When Kitty Needs a New Home

Life happens, and sometimes a cat must be rehomed

Cats may find themselves in need of a new home for a variety of reasons: death of an owner, a change in the family’s situation, incompatibility with other pets in the household, or being caught as a stray. Just like us, most cats don’t like change, and transitions can be difficult.

Get a history. If this cat isn’t yours, find out as much as you can about the cat’s background. How old is he? What kind of lifestyle is he used to? Did he live with other animals? The more you can learn about the cat—and tell potential new owners—the easier it will be to match him with an appropriate home.

Erin Henry, VMD, of Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program at Cornell University, says there are three behavioral red flags to look for and investigate further:

◆ Aggression

◆ History of house-soiling

◆ Shy adult cats that were strays

For cats with a history of house-soiling, ask how long it has been a problem, if there has been a medical evaluation, and what efforts have been made to change the behavior.

If you’re trying to rehome a bad-attitude cat, “Determine the motive behind their unfriendliness,” advises Dr. Henry. “Are they in a home that is too loud and busy for their personality? Are they only friendly with their current owner and no one else?”

If the reason for the cat’s prickly attitude is easily determined, such as grabby toddlers or another pet in the household, look for a new home that will be a better fit. Cats that have only been in a home for a short period of time may appear to be shy because they have not yet adjusted to their surroundings. But they can blossom when given time to settle in.

Barns owned by people willing to feed and provide veterinary care for the cat can be a great option for unfriendly cats who are healthy, especially those who were originally strays. This gives the cat a safe environment with plenty of space where he or she can choose when and how to interact with people.

For cats with a bite history, it is important to know the context of each incident to determine whether or not the cat is safe to place in a new home. “If the reason for rehoming is due to extreme aggression that is not easily addressed by a change of situation, it is not advisable to rehome that pet,” says Dr. Henry.

Medical Problems. Any cat being rehomed should have a current veterinary exam on file. For cats with a known health history, give veterinary records to the new owner. For strays, an examination should be done to identify problems before adoption.

Older cats in particular may have existing conditions. “Try to have the medical condition ‘addressed’ as soon as possible,” says Dr. Henry. “Take the cat to the veterinarian before rehoming, as this allows the new owners to have up-to-date information regarding the status of the pet’s condition (recent bloodwork, etc.). Have a small supply of the chronic medications or prescription diets (if any) that the pet is on so that they have some buffer time before going to their own veterinarian.”

Other Options. If you’re unable to find a new home for the cat on your own, ask your veterinarian if he or she knows of any potential owners or consider a shelter or rescue.

“Rescue groups should be evaluated for their adoption record,” says Dr. Henry. “Do they process many adoptions, or do they act more like a ‘sanctuary’ for cats? How many cats do they have? Are their animals spayed/neutered?” It’s important to find out what happens if the cat isn’t adopted quickly and/or what the typical time is for adoption.

Options to Rehome a Cat

Ask Friends and Neighbors: Speak with potential new owners to make sure they understand the cat’s personality and needs. Find out what their household is like. Living with someone the cat already knows will make for an easier transition.

Social Media: Put a picture and information about the cat on Facebook or sites like Craigslist. Before giving the cat to a stranger, ask for references, especially from a veterinarian who has seen that person’s current or previous pets. Verify those references.

Veterinarian: Some veterinary clinics keep a few adoptable cats on site, and they may be willing to add yours. In addition, your veterinarian might know of clients who are looking for another cat.

Shelter or Rescue: Make sure that they have space for the cat, and ask if they adopt cats out or keep them long term as a cat sanctuary (this would not be a good situation for a cat that doesn’t like other cats). Rescues may have you keep the cat as a foster or place it in a foster home while they post information to their network.

Ease the transition
– Give the new cat a small, quiet room, without a lot of foot traffic, in which to acclimate.
– Make sure he has a space in which he can choose to hide.
– Consider using a Feliway diffuser in that room.
– Allow him to grow comfortable in his space before giving him access to a new location (this may be for days or weeks).
Do not force a new cat to interact, allow him to approach you (this is true for humans and other animals, too).
– If possible, send familiar items, such as favorite toys, litterbox, or blankets, with the cat, so that he will have a piece of home in his new surroundings.