How to Surrender a Cat: A Comprehensive Guide

woman holds cat closely to cuddle

Whatever the reason behind it, surrendering a cat is a heartbreaking decision to make. And make no mistake—this decision will also result in stress and heartache for your cat.

Because of this, it’s important that you don’t make this decision without first exhausting all other options, including trying to rehome your cat, before you arrive at the “surrender cat” solution.

How to Surrender a Cat

If you’re searching online for “cat surrender near me,” or “immediate cat surrender near me,” your results will likely be focused on shelters for homeless animals. Your surrender cat to shelter process should begin with calls and visits to various shelters to learn which ones are able to accept surrenders. Unfortunately, many shelters are constantly struggling to operate under the burden of too many animals in need and too few resources. 

If a shelter can accept your cat, make a visit so you can see how the animals are cared for before you release your cat to them.

The transition from a home environment to a shelter environment is difficult for pets, so it’s essential that you don’t just give away a cat without first knowing where your cat will be living as they wait in hope of a new home. Because of the number of adult cats in shelters, this can be a long wait.

Can I Take My Cat to a No-Kill Shelter?

Because of the wait time involved in finding a home for adult cats, if your goal is to give cat up for adoption, your best option would be to take it to a no-kill shelter.

Although these welfare organizations must sometimes deal with the heartbreaking decision to euthanize an animal due to severe or untreatable illnesses or behavior problems when all other potential solutions have been tried, in terms of shelter situations, they offer your cat the best chance of finding their way into a new home.

How to Give a Cat to a No-Kill Shelter

The process is the same as it would be for any shelter: 

  • Start with a search, specifically for no-kill shelters.  
  • Contact the shelters you find to see if they have capacity to take in another cat. 
  • Visit the shelter so you know firsthand about the place in which your cat will be living and the care they will be receiving, as well as how the shelter promotes pets for adoption and screens potential adopters. 

Where to Take Abandoned Kittens

Kittens that have been abandoned by their mothers require extra care, especially if they are not weaned and on solid food. If you are wondering what to do with abandoned kittens, here are some steps to take:  

  • First, make sure that the kittens have actually been abandoned by their mother (as opposed to being left for a period of time by a mother cat that will return).  
  • Call your veterinarian for guidance on how to feed and care for the kittens until you can find a rescue organization to help. Your veterinarian may also be able to suggest some resources.  
  • Search online for shelters and rescue groups that will take kittens. Caring for very young babies requires volunteers who are experienced and able to take on the task of mothering them until they are old enough to eat on their own, so not all shelters and rescue groups will be equipped to take this on. 

Where to Surrender an Aggressive Cat, or a Cat with Behavioral Issues

If your cat has aggression or behavior issues, your main concern shouldn’t be how to get rid of a cat. Surrendering your cat to a shelter or rescue group won’t cure those issues. In fact, given the stress involved in the transition to a shelter, they might become worse, adding an additional obstacle to the adoptability of an adult cat. A cat with a “behavior issue” label will likely end up spending their life in a shelter or may have to be humanely euthanized by a shelter.

If you want your cat to find a new home, before surrendering them to a shelter or rescue group, reach out to your veterinarian or an animal trainer or behaviorist for resources and support. These professionals might be able to help you and your cat resolve a physical or behavior issue or help you identify what type of environment might be more suitable for your cat. Shelters and rescue groups can also be a resource for support or counseling—talk to them and be honest about any issues your cat is experiencing.

Another resource for information on cat behaviors and behavioral issues is This searchable online database provides more than descriptions of cats and kittens available for adoption at more than 14,000 shelters nationwide—it also offers helpful articles on cat behavior and ideas on how to work with and overcome issues.

With help, many behavior issues can be worked out—and if the issue is the reason you’re surrendering a cat, it could keep your cat in your home.  

How Much Does it Cost to Surrender a Cat?

You may be wondering, “Where can I surrender my cat for free?” There are some shelters and rescue groups that do not charge owners for surrendering their pets.

With that said, however, these organizations depend on donations and volunteers to provide care and the possibility of a good home for the pets who depend on them. When a shelter or rescue group agrees to take the cat you surrender, they also take on the responsibility and expense for their care. If you can make a donation when you surrender your pet, you will aid them in their mission to help homeless pets and help your cat as well.

Again, the best option for your cat would be to avoid surrendering them in the first place. Before you take your cat to a shelter, consult with your veterinarian, an animal trainer or behaviorist, or and other online resources, and make every effort possible to resolve any issues that might be impacting your cat’s future in your home.

Learn more about cat adoption with Petfinder.