Adoption Policies

Cat Adoption Policies
Dog Adoption Policies

Cat Adoption Policies

Please read our adoption policies below. They are designed to ensure the health and safety of our cats and the compatibility of the cat(s) with their adoptive family.

Note: We ONLY adopt to residents of the Washington metropolitan area, which includes Washington, D.C., and parts of Northern Virginia and Maryland.

What are the Adoption Fees?

  • The adoption fee is $150 for one cat/kitten and $250 for a pair. We waive adoption fees for special needs cats.
  • These fees help defray the veterinary expenses we have incurred which includes: exams, FELV/FIV testing, age-appropriate distemper and rabies vaccinations, age-appropriate spaying/neutering, deworming and all other necessary care.

Who Makes Adoption Decisions?

An adoption official makes all final adoption decisions with input from the foster parent.

Main Policies

  • Cats must be indoors only
  • Cats can not be declawed
  • Kittens must be adopted in pairs unless you already have a young, compatible cat at home
  • Adoptions are a lifetime commitment

Detailed Policies

1. Renting/Pet Policies – If you rent your home or are subject to condo association rules, your lease or by-laws must allow you to have cats. If you move, you must be committed to finding a home where cats are allowed. Cats are dependent on you like children and should be treated as members of your family. Moving is rarely a legitimate reason to give up a cat. We expect you to accommodate your SPCA adopted cat if/when you move, unless there are truly extenuating circumstances. 

Reason: We want to ensure your current housing allows cats so you are not evicted or asked to give up your cat. Also, that you are committed to accommodating your cat if/when you move in the future.

2. Spaying/Neutering Required – Cats will not be adopted into homes with un-neutered cats/dogs. All SPCA adult cats and kittens older than 4-5 months of age are spayed/neutered before adoption. We determine when to spay/neuter kittens based on: 1) age, 2) weight, and 3) various health factors to ensure surgery is performed safely. Younger kittens not spayed/neutered before adoption must be spayed/neutered by the adopter at approximately 4-5 months of age. Adopters have three choices for post-adoption spaying/neutering:

  • Get a discount by scheduling surgery at one of two specified vet offices in: Annandale or Fairfax, VA (vet office deducts $50 from your invoice and bills SPCA the $50; you pay the vet office the remaining amount when surgery performed). Note: We only offer discounts at participating vet offices we have designated in advance – NO exceptions.
  • Obtain a referral to a local vet through our Spay Inc. program for discounted surgeries, at your own expense.
  • Use your own vet at your own expense.

SPCA verifies post-adoption that all kittens have been spayed/neutered. 

Reason: Virginia law requires all cats/dogs adopted from animal welfare organizations be spayed/neutered. Each year, millions of cats/dogs are needlessly euthanized because there are too many of them and not enough responsible homes. There are also significant health and behavioral benefits to spaying/neutering (e.g., reduced risk of certain cancers; elimination of urine spraying and marking).

3. Declawing Forbidden – Our cats may not be declawed for any reason. If you want a declawed cat, please adopt an already-declawed cat. SPCA verifies post-adoption that kittens spayed/neutered after adoption were not declawed, and we reserve the right to verify other cats/kittens have not been declawed after adoption. 

Reason: Declawing is cruel, physically and psychologically, and completely unnecessary. A cat’s claws are part of his/her fingers and toes. Declawing is amputating the last joint of a cat’s toes. The surgery and recovery is extremely painful. Declawing impedes a cat’s ability to walk and play, and protect himself/herself. Psychologically, cats knead with their claws to express comfort. Declawed cats tend to have higher levels of anxiety because they feel defenseless and often become biters. They also tend to react to stress by not using their litter boxes. An SPCA volunteer or your vet can show you how to properly clip claws. Give your cat plenty of appropriate things to scratch and gently correct your cat if he/she scratches the wrong things. Patience, positive reinforcement, and consistency in training will alleviate any problems.

4. Indoors-Only – You must keep your cat indoors at all times, unless the cat is on a leash and accompanied by you. SPCA reserves the right to check post-adoption that cats are being kept indoors. 

Reason: An indoor cat with proper care can live 15 years or longer. The average lifespan of a cat that wanders outside is two years. Cats are killed and injured by cars. Other dangers include contracting diseases from other cats, getting injured by other animals, and being poisoned or abused by people who don’t want your cat on their property. Cats can also devastate birds, chipmunks and other wildlife.

5. Single Cat or Kitten – Kittens, and many adult cats, need feline companionship. Kittens must be adopted in pairs unless you already have a young, compatible cat in your home. In addition, adult cats that need feline companionship, regardless of age, must be adopted in pairs or into a home with a compatible cat. We are happy to identify which SPCA cats will be happy as single cats and those that need feline companionship. 

