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.
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.
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.
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.