Adopting a domestic cat is a serious step. It is something that needs to be considered very carefully over a reasonable period of time – let’s say about 6 months to a year. The consideration should include budgetary requirements. It is not cheap to look after a domestic cat properly.
There have been many research studies on the relinquishment (abandonment) of domestic cats and one of them supports the title to this article. It is a study carried out in 1996 by Patronek and his team.
The authors found that the age of the cat was a factor in whether the cat was abandoned or not. Cats under the age of six months were approximately 14 times more likely to be relinquished as cats of five-years-of-age. You can visualise the situation. A parent wants to adopt a cat for their child. It might be a spur of the moment decision. It might be a birthday present or something like that. A kitten is chosen. Kittens are cute and attractive but kittens don’t remain kittens forever and making a kitten a present is not a good idea.
The study found that there was a clear reduction in the risk of abandonment of a cat when the cat was five-years-of-age or greater.
In addition, when cat owners obtain their cat without any payment they are more likely to relinquish their cat than if they bought him. When someone buys a cat they consider the matter for longer.
The authors of the study found it curious that cats acquired as strays were at a lower risk of relinquishment than cats acquired from a private owner or cat breeder. I don’t find this curious. When a person acquires a stray cat they are in effect rescuing the cat. The act of rescuing a cat immediately creates a bond between the rescuer and rescued cat. This creates a barrier to abandonment.
Casual adoption of a domestic cat goes side-by-side with a lack of education about cat behaviour, how to maintain cats and the budgetary requirements of looking after a cat for the lifetime of the cat. Therefore, it is no surprise that if a cat owner confines his cat for part of the day to a basement or a garage he is more likely to abandonment his cat in the future. This indicates a lack on sensitivity towards domestic cats and knowledge about them.
Other human behavioural characteristics that are interesting are (a) that people who allow their cat to go outside to roam are more likely to abandon their cat whilst (b) if the entire family have a stake in the cat by providing for the cat as opposed to one adult then the probability of the family surrendering the cat is diminished.
It was found that when people had relinquished their cat they had also sought advice from a veterinarian about cat behaviour. These cat owners often find the veterinarian’s advice impractical and unhelpful and did not act on it. Seeking their veterinarian’s help did not prevent surrendering their cat. This indicates a lack of commitment to cat caretaking which again tells us that a casual approach to cat adoption is a cause for concern.
Inadequate cat caretaking is likely to lead to cat behavioural problems such as inappropriate elimination which in turn is a reason for surrendering your cat. This is another example of how lack a preparation or casual adoption of a cat can lead to relinquishment.
If the authorities want to reduce the number of unwanted cats at shelters and feral cats then one way to do this would be to ensure that people wishing to adopt a cat had considered the matter properly and had sufficient funds and adequate facilities. The problem would be in creating regulations which could achieve this and then enforcing the regulations. Some form of licensing might be a good idea. Although attempts to license cat owners have failed in Australia, as I understand it.