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Find a furever companion: Austonia's complete guide to adopting a pet in Austin

Austin Humane Society is a great place to adopt a cat, as they house more felines than dogs. (AHS)

No Austinite is complete without a fluffy friend! The fact is locals love all their pets; studies rank Austin as one of the most dog-friendly cities in the U.S.


In 2010, Austin City Council passed a No-Kill Implementation Plan that pledged to increase live outcomes by more than 90%. According to community relations officer Suzie Chase, APA! was able to bring the euthanasia rate from 87% to 5% or less.

The result of becoming a No-Kill city means shelters are often stretched thin—Austin Humane Society typically takes in 11,000 animals per year, APA! often takes in more than 10,000 cats and dogs per year, with intake hitting 982 in November—and they encounter new challenges on the daily.

Though the pandemic drove adoptions up as working from home became more prevalent, the demand to put animals in safe homes has bounced back with shelters sending out pleas for adopters and fosters in recent weeks. Here's how you can get started.

What are your options?

Whether you’re looking for a puppy, kitten, lap cat, running partner, or senior pet, you’ll be able to find it in a local shelter:

  • APA!, which has two locations, partners with the AAC to rescue animals from euthanasia lists and focuses on the most at-risk animals.
  • AHS is a limited intake facility, meaning it prioritizes getting healthy animals into homes. AHS often takes medical cases due to its robust medical program and partnership with VCA.
  • Austin Animal Center is the city-funded shelter. AAC is an open intake facility, meaning it handles all stray cases, as well as most owner surrender cases and reunification.
All three are available for walk-ins. You can browse APA! dogs and cats, AHS dogs and cats, and AAC dogs and cats online. Prices fluctuate depending on the month, specials, animal and needs. APA! is running $22 adoptions through January.

What to know before you go

Bubblegum was playful, curious and friendly despite his ailments. (Laura Figi/Austonia)

Depending on what pet you’re looking for, you may have to be patient. According to Austin Humane Society Director of Shelter Operations Katelen Knef, healthy puppies and kittens are the quickest to leave. Animals become harder to place at the age of 6-7 and even more so when they come with ailments, behavioral or medical issues.

On a tour of APA! at 1156 W. Cesar Chavez, Austonia met a playful, three-month-old tailless black kitten named Bubblegum, who will be harder to place due to being incontinent as a result of his Manx syndrome, which results when the tailless gene shortens the spine too much. He will need particular care but can still thrive in the right home.

Fortunately, volunteers at the shelters focus on match-making, and aim to help animals find permanent placements. Chase likes to say that by adopting, rescuers are actually saving two animals because it opens up the space for new animals to come into their care.

If you’re a lover of all animals and have some extra room in your house and schedule, Chase said fosterers are one of the most valuable resources shelters have. APA! is currently urgently looking for temporary homes for 50 dogs while COVID has caused staff and volunteers to fluctuate.

Where do the animals come from?

Unfortunately, sometimes the volunteers’ guesses are just as good as yours. Only so much work can be done to retrace steps of where animals have been before. However, volunteers can usually tell you about how the animal was discovered, its disposition, compatibility with children and other household pets and medical needs they’ve found while the animal is in their care.

AHS offers trial periods with animals and will take animal surrenders by appointment but hopes that they can make a perfect match. APA! has famously said it will take an animal back at any time but offers alternatives through its P.A.S.S. program.

What illnesses are common/should I ask about?

It’s important to be prepared for any ailments a pet comes with for financial or emotional reasons.

Before adopting a dog, know about:

  • Parvovirus, a highly-contagious virus that affects dogs' gastrointestinal tracts and is spread by direct dog-to-dog contact and contact with contaminated feces, environments or people.
  • Kennel cough, a viral infection in the respiratory system that is indicated by a runny nose, lethargy, sneezing, fever and decreased appetite.
  • Diarrhea, which can indicate stress or parasites in dogs.

Before adopting a cat, know about:

  • Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP), a viral disease caused by a feline coronavirus unrelated to human coronavirus. Though not believed to be contagious, FIP is almost always fast-progressing and fatal.
  • Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), an infectious disease that affects the cat’s immune system. FIV is incurable but can be treated.
  • Feline Leukemia (FelV), a potentially deadly virus spread through bodily fluids that only impacts cats.
  • Ringworm, a fungal infection of the superficial layers of the skin, hair, and nails. Ringworm infections can occur in any mammal, including humans.
  • Diarrhea, which can indicate a respiratory infection in cats.

We are not health professionals at Austonia—if you’re concerned about your animal’s wellbeing, call the shelter you adopted it from or call your veterinarian.

What services do shelters provide after the fact?

AAC is an excellent resource for low-cost pet needs; AAC offers free spaying/neutering for dogs and cats through Emancipet, which includes microchipping, pain medication, a rabies vaccine for pets three months or older, DHPP for dogs and FVRCP for cats. AAC will provide a free microchip to all residents and offers classes on responsible pet care or rabies prevention.

