Many people adopt or buy a pet with the best intentions, but without the foresight to consider long term responsibilities. This means thousands of pets of all types end up dumped to fend for themselves in human society (literally dumped on the streets, in fields, side of the road, at a park, and left), or dropped at crowded animal shelters to most likely be euthanized.
As dogs and cats are the most popular companion animals, I will base this article on them specifically. Here is how to avoid re-homing your pet if you are currently struggling with this very difficult decision:
The most popular reasons for rehoming a pet are:
1. Moving. (see below)
2. Not working out with existing pet. (see below)
3. Incomplete house training – So complete it! Some personalities, and breeds, take longer than others to pick up training, especially if the pet was kept in a dog kennel for a long time, which can confuse a dog. If you want to keep this pet, ask for help! Or read a book! There are books out there with step by step methods to walk you through proper house training.
4. Allergies – it IS common to develop them later in life out of the blue. But don’t use it as an excuse so no one will contest your decision that you no longer feel like caring for your animal.
5. New baby on the way – Relax. Existing pets generally are more than happy to welcome the newcomer. Just as you will need time to adjust to a new baby, so will your pets, so allow them that. And ignore the myths that your pet will injure, contaminate or kill the baby – in all but a few cases with recognized aggressive personality types, these are exaggerated assumptions not based on informed knowledge or scientific fact.
6. Don’t have enough time anymore. (see below)
7. Don’t want to deal with behavioral problems – Get a trainer or animal behaviorist. Read a book. There are thousands of helpful training and behavioral guides. Watch the Dog Whisperer series on National Geographic, or At the End of My Leash on SLICE network. Don’t give up so easily on you and your dog or cat. Note: behavioral problems commonly start with YOU, so look to yourself first before you try to help your pet.
In short – in all of the above situations, rehoming is preventable.
How to Avoid a Rehoming Situation
Think hard before you adopt or buy a pet. It’s that simple. Think about the future. The average indoor cat can live up to a maximum of 18 years. The average small to medium dog lives 10 to 16 years. Large dogs 6 to 13 yrs.
Think what the future may bring you. You may have to move. You may want to have children if you don’t already. There may be a job change or a layoff at your company. You might decide you want to add another pet to the household, but you may end up with an animal with undesirable behavioral traits. Perhaps you aren’t as good at training as you think you are. Maybe you’ll want to go back to school.
This animal will be with you for its entire life, or if you adopted an adult, the rest of its life. That is a hefty commitment. Think about whether you are prepared to accept this responsibility, for the cat or dog’s sake. Remember that life changes, and that you must be willing to deal with those changes without throwing out your ‘fur-baby’ with the bathwater, and remain a good guardian for your pet.
Pets are living beings – they are not disposable. Mentally, most dogs think and feel at the level of a human two-year-old. You cannot explain to them what is going on if you give them up. They DO feel the stress and confusion of being taken from their existing home and put somewhere strange and frightening. Rehoming a cat or dog does far more damage to them emotionally than you are aware of.
Let’s look at the top 3 ‘Rehoming’ excuses in depth, and see what we can do to help you.
Reason 1: "I don’t have enough time, and he’s lonely"
There are some very simple answers to this. If it’s a dog, get a cat or another dog for company. Find a good dog day care. Ask a family member to babysit. Hire an acquaintance you trust who has time to stop in and brush your kitty, or take your dog out for even 15 minutes.
If it’s a cat, very simply, get another cat. They are most often better in pairs as it is, litter-mates being an optimal choice, otherwise introduce a cat younger than your existing one. They are, contrary to popular belief, social animals, and though it may take time (do YOU want strangers in your personal space?) they will learn to live with one another and enjoy each other’s company.
I guarantee your dog would rather have a house mate, or play with a stranger for a few hours, or be a little lonely, than have to have her world turned upside down and sent to an animal shelter, where he or she has a 50/ 50 chance of being euthanized in just a few short weeks. Your dog would rather be your dog, than possibly be moved about or put down. You are your dog’s only family. Find a way.
Reason 2: "He or she is not working out with my existing pet"
There are proper ways to introduce a new animal in to a home where existing pets live. Sometimes it’s a no brainer. Many animals (especially dogs) are just ready to love everyone. Some are territorial or more sensitive. Either way, it can be done, but you need to be patient and understand that there WILL BE GROWING PAINS. Nothing worthwhile happens overnight. Some fur may fly, but so long as you are responsible and always supervise your pets together, everything will settle down and life will go back to normal.
Reason 3: I’m moving
To be blunt – take them with you! Are you having a hard time finding a home that will accept animals? Find one that will. Yes, it’s that simple. Not easy, but simple. I have never had to give up an animal in my twelve years of having pets, and even as a kid with a single mom and siblings, not once. Have the landlord meet your dog to see how harmless and clean they are. Offer a pet deposit. Keep the cat inside if they’re worried about their flower beds. Or just Google until your eyes bleed. Pet friendly homes are out there. I find them for people all the time! You may need to lower your standards slightly, so do it. You’re not going to end up in a lean-to or a teepee, I promise.
The Bottom Line…
Many rehomings do not work out, and the dog or cat ends up passed around the houses, causing further trauma and emotional issues. Be honest with yourself that ‘I don’t have enough time for my dog, it’s not fair on them,’ isn’t actually ‘I have too much on my plate and I choose to have the dog/ cat deal with rehoming than sacrificing anything of myself.’
In the end, if you don’t think you can sacrifice small things in order to keep your pet happy, healthy and stable, find someone who is willing to share their pet with you until you are ready for the responsibility.
Cat & Dog Behaviorist