3207 Reasons To Relinquish Your Cat

Cat Relinquishment - Stray Cat

Yes, there are at least 3,207 reasons to relinquish your cat according to a study by the Regional Shelter Relinquishment Survey (Salman and others in 1998). Here are the top 41 reasons.

The reasons are interesting and warrant a bit of a discussion.

Cat Behavior Problems

At the base of the spreadsheet I have provided a total for all the “cat behavioral problems”. For example: “disobedient” or “too active” or “aggression towards people”. The biggest reason by far when totalised is cat behavior yet as I read these reasons I see human behavior problems causing so called cat behavior problems due to the cat reacting. There is no survey about cat behavior problems and whether it is a direct result of human interaction or entirely an inherited condition but I would guess that most cases of cat behavior problems start with the human caretaker or former owner. This assessment is supported by an interview with a cat behaviorist (cat whisperer).

There must also be a healthy dose of incorrect expectations on behalf of the cat’s owners. Cat behavior problems are in fact largely about cat owner education.

Cat aggression towards other animals and people can be down to a lack of socialisation at a tender age. Once again it is regrettably our responsibility to ensure cats are socialised. If they are born outside the household as semi-feral or feral they will need socialisation later in life. That is hard. However, even in this situation, the root cause is people because people created the feral cat, the stray cat and the semi-feral cat.

Baby Issues

This refers to giving up a cat because of a newborn baby or the imminent arrival of a newborn. It is surprising to see that a good number (but a small percentage of reasons) of mothers still believe that a domestic cat is a danger to their new baby. This presumably refers to toxoplasmosis and perhaps even the old wives tale of a cat sucking the breath out of a baby which probably is a fear of the cat sleeping on a baby and suffocating him or her. Toxomplasmosis is a genuine concern because the consequences of a mother becoming infected are severe for her unborn child but the risk is slight and the precautions are easy.

Here are two posts: Cat and Baby Precautions by Elisa and Cat Feces and Pregnancy.

The Top Reason

This reason is having too many cats already. This indicates a household where the cats’ owner has perhaps not spayed and neutered her cats and lets her cats breed. Or perhaps acquired cats one way or another and realizes after a while that she has too many. It just sounds a bit haphazard to me and irresponsible as it leads to the euthanasia of cats. This is because most relinquished cats end up as euthanized cats. This is in general. A decent number of shelters are genuine no kill. The top reason, though, is very much about the behavior of people leading to the cat relinquishment. The cat is the innocent victim in this scenario.


I find this reason bizarre to be honest. I cannot conceive of a incident where a person would be bitten by their cat unless that person is behaving irresponsibly in relation to the cat, in which case the reason for relinquishment is poor cat caretaking not cat biting.

It is always possible to avoid being bitten. It is down to us.


This is an interesting reason for relinquishing your cat. We don’t know the proportion of genuine moving problems – having to downsize and live in an apartment – or just using moving as an excuse to get rid of the cat. Even moving to an apartment is not a total reason to relinquish a cat. I am trying to think when moving home could be a good reason to relinquish a cat and I can’t think of one.

Inadequate Facilities

I am not sure how this situation would come about. If the facilities at the time of relinquishment are the same as the facilities at the time of relinquishment then the reason is a misjudgement by the cat’s owner. It has nothing to do with the cat. This is probably about a lack of proper planing and understanding about what it takes to care for a domestic cat. Solution: expectation management through education.

 No Time For the Cat

This may come about because of a forced lifestyle change. That can happen quite easily nowadays because jobs are less permanent. This is one of the better reasons for relinquishing a cat, it seems to me.

Euthanasia for Old Age and Illness

A lot of people take their cat to a cat shelter to have him or her euthanised for these reasons.  This is because it is much cheaper (free?) than a veterinarian. I don’t know how the cat’s condition is assessed under these circumstances. Before euthanising a cat you absolutely need the advice of a good and experienced veterinarian. Is a vet on hand at all times at a cat shelter to provide the necessary advice and to check out your cat? I don’t think so. If I am correct, this seems a casual, careless  and almost callous way of disposing of a cat.  I understand the need to avoid a vet’s fees but the euthanasia of a cat companion is a very big deal. It is upsetting and it takes time to process it mentally. That does not seem to be the case if euthanasia takes place at a rescue center. Also, if a vet is not involved how do the staff at the rescue facility feel about this? How do they react to someone coming in with their cat requesting that the cat be put down? If I was working in the center I’d ask questions. I would not like to be involved in that process. Perhaps there are guidelines. When is the right time to euthanise a cat?

