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Raising (And Keeping!) A Cat in Korea

Love them or hate them, cats are undeniably cute.

Actually, if you’re not a cat person then post probably isn’t for you. Because today I’m going to be sharing the most important things you need to know about adopting and raising a cat in Korea.

You might be wondering how I became an authority on cats, but that all happened eight cats ago. Yeah, I’ve raised eight cats in my life and I’m only just getting started. You can also find me volunteering in one of Seoul’s cat shelters, previously for Nabiya and now at Whiskers Ministop.


The reason I’m writing this post is because dumping cats in Korea is, sadly, incredibly common. Whether that be at shelters, onto other people, or even on the streets. This stems from two things: foreigners who come here temporarily and adopt cats for short-term company, and a growing pet culture in Korea without proper animal welfare education.

Sadly, buying cats from breeders and the exploration of purebred pets* is also a trend among both locals and foreigners in Korea. I could talk about the benefits of adoption over breeding for weeks, but if you’re really not sure why one is better than the other, check out The Human Society’s 10 biggest reasons here.

It’s one of the most painful things in the world to see a cat that you’ve loved, groomed and fed at a shelter go to a loving home, only to get returned because someone is having a baby or ‘didn’t realize how much work they are’. Cats know when they’ve been abandoned and it’s incredibly hard for cats to deal with change. In fact, some cats never properly adjust to life back at the shelter and develop extreme anxiety and isolation.

I want to avoid this happening again. Please try and help others educate themselves and remind them that pet animals aren’t stuffed animals. We can’t just pay attention to them when it’s convenient for us, right? So, keep reading to find out all of the best tips and tricks for raising a cat in Korea!

*My Scottish Fold cat is a rescue from my shelter who I adopted to pay for his arthritis medical bills. I do not support the breeding of Scottish Folds – as cute as they may be.

Tips From an Expert: An Interview with Allie Hong of CATS, Whiskers Mini-Stop

Although I’ve had my fair share of kitties, I wanted to leave some of the biggest questions in the hands of an expert. I asked my friend and manager of Whiskers Ministop, Allie Hong, to give me the best advice on how to raising a cat in Korea. With her many years of experience, I promise that she’s the woman to trust!

1. What are some things I should prepare before adoption? 

Physically: All the essential supplies including a fluffy cat bed (with a roof is best), a litter box, a cat tree, food, litter of course, and a cat carrier.

Mentally: Think about the next 20 years of your life and confirm that you are confident your cat will be always be beside you.

2. What should someone consider before adopting a cat?

Think about if you can afford the cat with essential supplies and medical care. Also, consider if you have a stable mindset and you are ready for lots of cat hair all over your stuff. The last thing? Your friends and family need to be happy that you are a cat person. If not, you must be ready to ditch them.*

*This tends to be a regular issue in Korea and unfortunately is not a joke.

3. Why is it important to know a cat’s medical history?

You need to know your cat’s medical history to prevent any unforeseen or unintended sickness by giving the cat incompatible food and providing a good environment not to provoke or repeat any sickness the cat had to go through in the past. You also need to know the vaccination history so you won’t overdo it, which is the same with deworming or any other medication.

4. Can potential parents spend one-on-one time with the cats before adoption? 

For our shelter, we make sure a cat and adopter choose each other mutually and one-on-one time is a must. We welcome potential adopters to visit our cats before adoption, but we do take their applications first for screening.

5. I don’t want to adopt! Can I foster? What do you require from a foster parent? 

We are currently not open for fostering because we have adult or senior cats who need forever homes, not a place where they should come back after a short-term stay.  We will seek foster help once we have to rescue a kitten.

*There are various other foster opportunities in Seoul, but please note that many posts on SNS are fake and there have been situations of owners disappearing after giving the cat to the foster parent.

6. I already have a cat. Is it okay for me to get another one? 

Cats are independent but that doesn’t mean they aren’t social or not feeling lonely! 🙂 They do need friends  However, it’s crucial to know if your cat can get so stressed due to a new joiner and it could affect their health.

Actually this can stem from not only a new cat, but a new person. They need a smooth meet-and-greet procedure.  Some social cats can be very quick to admit a new friend to the family, while other cats will take longer or the best they can offer is only co-existence without a fight.

7. I plan on moving back to my home country one day.

It is very important to know that your status would be 100% secure back in your home country or if you have a supporter who can help the cat while you cannot (aka during the flight quarantine time).  You don’t want to make your cat a stray or give it up to a shelter after all the hassle you would go through to bring a cat with you back to your home country. 

We always take our adopted cats back without questioning (while other shelters might not be so kind). We trust the decisions of the owner and take responsibility over for our adopted cats as we are considerate in choosing good adopters.

8. How do I know which cat is best for me? 

It can be a combination of what type of personality you want in a cat and if you can afford such a personality depending on your circumstances and family.  For example, a loud active cat may not be a good fit if you have a small flat with soundproofing, although you may be happy to move to a place with those features.

9. Is there anything you want to add about raising a cat in Korea?

Having a cat in your life is definitely a privilege, but it will cost you quite a bit of sacrifice sometimes. Be prepared and be ready for it and don’t try to take advantage of animals.  They are not only to give your love to. They may love you in return, but that’s not guaranteed, and only if you’re lucky.

