Reducing euthanasia by reducing the number of owner-relinquished cats: Resources to keep cats in their homes

Last week, in, "Reducing euthanasia by reducing the number of owner-relinquished cats: An introduction to keeping cats in their homes," we talked about how keeping cats in their homes would decrease the rate of euthanasia in shelters. To summarize, we could virtually eliminate euthanasia for space concerns in our shelters if we help owners with the resources they need to keep their cats!

1) Roughly one million cats now surrendered by their owners to shelters each year would stay out of shelters because their owners would choose not to rehome them.
2) Another one million cats would be adopted from rescues and shelters by people who otherwise would've accepted the other one million privately rehomed cats each year now from owners who'd no longer feel the need to rehome them.

Out of those two million cats described above, preventing rehoming in even “just” HALF of those cases would mean one million cats out of shelters that end up or stay there now. Since, according to the ASPCA, 860,000 cats are euthanized at shelters each year now, that one million cats saved from ending up or staying at the shelter now would mean no cats would be euthanized solely due to space concerns at shelters.  

I'll say this clearly: shelters are not the problem. They find themselves with more animals than they possess resources to care for them. If you take this post as an indictment of shelters, you're wrong. Shelters provide valuable services to homeless animals in their communities. Instead of abandoning a cat outside (to avoid a shelter), please take it to a shelter - preferably a no-kill shelter. Cats cannot fend for themselves outside - especially after being house-pets.

There is one elephant in the room that I've chosen not to address here: Would the people who keep their cats instead of rehoming them still rehome them at some point for another issue or the same one? At times, in working with people who feel the need to relinquish their cats, one gets the feeling some "owners" are looking for an excuse for not making an effort to keep their cats or seeing cats as inconveniences. The fact that you're reading about how to keep your cat is admirable and respectable - and I thank you for making an effort. You are NOT the kind of "owner" I refer to by saying some "owners" make excuses or see cats as inconveniences. In the declaw debate, I often hear a person say, "Well, if I can't declaw, I won't get a cat." It would make sense that once we address one inconvenience, another inconvenience popping up later might produce the same result as if we rehomed the cat the first time. 

For that person who sees furniture as worth more than a cat, would a subsequent move or behavioral issue from that cat be enough for the person to choose to rehome anyway? What kind of life do those cats remaining in a home have with people who give up their cats at the slightest inconvenience? I don’t have the answers - but as long as cats are being killed in shelters because our shelters don’t have enough room for all the cats brought there - keeping a cat for even a few more months than one would otherwise saves at least one or two other lives. Do I deny that some people don't even WANT help to keep their cats? No. Do I deny that considering rehoming one's cat at one point makes it more likely they will contemplate that again in the future? No. But I know that what you get out of your relationship with your cat is directly related to what you put it in. People accept this about human friendships and marriages - why should it be any different with our cats? You can be sure that after putting in the work to understand your cats and making an effort to keep them, the relationship you have with your cat will not only be meaningful to you - but to your cat(s) as well. 

Why cat owners rehome their cats

Now that we understand the numbers - let’s look at why cat owners rehome their cats and what we can do to help minimize the cases where owners feel the need to rehome their cats. After hours of research and trying to group a myriad of reasons for rehoming cats into larger, over-arching categories, I like how Weiss et al. combined all primary reasons for rehoming into five different groups. The five categories containing all the principal reasons given for rehoming pets in Weiss et al.’s study, in decreasing order of prevalence for cats as determined in the study: 1) pet-associated issues, 2) family-associated issues, 3) housing-associated issues, 4) cost-associated issues and 5) other issues. Two earlier studies from New et al. and Salman et al. agree with Weiss et al.’s findings: pet-related issues (pet-specific characteristics, pet-specific behavior and pet-specific health issues) represent the largest share of reasons given for surrendering one’s cat to a shelter (they break down the reasons differently than Weiss et al. - but one can quickly add up the figures in the charts of these studies relative to cats, following Weiss et al.’s classification system. New et al. and Salman et al.’s findings are identical to Weiss et al.’s in the order of issues leading to surrender - from highest to lowest: pet, family, housing, cost, etc.). 

Along with summarizing issues encompassed within each over-reaching category, I’ve put together a summary of things to consider before starting one’s research and a list of resources to help people keep their cats. A few suggestions, helpful for all reasons a person might rehome a cat, should be the first things to consider when you find yourself wondering if you must relinquish your cat:
1) Contact your veterinarian for help/resources specific to you and your cat.
2) Contact local rescues/shelters to see if they have intervention or surrender prevention programs to help people keep their cats.
3) Learn about “underutilized aspects of pet retention” in Keeping Pets in Homes - Online course via Maddie's Fund.

As much as I’d love to include every resource out there addressing how to keep cats in their homes, that’s nearly impossible. If you take nothing else from the resources post, I hope you at least recognize that there ARE resources out there to help you keep your cat - the resources in this post are only a tiny sample of what you can find with enough time and patience. If none of the resources I share help, there is an innumerable number of other resources out there with a simple search. One of the most challenging aspects of writing this post was choosing just a handful of resources from the multitudes available online.

We don't endorse and we didn't intensely scrutinize resources listed. While we vetted resources in a cursory manner, we didn't look into research to support assertions or information. Additionally, we're not monitoring any of these resources for future updates or content. At the time of writing this post, these resources appeared responsible and useful. However, we are not vets and we don't have any special veterinary or behavioral training. 

Pet-associated issues:

Examples: Behavioral issues (including aggression, litter box issues, destructiveness), breed requirements and health issues.

Behavioral issues

Please keep in mind that when your cat shows changes in behavior and problematic behavior, those issues can have an underlying medical issue - especially if your cat is in pain. Cats effectively hide their pain, and problem behaviors can be one of the few clues we humans get that a cat is in pain. Before depending on these resources to address behavioral issues, please contact your veterinarian to assess your cat’s health to rule out any underlying medical problem. For more on what changes in cat behavior warrant concern:  Behavior Changes to Watch out for in Cats.

For a detailed analysis of how cat behavior problems might be indicative of cat illness

Stress or a change in routine MAY also cause behavioral issues - mainly with inappropriate elimination or aggression - that might otherwise signal a medical issue in cats.

