Why Some Cat Adoptions Don’t Last

Firm expectations of certain behaviors lead some dog and cat owners to give up their newly adopted pet.

By CatChannel News Editors | Posted: May 10, 2013, 12 p.m. EDT

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Maine Coon Cat with Outstretched Paw
Many new owners who said a cat's behavior was "always" important in pet adoption were the first to return their cat.
Newly released research from the American Humane Society reveals a dirty secret about pet adoptions: One in every 10 dogs and cats is returned to a shelter, given away, lost or dead within six months.

The Animal Welfare Research Institute, an arm of the American Humane Association, released the results of the second part of the "Keeping Pets (Dogs and Cats) in Homes Retention Study” on May 8 to coincide with Be Kind to Animals Week.

See how to best bring cats to a new home here >>

Sixty out of 572 pet adopters surveyed, or 10.5%, reported a failed adoption. Why?

People who cited commitment, health and behavior as "always” important issues in an adoption were less likely to keep a cat or dog, compared to those who thought the issues were "somewhat” or "never” key in their decision-making.

Learn about your cat's behavior here >>

Behavioral issues mentioned in the study included unfriendliness to people and other animals, not being housebroken, disobedience, destructive, attention-seeking, barking and hyperactivity.    

The 10% failure rate could represent several hundred thousand dogs and cats a year, according to the Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group.

Give cats something to do while you're away, to help curb destructive habits >>

"This study explores … the reasons so many pets are leaving their homes and the pressing need to create strategies to help Americans retain their new family members,” said Patricia Olson, DVM, chief veterinary adviser for the American Humane Association and head of its Animal Welfare Research Institute.

During the course of their data collection, researchers uncovered other facts about pet adoption:
•    College graduates are more likely to retain adopted pets.
•    Pet adoptions fail at a higher rate in small towns.
•    Dogs and cats who sleep in their owners’ beds stand a better chance of becoming permanent family members.
•    No difference in adoption success was seen between first-time dog and cat owners and previous owners.
•    Adoptions of dogs and cats who visited a veterinarian were more likely to stick.
•    A dog or cat’s gender, the type of shelter involved and the state of residence had little to do with whether an adoption became permanent.
•    Whether someone researched a dog or cat adoption or made a rash decision made no difference in the retention rate.

The study was underwritten by a grant from Phoenix-based Petsmart Charities Inc. Read it here.

The Animal Welfare Research Institute plans to release details about retention strategies, the final installment of the study, later this year.
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Why Some Cat Adoptions Don’t Last

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Reader Comments

Sarah    Glen Rock, PA

5/29/2013 10:59:16 AM

I think it may have something to do with too-high expectations. If you expect an animal to have perfect behavior right away, be perfectly healthy, etc., you may be expecting to much. Animals need time to adjust and, just like kids, are going to get sick. They also act in uncharacteristic ways when stressed. People may assume this is their ordinary temperament or behavior(hiding, acting unfriendly, not eating, forgetting all house-training, chewing, etc.) and return them because it's not what they wanted. Perhaps it needs to be better explained to potential adopters that there WILL be an adjustment period and the animal may act out during that time.

J    Lakev, NY

5/19/2013 7:12:14 AM

I agree with Jennifer. If only people would look into things before they adopt..

CatChannel Editor    Irvine, CA

5/17/2013 9:13:49 AM

Jenny -- If you've had these cats their entire life, they are probably very bonded to you. Why not help them by finding out what has caused this behavior: someone moving into or out of the house or new furniture/territory to aggravate or fight over.

Also, see if a new neighborhood cat has come around, to spark some territoriality. When the cats cannot attack this other cat, they turn on each other. This is called redirected aggression. Read more about it here: LINK LINK

Jenny    Monticello, MN

5/16/2013 4:20:48 PM

My family has 2 cats that have lived with them their whole lives and out of no where started attacking each other. They don't no what to do and what caused it. There choice is to bring them to a shelter where they can find their furever home,live in peace and happiness. Is this the right choice???

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