The rates to adopt a shelter cat can vary widely, depending on how much care the cat has needed and what tests are done before he’s ready for adoption. In general, between $50 and $150 is common.

You can expect the cat to be spayed or neutered or you’ll be given a certificate for the surgery at a shelter-approved veterinary hospital. “In California, it’s state law that pets be spayed or neutered before they leave the shelter so this might happen as early as eight weeks of age or if the age is unknown, when the cat weighs at least two pounds,” says Aimee Gilbreath who works with Found Animals in Los Angeles.

Kitty will have his rabies shot, also required by law and probably a distemper shot as well. After that, it depends more on the budget of the shelter as to what else is included. Some shelters add in other vaccinations, de-worming and antibiotics as needed.

A microchip is a bonus - if it’s not included, ask if one can be injected. You’ll have to update the information with the microchip company so they have your contact information, not the shelter’s. Even though kitty is now going to be an indoor cat, there’s always the chance that a door will be left open or a window screen is loose. A microchip improves his chances of coming home if he makes the great escape.

The Iroquois County Animal Rescue (Illinois), also known as ICare, rescues cats from animal control, high kill shelters, and takes in strays. They also handle pregnant cats, litters, abandoned cats, sick or injured kitties and “nuisance” cats that someone has complained about. The adoption application is three pages long. “It’s long because we want to get an idea of the person’s life style. Will a cat fit in better than a kitten? Can they financially care for a cat and provide food and basic vet visits?” says Margaret Fox, volunteer for ICare. “We check veterinary references. We want to make sure that the cat is going to a forever home.”

Fees are $80 for an adult cat, $90 for a kitten and $100 for a purebred cat. “We want the people who are willing to take an adult cat instead of insisting they want a cute baby, to have a little extra benefit,” says Fox. “The cute factor will always get a kitten adopted. The adults need a little extra help.”

Pets from ICare receive a rabies shot, two distemper shots, are de-wormed twice, are tested for feline leukemia and feline AIDS, are spayed or neutered and receive a microchip. “This is in addition to caring for any illness or injuries they have when they arrive,” says Fox. “We often spend more on the veterinary fees than the adoption fee brings in. We want to provide an affordable adoption to get the cat the best home.”

ICare doesn’t take owner turn-ins unless there’s an extreme reason—the death of the owner, serious illness or the need for nursing home care. “In cases of owner turn-ins, the cats miss the family so much, it causes problems,” says Fox. Cats won’t eat or groom themselves and are generally depressed.

When adopting a shelter cat, take a look at your lifestyle. Do you want a lap cat? An older adult cat might be best. Do you want an active playmate for another cat? Look at a younger kitty. If there are young children in the home, a kitten won’t be the best choice—sharp claws and teeth and little hands won’t be happy together. An older person isn’t a good candidate for a kitten either—a zooming kitten can cause a fall, a scratch can tear fragile skin. The shelter or rescue people know the cats best. Ask for their advice and then follow your heart. If there’s room, get two.