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By Helen Anne Travis
Sometimes, despite our best intentions and efforts, we’re no longer able to care for our pet. Maybe someone in the family develops an allergy, or maybe we’re no longer able to provide the care and attention the pet deserves due to an illness.
No matter the reason, pet rehoming—finding a new home for your cat or dog, as opposed to bringing them to a shelter—can help your pet start a new life in a new, safe place. Here are tips for rehoming your dog or cat safely.
The Case for Rehoming Pets
First, know that you’re not alone. More than 1 million households have to rehome their pets each year, often due to financial circumstances, says Matt Bershadker, president and CEO of the ASPCA.
And while there are plenty of wonderful shelters in your community that may be ready and willing to take in your pet, rehoming your cat or dog is often the best solution for all involved.
“You know your pet and are their best resource for ensuring that they find a good and safe new home,” says Aimee Gilbreath, executive director at the animal welfare organization Michelson Found Animals. Plus, bringing them to a crowded shelter can be a stressful experience, she says.
No matter how nice the shelter is, many animals experience stress-related problems such as anxiety, aggression or even illness, which can make it harder to get them adopted into a new home. And there’s always a concern about euthanasia.
“Rehoming can be an easier transition for your pet, enabling them to go directly into another home situation,” says Gilbreath.
How to Prepare Your Pet for Rehoming
The only downside to rehoming your pet is that it takes a lot more time than simply bringing them to the shelter. “But it will be worth it if it means less stress and risk to the animal,” says Bershadker.
To help the process go as smoothly as possible, be sure your pet is fixed, microchipped (don’t forget to transfer the registration and contact info upon adoption) and up-to-date on her current vaccines. Gather all her medical records and consider making an appointment with the groomer.
Take into account your pet’s personality, likes and dislikes, and write a bio that’s as flattering as it is honest. This is going to be a big adjustment for all concerned, says Gilbreath, and it's your responsibility to be up-front with the new potential pet parents to be sure your pet is going to the right home.
“Of course you'll want to describe all of your pet's wonderful qualities,” she says. “But if your pet doesn't like other dogs or cats or kids, you need to disclose this too.” Honesty is the best way to ensure your pet finds the perfect fit for their new home.
Pet Rehoming Sites and Resources
Your best bet when rehoming your pet is your social network. This includes the people closest to you, like your friends and family, as well as resources like your veterinarian, religious groups, schools and neighbors.
If you’re active on any online networks, share your pet’s photo and story there. Our experts also recommend using sites like Get Your Pet, Rehome and Nextdoor. Your community may also have local Facebook groups dedicated to helping people in your community rehome their pets.
Many nonprofit animal rescue groups, shelters and humane societies also have pet rehoming listings available on their websites. If you’re pressed for time when trying to find a new home for your pet, these rescue groups and shelters may also help you find a temporary foster home for your pet until she can be adopted.
Sometimes asking your veterinarian or the support staff at your veterinary hospital can be helpful for rehoming pets. Some clients who have recently lost a pet will ask their veterinarian to keep their eyes open for pets who need good homes.
How to Rehome Your Pet Safely
Ask to meet any potential adopters in person to learn more about their personality and lifestyle, living situation, reasons for wanting to adopt your pet, and other pets they have in the home. This also gives them an opportunity to meet your pet and make sure it’s a good match.
“The ultimate goal is to ensure that your pet’s personality and needs are the right fit for the potential adopter’s home, which makes the match much more likely to succeed,” says Bershadker.
Gilbreath recommends visiting the potential adopter’s home and asking questions about where the pet will sleep, how often will she be home alone and who will watch her when the adopter travels. If your pet has specific nutritional or medical needs, are they willing to and financially able to attend to those? If there is a yard; is it fenced? Who else lives at the home?
“Walk away if you have any doubts,” she says.
If the potential adopter has pets, asking for references and records from their vet may also help you feel confident that they are the type of people who will love, care for and keep your pet safe.
Should You Charge a Fee When Rehoming Your Pet?
Many shelters and rescues charge adoption fees to help cover the costs of taking in the animal, spaying and neutering, and implanting microchips, as well as providing food, shelter and any other veterinary care. Our experts don’t recommend charging a fee when rehoming your pet.
Don’t feel like you’re “giving away” your pet. Instead, you’re helping them find a new home and bringing joy into the new owner's life.
“Studies show that there is no relationship to how much people pay for an animal and the love they will provide,” says Gilbreath.
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