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Do You Judge People Who Give Away Their Cats?

I had to rehome my dog and cat, and I did so responsibly, but I got called lots of nasty names because of it -- and that's wrong, people.

Eden Strong  |  Mar 13th 2015

I once had two cats and a Pug, but I no longer have any of them because I found them new homes. Despite what you might think, that does not make me a bad pet owner.

Let me explain. 

Several years ago I reached a breaking point in my marriage. Not just a breaking point, but more of a “run for your life” point because of domestic abuse. In the midst of my crisis and out of desperation for not only my life but the life of my felines, I placed my beloved cats in what was supposed to be a temporary foster home — but the shelter gave them away.

Here are my cats, just lolling around like lazy teenage boys. (Photo by Eden Strong)

A year later, my life was shattered once again when my Pug bit my daughter’s face. After several vet visits, a visit from a trainer, and every reasonable accommodation I could make, the vet deemed our dog not safe to be around children and warned us that if he bit someone again, the city would seize him and most likely put him down.

I loved my Pug with all my heart, but bound by finances, struggling in my home life, and trapped in a home that did not allow for a reasonable separation between dog and child without banishing someone to a back room, I needed to rehome him, for my daughter’s safety as well as his. 

I spent weeks searching for the right new home. I made home visits to families looking to adopt Pugs, got referrals from my vet, and had a list of questions a mile long. After passing up many willing adopters I didn’t believe were a good fit, I eventually I found a perfect place, and four years later we still have a very friendly open-adoption situation.

Sad woman and cat by Shutterstock”>

Sad woman and cat by Shutterstock”>

If you’re in an untenable home situation, can you say you wouldn’t put your cat’s safety first? Sad woman and cat by Shutterstock

When I wrote about these situations in previous articles, a lot of the reactions in the comments were less than kind:

“She is exactly the kind of woman that I hate. Has a child, gets rid of the dog. I bet she didn’t even take him to the vet first to make sure he was healthy.”

“I hope she never adopts another animal in her life, anyone that would give her cats away because her life got rough is an irresponsible monster.”

“If she is the same kind of mother as she was a pet owner, someone should remove her children from her home before she kicks them out.”

Wow, judge much?

Here’s the thing: You don’t know me

You don’t know I used to volunteer every weekend at my local animal shelter, cleaning cages, mopping floors, and doing all the grunt work, just because I cared. You don’t know I was heavily involved in my local Pug rescue, making home visits for potential adopters and hosting fundraising events.

I have not only loved animals my entire life, but I have always known about the hard work and responsibility it takes to own them. So when I realized that my pets’ best chances for survival were no longer with me, I tried my best to place them in homes that could provide what I no longer could.

Woman’s feet with cat by Shutterstock”>

Woman’s feet with cat by Shutterstock”>

I dearly loved my cats, but I knew they’d have a better life without me. Woman’s feet with cat by Shutterstock

I didn’t simply drop them off and forget they existed. I plastered my walls with their pictures and cried myself to sleep at night. I reached out so many times to my Pug’s new family that I could tell they were getting irritated. My pets were gone, my heart was broken, but to the world I was apparently nothing more than an irresponsible, heartless monster who threw her children out on the street.

It’s hard to get help for your pets

Programs exist to help children, but there are few to help animals. And my animals are not subpar humans.

If someone chooses to give a human baby up for adoption, we praise them. What a brave choice. You knew you couldn’t take care of them so you found someone you could. Thank you. 

Yet if someone realizes she can no longer take care of a pet, we chastise her. The differences continue from there, yet many animal lovers ignore the differences and claim that animal children are exactly the same as human children. You might love them just as much, but in reality the services available to them are limited.

Family and cat by Shutterstock”>

Family and cat by Shutterstock”>

There’s more help out there for human children than there is for feline children — and that’s just wrong. Family and cat by Shutterstock

If your child is having severe behavioral problems, you take the kid to a doctor, which your insurance covers. If you can’t afford insurance, the state will provide it and in many cases your child will get the needed help. If you find yourself in a situation like mine, where my Pug had severe behavioral issues and I could not afford intensive professional intervention, you are basically screwed.

People in dire straits have food pantries to go to, food stamps to apply for, and programs to assist in their time of need. But if these same financial struggles carry down to your pet and you struggle to fill their bowl, the resources available to help you care for them are definitely fewer.

Why is this? Because animals are not humans. They are our pets, not our children. 

Gasp! I can hear it already: How dare she write that on a pet lovers’ site! BURN THE WITCH!

Put yourself in my shoes for a moment

Your heart makes no distinction of whether your children have fur or no fur. My heart loved them, very, very much, but the state did not view my furry children in the same manner that it viewed my human children. 

Assistance programs could help me with my children, but my options were severely limited when it came to my pets.

I raised my boy from kittenhood, and now he was gone. (Photo by Eden Strong)

Would we want a mother to keep her children if she could not feed them, get them the health care they need, or if she could not parent them in the ways that they required? Of course not, which is why we have adoption foundations, safe haven laws, and the foster care system. When we hear stories of neglected kids, we as a society (rightfully so) scream at the parents: If you knew you couldn’t take care of them, why didn’t you take them to someone who could? Yet when we hear of a person admitting that she couldn’t care for a pet and rehomed the animal, we deem her as irresponsible and heartless. 

We pet lovers cannot have it both ways. We cannot claim that animals are just as important as people but then also feel that pets don’t deserve the same things as their human counterparts, such as a shot at a better life, if their current owners are unable to provide it.

When we label people who give their animals away as irresponsible monsters, we encourage people to hoard animals they cannot care for. Sometimes the best thing a pet owner with limited resources can do is to admit that her or his pets’ best life is a life lived with someone else.

Sad girl and her cat sitting by the seashore by Shutterstock’>

Sad girl and her cat sitting by the seashore by Shutterstock

People who give their pets away are not all the same

I agree that some people should not have pets. People who trade cats like cars, adopting them only to drop them back off at a shelter when they get old and get a new kitten the next year, are irresponsible and ridiculous — and thankfully rare. I don’t look kindly on people who simply give their animals away or drop them off at a shelter — especially those who drop off senior cats. But not everyone is like that.

Sometimes people find themselves in situations where it is not in their pets’ best interest to keep them and they are forced to rehome them. That happened to me. I gave my pets to a new home because I loved them, not because I didn’t want to love them anymore.

That doesn’t make me a bad pet owner; that makes me exactly the kind of responsible owner that pets should have — someone who realized she was out of options and decided to put her pets’ best interests first.

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About the author: Eden Strong is a quirky young woman with a love for most animals with fur. She readily admits to living her life completely devoid of most social graces and so far she’s still alive. More of her crazy antics can be read on her blog, It Is Not My Shame to Bear