This article is from the Getting A Cat FAQ, posted to rec.pets.cats newsgroup. Maintained by Cindy Tittle Moore with numerous contributions by others.
People who have to find homes for adult cats will sometimes advertise in the paper (or on bulletin boards at local stores or schools). These cats are usually well cared for and you can meet them in a home environment.
You will also see kittens advertised in the paper. Make sure you are getting a healthy, well socialized kitten, don't get a kitten that is too young (younger than 8 weeks), and find out if the kittens' parents have been fixed! Try to look for people who are trying to place kittens that have been found, or people who have already spayed the mother cat after an accidental mating, rather than encouraging careless people to keep producing kittens. Also, if the kittens were born because the people don't bother to get their cat(s) fixed, they may not bother to feed and care for growing kittens properly, either.