Did You Know That Many Cats Are Abandoned Each Year?

Yes, it’s true — many cats are abandoned each year. The ASPCA has compiled figures that tell us that approximately three million cats enter U.S. animal shelters every year, and of these, around 1.6 million, or slightly over half, end up meeting a family who adopts them.

These statistics do not add in the numerous cats that people leave in some isolated spot, on the streets, in the woods, or with feral cat colonies. Sometime one of these cats finds their way home, only to learn the family has moved.

What if the abandoned cat has been declawed? By that act of abandonment on the human’s part, he might as well have signed kitty’s death warrant, because the cat will have a hard time hunting for food or defending himself without claws.

The Animal Shelter Can Offer Some Protection For Kitty

It’s not the worst case scenario. However, as you might have learned by reading the last post on this website, now, separation anxiety becomes a definite part of the cat’s daily life. The kitty does not understand why he is there, or why his family has kicked him out of his home.

I read one story about a cat who ended up in a shelter after 18 years because her family “didn’t want cat hair any more.”

White cat in cage, looking unhappy

Would you put your grandmother in a nursing home because she’d gotten old, even though still quite healthy, but tended to leave things lying about the house for you to pick up? Or, because she was family, would you help her in her old age, out of love?

Can Your Cat Rely On Instincts?

Because many of you consider cats so independent and self-reliant, you do not believe their attachment to any human is very strong. Many of you believe that the cat can survive perfectly in the wild.

Tell me this — did your cat grow up in the wild? Does he have experience with living in nature, doing what he needs to do to survive?

“Oh,” you say, “His instincts will kick in and he will have no problem adjusting.”

So, what is instinct? It’s defined as “a way of behaving, thinking, or feeling that is not learned: A natural desire or tendency that makes you want to act in a particular way.” Do you think a cat that has lived in a human household since kittenhood has full command of this instinctual knowledge, or has it long ago become vague because kitty doesn’t need those skills in his human home?

If the cat has spent a lot of time outdoors, hunting or exploring, the instincts will have had some practice. Such a cat might at least have some clue how to survive if simply dumped somewhere.

But in many cases, whether you abandon a cat somewhere in nature or take it to a shelter, that cat will have abandonment issues. And, a cat, used to receiving a meal a couple of times a day may very well have a bit of trouble finding enough food to fend off starvation.

starving orange cat
A hungry abandoned cat

How Does Your Cat Feel When Abandoned?

First of all, please realize that cats do have feelings. Read this post about the similarities between the human brain and the cat brain. Kitty has a center of the brain for emotions, just as we do.

Therefore, he can suffer extreme depression and can often develop stress-related behaviors or illnesses. Consider my last cat, Pogo, who pulled all his stomach fur out while in the shelter because of stress. Once he settled in at my house, his fur grew back and he recovered nicely.

However, it did not happen overnight. For the first month, he must have dreamed frequently that he was back in the shelter, because he’d start pulling at his stomach fur. When that happened, I would stroke him gently and talk to him soothingly, until he’d go back to peaceful sleeping.

Your cat loves you, unless you have seriously mistreated him, and eventually he will often overlook the mistreatment because you are the one who feeds him and gives him a home. When you abandon him, either to a shelter, or, worse yet, in an unfamiliar area, he will suffer a shock that may traumatize him for the rest of his life.

Black and white cat digging in dumpster
Dumpster diving for food

Re-Education Is Necessary

I believe we must re-educate the general public, as some erroneous beliefs about cats add to their kitty problems. Because of these beliefs, many people feel it is okay to abandon a cat, because he can take care of himself.

Consider this list:

1) A cat is only a whisker away from the wild

Anatomically, this statement pretty much speaks truth. Domestic cats and wild cats still have many of the same physical characteristics and body structure. However, now, we come to a big difference. The cat has become domesticated. Though he remains much the same physically, he no longer shares the knowledge of how to live in the wild. All that learning becomes replaced with the knowledge of how to live with a human.

