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Giving Up a Cat for Adoption: Advice for Struggling Owners

7 min read

Realising that you can no longer keep your cat and making the decision to rehome them is difficult. You’ve probably already spent time with your feline friend and grown to love them. However, in some situations, giving up a cat for adoption is the best thing you can do for both of you. 

If you’re finding yourself making the often-heart-breaking decision to rehome your cat, we put together this article on how to best deal with this tough choice. We’ll explore the challenges pet families face when deciding to give up their cat and offer advice and resources to help make the process as smooth as possible. Read on to learn how to make sure your feline friend finds the new home they need and deserve. 

Is rehoming my cat the best option? 

It’s natural to feel hesitant about whether giving up a cat for adoption is the right decision. But although it might not seem like it, rehoming might be the best possible option for both you and your cat. If you’re unable to provide the resources needed for taking care of your pet or if they are struggling with their living situation, finding a new loving home for them may be the right thing to do. However, it’s important to consider all the options before making such a significant decision and to keep in mind that your cat’s health and happiness should be the top priority.

Five reasons for giving up a cat for adoption 

There are many reasons why people would consider rehoming a cat but it’s important to note that putting a cat up for adoption does not need to be a first resort.  In many cases you have other options you could explore first and there are ways to address certain challenges when it comes to caring for a cat. Here are a few: 

1. High costs 

Having a cat can be costly and some pet owners might find themselves in a situation where they struggle to afford costs of medical care, food, and other expenses. If you’re struggling to cover these costs, there are charities that can offer financial help. In the UK, some charities may be able to help with financial assistance for vet bills and there are several organisations that have food banks and can offer pet food to those who need it. These include: 

Being the owner of a pet comes with many responsibilities and the financial part is an important aspect of this. If your cat requires medical treatment and you don’t have the resources for the bills, there are charities that can help. PDSA for example, can help out with low-cost medical appointments, as can some other local animal welfare organisations, and it may be a good idea to also look into getting pet insurance as if you can afford this, it can drastically lower your vet bills over time or help you cope with an unexpected large bill.

2. Lack of time 

Sometimes it’s difficult to predict exactly how much time you’d have for the daily task of caring for a cat. Although cats can be very independent, they also require time and attention daily and if you’re unable to be home for the majority of every day, they might react negatively to this. But giving up a cat for adoption doesn’t have to be an option in this case, as there are plenty of pet sitters out there that can look after them while you’re out – or you could ask friends or family members Take this into consideration first and try it out for a while, see if it could be an option. 

Increasing your cat’s environmental enrichment and giving them more activities they can enjoy in your absence can also help with preventing boredom while home alone. This could be anything from cat trees, places to look out of the window, different heights to jump and climb, access to an outdoor enclosed catio, tasty treats hidden around the house… the list is endless.  

3. Changes in living situation 

Lifestyle changes can make it difficult to continue caring for your cat. Moving to a new home, for example, can be challenging as many rental properties don’t allow pets, plus cats do not always adjust well to a change of living environment. If you’re in a no cats allowed situation, it’s worth talking to your new landlord and providing ways in which they can make sure you’re a responsible pet owner. This might include references from your old landlord or the possibility of paying a pet deposit, ensuring that if anything gets damaged, your landlord will be fully compensated.

If you’re moving across country and your cat doesn’t travel well and gets stressed, there are ways you can safely bring them along with you.  Talk to your vet and they can recommend, pheromone sprays, medication, and/or supplements that can be a huge help in keeping your cat calm when traveling.

Make sure you purchase a cat carrier long before you plan on traveling with your cat so they have lots of time to get used to it.

4. The cat isn’t settling into the home 

Cats are often independent and suspicious of new environments so getting used to a new home and new people might take time. It’s perfectly normal for them to be quiet at first. Early signs might be that your cat is constantly hiding, eating less and not interacting with anyone at all. This is quite normal – and in most cases, they will get bolder in a very short time when allowed to take things at their own pace.

