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Adopting Out An Older Cat

"They are not our property -- We are not their owners.
A just and compassionate world for animals begins
with our language and our actions."
In Defense of Animals, Mill Valley CA

When The Bond Breaks...

When you first adopt a cat, you do so with the best intentions.  In fact, without those good intentions, most shelters and individuals would never approve the adoption in the first place.  Your new pet cat will probably be a kitten -- almost 90% are.  That kitten, living inside and being lovingly cared for, may live 20 years or more.  That's a very long time to stay committed to a pet.  Luckily, many people bond very closely to their cats and would never consider giving them up.  Others like "having them around", but if their life situation changes -- which it most certainly will over a 20-year period -- the pet cat may find its value lessened and ultimately be relinquished.

Even those instances where the cat/human bond is very strong, life circumstances frequently intervene.  The guardian marries someone who is allergic to cats, has a baby that "torments" the cat, or gets too old or too ill to keep the cat.  Sometimes the cat develops unsavory behaviors, such as inappropriate elimination, frequently as a result of a change in the cat's living arrangements -- a new home, a new pet, a new baby.  At these points, even the most loved cats find their lives hanging in the balance.

If you are one of the many people that find yourself with a cat that, for whatever reason, you can't keep and you want to find it a "good home,"  you have a very difficult problem.  Two out of three cats that lose their homes will never find a new one!  Understanding this situation can help your pet cat be among the small group of cats who are successfully re-homed.  Here are a few tips to improve your cat's chances:

How To Re-Home Your Cat

  • Give your cat to a shelter only as a last resort.  Shelters have a very low success rate at placing adult cats.  Individuals do much better.

  • Network!  Network!  Network!  Tell every person you know that you have a loving cat that needs a new home.  This includes friends, relatives, neighbors, co-workers, church, social and business groups, email lists, your children's schoolmates.  They may not be direct candidates -- but they may know someone who is.  Feed them positive information about the cat -- and explain why you can't keep the cat yourself.  The more people you can reach the better.

  • Advertise in local newspapers for a guardian.  Post a "For Adoption" flyer in key locations -- bulletin boards in vet clinics, pet supply stores, workplaces and churches.  Include a photo -- to lure the potential adopter -- and include your phone number -- preferably multiple times in tear-off strips at the bottom.  Keep the text brief, but cover important points to build compassion.

  • Be sure the cat is spayed/neutered, has been viral tested, and has a current rabies and distemper shot.  New guardians will feel much more comfortable adopting a cat with a positive health record.

  • If your cat has any behavior problems, ask your vet for assistance in retraining the cat before trying to adopt it out.  Recognize that if the cat has behaviors that you can't tolerate, it stands little chance of keeping a new home.  If you give your cat to someone without telling them about the problem, the cat may find itself rapidly taken to a shelter -- with the behavior problem cited as the reason and the cat will be deemed "unadoptable".

Should You Charge A Fee?

Much is made out of the importance of collecting an "adoption fee" to ensure the cat goes to a good home and not to the nearest research lab.  Although there may be some truth to this caution, it should not be a concern if you are diligent in checking references and verifying the permanent address of the new guardian.

Just as we do not charge for human adoptions, we believe it is important not to charge for companion animal adoptions.  They are not our "property" -- as an adoption fee might imply.  We are merely their guardians, entrusted with their care and protection.  Because of this we discourage the charging of a fee.  It is not necessary -- the new guardian will pay for the cat for the rest of its life in providing its care.  If someone feels they need to "pay" for the cat suggest they make a contribution to a local cat rescue group instead.

How To Choose A Guardian

Here's some tips on deciding if the adoption candidate will make a good guardian:

  • Ask the candidate to visit the cat in your home, where the cat is comfortable, and watch them interact.

  • Ask about previous and current pets -- Do they still have them?  If not, why not?  Check vet references.

  • Check other references unless you know the candidate personally.

  • If the candidate rents, verify that the landlord allows cats prior to the adoption.  Review the lease or call the landlord to confirm.

  • Deliver the cat to the new home, leaving it in the car while you make sure the environment is safe and nurturing for it.  If you don't deliver the cat personally, verify the application address against a driver's license.
If you're comfortable, give the cat to the new guardian.  Make sure you bring the cat's belongings -- toys, litter box, food.  Having familiar scented items will ease the transition to the new home.  Recommend that the new guardian start the cat off in a single room to get adjusted before giving it reign over the entire dwelling.  Follow-up in a week or two to make sure everything is going smoothly.  Be prepared to take the cat back if the new home doesn't work out.

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