Feeling Guilty About Rehoming Cats

Feeling Guilty About Rehoming Cats? (My Story)

Are you feeling guilty about rehoming your cat? Struggling to come to terms with the emotions around giving them away, or dealing with it in the days following?

I understand. I really do.

I’ve had to rehome a cat before, and it was one of the worst things I’ve ever had to do.

But it was necessary at the time. I know it was for the best, and my cat had a better home for it.

Telling myself this and understanding that was the best thing for her is what helped me get through it.

I’m not going to try to tell you that you should be able to just get over it. Or that you’ll feel fine a day or so later, or ever stop missing them – because it’s not that easy.

There are some things you can do to lessen the feelings of guilt though. Because you shouldn’t really feel guilt, especially if rehoming your cat is the best thing for them.

Why It’s Normal to Feel Guilty About Rehoming a Cat

Why It's Normal to Feel Guilty About Rehoming a Cat

As cat owners, we form special bonds with our fluffy friends. A bond that people who do not own cats – or any pet – can never really understand.

Which is why you should always try and talk about how you feel with someone who has owned a pet.

When we take in a cat, we’re taking on the responsibility of looking after them and making sure their needs are met.

Because they can’t do it by themselves.

So, if the need comes to give them away, we feel like we’ve let them down. It’s normal. With this feeling often comes guilt.

It’s easy for me to say this, but you shouldn’t feel guilty. Sad, yes. Like you’ve lost someone close, yes.

But guilt isn’t the right word. Because not only am I sure you did your best for your cat, I’m also sure you didn’t want to resort to rehoming them if you could have avoided it – right?

Do Cats Get Sad When Rehomed?

Cats do get sad when they are first rehomed, yes.

There is a transitioning period in which they will miss you while they try to get used to their new surroundings.

Which makes perfect sense. Cats are creatures of habit and even the smallest changes to their daily routines can upset them. They will also pick up on your emotions.

So, moving home and everything changing is a big deal.

Every cat reacts differently to being rehomed and time it takes them to adjust will vary. To make you feel better, however, all cats that go to a loving home will adjust and find happiness in their new home.

It typically takes a few weeks for a cat to become comfortable in a new home. They need to map out their new surroundings, mark their territory, get to know the new sounds and smells, and so on.

They will settle in though. Trust me, as you’re at home thinking about your cat try not to worry. They’ll be just fine, as will you in a few weeks too!

Ways to Help You Feel Better About Rehoming Your Cat

Ways to Help You Feel Better About Rehoming Your Cat

It’s going to be tough on you letting go of your cat. There are some things you can do (if possible) to help you feel better about it though.

Here are some of the things that will make you more comfortable with the process:

Interview the new owners – Depending on what channels you’re using to rehome your cat, if you can interview and meet the new owners you’ll feel much better knowing your cat is going to a good home.

It helps if you can look around their home too. When you’re missing your cat and thinking about them, you’ll be able to visualize where they are and what they’re doing.

Put together some notes – A new owner isn’t going to know all those little things about what makes your cat happy like you are.

Put together a little pack for the new owners. Include some of their favorite toys, a blanket they sleep on so they have familiar smells, and some notes about them.

Let the new owner know what their favorite foods are, how they like to be fussed over and petted, and anything else that’s relevant.

How Do You Deal With Rehoming a Cat?

I can tell you what I did to deal with giving my cats away, and I’d love to hear how you dealt with it too.

I posted an advert and let someone come forward to me that wanted my cat. This way I was able to meet them and talk about all the little things my cat loved as I mentioned above.

I was going to ask them to give me updates for a few weeks. I decided against that at the last minute though, I thought it wasn’t really fair on the new owners and it was going to be hard on me.

You might feel differently. I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer regarding whether or not you receive updates.

A clean break was better for me.

I kept some pictures and videos, which I look at now and again. It just became so much easier over time basically.

They say time is the best healer, and it’s true. When I think about my cat I’m able to smile now. At first, I’d just feel like crying.

I know she’s at a warm and loving home, and that makes me feel good.

How about you? Have you ever had to rehome a cat or are you currently thinking about doing so?

Feel free to let me know below in the comments section. It will probably help others in the community facing this tough decision too.

In Summary

Feeling guilty about rehoming cats is normal. It’s a tough decision, one of the toughest I’ve ever had to make.

If you’re currently faced with this decision, my thoughts and good wishes are with you.

All I can do is reassure you that if you know you’re making the best choice for your cat, you shouldn’t feel bad.

It’s OK to miss them, that’s totally normal too. We all miss special people and pets that we have to let go of.


