Guest Post: When You Surrender A Cat

A beautiful young cat with some Siamese in her lineage, light blue eyes, and unique patterning, Bitsy was a “desirable” kitten to adopt. Trapped in a colony of 30 cats, she was tiny and immediately tame. She was spayed, put up for adoption, and went to a wonderful home.

Two years later, the rescuer gets a call: “I’m so sorry. We’re moving across country and cannot take Bitsy, and I remembered you said you’d always take her back.” The problem was a prolonged road trip, too hard on a cat who would be confined to a carrier for most of six weeks. The rescuer offered to not only foster for the 6 weeks, but to PAY THE AIRFARE to reunite Bitsy with her family, but her family said, “It’s just not going to work, but it just kills us to give her up.”

In recent years, the majority of responsible shelters and rescues have adopted a policy of a return guarantee: “If anything in your life forces you to give up your cat, we’ll always take her back”. This happened because too many times owners couldn’t keep their cats, and so the cats were either simply abandoned, left at “kill” shelters, or handed over to strangers with no assurance there would be a home for that cat to land in.

The whole goal is to make sure the cats we rescue are truly rescued, not simply treated like merchandise to discard when it’s no longer new. But have we made it TOO easy? One potential adopter was overheard to say, “I’m moving in a year, but it’s okay. They’ll take them back if you can’t keep them”. NO!  This wasn’t the point of the guarantee. The return is only meant to be a safety net, not a convenience tool for the adopter.

How do shelters and rescues help foster responsible pet ownership in rescue, while ensuring a good outcome for the cats? In spite of stories like this, we’ll continue to advocate for “return guarantees” because in the end what matters is the cat. There are some times when an owner is desperate and has tried other avenues and the return is appropriate.

Photo provided by Community Cat Coalition
Photo provided by Community Cat Coalition

But a change in attitude in any society is a slow process, and it depends on all of us. Let’s all work to promote responsible pet ownership by educating our communities. Help people understand that when one adopts, one is making a lifetime commitment. This should not be a casual, spur of the moment “oh isn’t she cute, I’ll take that one” decision.

You’re now family to this cat, and family should not be abandoned. When adopting, everyone should be thinking ahead “if something happens to me, who will take care of my cat?” If you’re anticipating big changes in your life, wait! If you’re having marital problems, DON’T bring home a cute kitten to take your mind off your troubles!

Cats aren’t disposable commodities; they’re living creatures with feelings. To lose their home and their family is traumatic. Cats do grieve, and it’s heartbreaking to watch. Think ahead, and please, work to protect the life you brought home.

Bitsy will be okay. She’s sad now, confused and scared, but she’s safe. She’ll be given time to adjust, and care will be taken to find a home that suits her personality. Hopefully, this time it’ll truly be forever.

Reprinted with permission from Nancy Wahl, Community Cats Coalition. This article is original in content and not to be reproduced. Copyright April 6, 2015.

The mission of Community Cats Coalition, located in the Pacific Northwest, is to enhance the lives of community cats by promoting spay and neuter and providing training and mentorship in Trap-Neuter-Return. Education is their number one goal and to that end it publishes a variety of posts on Facebook related to community cats. A Best of Facebook can be found at the CCC website.

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