Feeding strays in the snow
The Soup Kitchen

The general public has to gain awareness that the cat, though much like his wild ancestors, now, depends on us for survival. Now, there’s no turning back. If we decide to abandon the cat, we often simply sign its death warrant.

2) A cat is independent and self-reliant

We have heard for so long about how independent the cat is and how aloof and uncaring. Often when thinking of cats, people compare them to dogs.

Many dogs will fawn on you and try for attention in any way they can. Not so with a cat. A cat wants to know who you are before deciding to be friends. Thus, the cat exhibits more caution in getting acquainted.

You have to win a cat’s friendship. Then you become friends for life.

3) Cats — A non-social animal

Also not true — most cats like attention and companionship. They just show more discretion in entering into a social situation. If they feel comfortable, they will become involved.

My cat, Carlos, loved gatherings of people. He would often move in to become part of the group. He seemed to listen carefully to everything we said.

4) A cat does not love you

Wrong! Though a cat does not love indiscriminately — you have to earn his love — but then he loves you unconditionally. In his kitty view of things, you can do no wrong.

A cat tends to bond very closely with one person. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t like other people. He just becomes selective about his own special person. If your cat picks you as his special chum, feel honored. Above all, feel loved.

two cats under a building
These cats need a special friend

5) A neutered cat won’t get into fights

Many people believe that if they abandon a cat that’s been neutered, the cat will not fight other cats. Unfortunately, the opposite is true. A sterilized abandoned cat will more often receive attacks from other strays because he poses a threat to their food resource. For this reason, in the wild, a sterilized cat may not receive acceptance into a feral colony.

6) A cat has nine lives. He will come through it all just fine.

Another fallacious idea! A cat has one life, just as you are me, and if abandoned, not only will he become terrified, but will be exposed to dangers he can’t even imagine.

7) He’ll end up happier in nature

Was he born in the wild? How can he find happiness in a strange environment, where he feels only fear and despair because he’s been abandoned? How can he find joy in his life when his home, his family, and his established territory was wrenched away from him?

grey cat alone, very unkempt
Alone and unhappy

The world needs to learn that cats have become very much a part of the human world since their domestication. Abandoning your cat, a member of the family, can not be considered an option. Also, when we have a cat, we have taken on the task of caring for another living creature and sharing our life with him. Any attempt to abandon this animal now, becomes a gesture of cruelty and irresponsibility.

There are far better ways to solve a cat problem without resorting to such extreme measures.

References I used for this post:


6 thoughts on “Did You Know That Many Cats Are Abandoned Each Year?”

  1. As a landlord I have first hand experience with cat abandonment.

    My tenants usually leave them on the properties especially when kitty has moved out to enjoy the serene environment.- it’s sad.

    Quite often though they get a new adopter soon usually a new tenant (since my properties are kept at 100% occupancy every week – we make sure we get a new occupant soonest).

    Quite often that new occupant becomes the new owner (majority are ok with it)of the cat because kity will go back to that house and realize that her human boss left.

    • That is so good that most of the abandoned kitties on your properties are adopted by new tenants. Do you ever have to take abandoned cats to the shelter?

  2. This article makes me sad to see how many cats are out in the wild with no place to call their home.

    We have two cats who were strays and they have found a loving home with us. I could not imagine being without my furry friends now. 

    Some people have no heart to abandon this beautiful creature. They are so affectionate and really appreciate us and give us so much joy. 

    There should be done much more when it comes to stray cats or for all stray animals for that matter.


    • Yes, I agree. I wish it were easier to do more. I can’t add a lot of money to the pot, but at least can try to influence public awareness.

  3. I I hundred percent agree with you that three is a lot of re education that is needed for people who owns pets especially cat owners. Although they may look independent, they are a set of animals that needs care and love. I love your analogy of our old grand mother. We won’t cast off our old grand mother because she is old. Same way we should care for our cats 

    • Oh, I so agree. It can get hard on human and pet when the pet is ill, but that’s when they really need us. I’ll put up with a bit of discomfort in exchange for all that the cat gave me.


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