Ask a Vet: What Precautions Should You Take When Adopting?


Welcome to our weekly 'Ask a Vet from the SF SPCA' feature on They've enlisted their Interim Co-President, Dr. Jennifer Scarlett, to answer your questions every week. Got a question for Dr. Scarlett? Ask away in the comments!

Q: We're thinking about adding a new member to our household! What precautions should I take when adopting a kitten? Do I need to have a vet-check before finalizing the adoption?
A: Yay! for adopting a kitten.  If you have another cat in the house be sure that they are up to date on their vaccinations.  The most common disease in cats and kittens from rescues and shelters is upper respiratory infection, (URI).   Tight quarters in shelters is instrumental in spreading URI, and endemic in most shelters.  At the San Francisco SPCA, we’ve tried to alleviate the transmission of disease in the design of the building – including separated rooms for cats and contained airflow, in the event that an outbreak of URI should occur.   Many of the cats and kittens that come to us have URI’s but they are usually treatable and once in a stable, quiet environment most kittens and cats recover well and are adopted out once they’ve recovered.  Another concern is Feline herpes which is species specific so you’re safe, but you’ll want to keep your cat separated from your new buddy for about a week—longer if your new kitty is sneezing.  Most shelters have a veterinarian examine animals prior to being made for adoption.  Caution!  There are many puppy mills and kitten mills on the internet and often pose as shelters…offering an adoption fee instead of a price.  Please do not ‘adopt’ or buy an animal online.  You are picking a companion that you hope to spend the next decade or more with.   Go visit it in person.  See the shelter, talk to the caretakers and support our rescues and shelters in saving lives.

While we can’t answer all of the questions here, please feel free to ask us during our Friday Twitter Ask the Vet Chat.  If your animal’s problem is of an immediate nature, please call your vet or you can reach the SF SPCA at 415-554-3030 to make an appointment.

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