Rehoming a cat is tough on the cat and owner. Cats are most comfortable in an established routine. When a cat moves to a new home, with new owners, everything changes. This can be hard for a cat to deal with.
Cats often miss former owners. If treated well, cats forge deep emotional connections with humans. While cats can adjust to a new life, it takes time. The cat may initially be lonely and depressed. It may also attempt to return to a previous home.
Rehoming a cat is not an easy decision. Take time to manage your own sadness and only rehome if it’s best for all parties. The cat’s whole life will change, which can lead to challenging behavior.
Do Cats Get Attached to Their Owners?
There are many misconceptions surrounding the relationship between cats and humans. As Cell explains, cats become attached to their owners. This attachment can be hard to spot with an untrained eye.
A cat with a positive bond to an owner appears indifferent. It may not even acknowledge its owner because it knows the human is not going anywhere. The cat will go about its business, seeking attention when it wants it.
A cat with a secure attachment will miss a previous owner. It will wonder why its preferred human is no longer around. It will also miss its routine. These cats will adapt to rehoming, given time, and will eventually bond with a new owner.
A cat that immediately clings to an owner is demonstrating insecure attachment. This means the cat is worried that it may be abandoned or ignored. It will not leave an owner’s side in case the human does not return.
A cat with an insecure attachment to an owner will find rehoming more challenging. By rehoming the cat, its worst fears have been realized. This can lead to inappropriate behavior, and it will want constant attention.
A new owner will need to be patient and understanding. Given time, a secure attachment can be forged. The cat will need to adjust to change, though. This does not come naturally.
Do Cats Try to Visit Former Owners?
A cat may attempt to return for a former home. This depends on a number of factors, especially:
- The circumstances of the rehoming
- How closely the cat and former owner were bonded
- How comfortable the cat feels in a new home
It is possible that the cat misses a former owner. The previous owner knew the cat’s routine. The cat wants to hear their former owner’s voice and smell them. It will take the cat time to adjust to new humans. It may try to return to former owners in the meantime.
A cat that was mistreated will not miss a former owner. The most notable example of mistreatment is physical admonishment. The cat could also have been subjected to stressful living arrangements.
A cat may not miss a previous owner, but it may miss its old home. Cats like to know their territory. In a previous home, the cat will have memorized everything it deems important. This includes:
- Hiding places in the house and surrounding area
- Reliable sources of running water
- Good hunting grounds for congregated mice and birds
- Parts of the house that are quiet and devoid of footfall
- Neighborhood cats that are friendly and which ones to avoid
Manage this by making the cat comfortable in new surroundings. Do not crowd the cat. Let it explore its new home at a slow and steady rate.
Keep the cat indoors until this adjustment period is complete. A cat wandering to a former home is at risk of a road traffic accident.
According to an RTA study by The Journal of Small Animal Practice, 16 of 128 cats were killed instantly by road traffic accidents. Many others required major surgery and experienced trauma.
Can Cats Be Obsessed with Their Owners?
Obsession is a strong word. Cats develop strong bonds with owners, though. This is likely if a cat feels that the owner understands its needs.
Always be mindful of separating a cat from a bonded owner. The cat will experience a period of disorientation and depression. A new owner must be patient and understanding.
In many respects, a cat leaving an owner is akin to bereavement. In many cases, this is why a cat is rehomed. It must be treated as delicately as a human that has lost a family member.
What Are the Effects of Rehoming a Cat?
When a cat is rehomed, its life is turned upside down. Cats are creatures of habit and routine. Deviating from the norm will not be welcomed. It can take a cat a long time to adapt to being rehomed.
Until the cat adjusts to a new home, it will be stressed and possibly depressed. It must not be punished for feeling this way. A new owner must have the time and patience to manage this.
If possible, learn a cat’s routine before bringing it home. The closer you can replicate an existing schedule, the happier a cat will be. This makes bonding with a new owner easier.
The cat will be overwhelmed upon arriving in a new home. It will be equal parts curious and trepidatious. Manage this by keeping it in a single room. When the cat grows comfortable, it can explore the rest of the home.
Signs That a Cat Misses an Owner
If a cat misses a former owner, it will become lonely. There are certain behaviors attributed to loneliness in cats. These include:
- Clinginess and insecure attachment to new owners
- Excessive vocalization
- Excessive grooming
- Destructive or attention-seeking behavior
You must also be mindful of symptoms of depression in cats. A cat that misses a former owner will feel sad. Symptoms of cat depression include:
- Excessive sleeping
- Hiding and not engaging with new owners
- Loss of appetite
- Lethargy and lack of interest in play
- Aggressive behavior
If the cat appears depressed, stick to its routine. Further changes will upset the cat even more. It will come around eventually. These initial challenges are why a rehomed cat needs understanding owners.
Most cats will adjust to a new home and owner after around two weeks. After this, the former owner can visit. Ensure the former owner comes to the cat. Returning a cat back to its old home can be confusing and upsetting.
You will know if the cat recognizes a previous owner. The cat will approach, tail curled upward. The cat will also display affectionate behaviors, such as bunting. In many cases, the cat will also request petting.
Will My Cat Remember Me After One Year?
If you fed, groomed and played with your cat, it will remember you. You were a critical figure in its life. The cat may be content in its new home. It will still remember you and demonstrate affection.
Senior cats may struggle to remember former owners after a prolonged period. This does not mean the cat never loved you. Canine and Feline Dementia explain that memory deficiency is an early sign of feline cognitive disorder.
A further exception is owners that were children when the cat was rehomed. Cats recognize humans by voice more than sight. If your voice has changed significantly since rehoming the cat, the association may be broken.
Even in these instances, the cat may recognize your scent. If visiting a former cat, wear a familiar perfume or cologne. This will jog a pleasurable memory in the cat’s mind.
Naturally, there is a flipside to this. If a cat has bad memories of a human, it will respond accordingly. Manage the rehoming process carefully. If the cat felt abandoned during the rehoming, it may hold a grudge.
Feeling Guilty About Rehoming a Cat
Rehoming a cat affects humans too. You may experience feelings of guilt and shame. Even if you made the decision for the right reasons, it isn’t easy.
Guilt is normal after rehoming a cat. Expect to feel similar emotions to bereavement. As with bereavement, the anguish will pass. You must allow yourself time to grieve.
To minimize your guilt, find the best home possible for the cat. To do this:
- Interview prospective new owners
- Visit the new home and ensure it is suitable
- Explain the cat’s routine and mannerisms
- Provide familiar toys and apparatus to aid adjustment
Never use the word ‘free’ in any advertisements. This may attract people for the wrong reasons.
If you have children, they may struggle to understand your decision. Explain why rehoming the cat was for the best. The cat’s welfare must come first. If the cat is unhappy in your home, it must be rehomed.
How to Deal with Giving Away a Cat
Write a list of all the reasons why you rehomed your cat. This will help you remove emotion and think logically. Common reasons why you have to rehome a cat include:
- You or a loved one developed a severe allergy
- Lifestyle changes meant you no longer had time to care for a cat
- The cat has special needs that you cannot accommodate
- The cat was unhappy and unsettled in your home
- The cat was unsafe around a baby or other new arrival
- Structural changes to your home are no longer cat-safe
You can always visit the case in its new home. Seeing the cat happy and healthy will help you cope with your decision. It will confirm that you did the right thing.