I’m trying to adopt a kitten.
Last week after I’d already called all the vets in my area, I decided to try one further away. When someone eventually answered the line, I asked tentatively - “I was just wondering if you have any kittens for adoption?” The man at the end of the phone laughed for a long time.
“Sorry, you’re not the first or even second call we’ve had today,” he said. “We’ve got nothing. For the first time in my career working with animals, the pounds are empty.”
Empty. Positive for pets needing homes but no joy for me.
I’ve wanted a cat for a long time. I’ve toyed with the idea for the last two years. But with a busy schedule and a long work commute, it never seemed like the right time to get a kitten. Animals need attention, and I wasn’t sure I was in a place to be able to give them what they need. But now that we’re at home in isolation - and behaving in accordance with the social distancing laws - I finally have the time to look after a pet.
After I received permission from my strata, I began the search. I always pledged to adopt rather than find an animal through a breeder. But I quickly realised, everyone seems to have had the same idea. Coronavirus and self-isolation has caused a boom in the pet market. All the kittens are gone.
But my dad didn’t raise me to be a quitter. There are plenty of ways to find and adopt and animal that needs a home. You just need to know where to look. Through this process, I’ve done my research, called a lot of agencies and spoke to organisations, and I decided to share what I’ve learned so far. If you’re like me, and now is the right time for you to adopt a cat or a dog, here’s where to start.
Start with the RSPCA
The RSPCA still has the most dogs and cats right now. Unfortunately, there are a few new adoption limitations. Due to coronavirus and social-distancing restrictions, the physical shelters are closed to the public. If you’re looking to adopt, an agent will have to drive the animal to your home.
The catch here, social-distancing restrictions mean that the agents can’t drive more than 45 minutes from a shelter location. If you (like me) don’t happen to live within 45 minutes drive of a shelter, you’re out of luck. I offered to pay more. I offered to meet in the middle at a family member’s house. But they’re being quite clear about the rules. If you’re not within 45 minutes driving distance, no dice.
If you do happen to live close enough, you can browse the animals available online on their website. Once you’ve picked one, you can coordinate a meet-and-greet where an agent will drive the animal to your home. If it’s a match, they’ll want to do an inspection to ensure your residence is safe for the animal and you can go from there.
When picking an animal online, have a few in mind. Don’t make the mistake I did of falling in love with a little ragdoll kitten called Lucy, only to find that there were three other people in line to adopt her.
You can easily browse through all the adorable animals available through the adoptapet.com.au website run by the RSPCA.
Look at shelters on PetRescue
Most of the other major shelters are listed on PetRescue.com.au, it’s quite easy to browse and apply. I believe the RSPCA is on here too if you would prefer to keep everything in the one spot. Just know that all the animals listed here come from across Australia, from lots of different shelters and organisations. And each organisation will have its own prices and adoption processes. PetRescue does it’s best to flag the type of adoption process from flexible to strict, which allows you to see which animals you can adopt more easily - and the ones you'll have to work for.
As with the RSPCA, do have a few animals in mind when applying - and be prepared to wait for a response. The current wait times are around 5-10 business days. All the animals I’ve enquired about here have been adopted before my enquiries were even seen. So, keep your eyes peeled daily and if you like a cute kitten or puppy, apply asap.
Just know that coronavirus is affecting more than just popularity and wait times. In states like NSW, you need to have an “acceptable reason” to be outside your home and police are actively scanning license plates to check if anyone is a little too far from home. I’m not sure if driving to a different town to pick up a puppy is on the list of acceptable reasons to be outside, so do you research. And it’s always a good idea to try and find something closer to home.
There are some shelters that aren’t listed on PetRescue, like Sydney Cats and Dogs Home or the Cat Protection Society. So, it’s a good idea to still check the home pages for the main shelters, in addition to PetRescue. Do note that some are currently shut due to coronavirus.
This is where I’ve had the most luck. People generally hand strays and abandoned animals to local vets, who then pass them to the RSPCA. Try calling the vets in your area, you’ll find they often have animals for adoption. I’ve called a few but unfortunately, I’ve missed out by a week or a few days. The vets I’ve spoken to have sent all their cuties to fur-ever homes just before Easter.
If your vets have a Facebook page, check there too. The vets in my area always post adoptable animals on their Facebook pages a week or two before they’re available to garner interest. I managed to make it onto the list for a new litter of kittens for next week by keeping on top of these posts.
If you’re very keen, call your vets regularly to check. But be mindful, they have important jobs to do, so don’t harass anyone.
Facebook adoption groups
There are a tonne of these. One Vet I spoke to recommended me to the Mini Kitty Commune on Facebook, and they still have loads of cats and kittens. But they only adopt them in pairs. So be mindful of that. Kittie Kat Rescue is another great group and Urban Kittens too. Kittie Kat Rescue got in touch just today. Apparently they’ll have some kittens in a couple of weeks. They’ve definitely been the best lead so far.
I’m only familiar with the cat-related groups, but I know that there are plenty of dog and puppy groups too. Search for “puppy rescue” or “dog adoption” and you’ll see all the groups in your area.
Things to keep in mind
One of the most important things to consider here - can you actually take care of your animal long term? Don’t adopt an animal if your post-coronavirus lifestyle can’t accommodate them.
I am taking my adoption very seriously. I know I will have the facility to take care of a cat after coronavirus and self isolation is over. I chose this time to adopt because it means I can spend as much time as possible with my animal while it’s young.
If you’re not certain you can look after an animal in the future, adoption may not be for you.
Also, while it’s been hard and a little bit frustrating to get in contact with many of these adoption agencies, I do my best to remember that many of the workers are volunteers. Many animal rescue groups are made up of small teams, with small budgets and rely on volunteer work. From what I’ve heard from speaking with workers in animal care, this is the busiest time they’ve ever experienced and it’s hard to keep up with the demand in enquiries. So as always, be patient, be kind and be appreciative that these people devote their time to helping animals in need.
Remember, with increased demand comes increased cost. So if you do have the facility, a donation to these organisations is always appreciated.