Image credits – Photos by Roby Allario, Severin Demchuk, and Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

24 thoughts on “Feeling Guilty About Rehoming Cats? (My Story)”

  1. Honestly cannot atop crying
    I’m rehoming my cat on saturday and its breaking my heart! Hes my best friend and we did so much together! Hes my sons best friend too so it’s a really really hard and upsetting for all of us!
    The fact that hes still here and I’m waiting for him to go makes it so much worse its like torture! I’m going to miss him so so much but its the only way I can stay living in my house . He has a problem with weeing everywhere. I have had him neutered and have tried all sprays, plug ins, training him
    None of it seems to be working and my landlord wants him gone or we all go
    Dunno what the point to this post was if I’m honest but just needed to get it out

    1. Thanks for sharing that, Ellie.
      I’ve been in your position, I know how hard it is. I wish I could help more, honestly. Feel free to let it out here, that’s fine!
      It will get easier with time, it always does. What little comfort that is.

  2. We took in a stray 8 month old (so the vet thinks) 2 weeks ago, he’s a super sweet guy who likes to sit on laps and take naps budged up on u. Unfortunately, our resident 14 year old cat who’s never been around another cat just finds him to be a huge annoyance. Luckily we were able to find a friend who was looking for another cat and is going to take him off our hands. It’s only been two weeks and dropping him off this morning was SUPER hard even though I know exactly where he’s going and who’s going to love him. That’s the thing that’s getting me right now, that even though it was the best decision for our resident cat, and she comes first, I won’t be the one to love him and watch him grow into the sweet cat I know he’s going to be.

  3. Thank you for sharing this. Really helped dealing with my emotions. I just re homed my cat. She was 8 months and ended up pregnant. I have too many animals and had to give her a new home. I miss her so much. But I know she is in a good home

  4. I have to rehome my 2 yr old female tabby that I found and nursed at about 2 weeks old. Its really starting to weigh on me.

    I will have to give her up in about 2 months. Im so nervous for her because she seems to only trust me. Shes a pretty anxious cat and its definitely causing me some depression and anxiety.

    Just wanted to drop in and say I’m feeling the same way you guys are..

  5. We just had to rehome our little 3 year old tabby/bengal today, due to unfortunate safety concerns between him and our 1 year old. It breaks our heart. It’s the most devastating decision to make and I hope others never have to make these hard choices. Others have told me it will get better with time, but I am experiencing a tremendous amount of guilt and sadness from doing this. Thank you for posting this article, it has helped me.

    1. Thanks for dropping by, Jess, and for sharing your story. I really hope it did help, and believe me, it will get easier with time. Don’t feel guilty, this is something we sometimes have to go through.

  6. I’m going through this right now. I don’t remember the last time I cried this much! We had adopted a 1 year old female from a shelter and already had a female. I just loved the idea of having 2 or 3 cats (we have plenty of space and plenty of finances set aside to make sure they would get the best care) it just made sense at the time. We picked her out at the shelter ( a kill-shelter, very crowded with many unfixed cats in the same rooms together). I brought her to the vet and tested her for parasites, kitty diseases…etc. she checked out fine. Then we felt something moving in her belly! A few weeks later she had one kitten, but it didn’t make it. I cried and cried for days. We buried him/her in the backyard. (It seemed cruel to spay her and abort the kittens when she was that far along, we would have given the kittens all their shots and fixed them before going to new homes). She had some other non-life threatening issues, but was fine and we got her spayed a few weeks later. (the shelter did not routinely spay all the pets there which is so terrible! They are adopting out pregnant cats!) I called and told them, but I’m not sure if they cared. Recently neutered males can still get females pregnant for up to a month! Which is what happened to her at the shelter. Anyway, our resident cat never stopped hissing and growling at her and wanted nothing to do with her even months later. Eventually the new kitty started acting out and attacking her, stalking her. It got to the point where we couldn’t leave them alone and would have to watch them and separate them when things got out of hand. This resulted In one upstairs and one downstairs. The new kitty would always try to get to the resident kitty, so I put up a very tall pet gate thinking they could get use to each other through the gate, but that didn’t work because the new kitty would jump over it after a few tries. We started the introduction over a couple of times it just wasn’t working! We couldn’t keep them separated forever. So, we decided to rehome her. Very difficult decision, a family member made me cry because I told her we would have to rehome her (she said I was ‘throwing her away’) I will probably never talk to her about any pets I have in the future as she cannot understand, she doesn’t even like cats and has never had a pet. I felt very judged and did not talk to anyone else about the situation. So I listed her on a few rehoming sites and within a few days found a very nice young couple to adopt her. After giving her to them I cried the whole way home. I know she is going to a good home and will be well taken care of as the only kitty there, but I just can’t help but feel sad and guilty. I have to see it as us saving her life, she was at a kill shelter and could have been euthanized or adopted by a cat hoarder or worse. She had the best medical care, food and love while with us. I have to accept it and know that we possibly saved her life and found her a great home as the only kitty.