To read more about stress in cats and the link between stress and behavioral issues: 

Additionally, if your cat is not spayed or neutered and displays behavioral problems, you might choose to spay or neuter your cat to see if that reduces undesirable behaviors. While neutering isn't the cure-all for all behavioral issues, there are multiple benefits of neutering/spaying evidenced in cat health and cat behavior.

To read more about the benefits of spaying and neutering cats:

Patronek et al. found that almost a third of owners surrendering cats attributed the reasons for these surrenders to the consequences of the cats not being spayed or neutered. 

To find a low-cost spay/neuter clinic: 

Next, in considering cats exhibiting behavioral issues, many people interpret "normal" cat behavior as unwanted or problematic. Scratching is an excellent example of "normal" cat behavior misunderstood by their owners. Instead of construing the scratching as destructive or vindictive, please understand cats' scratching is instinctual. To understand feline instincts better and understand what qualifies as "normal" cat behavior, please check out our article on instincts here: Feline instinctsPatronek et al. found that first-time cat owners, those with unrealistic expectations of the nature of cats as pets and those who hadn't read a book or other material relating to typical cat behavior, were at increased risk of relinquishing their cats. If you have questions about why your cat acts a certain way, please read Why Does My Cat…?

Also, many of the answers to cats' misbehavior are in relieving our cats' boredom. When cats get bored and are under-stimulated, they make their own fun and devise their own outlets to meet their needs. Likewise, we can minimize undesirable behavior (like scratching furniture, attacking feet and climbing curtains or furniture) by providing adequate, acceptable-to-us outlets for our cats to do those things (respectively: scratching posts, interactive playtime and cat trees). At least one study has shown that cats whose humans play with them for five minutes or more at a time exhibit six common behavioral issues less than cats whose humans play with them for a minute at a time (Strickler & Shullab). For more ideas on HOW to play with your cat to prevent boredom: Can playing with your cat prevent behavior problems?

The critical piece of environmental enrichment for our cats involves us and our presence in our cats' lives. We discuss feline boredom and the importance of an enriched environment for our cats in: 

We talked in the last post about the physical and psychological benefits to humans in keeping their catsWhat about the advantages for cats in remaining in their homes - beyond not entering a shelter environment and possibly being euthanized before finding a forever home? Cats have a reputation for being aloof and not caring if we're around. We show that to be a myth in Do cats need human interaction or are they completely fine on their own? For more information on how we perceive dogs and cats, the flaws in both perceptions and the extent of "domestication" found in a recent mapping of the cat genome (Montague et al.): There’s science behind your inexplicably close relationship with your catAdditionally, studies show cats feel an attachment to humans, similar to how children experience attachment with their parents [(Vitale et al.) (Edwards et al.) (Finka et al.)].

Please keep in mind that you should evaluate your cat's behavior in the context of your relationship; things might not be as you perceive them at first glance. Bear Cat taught me everything I know about feline boredom and the capability of cats to experience deep attachment with their humans. You might think those are two completely different topics - but I believe that with Bear, they BOTH contributed to his ... creative ways of getting my attention. Until Bear turned twelve years old, he was ALWAYS up to something - he was playing with something he shouldn't be, bugging me for attention or destroying something. Within days of adopting him, I learned in a trial-by-fire of how to [reasonably] cat-proof a home! Even so, he always found vulnerabilities in my cat-proofing, and he always found new ways to make his own fun. There were times I was sure Bear was trying to get back at me or take control - but now I realize his behavior demonstrated how deeply and profoundly he felt attached to me. He wanted my attention to connect with me - not get back at me!

Day-to-day, I don't see all the alterations I've made around my house anymore to prevent Bear from getting into trouble - but they include: taping all electrical cords to the wall or the floor (he chewed them), keeping tables and counters clear of anything he could "fight," securing the cords to the blinds to the wall, using packing tape to cover up the spots of carpet he's scratched up (to prevent him from making them worse AND to make it easier to vacuum since I don't have to worry about the vacuum pulling up the carpet), keeping our loveseat covered so he couldn't tear it up anymore, making sure all my stuffed animals are out of his reach to prevent "fights," closing the lid to the toilet consistently, moving things off the shelf behind the toilet so he doesn't clear those shelves into the toilet, making it impossible for Bear to climb my clothes in the closet, keeping everything breakable in my home on top of a seven-foot-tall entertainment center ... to name a few. To read more about some of Bear's exploits: Bears Behaving Badly (or at least regrettably)Cats Against Sleeping Humans and Bear, While Momma Sleeps

At times, his antics made me cry - at other times - they made me laugh.  I set aside an hour to play with him every day, which helped decrease many of his less-than-desirable behaviors. Even so, I constantly scrambled to figure out how to deter his newest scheme: talk about exhausting! But now, I miss that aspect of his personality. Bear was a force of nature - larger-than-life - and I miss the immense presence he demanded in my life. Since we adopted Ellie Mae, instead of getting attention and working out his boredom by misbehaving solo, he's aggressive with his sister. His motivation for what he does is the same - even if the behavior expressed isn't the same.

With access to the internet, one finds plenty of online resources such as cat behavior experts, advice for specific behavioral issues, local shelters and rescues that might have programs to help address behavioral problems and books about cat behavior. If none of the resources I share help, there is an innumerable number of other resources out there with a simple search.

Except where otherwise noted, the books and general online resources cover at least a bit about the majority of common behavioral issues and how to solve them - they are excellent sources of information on a broad range of pet-specific problems. However, I've noted where a book is primarily about one issue and included resources specific to each behavioral issue. If in doubt of which book(s) to choose, you may use Amazon's "Look inside" feature to look at the book index and see the extent of information about the issue you're looking to remedy.  

