How Do I Screen People Wanting to Adopt Kittens?
August 7, 2011 10:31 AM   Subscribe

How Do I Screen People Wanting to Adopt Kittens?

I'm just wondering if there are tried and true ways of screening potential adopters of kittens. I've been asking people for home phone numbers and details on their living arrangements, and it's amazing how many people don't get back to me. Also, there's people who immediately say "can I come by tonight to pick them up." (Finally, I ran an ad in Craiglist with $25 rehoming fee, and got a lot less responses than an ad for free kittens). All this is starting to make me paranoid (are there, in fact, large numbers of people who adopt kittens with ill-intent?).

Are there easy ways to weed out potential evil-doers?
posted by Jon44 to Pets & Animals (30 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
There are some good tips (along with some info you may not need) at this page from the HSUS's site.
posted by trillian at 10:37 AM on August 7, 2011

googling cat adoption form will get you some great ideas.
posted by theora55 at 10:38 AM on August 7, 2011

I don't know where you live, but if there is a Humane Society chapter in your town or close to it, you could give the kittens to them - screening adopters is a huge part of what they do, and they're really good at it. They will make sure the kittens find a good home.
posted by pdb at 10:50 AM on August 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Also, you might want to use Petfinder to post ads (I think they're free?) rather than Craigslist -- it might weed some people out. It'll definitely get more pet-oriented people.
posted by trillian at 10:53 AM on August 7, 2011

They will make sure the kittens find a good home.

Um, ask them first. Kittens are generally among the most adoptable of cats, but they may still have a backlog and/or otherwise not appreciate or have the resources to deal with your kittens on short notice.

If you are in an urban area one thing I would be absolutely sure to require is a letter or other statement (copy of condo association rules, etc.) from prospective owners' landlords stating that they are allowed to have a cat where they live. I've been told a huge percentage of cats that end up in shelters are there because people adopt them even though they're not allowed to, get caught, and then have to choose between finding a new place to live or dumping the cat -- typically the cat loses. (I have one of my cats as a result of an idiot trying to keep him in a college dorm room.) Asking for it is pretty much SOP for most of the local cat rescues and animal shelters around here, and supposedly it's a good screen. I suspect the small but significant amount of effort involved weeds out morons who aren't invested in the concept beyond wanting a cute furry toy.

I also know of places that won't give out a cat unless the prospective owner shows up with all the necessities of cat ownership (litter box, litter, cat food, cat carrier, etc.). I assume they might give some leeway to people with cats already, but my S.O. had to do this when she adopted a cat and it was actually a pretty good idea. At the very least, it avoids someone bringing a cat home and then having to immediately run out to Petco for a litter box, while in the meantime the cat craps in their shoe.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:03 AM on August 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

I was once advised by someone involved with a cat rescue group to charge $50 in order to weed out the crazies, the abusers, and the ones who'll turn around and sell the cats for scientific experimentation (the latter of which is apparently a nontrivial likelihood).
posted by kimota at 11:03 AM on August 7, 2011 [3 favorites]

In most big cities, people who do adoption are insanely strict about household requirements. It's like getting a bloody bank loan!

But the best route for screening, I would think, is to zero in on successful prior cat owners. "Tell me about your history of cat co-habitation" seems like it'd weed out the freakos. And yes, as is pointed out, tons of cats end up put out because of the arrival of children, moving and real estate.

You will likely find if you talk to other cat adoption systems that they're like "OH GOD MORE KITTENS" *but* they're more likely to put them out for adoption, because at least they can farm out the kittens. It's the adult cats that largely backlog.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 11:05 AM on August 7, 2011

Also one other suggestion ... I'm personally a bit skeeved out by people charging for kittens / cats, not because I don't think it's necessary to weed out bad matches, but because I'm always concerned that I might be paying money to someone who is essentially breeding cats as a business / for financial gain.

Some friends of mine were re-homing kittens and they put something in the ad about how they would accept proof of a donation (I think they only did $20 but this was a while ago) to the local animal shelter in lieu of cash payment. I thought that was classy, and makes it clear that you are not a breeder.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:10 AM on August 7, 2011 [20 favorites]

I've been asking people for home phone numbers and details on their living arrangements, and it's amazing how many people don't get back to me.

As someone who has adopted kittens from Craigslist before (and loves that kitty with all my heart -- she hunted me a dragonfly today!), here's what I looked for:

(1) A rehoming fee. That's the standard. It shows to me that the person with the kittens has at least some basic understanding of what they're doing with kittens. "Free Kittens!" screams to me, "I have no idea what I'm doing with this cat and am not bothering to screen out weirdos and creeps." Yes, you get fewer inquiries when you ask for the fee, but that's the point! (On preview: I agree with Kadin2048 that a large rehoming fee is creepy and, iirc, not permitted on CL. But $25 - $50 is standard.)

