Cat ownership can be like marriage: It’s designed to be a lifelong commitment. But sometimes family allergies, landlord rules, litter box issues or other unforeseen problems can make the best plans go awry. Sometimes, cat owners may feel as if they only have one heart-wrenching option: to rehome a beloved cat.
But don’t resort to cat adoption without exhausting all your options. There are plenty of resources to help you keep your cat where he or she belongs: with you.
Top Reasons Cats Are Surrendered
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) estimates that 3.2 million cats enter shelters in the United States every year. Common reasons cats are relinquished include:
- Cost of upkeep — Most cats are inexpensive to acquire. More than half of owners get cats from friends or relatives or take in a stray, according to the American Pet Products Association. But the first year of cat ownership — including veterinary care, litter and food — can cost up to $2,285, according to Petfinder While the ensuing annual expenses are often lower, a job loss or other personal difficulty can make it difficult to pay for everyday cat care.
- Medical care — Feline health issues can be expensive. Three health issues that are common in cats — kidney failure, hyperthyroidism (overproduction of thyroid hormone) and diabetes — often require lifelong medication.
- Behavioral issues — Urinating outside the litter box, scratching furniture and not getting along with other household pets are common — but often fixable — reasons cats are surrendered to shelters.
- Housing problems — Owners may move to an apartment that doesn’t accept pets, or perhaps there are already too many pets in the household.
- Family situations — Allergies, divorce and other problems can make it seem like giving up the cat is the only option.
Help Keep Your Cat at Home
If you need help with your cat, please reach out to your veterinarian or local cat shelters or rescues for help. They can help provide you with resources to address issues including:
Behavior problems — If your cat shredded your couch or peed in your shoe, rest assured that it’s not being vindictive. Scratching is a natural feline behavior that helps cats groom their claws, mark their territory and stretch their bodies. You can train your cat to use a scratching post instead of your furniture.
A trip to the veterinarian may also reveal an underlying medical condition, such as urinary tract crystals, that can be treated. If there’s no medical problem, you can work with a veterinary behaviorist or find resources online to help with behavior issues such as litter box problems.
Financial assistance — Ask your veterinary clinic if they offer payment plans or credit services. Local veterinary schools and shelters may also offer low-cost clinics. You can even try using an online fundraising platform or contact local rescues for other suggestions for affordable care. If you need help with food or other cat care, there are state and local organizations that may be able to help.
Allergies — People who are allergic to cats are usually reacting to allergens in dander (flakes of dead skin), urine or saliva. To help minimize exposure to allergens, wash your hands after handling the cat and perhaps keep the cat out of your bedroom at night. You can also try vacuum cleaners and air purifiers that include high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters. Pet wipes can help minimize dander, as can weekly cat baths (if your cat is the tolerant sort). Of course, consult an allergist to see if there are medications that might help control your signs.
Housing — Cat owners who rent tend to run into the most issues with housing. But the Humane Society of the United States provides several suggestions that could help.
With a little ingenuity, most cat problems can be solved. Which means you really can commit to a long-term relationship and years of family pictures with your favorite feline.