Giving away a cat has been one of – if not the – hardest things I’ve ever had to do.
Like most cat owners, I form a strong bond with my cats. As do my cats with me. However, for reasons out of my control, I’ve had to give up a cat twice in my life.
Guilt aside, the days leading up to handing them to their new owners I couldn’t help wondering; will my cat miss me when I give him away?
Without a doubt, the answer is “yes”. Cats will miss their former owners when they are rehomed. They are creatures of habit, they form bonds with their owners, and it’ll take time for them to adjust to their new surroundings and owners.
Do Cats Miss Their Owners When Rehomed?
Cats do miss their owners when they’re rehomed. I’m not trying to make you feel bad, it’s just a fact.
It’s no different from you missing them too. You’ve parted ways, daily life isn’t the same, there’s going to be a “hole” in your life for a while.
They will get over it though. Both of you will. There is a saying, “time heals all”, and I found this to be true in regards to coming to terms with giving my cat away.
Related – Feeling guilty about rehoming your cat? Read this.
What Do Cats Miss About Their Previous Home/Owner?
Cats see the world differently than we do. It’s not as simple as just missing seeing you when they change homes, there’s more to it than that.
There are two things that are important to cats;
- Having a daily routine
- Owning a territory with their scent
Cats are almost stubborn about their daily routines. They are at their most comfortable and happiest when they have a routine.
This means knowing when and where they’ll be fed, knowing the layout of the home, where their litter box is, and so on.
The other important factor is being surrounded with scents they’re familiar with.
Cats use their highly-tuned sense of smell to “communicate” with other cats, and create an environment they’re happy in.
They do this by rubbing their scent glands on everything to make it with their scent. This includes marking you too!
Now you know why your cat rubs their face on you. It’s a show of affection while letting other cats know they “own” you.
Will Your Cat Try and Find Their Way Back to You?
When I was growing up I heard countless stories of cats returning to their previous homes after their family moved miles, even hundreds of miles away.
These stories were told like there was an air of mystery surrounding cats and how they’re capable of things we can’t understand.
And it’s completely true.
Cats can return to their old homes. They can also find their way home after getting lost hundreds of miles away.
And we have no idea how they do it!
Well, scientists do have some ideas. But nothing that has solid science-backed reasoning.
The best guess is that cats are in “tune” with the Earth’s magnetic fields and use this as a bearing for direction.
This means there is a chance your cat will turn up back at your doorstep one day. It’s happened countless times before, but it is unlikely.
Whether or not your cat will try and return home mostly depends on how well they’re settling into their new home.
It’s good practice for new owners to keep a cat indoors for a couple of weeks if they’re an outdoor cat.
This helps them become comfortable with their surroundings and form daily routines. Two of the most important things to a cat as discussed above.
Do Cats Feel Abandoned When You Give Them Away?
I don’t think “abandoned” is the correct word. Cats do feel sad when they are rehomed though, it’s more like separation anxiety at first.
They don’t like disruptive changes and they will miss you and their former home at first.
Rehoming affects every cat differently. Some take it really well and will be themselves within days. While others will become stressed and even depressed.
A cat taking the move hard might not eat for days, their fur can become matted and unkempt, and some cats will become aggressive.
This will all pass as the cat adjusts to its new home though, so try not to worry about your cat. The more information you gave the new owners about what your cat likes, the smoother the move will be.
How Long Does It Take for a Cat to Forget Its Owner?
If you’re wondering, “will my cat remember me after one year, two years, or how long it’ll be before they forget about me” – no one really knows the answer to this for sure.
There have been some studies into cats’ short term memory, which seems to indicate that they have a relatively poor short term memory.
Short-term and long-term memories are two very different things. Cats, and people, can have very good long-term memories while having poor short-term memories, and vice versa.
While I couldn’t find any good studies into their long-term memory, there were more than enough anecdotal accounts of cats having a good long-term memory.
I’ve read some stories from teenagers that left the family home to go to university or traveled around the world for months or years. Only to be greeted by the family cat on their return as if they’d only been away a day.
I’ve never left my cats for more than around 3 weeks of vacation. But I can tell you for sure they’re really happy to see me return.
Which contradicts what scientists think about their short term memories. But let’s not forget, there are many mysteries that can’t be explained about cats.
If you have to give your cat away, they are going to miss you. Just as you’re going to miss them.
I don’t know if that makes you feel better or worse, but it’s just a fact. It’s a really tough thing to do – rehoming a cat – but you have to do what’s best for you and your cat.
It gets easier over time, trust me, it really does. If you want to reach out and talk about how you’re feeling, feel free to drop me a message in the comments below.
Image credits – Photos by Jon Sailer, Ramiz Dedaković, and 傅甬 华 on Unsplash
Feline memories found to be fleeting – LiveScience.com
Difference between short and long term memories – ncbi.gov