Why an Adopted Cat May Be Returned to the Shelter

Each year, roughly 3.4 million cats enter an animal shelter in the United States. When these cats are adopted though, sometimes their new homes aren't forever homes. For example, an older adopted cat may not be the best fit for a household with young kids. Perhaps the new owner doesn't have the patience or know-how to give the cat a chance to adjust. If you're considering adopting a cat, you might want to take note of the most common reasons for returning a cat to the shelter in order to prevent these issues from arising with you and your potential new companion.


Cats are individuals, just like people, and have varying personalities. While many cats are very affectionate, social and even dog-like, others are more reserved, independent and solitary. Not surprisingly, one of the reasons cats are returned to shelters is because of their aloofness. Many people want a more cuddly pet, and they may not be able or ready to appreciate their cat's unique personality.


Cats need to scratch; it benefits their bodies and their minds. Cats scratch to file their claws, mark their territory and to stretch their bodies. It's not unheard of for cats to scratch furniture, walls and other inappropriate places. Because of this, many owners find themselves quick to return their adopted cat in an effort to save their home and belongings. Unfortunately, this behavior is often the result of poor planning on the owner's part. Owners are likely not providing enough scratching areas for their cat, or the scratching areas are too small. Before you return a cat to the shelter for her natural scratching habit, make sure you've consulted a professional about the behavior. This can usually be resolved by providing an adequate scratching post. You can even create your own cat scratching post.Gray tabby kitten claws at the base of a cat scratch post.

Health Issues

It's understandable that new cat owners want to adopt a healthy animal. Not only are sick or injured cats tough to care for, veterinary bills are an expense many people are not ready to afford. Understanding the financial responsibilities of getting a cat is important to know before ever going to a shelter. Understanding that vet bills can occur will help make the adoption process much easier for you and your family.

Getting Along With Children and Other Pets

Many families want a cat that gets along well with their children and other pets. While shelters observe the cat's temperament prior to adoption, it can be difficult to get an accurate assessment of the cat's personality in a shelter where so many different things are happening. Some cats live happily with well-behaved children and other animals, but others are spooked by children and pets. She may need time to warm up to everyone or she's just the type of cat that needs to be left alone. If your cat is easily frightened, it's not a reflection of her sweet and loving manner, but rather she doesn't like a lot of boisterous activity.

Housing Restrictions

While it is much more common with dogs, a large reason why cats are brought back to shelters is because of rules and regulations about having pets in places like apartments or condos. If you rent a place, be sure to check with your landlord that there aren't any issues with getting a cat. Checking ahead of time will save you the pain of having to take your little buddy back to the shelter. This is also something to consider if you have a cat and are relocating to another rental property. If you know their pet policy ahead of time, it will help you decide if it is the right new home for you and your cat.

There are other reasons adopted cats are returned to shelters, but these are the most common ones. A little research and patience can go a long way when making your home comfortable and pleasant for you and your new cat, so don't rush back to the shelter right away. Knowing what you're getting into and being prepared to put forth some effort will give your new cat the best chance to adapt successfully to your home. After all, she's just been in a shelter with a lot of other animals, sounds and people around. A little time to adapt to her surroundings and get to know you and your family will go a long way. With the chance to truly be happy and comfortable, you might find she's well on her way to being the perfect companion.

Contributor Bio

Katie Finlay

Katie Finlay

Katie Finlay is a pet trainer who lives in Southern California. She has been working with dogs and their owners both in person and through her online content for over six years.


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