Find a cat behavior expert:

General online resources to research a wide range of behavioral issues:

Specific problem behavior online resources:

Bear Cat's well known for his destructive scratching. He destroyed the loveseat I owned when I adopted him within days of being inside. Since then, he's pulled up carpet, scratched other furniture and used his claws for more unwanted behavior than good. Except for the first year we shared a life, Bear's owned a cat tree with many scratching posts; I figured that if he didn't use them, scratchers wouldn't help the problem. I was wrong! We won a cardboard scratcher in a contest, and it quickly became his scratching surface of choice. Ellie Mae uses just about any orientation or material for scratching (and she doesn't scratch outside of using her scratchers) - but Bear definitely prefers cardboard and a tilted (not upright, not horizontal) surface for scratching. We got the cardboard scratcher when Even at thirteen years old, he took to the cardboard scratcher right away - with no training - minimizing his scratching to almost nothing elsewhere. My advice for providing scratchers for your cat:
1) Try different orientations, scratching material, locations and positions for scratchers: your cat is likely to use the scratching post once you discover the perfect fit for him.
2) It is NEVER too late! After thirteen years of destroying carpet and furniture, Bear took to the new scratcher - with his preferred qualities - immediately. Even better (and more shocking to me) is that he rarely scratches furniture or carpet now that we found a scratcher that meets his needs. Bear went from being the scratch king of unwanted places in our house - to only using the scratcher within twenty-four hours! Old cats CAN learn new tricks!

You might wonder why declawing isn't mentioned here as a solution to scratching. That's intentional, and I will never believe declawing a cat is justified - even as a last resort. On the surface, declawing sounds like the best and most immediate resolution of scratching behavior. The problem with declawing is that it potentially (and likely) causes far more complex issues for you and your cat. Some of these problems include increased biting behavior, inappropriate elimination, long-term pain and/or injury (Martell-Moran et al.). Scratching is such an easy behavior to redirect - with time and patience. No, it won't change overnight - but you CAN train your cat to use a scratcher given the resources above. Declawing isn't legal in Europe and the UK – why is it so difficult to provide equal protection of cats in the United States?

When I was in middle school, my family adopted a cat named Kitty. We didn't have the internet at the time to do research - so when our veterinarian suggested we have Kitty declawed along with being spayed - my parents agreed. The next day, we brought her home - and set her on the ground in my bedroom, where we planned to give her peace to recover. The second her paws hit the ground, her paws broke open, and she bled everywhere. It was the most horrific experience of my entire life; Kitty's blood covered my clothes, my bedroom walls and the carpet. When we called the veterinarian, she said there was nothing she could do. But that was just the tip of the iceberg in terms of consequences. After being declawed, Kitty no longer wanted to play. Later in life, she developed horrible arthritis because removing her claws caused her to walk unnaturally for cats. She also developed a habit of biting that caused far more damage than her claws ever could. We shared parts of Kitty's story in My paws have claws.

If you remain unconvinced of the dangers of declawing, please read just a few of these articles to understand the horrible consequences of declawing a cat:

Other possible solutions to multiple behavior issues:

As reflected in the sources above, the relationship between pheromones and feline behavior is controversial. Several commercial pheromone products claim clinical evidence of their effectiveness; I found a few studies support their effectiveness for urine marking (Ogata et al.) and multi-cat household aggression (DePorter et al.). While there's a lot of anecdotal evidence for their efficacy, Frank et al. reviewed the available scientific literature. Frank et al. found no consistent empirical evidence for the effectiveness of pheromone products. A more recent review of the literature in the Veterinary Practice News found mixed results. If pheromones work for your cats' behavior issues - great! If not, try something else.

Books about understanding cats, cat behavior and preventing feline boredom:

When looking to keep your cat by using the resources in this post, please don't approach this as "fixing" your cat. Your cat is most certainly NOT broken! Sometimes we don't realize the effect we have on our cats - how intimately they sense our moods and struggles - how profoundly a change to their environment or routine affects them. Since our cats can't tell us what's bothering them, problem behaviors are often the way we end up "hearing" their distress signals. Cats don’t intend to be mean or vindictive or get back at you. They are struggling with not feeling safe, stress or frustration. Think of this process as finding a way to live together that is mutually pleasant and meaningful. 


Why is the list of books and other resources so long? Why didn't I just include one or two GREAT resources? First, I see the value in different perspectives and tones - what resonates with you might vary from what resonates with others. Connecting with the voice of the author is just as important as the advice. Each author/resource has a unique way of connecting with readers - and I hope that at least one of them speaks to you and explains situations and solutions in a way that makes sense and counts as a lightbulb moment in the fight to keep your cat. If one book or resource doesn't work - try another. Since pet-specific reasons top the other reasons for relinquishment [(Weiss et al.) (New et al.) (Salman et al.)] - ESPECIALLY behavioral pet-specific issues, I focused on these more than the other reasons. Keep in mind, though, that cats are sensitive to their environments and the people around them. Cats sense our emotions and moods [(Rieger et al.) (Turner et al.) (Merola et al.) (Galvan et al.) (Your own anxiety could be making your cat stressed out.) (Your cat can pick up on how you are feeling.).)] - and even our personalities (Finka et al.)! Cats will respond to your feelings of hopelessness, defeatism or doubt about their behavioral issues with fear, thus exacerbating the problems we're looking to solve.

For more on cats' nature, why cats struggle and how intricately they're attached to us:

You might ask, with all these resources to deal with your cat's behavior issues, what's the RIGHT solution? In all honesty, the "right" answer is the one that works for you and your cat! That said, punishment and yelling aren't solutions. As we've shared, many stressed and scared cats express that fear and stress behaviorally. If your cat fears you, you've lost the battle before you even began. Back when I adopted Bear, he and Kitty fought. Initially, I read about using a water squirter to discourage counter cruising and inappropriate scratching - but I soon learned that was a bad idea - and the majority of behavioral experts now will tell you NOT to squirt water at your cat. HOWEVER, during the worst of the fights between Bear and Kitty, I'd squirt water in between them ONCE - just enough to distract Bear so I could further distract him from Kitty. To this day, distraction still works when he's aggressive with Ellie. I don't use water anymore - sometimes running my finger along the wall or rolling around in bed is enough that he'll walk away from biting Ellie when they are in the other room. I don't reinforce his behavior by calling his name or reacting to his behavior itself. Just a split second of distraction is often enough for him to walk away.

