Can We Stop Hating the People Who Surrender Their Cats?


I don’t know how many times I see Facebook posts that start with words like, “SENIOR CAT DUMPED AT SHELTER.”

Way to be harsh and judgmental. Way to be thoughtless and cruel. Way to be part of the problem instead of part of the solution.

Old cat sleeping on the floor
Old cat sleeping on the floor by Shutterstock

I’ll admit that before I started working for an animal rescue organization, I often thought badly of people who surrendered pets to shelters, especially if those pets happened to be seniors. But now that I’ve gotten a glimpse behind the scenes, I’ve seen the array of heartbreaking stories that led to the surrender of beloved furry friends:

  • A family is about to become homeless.
  • A cat guardian has to go into long-term care and he has no family to take care of the cat.
  • There’s a death in the family, and as much as the family wants to take in the deceased person’s orphaned kitty, there are loads of legitimate reasons why they can’t.
  • A cat has a treatable medical problem that his family can’t afford to treat due to tough financial circumstances, and as much as it breaks their hearts, they know that the only way for their beloved furry friend to have a chance at recovery is for him to go to the shelter.

These are just a few of the reasons I’ve read on animal surrender forms.

Sad cat looking through the bars of a cage
Sad cat looking through the bars of a cage by Shutterstock

There wasn’t a single “wanted a younger cat” or “moving, can’t take the cat with me” or “my boyfriend/girlfriend doesn’t like cats” or “just don’t want her anymore.”

These cats weren’t “dumped.” They were surrendered by people trying to do the best they could for their beloved feline friends, under extremely crappy circumstances.

But the judgmental stone-throwers in the rescue community would have you believe that everyone who surrenders a cat — particularly an older one — is doing so just because they can’t be bothered to actually continue caring for the kitty who has loved and purred over them for years.

Elderly woman with her cat
Elderly woman with her cat by Shutterstock

I know it’s easy to forget that there’s an actual human being on the other side of that Facebook post or tweet, and it’s easy to go off on people when all you see is pixels and letters. But seriously, people — chill out! Sit back and take a deep breath before you decide to charge onto the battlefield with all your guns blazing.

The foot soldiers of the Internet Hate Machine never solved any problems. The only thing their self-righteous judgment and guilt-tripping does is to convince people that surrendering cats to shelters is so shameful that it’s better to abandon them somewhere and hope that they do all right.

I’d personally rather see a cat go to a shelter — yes, even an open-admission shelter where they might “run out of time” — than see that cat be truly dumped … on a back road or an abandoned lot. At least at the shelter they have a chance of finding a family, something which they don’t get when they’re left outdoors somewhere.

Cat in a cage
Cat in a cage by Shutterstock.

So if you’re one of those people who shares posts that start with, “DUMPED AT THE SHELTER BY HEARTLESS A$$#### AND RUNNING OUT OF TIME” — please, just stop.

Although I don’t believe Facebook sharing does much to save lives (and in fact I think it often does more harm than good), if you insist on doing it, the least you can do is try to exercise some compassion toward the people who had to make the hardest choice they may ever have had to make.

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