(2) A no-obligation meeting with the kitten. Personality matters. It's important to make sure you have a good fit. This signals to me that the person has cared for the kitties and is interested in finding a good home. Yes, people interested in getting the cat rightnowrightnow won't be interested, but those people are more likely to be flaky.

(3) Information in the post about why you have these kittens, how you now the momma cat, their personalities, etc. Show me you care about the kittens. Make it clear that you're not just trying to dump these cats with the first person who comes along, but that you care about them and believe they deserve the bestest best home. This will make me more understanding of any hoops or hurdles you put in the way of me taking them home. It will also attract potential adopters who really care about what kitten they take home -- a serious pet-owner doesn't respond much to a generic, "I've a cat. You can have it" ad. If you want someone who will care about these kitties, make sure you're giving enough information to attract such a person

(4) Information about what you expect from me in the CL post itself. If you want me to meet with the kittens ahead of time, put that. If you'll insist on getting a home phone number, put that. A follow-up e-mail with more detailed instructions or requirements just feels kind of sketchy to me. Be totally upfront about what process you expect.

Here is something that would make me run for the hills: a random internet stranger on Craigslist who claims to have a kitten asking for my home phone number or information about where I live. That's something I would expect from a pet adoption agency, sure, but I have reason to trust such agencies. I have no reason to trust you. There are enough kitties in the world that I don't need to put faith in you not being a creep.
posted by meese at 11:23 AM on August 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

When I adopted Mu Shu (see the picture in my profile), the woman I adopted her from called my vet for a reference.
posted by Maisie at 11:27 AM on August 7, 2011

Great suggestions so far, thanks!

Meese--you point out a Catch-22. If a potential adoptee has no reason to trust me, why do I have a reason to trust them? How can I feel secure having total strangers visit my house, if all's I know about them is the number for a (potentially disposable) cell phone?
posted by Jon44 at 11:28 AM on August 7, 2011

You could ask them for a letter from the vet they have hired to spay or neuter the kitten when they are old enough. I don't know if this is a universal requirement, but all the animal shelters I visited before adopting my cat made it a condition of adoption. (And quite reasonably so!)

That said, I suspect that many people adopting from Craigslist instead of going to a shelter are doing it to avoid those sorts of hoops--even if they plan on doing everything the shelter would ask anyway. There may be a limit to what you can require.

If the spay and neuter requirement too much, then at least try asking for a proof of donation to an animal welfare organization. I would shy away from a "rehoming fee" paid to you. As you say, they have no reason to trust you either, and a good pet owner making that request to weed out the crazies is indistinguishable from an irresponsible pet owner trying to make a quick buck as an amateur breeder.
posted by Marty Marx at 11:40 AM on August 7, 2011

*when it is old enough.
posted by Marty Marx at 11:41 AM on August 7, 2011

@Marty Max:

Just as an FYI, I think there's good reasons to prefer Craigslist to a shelter when considering the welfare of the kittens. We adopted the mother of these kittens from Craigslist and the reason was our other cat died of a nasty autoimmune disease (we assume he picked up at a shelter). A shelter also, in general, just doesn't seem like a very healthy place for a kitten--I'd rather the kittens were able to run around with their litter-mates and be with their mother for a solid 3 months.

Finally, the shelter required us to use their services to neuter the cats, and the cats took a long time to recover--I assume cause shelter is not using the highest quality anesthesia, etc. (In contrast, I just had the mother of these kittens spayed at a good vet, and she was up hunting the same afternoon.)
posted by Jon44 at 11:52 AM on August 7, 2011

Yeah, that is a catch-22. I don't know if this is standard for CL, but here's how I think of it: there's a certain amount of trust required to deal with CL, but any more than that bare minimum is verboten. So, if I'm selling a couch, I'm going to have to let the buyer know where I live so she can pick it up. But I don't have to know where she lives, so it's inappropriate for me to ask. If, on the other hand, I'm selling a couch and offer to deliver it, then I need to know where the buyer lives and she doesn't need to know where I live.

You could always offer to deliver the kitten to the adopter. This would allow you to know where they live, but it would mean you couldn't do a no-obligation meeting beforehand. (but you could always speed away if the place looked seedy.) Or you could meet at a neutral place, like a park... But kittens don't tend to like traveling like that.