Reason: Kittens, and many adult cats, get lonely, depressed, and/or destructive without feline companionship. Humans are not a substitute when feline companionship is needed.

6. Children – If you have a child under 6 years of age, you must adopt an adult cat or an older kitten that is at least 4-6 months of age. The appropriate age for adopting a kitten into a home with children will depend on the age of the child and the personality and needs of the kitten.

Reason: Young kittens are fragile and can be accidentally injured by a small child. Also, young kittens do not fully retract their claws. While a scratch is no more harmful than falling down and scraping a knee, young children who are scratched may develop an unnecessary fear of cats. And kittens may become fearful of a child who cries after being scratched. Children and pets make wonderful companions when supervised and matched up appropriately.

7. Cats are Family Members – An indoor cat, with proper care, can live 15 years or longer. When adopting a cat, you must be prepared to make a lifetime commitment. Cats need to be treated with love and respect and fully integrated into your family.

Reason: A cat that is not a member of the family will unhappy, withdrawn, mean, or destructive.

8. Costs of Care – A single, already-spayed/neutered cat will cost at least $500 per year in food, litter, basic vet care, etc. Your cat will need annual check-ups and age-appropriate vaccinations for rabies and FVRCP (distemper). All cats require regular vet care. You are responsible for providing vet care and paying all vet bills once you adopt the cat.

Reason: FVRCPs protect your cat from getting upper respiratory infections (URIs) and panleukopenia (distemper), which can be fatal. Rabies shots are required by law even for indoor-only cats (in case your indoor-only cat gets outside and is exposed to a rabid animal). You should expect medical needs to increase as your cat ages.

9. Lifetime Commitment – Adopting a cat is a lifetime commitment. Your SPCA adopted cat needs to be an integral part of your family. You will need to make accommodations for your cat as your life changes over time. Contact us if there are significant incompatibility issues, or you have an urgent situation that impacts your ability to continue caring for your cat. We will do our best to help you by providing advice or helping you find a new home for your cat at our discretion. Your cat remains your responsibility unless SPCA agrees to take your cat back into our care. 

Reason: We want our cats to be cared for all their lives. We are available to help you. Oftentimes, issues can be resolved with accommodations you make in your life or with appropriate veterinary care or behavioral counseling.

10. Home Visits – We may visit your home after the adoption to ensure you and your SPCA adopted cat are happy, and to verify the terms of the contract are followed (e.g., no declawing and indoors only).

Reason: This helps ensure our cats are placed in loving homes that meet their needs and that the terms of our contract are met.

Revised 4/30/13

Dog Adoption Policies

Please read our adoption policies below. They are designed to ensure the health and safety of our dogs and the compatibility of the dog(s) with their adoptive family.

Note: We ONLY adopt to residents of the Washington metropolitan area, which includes Washington, D.C., and parts of Northern Virginia and Maryland.

What is the Adoption Fee?

  • The adoption fee is $325 per dog.
  • This fee helps cover our costs for medical expenses, spaying/neutering, obedience training and boarding.


Please note that we will not place a dog in a home if any of the following conditions are present:

  • The prospective home currently has an un-spayed or un-neutered cat or dog.
  • The dog will be left outside when no one is home.
  • The dog is intended as a gift.
  • Puppies less than 6 months old will not be placed in homes:
    • with children under 4 years of age, or
    •  where no one is home during the day.

Once placed, we reserve the right to check on the dog at any time to ensure the dog’s well-being. If any condition of the Adoption Contract has been violated, or if SPCA NOVA believes that the environment is unsafe, we reserve the right to remove the dog from the home.

If at any time you cannot keep the dog, you must return the dog to the SPCA NOVA and not to another individual, rescue organization or shelter.


It is important that you consider the following:

  • Size – If you rent, does your apartment or home have stated size limits? (Landlord approval is required). Have you considered what size of dog best suits your available space and lifestyle?
  • Age – Dogs of different ages have very different requirements, make sure you know what these are (i.e. puppies and older dogs require extra care and attention).
  • Temperament – Does the dog have a temperament that would be suitable for your family?
  • Compatibility – Is the dog recommended for children and other pets?
  • Energy level – Does your schedule allow for providing the amount of exercise recommended?
  • Special needs – Will the dog require special care?


All dogs over the age of 6 months old will be spayed/neutered prior to adoption. If the dog is under the age of 6 months, an additional spay/neuter fee will be charged, and you will be given a certificate for the surgery.

Obedience Training

Prior to adoption, our dogs get crate training and learn basic commands, which makes the transition into your home much smoother. We encourage our adopters to continue obedience training.