APA! offers lifetime coaching for animals with behavioral needs, including classes to learn how to control behavior, and compiled a list of trusted resources.

If I can't adopt, how can I help?

APA! has so many options to give, you’ll oftentimes be able to know exactly what you’re pledging money toward. APA! also takes item donations but be advised that shelters can’t usually use opened containers, scratching posts, carpeted cat trees, plastic bowls, scoops, or litter boxes, bed linens or couch cushions.

AHS accepts cash donations. AAC is government funded, though it always accepts donations in the form of cash, which goes toward rabies and microchip programs, animal enrichment, spay and neuter programs, and more. AAC also accepts item, fencing and doghouse donations.

You can also apply to be a volunteer at any of the locations, though APA! is on-boarding on an as-needed basis and AHS has paused taking in new volunteers.

Popular

‘Like speed dating of cats’ at Purr-fecto Cat Lounge
Purr-fecto Cat Lounge

Lina Martinez with her newly adopted cat, Emmanuel, who she renamed Sullivan.

Timmy and Tommy are ready to play.

As the 2-month-old white-and-tabby brothers swat feather wands, chase toys and generally hold court inside Purr-fecto Cat Lounge, a half-dozen potential adoptive parents look on lovingly, trying to get their attention.

“This is kind of like the speed dating of cats,” said Lupita Foster, owner of Purr-fecto Cat Lounge. “I intentionally didn’t put in any tables. That’s why we call it a lounge instead of a cat café because we have these lounge areas where you can sit and relax and cuddle.”

Foster, who has owned a cleaning company, Enviromaids, for 18 years, was inspired to open Purr-fecto Cat Lounge after adopting her own cat, Romeo, from a local shelter.

“When you want to adopt a cat, you have to spend a lot of time with them to get their personality,” Foster said. “I wanted to do something to help the community and something that makes me feel good, that warms my heart. A business with a purpose. This was a perfect idea.”

Actually, a purr-fect idea.

Inspired in part by a cat lounge she visited in Los Angeles, Foster began laying the groundwork for the business in late 2021 and officially opened the doors of Purr-fecto Cat Lounge, located at 2300 S. Lamar Blvd., in July 2022. Since then, she’s worked with rescue organizations such as Fuzzy Texan Animal Rescue and Sunshine Fund Cat Rescue to facilitate nearly 100 cat adoptions.

At any given time, there are 10-15 cats living in the space, which features an ideal blend of calm, cool corners and adorably Instagrammable backdrops with phrases such as “I want to spend all my 9 lives with you.”

Lina Martinez, 32, learned about Purr-fecto Cat Lounge from a friend’s Instagram post and made an appointment to visit two days later.

“My first impression was, ‘AWW!’” Martinez said. “The kittens were to die for. I felt happy and at peace – just what I needed.”

Visitors to the cat lounge pay $15 for a 30-minute CATXperience session or $30 for a 70-minute session that is spent getting to know the personalities of each cat. Foster said the first thing she typically sees from visitors to the lounge is a smile.

“Everybody that enters the door is smiling,” she said. “And we’ve seen people who have cried because they can’t have kids and they decide to go and adopt a cat instead.”

Foster said she loves bringing in cats who might not have a chance to be adopted at traditional shelters. She told the story of one cat named Izzy, who was partially blind, who was adopted by a family that had a deaf cat at home.

“Izzy was not going to get adopted anywhere else, but she’s extremely beautiful,” she said. “If she was in a cage in a rescue and you tell people she’s blind, she was probably going to be overlooked. But visiting our space, she doesn’t seem like she’s blind. She knows her way around. She moves around perfectly.”

Although Martinez, who had been casually looking for a pet to adopt since moving to Austin nearly four years ago, was interested in a cat named Ruby that she had seen on Purr-fecto’s social media, at the lounge she instead found herself drawn to 5-month-old mixed breed Tuxedo cat.

“I thought he was a star,” she said. “He worked the room and introduced himself to everyone. When I laid down to pet Ruby, he ran from the other side of the room and cuddled with me. It was game over. He got me.”

And she, of course, got him, complete with a commemorative photo that read “My Furrever Family” the day she took him home. Although his original name was Emmanuel, she renamed him Sullivan after her favorite DJ.

“Purr-fecto is special because of the amount of effort and love they put into taking care of the cats,” Martinez said, “and finding them good homes and making possible adopters feel at home.”

Foster, who spent a recent Thursday hosting a group of teenagers in foster care at the lounge, several of whom expressed interest in working there, said the best part about her new endeavor is that her heart is always full.

“I just feel complete,” she said. “I always felt as an entrepreneur that I was missing something. I knew I accomplished a lot, but in my heart I was missing a little connection with the community. Now I’m creating connections between humans and pets and that’s amazing. I’m creating family bonds. It’s just about love, you know. And we need that.”

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