5 Reasons Cats Are Given Up for Adoption — and How to Avoid These Problems

Costs. The cost of caring for a pet can be daunting, but there are always ways to cut corners without reducing the quality of care you provide your pet. I frequently warn pet lovers not to be penny wise and pound foolish; in other words, don't skip regular veterinary checkups to keep costs down. Cutting out wellness care can mean setting your cat up for bigger — and more expensive — health problems down the road. One of the simplest ways to cut costs is to keep your cat lean; this can help save on food and also on health care, since obesity is linked to many health problems in cats, including diabetes. Dr. DiGangi recommends tapping into local resources, both for medical emergencies and basic care. "Many shelters and animal rescue organizations can offer assistance with common feline behavior problems," he says, "as well as provide subsidized veterinary care for services such as spay-neuter and vaccination against common infectious diseases."

Litterbox issues. It’s rare that a day goes by that we veterinarians don’t hear about a cat who has stopped using the litterbox — and sometimes this can be the issue that lands the cat in the shelter. In many cases, litterbox problems are fairly easily remedied by cleaning the box more often, adding extra boxes, or determining your cat's preferred litter. Other times there’s a medical problem that needs to be dealt with before the cat can be retrained to use the box. With patience, many, if not most, litterbox issues can be resolved. Start by asking your veterinarian for help. Dr. DiGangi notes that many shelters can help with litterbox issues too, with behavior hotlines, counseling and classes to assist people in learning more about their pets and how to work through this issue (and others) before the cat is surrendered to a new home.

Not getting along. There are a variety of situations in which a cat will start acting unfriendly to members of a household, but this behavior is not necessarily a sign that the cat needs to go. Dr. DiGangi says issues can arise both when a cat cannot get along with other pets and when she takes a dislike to a new person in the home, such as a boyfriend or roommate — or a baby. Fortunately, there’s a lot of useful information available about strategies for handling all of these situations, and chances are good that if you read up and make some simple changes, the hissing and other signs of an unhappy cat will settle down and you can continue to live in harmony with your cat.

Can This Relationship Be Saved?

No matter what your issue, taking your cat to the shelter shouldn't be the first solution. “Many alternatives to giving up a cat are available for pet owners,” notes Dr. DiGangi. For example, he says, “Most veterinary practices are well-equipped to assist with any medical or behavioral issues that are causing a pet owner to consider relinquishment.”

I agree with him there, and I’d take it even farther: Talk to your veterinarian about any problem you’re having with your cat. Many problems people think are behavioral — such as avoiding the litterbox — can actually have a medical issue at the root. Until that issue is correctly diagnosed and treated, you won’t have much luck changing the problem behavior. Your veterinarian is also a great resource for finding help with other types of problems, including behavior issues and allergies. She might even know a cat-loving allergist for you!

Finally, do your research before you say goodbye to your cat. As Dr. DiGangi notes, these days you can find lots of assistance and advice that is geared toward keeping The Bond intact, and it's worth seeking out. And while you may still decide that it is in everyone's best interest to re-home your feline companion, you might instead find the help you need to get over this bump on your long road together.


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