If you are reading this, you, or someone you know, must be thinking of rehoming a pet. This article offers some practical suggestions on how to go about that, but you should know that unless you have a much sought after pedigreed animal, you have quite a challenge ahead of you. You need only visit the local animal shelter or cat rescue to see the sad truth behind the crisis of cat overpopulation – too many cats, and not nearly enough good homes.
The first thing to ask then is, do you really need to find this cat a different home? The answer, of course, may well be "Yes", but in some cases, for example, perceived behavioural problems, whatever issues you have may be able to be resolved. If you think this might be the case, talk things over with your veterinarian, research cat behaviour on the internet, or contact us by email or at 519.301.5735. Most of us at FFN have had cats for many years, and might just have a suggestion that could help you.
If, however, you must rehome your pet, know that you are his/her best option to make this happen. You know the animal, and can provide the most information to a prospective adopter, and you can best determine the appropriateness of a new home. Please remember that your cat has been a faithful companion to you, so he/she deserves the best new home you can find. You will sleep better knowing that your pet is happy, healthy, and safe in a wonderful new home.
1 | Advertise as widely as you can.
1.1 | Create a colourful flyer including the following:
- Name, appearance, and age of your cat
- The fact that your cat is spayed or neutered
- A description of his/her nature and appealing qualities
- Any limitations the cat might have (i.e. Needs to be an "only" cat or in an adult home)
- A good photo, preferably with the cat looking into the camera
When you've made copies of the flyer, post them as many places as you can think of: in particular, veterinary clinics, pet supply stores, and the workplaces of your family and friends. Also, don't forget community bulletin boards in supermarkets, libraries, churches, etc.
1.2 | Place a classified ad in your local paper
A word of warning here – while free advertising space is sometimes available for "free to good home" ads, you must be extra careful when screening adopters who respond. There are unscrupulous people out there who will pose as loving, caring adopters, only to sell your pet to dealers who in turn sell pets to research labs. (More on screening adopters below.)
When you write the newspaper ad, be creative. (See sample ad below.) Try to make the animal as appealing as possible, but always tell the truth. Run the ad as many times as you can afford. While asking for a fee is a good idea to discourage the unscrupulous people mentioned above (sometimes called "bunchers"), it may not be realistic unless you have a purebred cat. In this case, you can ask for a donation to your favourite animal charity instead.
Queen Sabrina is looking for a new castle where she can be the only cat. A gorgeous black 3-year-old who loves to sit on your lap and be adored, Sabrina is spayed, and has had all her shots. Call Cheryl at 519.273.8067. (Adoption fee – donation to a favourite animal charity.)
1.3 | Post your cat on an adoption website such as Petfinder.
1.4 | Use all of your community contacts, and don't underestimate word of mouth
Ask friends and family to mention the animal in their church or community newsletter, send an email about the pet through your office memo system, or share some flyers with members of clubs or associations to which you belong.
2 |Preparing Your Cat for Adoption
- If you haven't done so already, spay or neuter your cat. Not only will this help your chances of adoption, but the crisis of pet overpopulation can only be stopped if everyone acts responsibly in this area.
- Make sure your cat is up to date on vaccinations. Prepare a complete medical record that you can give to the adopter.
- Prepare a "general history" of your pet, including as much information as possible about likes and dislikes, food and treat preferences, favourite types of toys, and relationships to other animals.
3 | How to Screen Potential Adopters
When someone responds to your flyer or ad, you'll want to interview them over the phone before introducing them to the animal. By doing so, you can eliminate unsuitable potential adopters early on.
First, if the caller is a child or teenager, ask to speak to an adult. So that you don't sound like you're conducting an interview, ask the questions in a conversational style. To start, you might say, "This cat is very special to me, and I'm looking for just the right home for her. Would you mind if I asked you a few questions about yourself and your home?"
Questions to ask:
- How did you hear about (Sabrina)?
- Are you looking for a pet for yourself? (If the answer is "no" here, then tell the caller you need to speak directly to the prospective adopter to make sure the match is a good one.)
- Who will be the primary caregiver? (You are looking to see that there is a responsible adult who will make sure the animal is being taken care of if it is for a child.)
- (Sabrina) has always been an "indoor cat". Will you let her outdoors?
- Do you have other pets at home?
- If yes: Please tell me about them.
- If no: Have you had pets before, and if so, what happened to them?
- Do all members of the household know about and want a pet?
- Do you live in a house, or are you renting?
- If renting, does your landlord allow pets?
- May I call your landlord?
- Can I come visit you to see where (Sabrina) will be living?
While this may seem like a lot of questions, they will help you decide whether or not to proceed with the adoption. When you get to the last question about visiting their home, if the caller is unwilling to let you do so, you should cross them off your list. If they are willing, make the visit! Seeing the other pets, if any, in the household will tell you a lot about the level of care your pet will receive.
If all seems well here, the next step is to introduce cat and adopter. This can be done at your home or theirs, or on neutral ground, like a vet's office. Wherever the meeting takes place, you will want to observe closely how they relate to the pet and how it relates to them. Hopefully, all will be well, but if there are any doubts, you can either talk to them about your doubts, or decide not to adopt to them. (If this is the case, you can always mention that there are other people interested in seeing the cat and that you will get back to them.)
When you do decide on the right adopter, collect your adoption fee or donation, and remember to hand over any medical and vaccination records, as well as any special food, bowls, toys, etc.
Once you have made a match, stay in touch. Call regularly to see how things are going, particularly at the beginning. Be careful not to overdo it though. There is a time to let go and let the adopters form their own bond with the cat.
What If I Can't Find My Cat a Good Home?
The rehoming process does require time, persistence, and a positive attitude. If however, you have done everything possible and still have not found a good home, what are your options?
At this point you will be looking at placing your cat in an animal shelter, or cat rescue organization. Check around to find what possibilities are open in your area, and then start phoning. Most likely you will find many of these organizations full and unable to take any more cats, again due to irresponsible ownership causing cat overpopulation. When you do find an opening, it is important to visit the shelter or rescue and take a tour of the facility before agreeing to hand over your animal. In addition, make sure you understand their policies, and know that no shelter or rescue will be able to give you a guarantee. They will do their very best to find your pet a new home, but such overcrowded environments can be very stressful for any animal, and can cause illness or behavioural problems that will lessen his/her chance of adoption.
One last caution: whatever you do, never just turn your cat loose either in a residential area or in the country, assuming it can take care of itself, someone will take it in, or it will find a barn with 'plenty of mice'. Domestic animals cannot fend for themselves in a strange environment, and abandoning your pet in this way will ensure it has a short and miserable life.
One Final Word
By now, you are probably feeling somewhat overwhelmed. But take heart. Creativity, persistence, and a positive attitude will go a long way to getting you to your goal. This will surely be a difficult and stressful time for you, but please be patient and give our suggestions time to work. You'll be glad you did.