Above all else, the modern relationship between person and cat is about companionship – from the person’s point of view. Cats are good companions. They are an outlet for our desire to nurture while not being overly dependent on humans. Accordingly, commitment need not necessarily be high for the relationship to work. This can encourage a lack of commitment.
Ironically, this simple observation is, however, a significant reason for relinquishing domestic cats to shelters.
Historically, the domestic cat was a semi-domestic cat. The cat was neither a stray nor fully domesticated. This form of relationship is still the norm in many countries that are considered less well developed than those in the West.
The traditional role of the cat was as a rodent controller more than as a companion. This role has virtually disappeared in the West. When the cat was a rodent controller the relationship was arguably better. This is because people expected the cat to be a predator and to exercise predatory skills. This was a form of behavior, the major aspect of a cat’s behavior, that was accepted and admired.
Nowadays, the predatory skills and behavior of a domestic cat get in the way of the relationship because they make the cat a worse companion – for some people. Predatory instincts expressed in feline behavior can be perceived as ‘problem cat behavior’ by some cat owners.
A lot of people want a fairly docile, compliant animal that does as it is told. The hunting aspect of feline behavior is now considered by many as problematic.
There has been an increase in the reporting of behavior problems. This is probably a result of false expectations; seeking a companion and getting a top predator.
However, although there is no doubt that so called ‘behavioral problems’ are one reason to give up a cat to a shelter, it only accounts for about 7% of cases in a survey by Cats Protection in 2003. The other reason from this Cats Protection survey are as follows.
|Reason for relinquishment||Percentage of Cases||My Comment|
|Stray/abandoned||32||Taking in a stray cat and then giving it up to|
|Owner Circumstances||19||The owner finds a reason to give up their cat|
due to a change in their circumstances. For example, moving.
|Cat transfer within Cats Protection||9||Not sure what this means|
|Problem behavior||7.5||As stated in this article|
|Owner cannot cope||5||False expectations?|
|Allergic to cat||5|
|No reason given||3|
|Too many cats||2|
|Woman pregnant or has a child||2||Fear of toxoplasmosis|
|Cat ill or pregnant||1|
The way in which the cat was acquired is a major factor. Was it done casually or with purpose and forethought?
In a 1994 study of cats in a Humane Society shelter in Hilliard, Ohio, it was found that 47% of cats were adopted from ‘private owners’ indicating that for example a neighbour had some unwanted cats and offered them to people. The full breakdown of where people acquired a cat was as follows:
Tellingly, in this survey 50% of owners had not intended to adopt a cat in the first place. Accordingly there was early relinquishment. The age groups of cats given up were:
|Age of cat relinquished||Percentage of total|
|Less than 6 months||24|
|Older than 3 years||18|
The above chart indicates that kittens were taken off neighbors or friends who had not neutered their cats. That is my reading of it.
- The domestic cat relationship has evolved to one where the cat is being ‘shoe horned’ into an unnatural role.
- Our expectations and understanding of cat behavior could be improved.
- Commitment to the relationship could be improved.
These factors contribute to people giving up their cat.