. Search the Internet. Ask us about ways you can raise money for vet care. Ask us for low-cost spay/neuter referrals. There are fund-raising possibiities on the Internet, such as Chip-In, Fundable, and others. You can raise money for the pet deposit too!

  New baby, dog, cat, you name it

People fear that cats will cause a baby to get toxoplasmosis. Not every cat has the organism, and your vet can run a test to tell you whether your cat does. In any case, to be safe, clean litter boxes every day, wash your hands after handling the litter or your cat, and keep your cat's box away from where the new baby plays.

If you get a new pet, search the Internet for articles on how to introduce new animals. Do it slowly. An introduction should take at least two weeks.

If you must give up your cat:

If you must give your cat up for adoption, be prepared to foster him or her yourself. Make sure the following medical work is complete: spay/neuter, rabies vaccine, FVRCP vaccine, combo test. If you cannot let the cat stay at large in the house, buy or borrow a large cage to keep your cat in while it's being fostered for adoption. This often will satisfy a landlord that you are cooperating--they can see the cat is not running loose in the apartment, and that you are actively looking for a home.

Go to your local PetsMart or Petco both on both Saturday and Sunday and see what adoption agencies are adopting from the store, and talk to them about getting your cat in their program. Be prepared to bring your cat every single week whenever possible to give him/her the best exposure. Bring a photo with you, or a flyer if possible.

Increasing chances of getting a cat adopted:

Whether you try to adopt your cat out on your own, or whether you register with an adoption agency, there are things you can do to increase the chances of the kitty getting adopted.

Besides making sure the medical work is up to date (spay/neuter, rabies and FVRCP vaccinations, and combo test), you can make a simple flyer with the cat's photo, a description, and a blurb about the cat's personality. Post the flyer everywhere you go: doctor's and dentist's offices, stores, kennels, the vet's office...If you have an adoption agency, put the contact information for the adoption agency on it, and your name and number for more information. Put the website of the adoption agency so the reader can find out about the cat and the fee. If you are working on your own, does your Internet Provider allow you a website? Post the cat's information and photo there, and put it in the flyer.

Run ads in the newspaper with the adoption agency's contact information.

Send emails to everyone you know, attach the flyer, and ask them to send it to everyone they know to help you find a home for your cat.

If you're listed with an adoption agency, please, if you get a call from someone interested in adopting your cat, go through the adoption agency. Do not do the adoption yourself. Let the agency handle the interview and application, check the references, and collect the fee, and count yourself lucky you found a good home for your cat. Remember, it might seem like you did all the work, but you took advantage of their adoption site, their website, and their telephone number and good name. Consider the fee a donation to a good cause.

If you're not listed with an adoption agency, develop an adoption application. You can print ours and use it as a start. Charge a fee--reimbursement for your medical costs is a good rule of thumb, but even $25 ensures people make a committment to the cat. People often collect "free" cats for nefarious purposes, so make sure you talk to the potential adopter, see what they're like with the cat (are they gentle, respectful), and make sure they pay some kind of fee.

These things can help you ensure you're finding the best home possible for the cat you've found, or for your own cat who needs relocated. Remember, it takes time to find a home for an adult cat. Most people are looking for kittens. Do what you can to highlight the good points of the adult cat you've found or must find a home for. Be honest about any behavior or health issues. It may take time, but when you find the right home, you'll have done a wonderful deed.

If you must take a cat to a shelter, please do what you can (medical work, combo test, vaccinations, flea treatment) to ensure the cat will go into the adoption program and not immediately euthanized. Try to find a place in a "no-kill" shelter--the chances of euthanasia are less, but the space is very limited. Remember, when a no-kill shelter is full, all other cats go to kill shelters, so if you can adopt yourself, or go through an agency, all cats benefit.

Keep in mind--staying in your home in the bathroom or a cage while being fostered for adoption is better than a cage at a shelter. So if there's any way possible for you to foster the cat, please do so. You might even consider paying a friend to keep the cat, if need be.

What about a shelter?

Most Houston-area shelters are full. Full all the time. And when the shelters are full, one of two things must happen--the animals must get adopted or they must be euthanized. No kill shelters turn away those pets for which they do not have room.

If you're considering taking your own or a rescued cat to a shelter, consider that more than one area shelter has a kill rate of higher than 80% of all animals brought to the shelter. Those that are pregnant, unweaned, sick, injured, or hard to handle, depending on the shelter, may not get a chance at all. Those who are owner turn-ins are often the first to go at some shelters. Animals who get stressed or pick up an illness at a shelter are euthanized.

Please spay or neuter your pets, be responsible for their welfare, and adopt from a rescue or shelter when seeking a new companion.