  7. I took in a kitten that followed me home because it was turning into winter and I knew that she was going to freeze to death if I didn’t do anything.

    Now I have to face giving her up after half a year because my mom wants her gone. Winter is over now and giving her to my friend seems like I’m going to betray her. She’ll see me from his house and wonder why she can’t come back home with me… I still don’t know if I’m doing the right thing, I just wanna run away with her in my arms and not look back.

    1. I feel you, I rehome a black female cat 2 days ago, the next day I was unconsolable, still finding difficult, she with a friend I a good home, but still picture her here with me and wether I should bring her back, winter is coming and they are such good company, I’ve 2 other cats she prefers to be the only one, but has bonded with me, trusts me. So difficult, she’s the kind of cat that could thrive as an only pet, I adopted her for my daughter but ended up with me and so did another cat.

  8. Rebecca Forder

    I have 2 indoors cat who are my babies… But I’m moving in with my partner who has an untrained dog.. I dont want my cats scared and I don’t want them living in one room so I’m thinking of rehoming them but even the thought makes me burst into tears, I just want my cats to have a happy life😢

  9. I had to rehome my 2 amazing Ragdolls in January. I’m gone 10 hours a day 5 days a week and anyone that knows about Ragdolls knows they are extremely sociable and loving. I never had a Ragdoll before so after researching I thought it would be best to get two so they would keep each other company while I was gone. They were half siblings and were very good with each other. The problem was they want their humans more than each other. It was even harder because even when I wasn’t working I had things to do and places to go outside the home and it got to be I wouldn’t leave my house knowing they were already alone too much. Truth be told I held onto them a lot longer than I should have. I was keeping them for myself. Then when they were five and showing signs of depression I realized because I loved them so much I had to do what was best for THEM. Well, it’s been over 4 months and my heart still aches and I find myself crying more than I should. I truly know they are doing much better now because I was very active in finding them great humans and homes. The beautiful thing is my quiet sweet boy went to a retired couple and my feisty sweet girl went to a young girl who had lost her Ragdoll to cancer and wanted a best friend which she got in my girl. And her mom works from home so neither of my babies are alone for hours on end anymore. The new families fell in love with them immediately so when I get sad I try to remember how happy they are and how happy their new humans are to have them. My pain and sadness is purely selfish. I know all this yet it still hurts so much.

  10. I have two cats, a girl (7) and a boy (11). For quite afew years now Socks (the boy) has a problem with spraying in the house, outside too. On two occasions in the past I have thought about getting him rehomed but couldn’t do it. This third time I have had too. My husband and me decided it was for the best. We were forever watching where Socks was and checking places for spray. A very nice lady from a cat place came to collect him afew days ago. I’m sure my girl cat knows he’s not around and sits at the front/back door of house. Like other people who have rehomed their cats I am, very sad, devastated missing him too. The lady said he could be more comfortable in a place with no other pets. I have lots of pics and asked the lady to take a pic of me holding Socks, my husband going to do some sort of photo with pics of Socks. The lady said that she would keep in touch for a while. I often visualise Socks sitting on the living room window sill and I wonder if, wherever he is at the moment, if he is sitting and waiting for me to collect him and take him home.

  11. I just rehomed my sweet 5 month old kitten… he was amazing. Definitely a runt of the litter, but so playful and unique. It broke my heart to do so! I thought he was going to a good home, but now I’m not so sure. They told me they’d share pictures/updates, and haven’t. I haven’t heard a thing since they picked him up, and it’s really, really hard to not know if he’s actually okay.
    Definitely feeling very hurt, confused, and lost at the moment 🙁

    1. I’m definitely going through the same thing!
      Long story short, they’re somewhere else now and it’s been two days. I’m dying about it.
      Not sure what to think ATM.