Suggested Brands


Please avoid buying cheap food from stores like Daiso. Remember that most kittens need to eat different food from adult cats during the first year or year and a half of their life.

Additionally, make sure your cat has any necessary food for dietary concerns. For example, my Scottish Fold needs food higher in protein for his arthritis. Be prepared for your cat not to like the food. Cats are incredibly picky. It might be a case of trial and error, so have money prepared for buying additional brands during the first month or two.

In regards to wet food, this should only be an occasional treat for your cat. If you have an older cat with tooth decay or gum disease, you may need to only buy wet food or let dry food soak in water first to make it soft.

Cats tend not to drink still water as easily as moving water, leading to dehydration. Buying a fountain-style bowl with a filter is highly suggested to avoid this.

Suggested food brands available in Korea: Nutro, Natural Balance, Purina, Royal Canin


Similarly to food, litter from cheap companies like Daiso stinks. Literally. It’s incredibly strong-smelling and unhealthy for both you and your cat. This is something worth spending a little more money on for both of your sanities.

I also recommend getting a good poop trash can to stop the smell, as well as wasting poop bags each time you clean. Check out the one I got here.

Suggested litter available in Korea: Everclean, Queen of Sand

Have more questions? Don’t hesitate to leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you! If you’d like to get in touch with Allie or check out the cats available for adoption at Whiskers, look for our Instagram or Facebook page! We post regular updates of our beautiful older cats and we also offer cat hotel options.

Just remember – raising a cat in Korea shouldn’t be considered different from raising any other living being. You have to offer them a good amount of living space, healthy food, and plenty of company. If that’s not something you can’t currently commit to, don’t force your cat to commit to it either. Come back to it at a time where you feel stable and in control of your finances. After all, a cat plans to love you for nearly 20 years. Isn’t that worth the world?

My rescued fur babies: Merry and Pippin


  • Alanna Rose
    Posted November 17, 2020 at 5:33 pm

    Hi! I need to know where I can find wet food for kittens and formula for kittens. I just unfortunately don’t know the Korean word for “kitten formula”. If I can get any kind of help, it would be much appreciated.

    • whatshanyourmind
      Posted November 17, 2020 at 9:46 pm

      Hello Alanna! Thank you for your message. You can find wet food for cats and kittens in any grocery store or even in convenience stores, or at an animal hospital/vet (I suggest this so that you have better options). Please try not to buy any pet food products from Daiso, as they often contain harmful chemicals to keep the prices low. This can result in blood or stomach problems for your cat.

      As for kitten formula, you can find it through internet shopping websites like Coupang 쿠팡, where you can type in English. In Korean it is usually called ‘kitten milk’, so you can search for 고양이 우유 데체제, 키튼 복제 포뮬라 or 고양이 우유 파우더. Additionally, you can visit a vet or animal hospital and ask them to sell you some. If you are uncomfortable speaking in Korean, I recommend Itaewon Animal Hospital, Happy Animal Hospital (near World Cup Stadium), or Perth Animal Hospital in Haebangchon 해방촌. All of these vets speak very good English and are reliable and kind to cats. 🙂 I hope this helps!

  • Dianne Pirie
    Posted December 26, 2020 at 7:08 pm

    My daughter’s cat has been on a long plane trip stayed two nights in a pet hotel and then another shorter flight he is drinking water ..but not from his new dish( running from the tap) but he is refusing to eat anything at all..( they have emigrated)…will he start eating again…it’s been a few days now..

    • whatshanyourmind
      Posted December 28, 2020 at 3:59 pm

      Hello Dianne! So sorry for the message delay. I know it’s been a day or two since you messaged, so I’m hoping for good news in relation to your daughter’s cat.

      When it comes to cats not eating after a big move, I am happy to say that is very normal. When my cat first came to my house, he did not eat properly for one week because of nerves and stress. He did drink water. I would suggest waiting at least about a 5-7 days and if the cat continues not to eat, you could take it to the vet.

      One good way to make sure your cat gets some kind of food in its system is to offer it treats, or in the case of my cat, he did not want to eat food but Korean churu (a kind of liquid cat treat that comes in a tube).

      Additionally, playing with the cat a lot to make it hungry is suggested. When moving a cat to a new location, I suggest playing with the cat for about 1 hour every day. It will burn a lot of energy and will therefore want to eat more. Additionally, do not allow the cat to hide. Block of any hiding spots like behind doors, under a bed, etc. The cat needs to adjust to its new environment as soon as possible. Then, it is more likely to eat quickly.

      TLDR; it is normal for a cat not to eat for about one week after a big move. If it is eating snacks and small treats, allow around 2 weeks. If it is any longer or if the cat does not eat at all after one week, visit your local vet.

      Please keep me updated and let me know how the cat is doing. 🙂

    • whatshanyourmind
      Posted December 28, 2020 at 4:00 pm

      Oh, and in relation to the Korean churu for cats, your daughter can buy it at any local convenience store or pet shop. Even in supermarkets as well!


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