Lastly, I found an article online that is powerful in its message from a person involved with a small rescue inundated with calls from people looking to surrender their cats. I tried to keep judgment out of this article - but as Dumped Cats Overwhelm shares, I believe that most - if not all - cats can stay in their homes with a little bit of knowledge and effort from us humans regarding behavioral issues. There is hope - and there is help out there - please utilize the resources in this post (all free!!) if you are frustrated with your cat's behavioral issues. The love we receive from our cats is well worth the effort.

Breed requirements

Common reasons for relinquishing breed cats include the cat growing larger than expected, a cat with more energy than one can manage or the presence of another characteristic of the breed that doesn't fit in with one’s desired lifestyle. For any of these concerns - please contact your breeder before relinquishing your cat to a shelter. Many breeders include a clause in their contracts requiring you to notify the breeder first before surrendering the cat to a shelter. While you might not receive a full refund, a breeder will often take the cat back to find the cat a new home. If your breeder doesn’t take your cat back, you might look into a specific rescue for the breed of your cat (ex. Siamese Rescue and Northeast Abyssinian Rescue). These breed-specific organizations are knowledgeable about the breed they serve, the breed’s unique requirements and possess a network of potential adopters who love that particular breed. In the case of a cat with more energy than one can manage, please review the information in this post on feline boredom and environmental enrichment.

Pet-specific health issues

To afford veterinary care, one might look into:
  • Local veterinary schools that provide low-cost clinics or other resources.
  • Purchasing pet health insurance.
  • Working out an arrangement with one’s veterinarian for a payment plan or Care Credit. 
  • Using online fundraising platforms.

If you acquired your cat from a reputable breeder, your contract might include provisions for assistance with veterinary care – in particular, if your agreement contains health guarantees.

Affording veterinary care for pet-specific conditions (keep in mind, if you want to donate, you can donate via most of these platforms as well):

Online fundraising platforms for affording pet-specific conditions (if you want to donate, search these platforms to choose pets to help pay medical costs):


Family-associated issues:

Examples: Personal health issues, pet allergies, relationship or household composition changes, decreased time for pet care.

Personal health issues, domestic violence or military deployment

When anorexia severely threatened my life, I made the tough choice to leave Bear and go to treatment temporarily. Without family willing to step in and care for Bear while I was gone, I went to every boarding facility within thirty miles of where I live. At each place: I took a tour, asked about their routines and tried to understand what Bear's life would be like there. Lastly, I inquired if there might be a discount for a two or more month stay for Bear. During my visits, I could tell A LOT about these places by the people who talked to me. Thankfully, I found a wonderful place, Country Acres, willing to work with me on the financial aspect to care for Bear while I was away at treatment. I was confident he was well taken care of - not just stuck in a small box all by himself - and that gave me tremendous peace of mind while I was working on myself.

If you find yourself in need of a longer-term stay for your cat, I suggest you:
  • Visit facilities in your area.
  • Compose a list of questions about what's most important to you knowing your cat (individual quirks or needs, how closely they can follow your routine at home, playing, etc).
  • Ask about possible discounts or extras with a stay of more than a month or two.

At Country Acres, a playroom contained everything a cat loves at home. Since Bear was a longer-term visitor, they waived the fee for each play session; he spent at least part of every day in the playroom! He fell in love with their cat tree. I didn't realize just how spoiled we were until I went on a weekend trip a year later and left Bear overnight at another boarding facility closer to my house. When I picked him up the next day, he was terrified, nervous and not himself. NEVER AGAIN - not for ANY length of time. Of course, no one will love your cat as you do - but given my experience, I know there are people out there who care and will give your cat the best experience possible. For us, when I left for treatment, I included a t-shirt with my smell and one of Bear's toys for him at the boarding facility. When I picked him up and saw those items, it was evident how well-loved they were while I was gone! Even better, the staff couldn't stop talking about how wonderful Bear was - they felt attached to him, and that meant the world to me. Moral of the story: if you are struggling with your health and need to be away from your cat for a few months, you don't need to give him up! You can find an excellent place for him to stay – where they care for him almost as much as you do. Recovering from any illness is hard - and just getting out of the hospital or treatment has its own unique challenges. It meant the world to me to have Bear in my life while I struggled with living in the real world again - and finding a way to keep myself healthy when no one was looking. Bear somehow knew when I was doing something contrary to my treatment plan – and he made sure I knew he knew – with only a look!

As I toured local boarding facilities, I found many were boarding cats and dogs from people in the military and currently deployed! Given that so many of the people who serve their country come home with PTSD or other mental and physical issues, having one's cat there when one returns can be the difference between life and death. I shared how Bear helped me cope with PTSD, anxiety, depression, cutting, and anorexia in Imperfectly perfect ... together: The power of one cat's love. Without Bear, I would not still be alive. While I was never in the military, I can't help but think the kind of therapy Bear provided me would also help service members with PTSD. How can we help them keep their cats while they are serving their country?

So far, the evidence I've found of cats helping with PTSD is primarily anecdotal (like my story):

Research on how pets in general help with PTSD:

Why don’t researchers look into how cats specifically help with PTSD? I have a few theories: 1) our cats' reputations for being aloof and uncaring means that any study directly refuting that misconception of cats would be disparaged and dismissed, 2) service dogs are recognized under the ADA - not cats. People don’t expect cats to help with PTSD, and therefore, studies do not include them, 3) no organizations see enough value in doing this research to fund it.

I know - WITHOUT A DOUBT - that Bear Cat helped me with my PTSD. Not only that, but he helped with my stubbornly resistant and complex PTSD that no therapy and no treatment could resolve (even after fifteen years of all varieties of both!). After so long, with so little progress in recovery, I'd all but given up on recovery. He didn't mean to help me! I didn't even know what I needed! But Bear was there – during the less challenging and most challenging times, beautiful and ugly, up and down - he was there with unconditional love and a trick or two up his sleeve (that same sleeve on which he wears his heart). Why is this relevant? Because if you have health issues - you likely need your cat(s) more than most - and surrendering that unconditional love and acceptance is probably a huge mistake if you can find a way to avoid doing so.