  12. I decided to get a kitten to keep my 2 year old cat company and thought she’d enjoy the companionship. I’ve integrated cats before and knew what I was doing. I didn’t take into consideration what changes in my resident cats personality would be. She was distant and cold the whole week. She avoided any place she could smell the kitten and me. She normally sticks to me like velcro. Follows me everywhere, naps near me, sleeps with me, and lets me hold her. The kitten was used to being around his siblings and wailed a lot like he was in distress. I talked to the foster mom and told her he was having a difficult time and so was my resident cat. She advised forcing them together and saying they’d work it out in a few hours. I did it because I owed it to the kitten to try. She hid from the kitten, wouldn’t let me touch her, and tried to claw him. He needed a kitty buddy which he wasn’t going to get and I felt like I was losing my best friend. I didn’t want to end up resenting him. I know taking him back to his foster home was right for both cats. He stopped wailing immediately once he was back with his sister and my cat was almost instantly herself again. I still feel horrible. He was a good kitten and I failed him.

  13. I have to rehome my fur baby/esa ive been crying for days i love her so much. I got her as a kitten from my sister in law. She would sleep on my shoulder and snuggle with me, she lets me hold her like a baby and kiss and pet her tummy. She got fixed at the vet and now she is only nice to me. We’ve tried for months but she bites and scratches everyone except me including our nephew. She became increasingly anxious over time and has started licking her fur off where the dr did the surgery. We found a friend who will take her. I feel like im abandoning her it takes my breath away. Ik she’ll have more space, she’s been with our friend when we’ve gone on vacation. Ive given her all the vet information, she’ll have enough food,liter, water filters toys for months. I feel better knowing its not a shelter but it breaks my heart to think she’ll think i dont love her :'(. Ik she needs more play time but bc of my own physical limitations i havent been able to give that to her and ik this new place can. Her name is Sky and she’s amazing and deserves a home that she can run, play and be loved too.

  14. May not be a cat but had to rehome my 3 chickens, as starting to find a lot things kept going bad for me and I emotional had trouble coping – even though love them all so much and started getting bit more joy watching them. They were up an allotment plot I went to see them in the morning and evening every day to look after them, lots of things changed new plot neighbours they are very noisy and lots of noise from motor bikes going around the field nearby. I was brave most of the day taking them from plot – travelling in car with them and try help them settle in to there new garden, way home thought I would look at a picture of them really feel wish I did not, feel I should of took a few more picture I know my battery was running lower, then Kinda after other say want to go back – thought that I would look stupid can’t do ended up kept thinking of it most way home that I miss them upsetting – not allowed – I think I should of thought what to do once they were in new home planned better, we were going home, they were scratching around looking like ok should of been thinking about that good stuff – may of made the journey home better
    I think I am the one feeling really bad wish I did not look at the photos – as last one I took looked a bit like one of my girls was looking my way even though
    I was there small bit after she may have moved away, should’ve waited to look at photos till later.
    I feel so guilty , Miss them so much so hard rehoming animals when you so love them – ended up wanting to go back made more stress on me and the journey home does bug me maybe I would feel less upset

    1. I rehome a black female cat 2 days ago, the next day I was unconsolable, still finding it difficult, she’s with a friend in a good home, but still picture her here with me and wonder wether I should bring her back, winter is coming and they are such good company, I’ve 2 other cats she prefers to be the only one, but has bonded with me, adopted her for my daughter but ended up with me and so did another cat.

  15. I’ve had cats my whole life. I love them so so much and I am not a dog person AT ALL. My parents are divorced and at my mother’s house I have 2 cats who I love so much, and I had been trying to convince my father to allow me to have a cat at his house for years. Two weeks ago, he finally said yes. We picked out a sweet boy, he is 3 years old, has long hair, and a nub tail. My stepmother and I fell in love with him so we decided to adopt. The shelter said that he was outgoing and loving, and he is- to humans. He is terrified of our two dogs and spends most of his time hiding from them, but he is incredibly sweet to people. When he is not hiding, he’s purring, begging for pets, laying on people, and following people around. Unfortunately though, we quickly noticed that he has been peeing on our furniture. We’ve taken him to the vet and he’s completely healthy, he’s fixed, he knows where the litter boxes are and he knows how to use them, the litter boxes are cleaned multiple times a day, he gets plenty of attention, and we have tried pheromone treatments to try to get him used to the house and the dogs. The only other reasons he could be peeing everywhere is because of stress or because he simply has the habit of doing so from a previous home. If it is stress, I do not see the problem being resolved in our house because the dogs we have are extremely curious about him and run towards him when they spot him, scaring the cat and causing him to hide. If it is a behavioral problem, the only solution I can think of is making him an outside cat, but my neighborhood already has an abundance of outside cats and he has no front claws (which the shelter did not inform us of) to defend himself/ get away from danger. I am a full-time high school/college student and I only live with my father half of the time, so I am not around all the time to constantly watch him and stop him from peeing everywhere. My parents are allowing him a week or 2 to break this habit, but I doubt there will be a change. I feel incredibly guilty about potentially having to rehome him so soon after adopting him, and I fear that his next owners will have the same problem with him and might give him back to a shelter. I keep trying to tell myself that rehoming to a place with no dogs will remove the long-term stress, but I can’t help but feel lazy and selfish.