Parent Won’t Allow the Cat

This appears to be a situation where a child has acquired a cat without his parent’s permission and subsequently the parents insist that the cat is relinquished. This hints at a disharmonious family. I am sure a lot of relinquished cats come from families that are dysfunctional to some degree.

Relinquishing a cat is mainly (totally?) about the human condition.

Original photo on Flickr.

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3207 Reasons To Relinquish Your Cat — 7 Comments

  1. Almost 3207 EXCUSES, not reasons, to relinquish your cat I’d say.
    In my opinion, owner died or has become too disabled to care for the cat or has become homeless, are the only real reasons anyone should relinquish their cat.
    When doing Shelter studies I saw all those many excuses listed, time after time. Some people just dump their pet like an unwanted possession they just HAD to have in the first place, like a child really, saying ‘I WANT’ with no thought to what happens one they get what they want.
    The one who suffers is of course the cat because he/she had the misfortune to be taken home by someone who doesn’t think that a pet is for life, through thick and through thin and should be treated the same as the rest of the family members, be they human or dog.
    ‘I’ve got a real baby now’ some smirk which makes it obvious the poor cat was just a substitute baby until the ‘real’ baby came along.
    What makes me mad too is in cases like CR, people who dumped their cats there and walked away were crying ‘Where are my babies now?’ They ceased to be their babies the moment they walked away leaving them for whatever excuse they made, to their fate.
    I might sound harsh but after years of working and volunteering with animals I’ve heard it all before and it disgusts me the way some people discard their cats for the flimsy excuses they use.

  2. I see a lot labeled “change of lifestyle.” Can anyone tell me what that means? It is possible to be bitten. Our feral Renny had to be handled using a towel to acclimate him to people. He was so wild he bit Laura as well as myself. Declawed cats also bite since they have no other defences. I think a lot of cats are turned in because people expect too much too fast from a cat. It can take weeks for a new cat to adjust but in the age of “get it now” people don’t have patience.

    • You are right Elisa,some people expect too much from cats.
      I don’t know why people get cats and expect them to behave like humans.
      It’s the ‘I want, I must have’ attitude that is so wrong, people taking innocent kittens and cats lives into their power without knowing anything about how to care properly for them, then when the cat acts as a cat, they don’t want him after all.

  3. Pingback: Very sweet and cuddly cat, loves to be held close | Pictures of Cats

  4. I can see moving and landlord being legitimate concerns depending on situation. Some apartments do not allow pets. Some have severe restrictions on what pets are allowed and what aren’t. This is granted the owner has taken every bit of searching and weighed their options first. Sometimes in an emergency or sudden move, there isn’t that option.

    That said I’m in a situation where I am only allowed one cat. No dogs, rabbits, reptiles etc. My grandma and I had two cats. My cat was frail, and it was a tough choice, but I decided the move would not be good for him.) The other cat had bonded with my grandma, so I realized it would be more traumatic to separate her from grandma than to force my will and take her with.

    The result: I ended up leaving both cats with grandma and would visit. Right on New years eve I ended up having to put my cat down. (It was not because of the move, but because his chronic heart condition had progressed to the point he couldn’t breathe well, couldn’t meow and couldn’t eat well.)

    – That said. I am now without a cat. I’m left with a tough decision. Do I get a cat of my own or do I wait until the inevitable situation arises if my grandma should end up not being able to care for her cat? When that happens, I want to be able to take her cat and keep her from being tossed into a shelter. (But there’s also the chance my living situation may change or grandma may be able to take her cat to a nursing home.) Lots of variables. Do I deprive myself of having a cat in the mean time? (and if I did get a cat, what would I do if the situation arises that grandma has to give up her cat?) I still miss my dear Waldo greatly. We did everything we could with his condition. I still wish he could have lived at least to this month. That would have made him likely 18, but it better he went when he did. Inevitable death by end stage heart failure would have been torturous for a cat who was a fighter and enjoyed his life to the very end.

    • Thanks for visiting and commenting. I think you show up an interesting dilemma that arises because of the artificial restriction of one cat household. It is difficult. No easy answer. At least you’re allowed one cat. No pet clauses are problematic in any case.

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