Whether you have a health issue, serve in the military or find yourself in a crisis (like a natural disaster), you might consider temporary and/or emergency pet boarding or foster programs.

Temporary and/or emergency pet boarding or foster programs:

If there are no temporary and/or emergency pet boarding or foster programs near you, here are some more options for short-term housing for your pet:

While the above ideas regarding resources for medical issues or military deployment apply to circumstances of domestic violence, domestic violence should be addressed separately from military deployment, medical issues and other crisis circumstances because of the unique factors involved. Safe Place for Pets recognizes that nearly half of victims of domestic violence delay leaving their abusers from fear of harm to their pets that they cannot take with them. Other sources quote this figure of victims delaying their exits out of concern for their pets as "low" as 25-40% (National Link OrganizationLive Science and the ASPCAor as high as 65% (National Domestic Violence Hotline). Because most domestic violence shelters don't take pets, at least half of domestic violence victims in shelters had no choice but to leave their pets with the abuser (Safe Place for Pets)

Even worse, 71% of domestic violence victims - who also owned pets - entering shelters described threats to a pet, injuries to a pet or pet death at the hands of their abusers. Another study reported that their domestic violence victim partners witnessed 87% of these abuser-inflicted episodes of animal abuse with the intent to get revenge against or control those partners (National Coalition Against Domestic Violence). A study also reported that in 88% of pet-owning households with substantiated child abuse and neglect, animal abuse and physical child abuse coincided (American Humane). For domestic violence victims, keeping their pets might provide substantial emotional support and help them cope with the violence.

This issue is close to my heart because I've seen the connection between animal abuse and domestic violence in my own life. My PTSD, mentioned above, resulted from domestic violence. And again, having my cats with me was the difference between giving up on life and fighting to live another day. I know that had I not gotten out when I did, and things got worse, I wouldn't have left my cats with my abuser. Luckily, I had the resources to get out, and the danger to my cats probably wasn't yet elevated to abuse. I find the connection between animal abuse and child abuse especially telling with insight into the mindset of the abuser. Pets and children both depend on us for their needs. At times, those needs might be inconvenient - and provoke anger to those who resent those needs.

Resources for leaving domestic abuse and protecting pets:

Cat allergies

Do you experience sneezing, wheezing, a rash or red skin, runny or stuffy nose or red eyes that itch around cats? These symptoms indicate your immune system is reacting to an otherwise harmless allergen. One statistic claims 2% of people are allergic to cats (PetFinder) - while another source cites 10% of people are allergic to pets, with allergies to cat double that of dogs (mathematically, that would mean roughly 6% of people are allergic to cats) (Web MD). More recent studies put the number of people - worldwide - allergic to cats between 10 and 20% [(Satyaraj et al.) (Chan et al.)].

When dealing with allergies to cats, it's helpful first to understand WHAT you have an allergy to; most people assume allergies to cats are due to fur or hair. For this reason, many believe Sphynx cats, without fur, are "hypo-allergenic." This assumption about Sphynx cats is not strictly true because people with cat allergies are usually allergic to a protein (Fel d 1) found in cat saliva and secreted from the cat's sebaceous glands onto the skin and fur. Fel d 1 remains attached to dead skin shedded by a cat (known as dander). 

Cats produce varying amounts of Fel d 1: some cats produce far less than others - even within the same breed. Female cats tend to make less Fel d 1 than intact males (Jalil-Colome et al.) - though neutered males produce roughly similar amounts of Fel d 1 as intact and spayed females [(Wikipedia) (Jalil-Colome, et al.)]. Like the Siberian breed, some breeds may make less Fel d 1 (Sartore et al.). One study showed 50% of Siberians had lower levels of Fel d 1 than other cats (Siberian Research). Practically, one Siberian breeder said only 1/15 of his Siberian kittens are “extremely low” in the production of Fel d 1 (Science News). Recent research (Science News) addresses:

  • Gene therapy for cats to minimize levels of Fel d 1. 
  • Food formulated for cats to reduce the production of Fel d 1. 
  • Antibody shots for humans allergic to Fel d 1. 
  • A vaccine to activate a cat's immune system to create antibodies that bind with Fel d 1. 


So you're allergic to cats, what can you do? These resources give you some great ideas on how to live with a cat even when you are allergic (including treatments):

Relationship or household composition changes

Using Weiss et al.'s study to determine the details of these reasons, two stick out:

1) New babies in the household.

2) New household members that either don't like the pet or can't get along with the pet.

New babies present a couple of challenges. First, children must learn how to treat their pets gently. Second, we must give our cats the space to get used to a new family member that requires attention.

These are some great resources to help you help your cat adjust to a new baby:

Housing-associated issues:
Examples: Pets not allowed in housing, not enough space for pets, moving.

Finding pet-friendly housing 

Many platforms for searching the house and apartment rentals available in your area have a filter for "pet-friendly," "pets allowed" or similar in the advanced search feature.

On some housing search platforms, you may start at a pet-friendly page:

These platforms have a filter or advanced search feature where you can choose pet-friendly qualifications:

Renting at apartment complexes that allow pets tends to be super-expensive when one must pay a nonrefundable deposit (likely $200 or more), pet rent (potentially $20 a month or more per pet) and a refundable deposit. Private rentals are often more flexible. As dangerous as Craigslist and other similar sites can be - they might be the best bet to find a private rental. I found the unit where Bear and I have lived for the last thirteen years on Craiglist. After a couple of years of seeing the tenants Bear and I are, our landlady stopped charging pet rent.

One of our blogging friends, Susan Willettsaid, "One of the pieces of advice I’ve given people whose landlords don’t want their dog or cat is to offer to pay an additional security deposit. I have seen that work multiple times." Several organizations which advocate for people to keep their pets suggest having a "pet resume" for your cats when you visit possible rentals. A "pet resume" includes a  description of your cat, references from your veterinarian, past landlords or friends, the status of vaccinations and spay/neuter for your cat and details of your cat's demeanor, size and how active your cat is. 

For more on pet resumes, laws relating to pets and housing and finding pet-friendly accommodations: 

If you are facing eviction and have pets:

If a doctor would agree your cat is an emotional support animal, you might be afforded special rights in non-pet-friendly housing. To read more: Everything You Need to Know About Emotional Support AnimalsEmotional support animal and FAQs on Emotional Support Animals.