    If you have any tips on breaking this habit PLEASE let me know. He only seems to pee on furniture when he is alone, as he sleeps on my bed with me and pees in the litter box multiple times throughout the night, but when I wake up and leave the room he tries to pee on my bed. If he is left alone in our living room, he immediately tries to pee on the couch. Every time he pees where he shouldn’t, it is in the same exact spot, even after cleaning the area with lysol, vinegar, and an enzymatic cleaner. He has multiple litter boxes, each with a different kind of litter, and he uses all of them. He has peed in both places where the dogs spend most of their time and in places where the dogs are not allowed, so I doubt that he is attempting to mark his territory; he also pees in places where he spends most of his time (my bed and my room), which is uncharacteristic of cats marking, as he has already spread his pheromones around the area. I am at a loss of what to do.

  16. Thank you so much for this article. I have had cats as pets for 40 years and I form a very strong bond with them. I have just had to give up a lovely cat I adopted & I had her for a year & loved her very much. She came with several health issues I didn’t know about. I also have M.E. & Fibromyalgia. My lovely cat developed ongoing multiple health issues and I was up all night & day looking after her. Eventually I had a bad M.E. relapse & became extremely exhausted with stress & lack of sleep. I got to the point where I had to make the decision to give her up for re-adoption & she is being fostered at the moment. The lady, who runs a Cat Rescue, where I got her from sent me an awful email, which just made me feel 100 times worse. I feel so upset as I loved this cat & I feel so much guilt as though I have betrayed her & failed her. It is in some ways worse than when my lovely pets have died. I have a lovely husband & very supportive friends, but I wake up every day in acute emotional pain about having to give her up.

  17. Thank you so much for this article. I have had cats as pets for 40 years and I form a very strong bond with them. I have just had to give up a lovely cat I adopted & I had her for a year & loved her very much. She came with several health issues I didn’t know about. I also have M.E. & Fibromyalgia. My lovely cat developed ongoing multiple health issues and I was up all night & day looking after her. Eventually I had a bad M.E. relapse & became extremely exhausted with stress & lack of sleep. I got to the point where I had to make the decision to give her up for re-adoption & she is being fostered at the moment. I feel so upset as I loved this cat & I feel so much guilt as though I have betrayed her & failed her. It is in some ways worse than when my lovely pets have died. I have a lovely husband & very supportive friends, but I wake up every day in acute emotional pain about having to give her up.

  18. I feel guilty and so sad that I have to give up my 12 year old cat. It was such a difficult choice for me, but he keeps bullying my other cat who is 11 years old and my small dog who is 10 years old. I’ve had them all since they were babies. He’ll go out of his way to attack them and he’ll stand next to the food and water bowls so they can’t eat. It’s been going on for a long time but I didn’t realize how bad it was until I was out of work for a while.

  19. My heart is breaking that I’ve been searching and reading non stop to help deal with the pain I feel. I’m having to rehome my kitten of 16 weeks to another family because I find it difficult not cleaning him every time he uses the litter box. I didn’t know it would get to me but I find myself super paranoid if I don’t clean him after he uses the litter each time and I know he doesn’t like it. It stresses him and myself but I thought it was ok until recently where he’s literally making a run for it before I can wipe him down. The last thing I want is to stress him out for something he cannot help! So I found a family that has a heated garage room for his own space, a little girl he can play with and who will not be so ocd (I think) with him. But nonetheless, he’s my baby. Sleeping and snuggling with him made me feel close and connected and knowing he’s the type of kitten who is so smart and I feel knows that he’s being given away- kills me. I never want him to feel I have him away because I didn’t want him😢 and I asked to be kept updated but I feel that’s not going to be the case. I just want him happy but knowing I won’t be able to know for sure and whether he’ll ever forgive me is what will always haunt me. He’s such a sweet friendly boy too. I’m so annoyed at myself why I can’t just not care about the litter issue. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to have a pet at this point and definitely never a cat because 1. The clean freak in me 2. I don’t think I can ever look at another cat without thinking of my current baby. The pain is real.

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