However, there are some things you can do to make sure you make the transition as smooth as possible.
The first step would be to bring something old of theirs to the new home like the litter or toys, or maybe the bedding, scratch posts or, even, litter trays.
Start with them in one room only so they don’t feel overwhelmed, and they only have to get used to one place while they are deciding that this is going to be a safe house to live in. Put all their things there, like their bed, bowls, litter tray and toys.

Make sure everyone in the family knows to leave them alone and let them find out about their new home in their own time. Trying to hug them, cuddle them or force them to interact will be counterproductive and can easily scare them.

If you have a quiet home and/or live alone, this can be in your living room but if your house is at all busy, have a separate room dedicated to them that they can start their life with you in, but take time to sit quietly with them several times a day so they can get used to you, Just sit on the floor and totally ignore them, They will come and interact with you when they are ready.
Settling into a new environment can take a long time for a cat – who will need to be totally convinced their new space is ‘safe’. Pheromone diffusers and products can help with this process.

5. Behavioural issues 

While some cats are relaxed and laid back, some by merit of their type or their background might be more of a challenge, and you could find yourself struggling to live with their behaviour. Maybe they’re predatory, aggressive, or destructive. In these cases, it’s worth considering a contacting a behaviourist who specialises in cats.

Sometimes these behavioural issues can be the result of having a bad start in life or being abused, be due to illness or stress, poor husbandry or care, or, in many cases, are due to a lack of enrichment or outlets for their natural hard-wired behaviours.

Either way, a behaviourist can help you improve or even solve the problem, and you and your cat will be able to live in harmony.

6. Conflict with other cats in the household

Unlike dogs, cats are often solitary animals and living in proximity with other felines can be highly stressful. This can lead to fights, total avoidance, or a high degree of stress.

Make sure there are more resources that you have cats – so if you’ve got two cats, you need at least three litter trays, three sets of bowls, and a wide range of enrichment – in different rooms if possible.

Ensure that there are ways the cats can avoid each other while they are getting to know each other and don’t feel forced to be in close proximity.

However, if despite your best efforts there really is ongoing conflict, or one of the cats is unhappy, hides, or stays out far more than before, rehoming is your best option.

The same goes with resident dogs too.

How to rehome my cat? 

If rehoming your beloved pet is the best option, there are several resources available that can make the process as easy and stress-free as possible. Check out the steps you can follow to make sure your cat finds their well-deserved forever home. 

1. Get in touch with your friends and family first 

When looking to give up your cat for adoption, it’s a good idea to first contact the people closer to you and ask if they might be looking for a new pet. This is one of the best options as you’d know that your cat is with people you trust, and you would also get to see them from time to time. 

2. Contact the person you got them from

If you got your kitten from a breeder, they might be willing to take them back. Good breeders will feel responsible for the kittens they breed. If you got them relatively recently, the chances they might take them back are probably better. You can explain the reason why you can’t keep them anymore and they might help find them a more suitable home.

3. Look up reliable shelters or charities 

Research the shelters in your area. In the UK, any of the organisations that work with cats who are members of the Association of Dogs and Cats Homes will be able to help or give advice. This way you will know that before you leave them at a shelter, you know that they’re trustworthy and reliable. Also contact Cats Protection who will be able to help and give you advice.

4. Pack them a bag with their things and favourite food 

A change as big as moving home and changing owners can be stressful for a cat. To make this transition easier, you can pack them a small bag with some of their things. This will help with the process and make them feel more comfortable. Make a list of their personality, what they like and dislike, and what their behaviour is like. This will give their new owners a head starts on settling them in. 

Remember, it’s never easy giving up a cat for adoption, but by making this decision, you’re taking an important step towards ensuring their well-being. While the process might be stressful and difficult, know that you’re doing the best thing both for your cat and their welfare, and for yourself.

Finally, we know that taking this step is also very difficult for you. Don't hesitate to seek help from a therapist who understands pet ownership and lean on your family and friends to make the process as painless as possible for you.

To find out more valuable information on how to give up a cat for adoption, please visit the Cats Protection advice page