Without a doubt, the best advice when moving with a cat is to plan ahead! I've moved several times with cats - across town AND cross-country. One can't overestimate the importance of a cat's routine and familiar smells. The best you can do to maintain your cat's regular schedule (even if you start to adjust this in the months ahead of a move) will make a substantial difference in how your cat reacts to your relocation. When I moved, it was always by car. When I stopped for a break, I made sure to give my cats a break from the carrier (inside the car), food, water, some attention and a bathroom break in a mini-litter box. I was lucky to have help - so I didn't have to leave the cats alone in the car to take a bathroom break. I made sure to put a T-shirt with my smell - and the scent of our former home - in my cats' carriers. In both cases, once we got to our new homes, the cats preferred to come back to the carrier with familiar smells after a few minutes of investigating the new living arrangements. Once in your new home, smaller spaces (like one room) might help cats feel more secure. In my case, my cats found my presence comforting, so I didn't close them in a room unless I'd be in there with them.

Moving was difficult on Kitty - a diabetic – on insulin. Each time I moved with her, she stopped eating for a day in our new home and ended up hypoglycemic. If I moved with a diabetic cat now, I would be sure to test his blood sugar before dosing insulin. With Kitty, I didn't test her blood glucose at home - and I didn't stop to think about how her reduced intake might affect her blood sugar (in combination with the dose of insulin she got). Other tricks I've used in a new home:

  • Putting down the same litter box from the old home down in the new (with the same clean litter from the other home).
  • Spreading my cats' favorite items around - so they could find a source of familiar smells throughout the house. This strategy works well with cat beds that smell like your old home.
  • Taking breaks regularly from unpacking and house set-up tasks to interact and play with my cats. When playing, my cats ALMOST forgot they were in an unfamiliar space!
  • "Cat-proof" your new home!

I highly recommend Moving With Cats by Bonnie Elizabeth (with her cats, Gemini, Ichiro, and Chey)Not only is the e-book easily affordable - but the advice is excellent. I wish I had this resource for my moves! In her book, Bonnie Elizabeth mentions that ladies at her local shelter THANKED HER for not surrendering her cats and taking them along on her big move. I said I wouldn't be judgmental - but not keeping my cats never even crossed my mind as I prepared for my moves! The story nicely fits in with the intent of this post: PLEASE use the resources in this post to help you keep your cat - no matter the issue. Yes, some moving-related issues can be a bit of work - but the infinite rewards received from maintaining the relationship with your cat and the love and support you get from your cat makes your effort worth the trouble!

For more tips on moving with cats:

Cost/resource-associated issues:
Examples: Can’t afford cost of pet or homelessness.

Unfortunately, many homeless shelters don’t accept pets: people who need assistance have to choose between shelter and keeping their cat. Rhoades et al. conducted a study on homeless youth that shows the extent of the problem of the homeless and their pets. The study reports that roughly one-quarter of homeless people have pets (for children, the figure is 23%). For the 23% of homeless youth with pets, the study found fewer experiences of loneliness and depression, yet almost half of those youth with pets reported having those pets made it harder for them to stay at a homeless shelter (Rhoades et al.).

Information and resources to help you keep your pet while homeless:

More and more food pantries recognize the value of including pet food and supplies in their food pantries. Additionally, some cities have dedicated pet food pantries to collect donations for people unable to afford to feed their pets. You might run a Google search for “[the metropolitan area where you live] pet food pantry.” If you are willing and able to donate to pet food pantries, please do! For people needing help feeding their cats, you might also contact local rescues or shelters to see if they are aware of any programs to help you feed your pets or if they have those programs themselves.  If you aren’t sure what shelters or rescue organizations are close to where you live, you may visit The Shelter Pet Project and search for shelters near you. The HSUS provided emergency grants to many organizations that are providing these services in their communities. To help you find a local pet food pantry, please check out the list by state (it’s not complete AT ALL - just a sampling) - there’s a good chance your local rescue or shelter has a program, but if not, these might help. At the time of publication, these links are correct, and the programs are still running per their websites. If you don’t need a pet food bank, we hope you’ll find one close to where you live to donate to; what a great way to help people keep their cats!

Lists of pet food pantries:

Pet food pantries/banks by state (these are only a sampling to show you the extent of support available):

Other resources for affording your pet:

Final words

Hopefully, the resources in this post will give you a plethora of strategies and resources to try before you resort to taking your cat to a shelter. Again, these links and resources are just a tiny piece of what’s at our fingertips online! Not only did I learn a lot by checking links and looking at resources - but several things surprised me. I love how shelters have created surrender prevention programs - in conjunction with resources to help people keep their cats and cat behavior helplines. I love how much people are starting to realize just how much our pets mean to our lives and physical and mental health; this is especially obvious to me in the resources available for the homeless and victims of domestic violence. 

Our pets need us - but we need them too - especially in the context of those of us who are struggling with the worst of human experiences. I love that I found at least one pet food bank per state and that I found so many resources to find pet-friendly housing. We know it won’t always work out to keep your cat - but there are almost endless solutions to try for those committed to keeping their cats. Now is better than any time in history in terms of resources out there to help everyone to keep their cats - no matter the personal struggle. Our next post in this series discusses best practices for finding your cat a new home - if you must - and ways to prevent finding yourself in the situation where you face having to surrender your cat to a shelter.

If you’re considering surrendering your cat to a shelter, I don’t envy you that formidable decision. I’ve been there, and it’s heartbreaking. Please know you aren’t alone - and that there ARE resources out there to help. For the rest of us, the next time someone mentions the possibility of giving up her cat, please consider offering to help the person fix the situation. Judging or looking down on that person won’t help the person or her cat. If the person won’t work on the issue or doesn’t follow through, that’s on her - but by instantly judging her, we sever the ability to have a conversation and listen to her concerns. 

