There are many reasons why a dog or cat no longer can live with her human family. These include a family member with severe pet allergies or a new baby who your dog isn’t dealing with well. It’s a difficult decision, but sometimes pet rehoming might become the only solution and the best decision for a family.
If you need to rehome your dog or cat, it’s essential to research all aspects of the process first to create a happy and healthy transition. After all, the last thing you want is to place your beloved pet in an unsafe environment.
Why You Might Need to Rehome Your Pet
First things first: Why would you need to consider pet rehoming? We spoke with experts in the animal rescue and sheltering world, and they pointed to these main reasons pets are rehomed:
1. Pet Behavior Problems
Dawn Kavanaugh, CEO of All About Animals, a no-kill, foster-based rescue in Maricopa County, Arizona, says pet-related behaviors like aggression, house soiling and not getting along with family members (two- or four-legged) can be reasons why people might need to rehome their pet.
“When you’re thinking about pet rehoming, it’s so important to be very honest with the rescue group or shelter,” she says. “Tell them exactly why, because then they can give the animal the best shot at a new home.”
2. Family- and House-Related Situations
“We’ve also been getting quite a few calls from relatives who tell us the pet parent has either passed away or has to go into assisted living and cannot take the pet,” Gable adds.
Allison Guptill, animal care technician at The Ark Animal Shelter in Cherryfield, Maine, says she often finds people lack funds to care for their pet any further.
How to Rehome Your Pet
If you must find a new home for your dog or cat, it’s best to plan ahead—at least six months ahead if possible—Kavanaugh says. We all want the best for our pets. To ensure that your animal will be in good hands, be prepared to do some research on the prospective new parent or rescue organization. Here are the steps recommended by our experts:
1. Before You Begin
As soon as you know you need to rehome your pet, start looking for options, Gable says.
“We get calls on a regular basis from people who tell us they are moving tomorrow and need to find a home for their pet,” she says. “Understand that most shelters are full and have a waiting list, so begin your search early.”
Also, if your dog or cat isn’t spayed or neutered, this is the time to do it, Kavanaugh says.
“There are programs all over the country where you can do low-cost spay and neuter,” she says.
Gable agrees and adds that you should be sure that your fur friend is current on vaccinations, shots and veterinary checkups. This especially is helpful “because many shelters have limited funds,” she says.
Another great tip: Take some stunning pet glamour shots and write a fun, honest bio about her, Kavanaugh says.
“Take amazing pictures of your animal and write a great profile,” she says. “Make it catchy. Rescues, shelters and the public in general are constantly bombarded and being asked to take in an animal. Well, what makes yours so special? Give me the hook! The more you can tell or prep that story, the better your chances are of getting her a [better-suited] home. It makes a huge difference.”
2. Where to Start
Pet rehoming can be a daunting process. Where do you begin? Gable suggests reaching out to family members, friends and trusted co-workers first. If that’s not an option, she says to try websites like NextDoor.com, which is a private, neighborhood social network.
“Of course, you should also contact local shelters and animal rescue groups,” Gable says. “If you have a specific breed of dog or cat, look to see if there is a rescue for that breed.”
Kavanaugh agrees, noting that after family and friends, check with no-kill shelters and rescues.
“And please, please do not offer your animal up for free on social media or on Craigslist,” she emphasizes. “It’s so important to put a value on your animal so that other people will, too. We hear horror stories of animals becoming bait animals or being hurt by animals that are trained to fight.”
3. The Screening Process
Once you’ve found a potential home for your dog or cat, it’s important to screen them for a quality match. Kavanaugh and Guptill both suggest asking these types of questions:
- How many people (adults and children) live in your home? Is your kid allergic to dogs or cats?
- Who will be the pet’s primary caretaker? Does that person work long hours away from home?
- What is the climate in your home? Is it calm and tranquil, or is it bustling with activity?
- Do you own or rent your house or apartment? If you rent, do you have permission to have an animal? Have you paid a pet deposit to the landlord? If you own, do you have an HOA? Does it allow animals?
- What experience do you and your children have with animals? What happened to all previous animals you’ve had?
- What other pets live in your home? Are they current on their vaccines, including rabies?
- What are your thoughts on training and discipline?
- Do you have a veterinarian? Can you provide a reference?
- Why would you return or give up an animal?
- Are you comfortable paying a $50 rehoming fee?
- May I do a home visit to introduce my dog or cat to your family and pets?
After you find a good candidate, schedule a meet and greet to see how your pet and the prospective family members interact, Guptill says.
It should be a carefully made decision for both parties, Kavanaugh adds.
“I’d say, ‘We’re going to visit for an hour and then see what you think,’” she says. “I’d have them sleep on it over overnight, and then get in touch back with them. You don’t want it to be like, “OK, bye,” and that’s it. You want to make sure it’s a thoughtful decision.”
Pet rehoming done well is a lot of work, Kavanaugh admits, so if you can’t put in the effort or don’t have the time, she recommends turning in the animal to a shelter or a rescue to do that work for you. If you decide to go through a rescue group or shelter, Kavanaugh says it’s critical to provide them with honest information for the best success.
Help Your Pet With the Transition
Relinquishing your pet and coping with the transition can be incredibly difficult. When the time comes to take your dog or cat to her new home or rescue facility, Guptill suggests you bring along items that will remind her of her previous home.
“A blanket or toys will help settle [your pet] into the new environment,” she says. “Also bring [some] of the food you’ve been feeding … [and the] veterinary records for any treatments—vaccinations, flea meds, wormers, etc.—that the animal may have received.”
A way for you to cope with rehoming your pet is to keep in contact with the new family or the shelter, Kavanaugh adds.
“If they’re open to it, make that person an extended family member,” she says, “so that you can feel like you did the right thing for the animal and for the family. When you’re doing it yourself, that’s a great satisfaction. If you’re putting the animal in a rescue or a no-kill shelter, typically you can follow her progress and check in and follow her journey.”
Author of nine books and hundreds of articles, Wendy Bedwell-Wilson has been a freelance writer and editor for the past decade. She writes about pets, farming and healthy living from her 80-acre hobby farm in southwest Oregon, which she shares with her husband, three rescued dogs—a retired racing Greyhound named Song, a hound mix named Pete and a Chihuahua mix named ChiChi—a feline mouse hunter called Cleo and a barnyard of farm critters.