In general, I think you need to pay as much attention to your gut as to any facts or data you can get about them. You think a person is more reliable if you get a home phone number? Why? How could you even check that it was actually a home phone as to another cell phone? (Heck, I don't even have a "home phone" anymore -- does that make me a bad cat owner?) But you can get an incredible amount of information by talking and listening to a person. Plan out a fair number of basic questions you plan to ask, so you can listen to how they answer. Questions like, "what kind of personality are you looking for?" "Do you have any other cats?" "This kitten absolutely loves high perches -- do you have anything like that?" etc. The actual questions don't matter so much as the fact that you're giving yourself a chance to get a feel for them. They should feel like a good cat-owner. They should say and sound like they're excited to have this kitten and they have a plan for taking care of it. If they feel sketchy (if, say, they sound distracted or have a lot of "Oh, I don't know" answers), then you can shut the deal down.

The gut isn't 100% accurate, but it can be a valuable tool in situations like this.
posted by meese at 12:05 PM on August 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

We adopted two of our kittehs off CL. Their owners were having another baby and just didn't want two furry babies anymore. They posted pictures in the ad, along with a $50 rehoming fee (for both), and information about where they came from (adopted from in front of the WalMart in a big cardboard box). They also wanted them adopted together.

We had several email conversations, both before and after we took them home. We also agreed to a no-commitment visit first, although we ended up taking them home right away anyway. They ended up waving the fee because they could see how crazy we were for them, and we had one cat at home already. They also didn't ask for a lease because of the one cat at home already thing.

I also agree with meese - go with your gut. I know it's not always right, but don't be afraid to say no to someone who just doesn't feel right. The thought of any cat being sold for scientific experimentation makes me sick...
posted by guster4lovers at 12:26 PM on August 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

You don't have to actually take money from anyone. You can put a dollar amount in the listing, and then tell the adopter that the "price" was invented to weed out breeders. I do this all the time with stuff I want to give away on Craigslist.
posted by wryly at 12:48 PM on August 7, 2011 [6 favorites]

This has been mentioned up thread, but you must, must have a rehoming fee. This is the tried and true first screen -- it weeds out the impulse pet owners, weeds out the crazies, and if someone can't afford that, they certainly cannot afford the cost of owning a cat and all it involves (vet bills!)

I know of shelter groups who go to huge lengths to make sure their cats end up in a good home. They ask potential adopters for their current vet (and actually call them -- someone who hasn't brought their current pets in for 5 years isn't going to pass!). Obviously, this might be overkill for you, but is something to think about. They also do home visits and insist on meeting every single person in the household. This is actually good advice -- I actually rejected a potential adopter for one of my kittens because the child was just too young and was mishandling the poor cat right in front of me (no you cannot pull kitty's tail!) -- and the parents were doing nothing to stop it.

But all and all, I agree with the previously mentioned advice to go with your gut, and don't second guess it. If it doesn't feel right, it probably isn't.

Also, if at all possible, tell your adopters it really is ok to return the cat if it's not working out, no questions asked. Since your even asking this question, it's better for the cat to be back with you than in a bad situation, right?
posted by cgg at 12:53 PM on August 7, 2011

Jon44: "@Marty Max:

Just as an FYI, I think there's good reasons to prefer Craigslist to a shelter when considering the welfare of the kittens. ....

Sorry you had a bad experience with one shelter, but that is far from the norm. You might want to consider asking a different shelter or rescue group if they have room for this litter. If you're in Illinois or close by, I could give you names of reputable places.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 1:30 PM on August 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

I am not a kitten-knowing guy, but I have heard of people doing the pass-off to adopters at their choice of vet's office for the speuter appointment. Like I said, though, not being a kitten-knowing guy, I don't know if they're old enough for that. Maybe, if they're not, you could pass them off at their well kitten check, to ensure that the kitty has a vet and is going to get regular care. That might help with weeding.

The trick, I guess, is finding a balance between weeding out the bad guys without putting up too many hurdles for the good guys, so the suggestions that directly relate to things a good adopter is going to do anyway--get supplies, set up vet care, etc.--are ideal.

Also, just to clarify something: The Humane Society of the US does not operate shelters, and your local humane society is not associated with them, and is probably not associated with any other local humane societies either. So you can't really reach any general conclusions about one humane society's policies or efficacy based on another's.
posted by ernielundquist at 1:42 PM on August 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've got to say, that as someone who is also trying to adopt out rescued kittens , that I have had zero success with all the suggestions mentioned above. I've tried half a dozen no-kill shelters in the Atlanta area (all full, and no they don't have waiting lists because if they did the list would be years long), Petfinder (not a single response that wasn't spam, but I got tons of spam), multiple postings on craigslist (no responses from the ad I posted yesterday at all; previously I've had a few responses but then when I try to contact the person they never write or call back, etc.). I've exhausted my family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers. It's so frustrating. I have, in the amount of time I have been trying to adopt out the kittens, gotten a new job, which leads me to believe that even in this economy it's easier to get hired than find homes for cats. Right now I am listing an adoption fee, but I don't know what else to do.
posted by Violet Hour at 2:49 PM on August 7, 2011

When I adopted my cats from our local humane society, they required a telephone appointment to ask me some questions and talk to me about caring for the cats. They asked me to estimate how much I thought it would cost to take care of the cat per year (including litter, food, and vet bills), where the cat would be spending the first few days at home, under what circumstances I thought it would be acceptable to give up the cat, and, when I adopted the second one, how I planned on handling the introductions. They seemed to be both a good way to gauge what kind of pet owner I'd be and to give advice about how properly deal with the cat. Of course, this wouldn't weed out someone who had ulterior motives, but it might help weed out someone who isn't thinking things through.

