How to Rehome a Cat: Tips and Advice for Finding a Loving Home

cat being held looks into the camera

The decision to find a new home for your cat is a difficult and heartbreaking one for any pet owner. There are many situations that can result in a cat needing rehoming, including allergies, financial difficulties, rental accommodations that don’t allow pets, or even a pet behavior issue. These situations are among those that may lead a pet owner to say, “I need to rehome my cat,” or even, “I need to rehome my cat urgently.”

If you find yourself in this situation, it’s important to seriously consider whether rehoming a cat is the only solution available. For example, if a behavior issue is motivating a rehoming decision, try reaching out to your veterinarian or an animal behaviorist for guidance on steps you can take to resolve the issue, and keep your cat in your home.

If you can see no other alternative for the welfare of your cat, you need to put in the time and effort to find the best way to rehome a cat.

As a member of your family, your cat depends on you for your love and care. That includes finding them a new home where they will be welcomed and will continue to receive the love and care they deserve. 

Assess Your Situation, and Your Cat’s Needs

The process of cat rehoming should begin with an honest assessment of the situation that has led to your decision. Take a realistic look at why you had to decide, “I need to rehome my cat,” and what your cat needs to find happiness in a new home, with a new family. 

Start with your current home and relationship with your cat, and honestly answer questions such as: 

  • Does your cat get along with all members of your family, including children? 
  • Does your cat get along with other pets? 
  • Is your cat outgoing and affectionate or shy and reserved?  
  • Do they like a quiet household or an active one? 
  • How would you describe an ideal home for your cat?

You know your cat best, so it’s your responsibility to do your best for them. Questions like these can help guide your search for a good home.

Also, before you actively engage in a search for that new home, schedule a visit with your veterinarian for a checkup and vaccinations to make sure your cat is in good health. If your cat needs to be spayed or neutered, please do this—it will make your cat more adoptable and help safeguard their future health. 

Invest the time and effort to do these things for your cat. Remember, the goal isn’t just to “find a home for my cat,” but to “find the right home for my cat.”  

How to Find a Home for a Cat 

Because shelters and rescues unfortunately struggle with a shortage of space and resources and an abundance of homeless animals, your first (and best) option for rehoming an adult cat should be to find a new home for your cat. In other words, the best place to rehome a cat is another home with a pet owner or family committed to your cat’s care and happiness for life.

The Humane Society of the United States offers several suggestions to help with your search: 

  • Make sure your cat is healthy, with all vaccinations up-to-date 
  • Share your cat’s best qualities through photos and descriptions. 
  • Let friends, family, neighbors and your veterinarian know that you have a cat that needs a good home (especially that friend your cat loves to sit by when they visit).  
  • Post flyers with a picture and description of your cat in places such as your work, school, church or community center.  
  • Put your social media network to work and share your cat’s photo and description. 
  • Get support from shelters and rescue groups, some of whom may be able to recommend helpful resources or post your pet listing on their website.  
  • When talking to potential adopters, be honest about your pet—especially about what they need to be happy in a home, and any specific medical needs they may have.  
  • Make sure you screen potential adopters carefully—more heartbreaking than having to give up a pet would be to have your cat fall into the hands of someone who abandons them later.

Questions to Ask When Rehoming a Cat

The process of finding a new home for your cat doesn’t end when someone contacts you with interest in taking them. An adoption is a lifetime commitment, and to ensure that your cat finds a good home, you need to carefully screen any interested adopter. This includes asking questions such as: 

  • Have you had another pet? If so, what happened to them? 
  • Do you have a pet now?  
    • If so, are they healthy?  
    • Will they respond positively to another pet joining the household?  
    • Are they spayed or neutered? 
  • Do you have children? 
    • How old are they? 
    • Have they lived with cats?  
  • Do you own your home or rent?  
    • If you rent, does your landlord allow pets? 
  • Will you provide references?  (Most rescue groups ask for three.) 
  • Are you willing to allow a home check?  
  • How many hours a day will the cat be alone at home?

Tell any adopter who contacts you that you already have a potential adopter but are taking backup applications, then go ahead and screen them. That way, if you are uncomfortable about their answers to any of your questions, or their references don’t check out, you can tell them the first adoption went through and not hurt their feelings.

Special Situations

There are several situations that will require extra effort, diligence and patience on your part to ensure your cat’s (or cats’) safety and happiness. 

Kittens for Rehoming

If you’ve found yourself the caregiver of a litter of kittens in need of homes, remember that you’re responsible for each tiny life, and that finding a good home for each kitten is central to that responsibility.

Make sure each kitten is checked by a veterinarian, vaccinated, and spayed or neutered if they are old enough. You can charge an adoption fee to cover these expenses.

Cute and cuddly kittens are hard to resist but adopting one should NEVER be an impulse decision. Be sure to screen potential adopters carefully (you’ll find some good questions to ask below). Also, make sure each adopter is prepared to make a lifetime commitment to a pet. For a cat, that can be 15-20 years!

Rehoming Senior Cats

The older a pet is, the more difficult it can be to find a new home for them. Be prepared for a longer process. An older cat, or a cat that has been with you for a long time, will have a harder time adjusting to a new home, so please take the time to find your older pet a home where they will have the support they need to make that adjustment.

Rehoming Two Cats Together

If you need to rehome two cats that are bonded, moving them to a new home together will help to lessen the trauma of transition and increase the chances that they will successfully settle into their new home. So be firm about advertising them as a pair, and don’t allow a potential adopter to talk you into separating them.

Rehoming a Stray Cat

If you find a stray cat (or a stray cat decides to “adopt” you), please take the time to do these things before you try finding someone to adopt them: 

  • Make sure the cat isn’t a pet that is lost. Put up fliers and advertise on social media to see if you can locate an owner.  
  • If you can, bring the cat to your veterinarian or a shelter to check for a microchip.  
  • If the cat will allow it, get them into your veterinarian for a checkup. Also, update vaccinations and have them spayed or neutered.  
  • Contact a rescue program that works with stray cats for more advice on how to rehome a stray cat.  

Rehoming a Cat With Behavior Problems

If your cat has behavior issues, unless those issues are directly related to your home, they will almost certainly continue in the next home. For example, rehoming a cat that pees in places other than the litter box isn’t going to stop that behavior. In fact, depending on the level of stress involved in the change, it might result in more instances of the behavior.

For the sake of your cat, before trying to pass on a behavior issue to another adopter, reach out to your veterinarian for support and resources.

With help, many behavior problems can be worked out. Plus, if this is the problem behind your decision to rehome a cat, it could keep your cat in your home.

Where to Get Help With Cat Rehoming

If you need help rehoming cats or a single cat, contact local animal rescues for rehoming cats advice to support you. You can also search online for a cat rehoming service or support organization.

Only when you have exhausted all other avenues should you resort to surrendering your cat to a shelter or rescue. While they exist to help homeless pets, the sad truth is that their limited resources don’t allow them to help every cat that needs them. If you are able, ask if you could serve as a foster parent for your cat, to give them the added benefit of an additional network—one that could result in finding the new home your cat needs.

Learn more about cat adoption with Petfinder.