What do you do to keep your cat if you fall on very hard times? I was asked to write an article about this1. I don’t think it is possible to do it but it is possible to explore the subject. I’ll state right away: I have failed!
The reason why I state that is because you will see next to nothing on the subject. It doesn’t matter if you are using books or the internet. You’ll have to use your own common sense and imagination. I am convinced that 99% of people who fall on hard times and become homeless give up their cat. It is not the same for dogs.
By contrast you will see touching stories of homeless people who have kept their dogs and they have done so as an act of survival. A companion animal to someone who has lost every material possession becomes a thousand times more important than when he had it all.
A companion animal provides (a) emotional support (b) protection (c) a way of meeting people and as one author succinctly put it (d) “oxygen”, meaning a reason and a way to continue living. In the USA, an estimated 5-10% of homeless people have a “pet”. As 46% of households in the USA care for a dog, these figures indicate that most people who become homeless give up their pet.
There is only one person in Britain I know of who was homeless and who had a cat companion cat and he became famous quite quickly and as a consequence was housed in a council flat (taxpayer subsidised apartment). His name is Bob – the cat I mean! The man is James Bowen. However, he was homeless when he met Bob, who, by the way, helped him to come off drugs.
There seems to be some major considerations if and and when a person loses everything and becomes homeless but who desperately wants to keep his/her cat or dog no matter what.
1. You have to have the mentality that says, “my companion animal eats first”. It has to be an irrevocable promise to your dog or cat and to yourself.
2. Sell every material possession to raise money to feed and clothe yourself and feed your companion animal. That means all the things that you treasured being converted to cash.
3. Most shelters for homeless people don’t accept companion animals so if you have a dog or a cat (almost certainly a dog and not a cat) you will end up living under the radar, on the street, without a roof over your heads.
4. As mentioned if you lose everything keep one “thing” – your dog or cat because at that moment they can be a lifesaver. Although judging by the figures above, most people disagree.
5. Find someone who you can trust to look after your cat or dog for a while to give you time to get back on your feet. In the UK, Cats Protection might be a good starting point. That seems to be the step before the one where if you fail to find someone you end up on the street with your dog. It goes without saying that you cannot ask a shelter to look after your cat or dog in the USA because you probably won’t see him or her again.
6. If you take a cat onto the street, leash train her! I can’t think of anything more sensible to write than that.
Of the two major companion animals dogs are the ones who come up trumps when push comes to shove and the owner becomes destitute.
- Dee in Florida asked me to “an article about to what lengths cat people will go not to have to relinquish their cats if they fall on very. hard times”.