Additionally, if you are in the position to donate money or supplies to any of these resources - please do! The added benefit of my checking all these links to make sure they still work and including them in this post is that anyone can easily find a program or resource to support people keeping their pets. By problem-solving with people considering giving up their cats and donating food and money to the organizations helping people keep their cats, we reduce the number of cats losing their lives because of limited space in shelters. Instead, we ensure people perhaps the greatest gift: a furry friend to provide support and love. We all want the best for every cat - and we want all cats to have the chance of a forever home - right beside the humans they love.


Chan, S. K., & Leung, D. (2018). Dog and Cat Allergies: Current State of Diagnostic Approaches and Challenges. Allergy, asthma & immunology research, 10, 97–105. 

DePorter, Theresa L., Bledsoe, David L. and Beck, Alexandra (2018). Evaluation of the efficacy of an appeasing pheromone diffuser product vs placebo for management of feline aggression in multi-cat households: a pilot study. Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, 21, 293–305.

Edwards, C., Heiblum, M., Tejeda, A. and Galindo, F. (2007). Experimental evaluation of attachment behaviors in owned cats. Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research, 2, 119–125.

Finka, Lauren R., Ward, Joanna, Farnworth, Mark J., Mills, Daniel S. (2019). Owner personality and the wellbeing of their cats share parallels with the parent-child relationship. PLOS ONE 14(2): e0211862. 

Frank, Diane, Beauchamp, Guy and Palestrini, Clara. (2010). Systematic review of the use of pheromones for treatment of undesirable behavior in cats and dogs. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 236, 1308-1316.

Galvan, Moriah and Vonk, Jennifer. (2016). Man’s other best friend: domestic cats (F. silvestris catus) and their discrimination of human emotion cues. Animal Cognition, 19, 193-205.

Jalil-Colome, J, de Andrade, AD, Birnbaum, J, Casanova, D, Mège, JL, Lanteaume, A, Charpin, D, Vervloet, D. (1996). Sex difference in Fel d 1 allergen production. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 98, 165-168. 

Martell-Moran, NK, Solano, M & Townsend, HG. (2018). Pain and adverse behavior in declawed cats. Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, 20, 280-288. 

Merola, I., Lazzaroni, M., Marshall-Pescini, S. and Prato-Previde, E. (2015). Social referencing and cat–human communication. Animal Cognition, 18, 639–648.

Montague, Michael J., Li, Gang, Gandolfi, Barbara, Khand, Razi, Aken, Bronwen L., Searle, Steven M. J., Minx, Patrick, Hillier, LaDeana W., Koboldt, Daniel C., Davis, Brian W., Driscoll, Carlos A., Barr, Christina S., Blackistone, Kevin, Quilez, Javier, Lorente-Galdos, Belen, Marques-Bonet, Tomas, Alkani, Can, Thomas, Gregg W. C., Hahn, Matthew W., Menotti-Raymond, Marilyn, O’Brien, Stephen J., Wilson, Richard K., Lyons, Leslie A., Murphy, William J. and Warren, Wesley C. (2014). Comparative analysis of the domestic cat genome reveals genetic signatures underlying feline biology and domestication. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 111, 17230-17235.

New Jr., J.C., Salman, M.D., King, M., Scarlett, J.M., Kass, P.H. and Hutchison, J.M. (2003). Characteristics of Shelter-Relinquished Animals and Their Owners Compared with Animals and Their Owners in U.S. Pet-Owning Households. Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, 3, 179-201.

Ogata, Niwako and Takeuchi, Yukari (2010). Clinical Trial of a Feline Pheromone Analogue for Feline Urine Marking. The Journal of Veterinary Medical Science, 63, 157-161.

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Rhoades, H., Winetrobe, H. & Rice, E. (2015). Pet Ownership Among Homeless Youth: Associations with Mental Health, Service Utilization and Housing Status. Child Psychiatry & Human Development, 46, 237–244.

Rieger, Gerulf and Turner, Dennis C. (1999). How Depressive Moods Affect the Behavior of Singly Living Persons Toward their Cats. Anthrozoös, 12, 224-233.

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© 2020 Momma Kat and Her Bear Cat - Published by K. Kern. 
All text, pictures, images, and other content are original and copyright by Momma Kat and Her Bear Cat [K. Kern], 2015-2020. No content on Momma Kat and Her Bear Cat may be used without the owner's [K. Kern] written permission. If you see this post posted on a site that isn't Momma Kat and Her Bear Cat, please contact 


  1. Those will be very useful and so helpful to cats.

    Thanks for taking the time to compile the links and info!

    1. It was a HUGE task - but I'm glad I did it - even if the end result was nothing like I'd planned!

  2. My goodness what a thorough and interesting post. You have a true calling to write and educate all about our dear feline companions.
    Hugs Cecilia

    1. I'm blushing. I still feel weird about these serious types of posts. Humor is my comfort zone. I truly appreciate what you said - it means the world to me and certainly encourages me to strike out again from my comfort zone!

  3. Some humans are not meant to have pets, plain and simple, they are too self-centered and selfish. Plus, it should be illegal for a place that kills animals to call itself a shelter.

    1. I agree on both points. Though I have to admit I was impressed by how many shelters are starting surrender prevention programs. I'm usually the first person to be judgmental when someone declaws a cat or dumps a cat at a shelter instead of taking the cat with them on a move - but most of the people who do those kinds of things just don't care. I do believe that there are quite a few other people that just don't know where to turn for help - which is why I wrote this post.

  4. I've shared this post on FB, and hope others will do so too. Most of my circle of friends are experienced cat lovers, however one can never know too much!