Are there any no-kill rescues close to you? Many of them (and some shelters) use foster homes -- maybe you could be the foster while they handled the applications!
posted by amarynth at 3:11 PM on August 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

When I found a home for a big, lazy lump of cat that I'd rescued, I asked for an adoption fee in the form of a $50 check made out to a local no-kill rescue that had vetted the kitty after I picked her up off the street.

I found her a home by posting color flyers with a short description of her personality and tale of woe all over the place. Cat adoption advice on the web always says to post in vets and pet stores, which I did, but I've always figured people in those places already have pets. The eventual adopter saw our flyer in the lobby of her apartment complex. Try to flyer as many places as possible--libraries, cafes, grocery stores, etc. Good luck!
posted by Mavri at 4:12 PM on August 7, 2011

I've had some luck finding potential adopters by putting up flyers with cute photos around the neighborhood (and mentioning that I lived within walking distance).

Here is a document about finding homes for rescued animals, on my local rescue group's web site. Information about placing ads and screening adopters is on page 3.

I haven't tried this, but I think good places to put adoptable cat information might be near or at real estate offices, divorce lawyers, moving truck rental companies, furniture stores, and other establishments associated with big changes in lifestyle.
posted by amtho at 4:17 PM on August 7, 2011

FYI, standard or not, my cat-loving self would opt out of any pay situation. There are enough Free Kitten options out there that I wouldn't pay.
posted by salvia at 4:30 PM on August 7, 2011

Okay, here's a wacky idea that might also be kind of "promotional," and make your ad stand out: Do some sort of "quiz" where potential owners have to correctly answer several cat-related trivia questions... for example,"what's the average lifespan of an indoor cat versus an outdoor cat?"; "what is the purpose of a cat's whiskers?"; "what are three human foods you should never feed a cat?"; "how do you discourage a cat from clawing your furniture?"; "Who is believed to have invented the cat door?"; "Why do cats rub their heads against you?" That sort of thing.

It could be a cute "Pass a Quiz, Win a Kitten!" type thing, that doesn't require any invasion of privacy (I'd be very unlikely to want to give a lot of personal information to a stranger about my specific home situation) or demands for money (which is fine, but as salvia points out, may limit responses – which are already limited by a glut of available cats and kittens), and doesn't rule out first-time owners or people who haven't had a pet in a long time (the veterinarian requirement).

To me, it seems like people with bad intentions wouldn't bother to answer quiz questions, much less research answers (and some of the questions should be hard enough that most people would need to look them up), while earnest potential cat owners would find it fun and interesting. You might add in the requirement that the lucky winners show up with cat necessities, as Kadin2048 suggested.
posted by taz at 11:17 PM on August 7, 2011

You might want to check what the local humane society or shelter is charging for their adoptions, and consider adjusting your rehoming fee accordingly. In my area, you can adopt a kitten or cat for $70 that has been spayed or neutered and had all initial shots. At some point that just becomes a better deal.

I'm with salvia too, though, that I likely wouldn't pay any rehoming fee if there were other people giving kittens away for free. I'm in a smaller city, though, and I don't think those fees are as common here.
posted by bizzyb at 7:21 AM on August 8, 2011

I'm feeling a lot more confident now in my screening process and it's good to get some validation that other people have had similar experiences--thanks very much.

I changed my Craig's List add to say I'd accept proof of donation to local shelter and I agree with others that if people can't afford $25 for donation, how will they afford to take care of cat?

It's still freaks me out the number of weird inquiries I get (e.g., "I want some kittens to surprise my girlfriend--I'll come by to pick them up tonight. OK?") or non-replies once I start asking simple questions. (Guess it stirs up childhood question: "Is the world good or evil?") Whole experience is seriously making me more of a animal rights militant...

posted by Jon44 at 7:40 AM on August 8, 2011

If you are charging a re-homing fee it looks like you are selling kittens. Instead ask them to donate $25 (or whatever the current market value of a kitten) to local human society and bring the receipt. Then you'll know that they can't resell the kitten for a profit.
posted by WizKid at 1:41 PM on August 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

oops... sorry. didn't notice your answer there :-)
Looks like you already figured it out
posted by WizKid at 1:42 PM on August 8, 2011

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