How to Relocate a Cat

A man absolutely hated his wife's cat and decided to get rid of him one day by driving him 20 blocks from his home and leaving him at the park. As he arrived home, the cat was walking up the driveway.

The next day he decided to drive the cat 40 blocks away. He put him out and headed home. Driving back up his driveway, there was the cat!

He kept taking the cat farther and farther away, but the cat would always beat him home. At last he decided to drive a few miles away, turn right, then left, past the bridge, then right again and another right until he reached what he thought was a safe distance from his home and left the cat there.

Hours later the man calls home to his wife: "Hon, is the cat there?"
"Yes", the wife answers, "why do you ask?"
Frustrated, the man answered, "Put the little knucklehead on the phone - I'm lost and I need directions."

The reason this could be considered funny is because of the element of truth to the story. For humor to succeed, often there must be a reference to real life in it somewhere. While this joke is about a fictional cat, I still feel sorry for him because he represents all cats who have endured a similar fate. And while the cat in this joke is safely back home, leaving the story with a happy ending, the implication remains that the cat is despised and still may be dumped yet again.

As a rescuer, I can attest to the numbers of cats who have been unceremoniously dumped varying distances from their homes, as a way to "get rid of the cat." Sadly, too, there still are many people who believe they are doing the cat a favor by giving it its "freedom." They drive home after the dump-off with a warm feeling because of the little fairy tale playing in their heads: At last, Fluffy will be free to hunt and run and play with all the other kitties out there in the wild, where cats belong.

What they don't realize is that Fluffy is now a victim who probably will not survive. Cats who are raised in town, in homes, around people, are vulnerable to dangers they are not aware of or trained to deal with.

Even "wild-born" feral strays don't live more than 2 to 5 years (at best) in the dangerous outdoor environment, especially if humans are nearby. The dangers include:

  • vehicles
  • cruelty
  • poisons
  • predators
  • injury
  • starvation
  • no water
  • being shot
  • weather
  • disease
  • A cat's instincts may help only to a small degree. If they were not taught by their mothers to hunt, for example, they will starve, due to ineffective techniques. Even if they know how to hunt, they still may starve because of the competition in the area. Other cats have been dumped, too, and the local supply of rodents may already be minimal.

    As to weather, one man commented that if the cat doesn't have "sense enough to get in out of the rain, then he deserves whatever happens to him."

    A very limited thought process went into that remark. Perhaps if he were forced to survive in a clearing in the forest during a blizzard, and no one would let him run to the trees, he might understand the problem a little better.

    So how does one relocate a cat?

    If we watch television even once in a while, we are sure to notice the animal documentaries that are produced regularly. But has anyone noticed that wildlife rehabilitators don't just dump their subjects into any old forest or meadow to "go have a nice life?"

    No, they use their knowledge of habitat and the animals' behaviors and needs to facilitate the reintroduction of the animal back into an area, or even a new area if the animal must be relocated. This is common in some northern areas where bears, for example, have become problems when humans encroach on their habitats.

    If a new town arises in bear country, the resident bears are often moved out in order to prevent harm to either them or the humans who just moved in. Unfortunately, some areas still just euthanize the bears, as that is easier than moving them. This just happened in a small town in California recently.

    In reality, relocating a cat (successfully and safely) is much harder, as they are a domesticated animal. They are used to people and may have no fear of them. They trust us. They may innocently approach a new person in the new location, looking for help, and end up being killed instead.

    Moving a cat to a new home takes some planning and preparation, and then follow-up.

    A cat's first drive in a new spot will be to return to the old spot. This means we must find a way to contain the cat in its new home until it becomes used to its new surroundings. Moving a cat to a farm, for instance, may mean closing the barn door until he's used to the barn and won't leave. (Be sure there are no escape routes.) This can take several weeks. Also, spaying and/or neutering a cat will help in keeping it around, as they will no longer have the urge to mate or roam (looking for a mate).

    A mother cat can be controlled by using her instincts to protect her young. For example, put mama into her new home (a barn?) and let her have her kittens in there. She will stay with them.

    There is an exception, however. If she feels the new location is dangerous, she will either abort herself and eat the young, or kill the newborns after birth (and eat them) and move away. This is a survival instinct. Animals usually will not allow themselves to have or raise young in a dangerous environment. Eating them removes the evidence, and this protects them from nosey predators who might then eat them.

    A new home MUST provide the following to any cat:

    • Safety
    • Food
    • Water
    • Shelter
    • Comfort

    If you cannot ensure these, then you are not relocating the cat - you are dumping it.

    Copyright 2006 - 2007 - RJ Peters 
    Dr. R.J. Peters, a retired physician, established an animal rescue shelter in 2002. She has worked with hundreds of dogs and cats and shares much of what she's learned, at The Problem Cat.