  5. K; first up, THANX for taking the time, and for all of your effort in putting this post together. The resources are awesome and invaluable. second; any suggestions other than those you mentioned for a cat whose name sounds a LOT like mackerull for scratching. the loveseat "front" is now down to the joke, and while it's ancient { literally } it looks a hot mess. I have cardboard, sissal, vertical, horizontal, posts, trees, matts and perches....I even have some funky doo thing that reminds me of a lettuce grater, shaped like a ramp, that is supposed to trim the nails as the cat scratches... said cat prefurrz if's, ands or butts about it !!! ☺☺♥♥ L

    1. I'm thinking of alternatives that might work. Bear took care of my loveseat within days of bringing him inside. I keep it covered with a blanket now (there are slipcovers - but they are super expensive - so I use a king-sized blanket). I especially make sure the spots he scratched are covered. That works for the most part. He's never tried to scratch the blanket. Though I take off the blanket to wash it every so often and the loveseat puts out its siren song and Bear is there in seconds taking advantage of the exposed couch fill. Some fabrics are harder to scratch than others too. I got a microfiber sofa and Bear has tried to scratch it with little luck. I have a concept in my head of a homemade scratcher made of cloth to see if it diverts Mackerull - but I'm not entirely sure how to execute the design. I'm thinking anything that looks like that stretch of loveseat might work. I would suggest a body pillow - but my fear is that he would rip the cover and get into the filling/stuffing. Bear did that with one of my comforters (he was so proud of himself). I wonder if you could use a roll of foam (like those foam eggshell layers you can put on a bed) - wrap it around a vertical scratching post, secure it, and then cover it with a pillow case or two - and secure the bottom of the pillow cases onto the foam at the bottom.

  6. Outstanding! This is so informative, and what a comprehensive list of resources! We say, meows and purrs!

  7. What a great roundup of resources! This will definitely help people in need.

  8. What a comprehensive and great list of resources to help pet parents! I'm sure it will help anyone looking for answers on how to keep their pet.

    1. I hope they find my post! My SEO skills/audience building skills could really use some help!

  9. Momma Kat, yoo knocked this important article out of the park! All yoor research will definitely go a long way to keeping kitties in their homes.

    At my house, as yoo know, we are many. Eleventy-billion many. And most of us (me included) were adopted as strays, clearly via the neighborhood cat colony. Most of us have feral tendencies. Me included. Living with ferals takes a lot of patience and a lot of understanding.

    Then there is our newest brofur, Kevin Coopurr. Clearly he lost his home because he's a tripper. Probably tripped Grandma and got the boot. He's so sweet. It's hard to believe he lived in our backyard for almost two years, distrusting our mom. But she had a break through and now he's happily snuggling with her at night. So Happy Ending for him.

    There are way too many impatient hoomons out there who should never have adopted a cat to begin with. And sadly the kitties pay for it...sometimes with their lives. So happy to know you and trust that yoo are doing not just good in this world, but AWESOMELY GREAT on behalf of the kitties.

    Love, Dori

    1. Thank you, Miss Dori. I suspect Bear's beginnings were as a feral cat too. I have no idea why he trusted me so quickly or how to explain our connection. I can't make sense of why people do what they do. Like KC, Ellie is the sweetest cat ever and I can't imagine why her first family would've dumped her outside except that she was too clingy. I have to remind myself to be understanding and not as judgmental ... but that's really hard when I want to use some not very nice words and yell. I literally pray for more understanding and less judgment and I was really hoping to achieve that with this post.

  10. What a wonderful and informative post. You have put a lot of time and work into it, and it shows.

    1. Thank you! Yes, it took A LOT of time! New facets just kept popping up all over the place - and it took me a full two weeks past when I planned to publish to finish it!

  11. Thank you for sharing all this important information and resources.

    1. I can only hope this post finds its way to the people who need it!

  12. Wow, I can't even begin to express how brilliantly written and incredibly important this post it. Bravo!

    1. Thank you! These serious posts are still way out of my comfort zone - which is why I don't write more of them!

  13. WOW great bunch of info! Would you believe i have allergies to cat and dog fur but i get a shot every month because I am not giving up my kitties!

    1. I DO believe it! I suspect I have a mild allergy to cats that seems to get worse as I get older. Still, my cats aren't going anywhere and I'm not going to banish Bear from sleeping with his Momma (which he does every night).

  14. This article, and the one before it, are a freaking tour de force! It's a great exploration on a scholarly level and provides tons of great resources to help people keep their cats in their homes. Amazing work! Way to go! (And I shared this post and the one before it on the Paws and Effect Facebook page.) I hope you're planning to enter this pair of posts in next year's Cat Writers' Association Communications Contest!

    1. Thank you, JaneA. You just made my month. As I was working on this, I kept wondering if anyone who needed it would see it. It's funny - humor is my comfort zone - and these kinds of posts give me the willies and a sense of failure. Thank you for for your reassurance and support that this post wasn't a failure - it means more than you could even know.

  15. Fantastic article. Thank you for putting together all these resources. I will definitely be referring people to it. XO

  16. This införmation had to have been a monumental task and you did a more than outstanding job of it. I am I'm,pressed beyond measure and it is being save for helping others who need it...links they can use. Even me if something comes up that puzzles me. YOU have it ALL! Thank you over and over for all your hard work.

    1. That all means so much. I hate reading posts with resources and finding that half of the links don't work! I encountered that so often as I put this together. You truly are too kind - but I appreciate every word!

  17. Wow, Kat. Thank you for taking the time and doing all the work to write this amazing compendium of information and resources. I was very allergic to cats as a child. To some degree, they've lessened as I've gotten older, but I'm still allergic. Gracie and Ava don't set me off, but sometimes new kitties at the shelter do. That's what meds are for. lol. Thanks again. We appreciate you!

    1. My niece wanted a cat so badly - but at a regular check-up for her food allergies, we found out she's severely allergic to cats! She cried when she told me. As I told her Mom, dog or cat, doesn't matter so much as having that connection. Sure I'D prefer a cat ... but my niece has turned into a dog girl now that they have one. I hope she gives cats a try at some point.

  18. A remarkable post. Bless you for all the research you compiled here. Greatly appreciated.

  19. Very useful information, MommaKat. You should turn it into a book. Extra Double Pawkisses for the good work and a Happy Day to all of you🐾😽💞

    1. That's a great idea! I was thinking about something similar - but the book idea is great!

  20. Thanks for sharing all your research! You've done a grrr-eat job!

    If more pet owners were responsible about getting their cats spayed or neutered, there'd be fewer incidents of "unwanted spraying behavior" that often lands the unfortunate kitties in shelters or abandonment on the streets.

    1. That is true! Not only that, but so many people misunderstand common cat misbehaviors - like scratching.

  21. This is a very well-written article! I totally agree with it!


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