You have lost everything except your cat (or dog)

Homeless man and cat

Until September 7th I will give 10 cents to an animal charity for every comment. It is a way to help animal welfare without much effort at no cost. Comments help this website too, which is about animal welfare.

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 isΒ 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.


  1. 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”.

9 thoughts on “You have lost everything except your cat (or dog)”

  1. The thought of being homeless scares me because of my cats πŸ™ If I just had to survive on my own it would be awful but I may manage however trying to feed my cats and keeping them alive living on the streets with no money? If I couldn’t secure their future 100% I would beg money to have them euthanised rather than they starve to death or face a horrible death some other way.

  2. It’s a very frightening thought to me, being homeless and I just don’t know what I would do. Life wouldn’t be worth living, without our cats.
    So it is like Barbara said, a priority to keep a roof over our heads so that our cats will always have their home with us.
    I feel desperately sorry for people who through no fault of their own become homeless.

  3. Firstly I can’t imagine anything worse than being homeless, to me having a home, even if sometimes you wish you were somewhere else when neighbours get on your nerves, is the most important thing that comes even before buying food or paying anything else. Partly this security is obviously for the human part of the family but equally as much for the feline part, it horrifies me to think of being homeless, or searching for a new home under duress, if we ever move I’d want it to be well researched and thought out and not rushed into.

    So to me firstly the reason why a person becomes homeless is a consideration, is it through their own actions? Is it because they have made themselves unemployable through their lifestyle choice in which case I have little sympathy for the human but loads of it for the animal victims, or is it because everything has gone wrong despite the best efforts of the human who find him/herself down on his/her uppers and deserves help.

    I think maybe that more people rehome, or try to rehome, their cats when they become homeless because of the impossibility of keeping a cat close living rough, a dog will usually come to your side when called, sit and stay but try that on a cat and he/she will likely look at you as though you’re a madman, turn tail and walk away. You can’t keep a cat on a harness 24 hours a day.

    It’s a horrible thought to be homeless, especially with cats, it must surely be priority to ensure it never happens.

  4. Micheal, a very thought provoking and sentimental topic.Honestly, if in deep financial trouble then i would try to adjust with my pets or in the worst case see that they are adopted by responsible people.Hope i never ever reach that stage in my life but as they say life throws surprises. Here is a true story that happened in Mumbai in a building few meters from my residence in Prabhadevi.A 65 year old former Editor of a woman’s magazine Sunita.Niak was discovered living on the streets of Mumbai outside a Sikh Gurudwara with her pet Pomeranian dog.The Gurudwara provided her with free food.She was once very wealthy owning 2 apartments worth over a million dollars in 2013 evaluation as i know this building, having also visited a flat in this same apartment. Who cheated her, what happened to her millions of Indian rupees? This is a definite unbelievable “Riches to Rags” story that happened close to my residence.Today, after reading her plight in the newspaper a family has adopted her and the dog into their house-hold and thankfully she is not living on the streets of Mumbai.Remember, in India unlike most “First World ” country’s we don’t have a “Welfare Social Security” system and bankruptcy means living on the streets.

    Read her story on this link :-

    • P.S:- Please note my “Comment” on this article in the “Mid-Day Newspaper”.
      A link to another newspaper in which it states that a family adopted her :-

    • Very interesting comment, Rudolph. What I like is that someone stepped in to help her and home her and, I presume, her dog. Even without welfare and benefits she has been supported by the community and that is the way it should be. I’ll read the story. It sounds interesting.

  5. Thanks Michael.

    I’ve had a day to think about this and asked myself several questions and tried my best to be completely honest with myself.

    I tried to imagine what it would be like to be desperate and what I would be willing to do to keep my pet when I had nothing else.

    I’ll list the questions I pondered but the answers belong to me. Let it suffice to say that I said “yes” more than “no”.

    Would I steal to feed my pet?
    Would I seek shelter in abandoned buildings for us?
    Would I beg in the streets?
    Would I create some sort of performance (sing, dance) in the streets to receive money?
    Would I sell my blood?
    Would I dumpster dive for food and warm apparel for us? Dumpster diving is climbing into very large trash bins.

    There were a couple more, but these will do right now.
    I learned a few things about myself.

    • Well done Dee. Nice extra thoughts. You know, when it comes to pure survival, I think we would do all of the things that you have listed. Everything is possible when you’re starving but in America or UK people don’t usually end up starving. There are organisations, welfare, benefits and helpers to pick you up.

      For someone who has always had things it must be terrifying to have nothing and no idea how you are going to survive. In the UK, my first visit would be to the local authority benefits office. As you know, benefit payments are generous in the UK.

      Taking early steps to deal with the impending crisis of homelessness must be a good idea.


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