Skip to Content

Re-homing a cat due to litter box issues

In a fantasy world, no one would every consider re-homing a pet. No one would need to.

But in the real world, sometimes good owners need to responsibly re-home their cats.

The scenarios are endless. Someone loses a job or a house or a spouse. Someone must move overseas or to an area that does not allow cats. A child is allergic. Another pet picks on the cat.

Life is unpredictable.

And then there are different scenarios where the person is not allergic. The person has not lost a job or a house or a spouse. The person is not bankrupt or sick or injured. The person is just fine, and the cat is the problem.

Maybe the cat is destroying property by scratching. Or maybe the cat has stopped using the litter box.

These situations are more difficult for those of us in the rescue world to accept.

It’s easy to put the blame on the cat owner. It’s easy to judge when we know very little.

Why doesn’t she scoop the damn box more often?

Why doesn’t she buy more scratching posts?

She must be really lazy.

For this post I am going to refer to a cat that is having litter box issues since that’s an issue I am oh so familiar with.

I can understand why someone would need to re-home a cat for this very reason.

At what point is enough, enough?

I love my cat, but loving a cat won’t take away his problems.

There is only so much property damage a person can tolerate from a cat

Gray tabby cat named Scout

Photo by Tawna Whitford

Since my cat Scout keeps his “accidents” to rugs, towels and dog beds, our property damage has been minimal.

We wash the rugs or throw them away, and his “accidents” are not often. I’ve been keeping up with my cleaning duties, and Scout has gone more than three weeks without an “accident.” He gets a gold star!

Still, Josh and I have briefly discussed what to do if things get worse. At what point do you “put the cat down”? Or find him a new home?

It’s not an easy decision, and I don’t think it’s right for me to tell you what to do. I can only tell you what I would do.

Give the cat time to adjust

I would give your cat some time, try to go through all the points listed in this post and try to pinpoint the problem. Also, make sure there is not a medical problem like a urinary tract infection or bladder problems.

Re-home the cat to a farm

If your cat is having problems beyond what you can deal with, I would look at re-homing the cat to a farm to live as a mostly outdoor cat.

Some people are going to have a problem with my stance on this. That’s fine. You are more than welcome to offer your suggestions in the comments.

It’s not easy to make these kinds of decisions, but if your cat is urinating all over your house or your garage, I understand why you would want to re-home him.

With my cat, I have decided I will need to think seriously about re-homing him if he starts urinating on our carpets. Thankfully, that has never been the problem.

Should I ‘put my cat to sleep’ if he won’t use the litter box?

I don’t believe a cat should be killed just because he won’t use a litter box, not unless the cat is old or sick and not enjoying a good quality of life. At that point, the litter box is not the main issue.

It is selfish to kill a cat for not using the litter box when nearly all cats can enjoy a good quality of life outdoors.

Will my cat be OK as an outdoor cat?

Given the option between death and a life outdoors, I’m pretty sure every single cat would choose life.

It would be selfish to “put a cat down” because you can’t stand the thought of Fluffy living outdoors.

Cats are not furry humans. Cats can thrive outdoors, even in Midwestern winters.

There are easily 500 feral cats living in the community of Fargo, N.D., West Fargo, N.D., and Moorhead, Minn., according to Carol Sawicki, director of Minn-Kota PAAWS. PAAWS is a spay/neuter clinic that focuses on feral cats and pets from limited income households and farms.

Of course, outdoor life for any cat in any climate has its challenges and dangers.

Hot weather. Cold weather. Hawks. Eagles. Traffic. Poison. Dogs. Coyotes. Evil children.

On the other hand, cats are tough and cats adapt. They are hunters and independent creatures. They don’t exactly need humans.

Just because a cat lives outdoors does not mean he will suffer.

Indoor cats can suffer just as easily.

Many indoor cats suffer from extreme boredom. They are likely to be overweight. They are more likely than outdoor cats to get heart disease, diabetes and all kinds of health problems associated with a sedentary life.

How do I find my cat a home on a farm?

For Scout, the ideal farm home would be a place where he could get daily interaction with humans. He’s a shy cat who doesn’t care to be handled much, but he does like to be around humans. He’s usually in the same room as us, but he likes his personal “bubble.”

Ideally, on a farm, Scout would still be given dry food and water in bowls every day. He would have shelter in a barn, garage or shed. He would still go to a vet for vaccinations and checkups, not at his request, but mine. The farm would be far enough back from any busy roads. He would wear a collar with ID tags and a bell. I would have him microchipped. He would probably wear some type of flea and tick prevention.

If I had to re-home my cat, I would start by asking and considering some of my relatives who live on farms. Then I would ask friends to ask around. It helps that I live in a rural state. I would also ask local rescues if I could list him on their sites as a courtesy posting. I would use Craigslist, making sure to interview those interested and to visit their farms. I see Craigslist as a valuable tool for finding homes for pets.

I would not charge a re-homing fee. Instead I would give the adopter some money to cover some of Scout’s future care. Probably $500 or so.

That’s just what I would do.

Why can’t I re-home my cat to another indoor home?

The reason I suggest re-homing the cat to a farm rather than a new indoor home is because if the cat is having litter box trouble at your house, he will probably have litter box trouble at a new house. It’s only fair to your cat and the adopter to be honest about his issues.

I can’t imagine re-homing Scout. Things would have to get pretty bad. Since I dream of living on a farm anyway, I would probably be more likely to buy my own farm rather than re-home my cat to someone else’s farm. I can’t wait until my cats can be indoor/outdoor kitties if they so choose.

Don’t feel guilty about re-homing your cat

Gray tabby cat named ScoutUndoubtedly, people will criticize your decision if you decide to re-home your cat. They will give advice whether you ask for their opinions or not. They will be downright cruel.

I understand what you are going through on some level. Although I have never re-homed a pet, it would be very difficult because I love my dog and my cats very much.

My cat Scout was the first pet I obtained on my own as an “adult.” For about a year it was just he and I in my little Jamestown, N.D., apartment. I slept with ear plugs so his purring wouldn’t keep me awake as he curled up to my chest at night.

These days he still crawls into my lap at least once a day, and I sing to him and kiss his head. We play this game that Josh, Ace and Beamer do not understand where we chase each other around the couch or from room to room. He likes to sneak up and pounce before dashing just out of reach.

Scout insists on riding shotgun, perching on the little divider between the two front seats. He’s traveled to places like Minneapolis and Duluth, Minn., and stayed in a couple hotels.

He likes to retrieve toys or crumbled pieces of paper. Sometimes, randomly, he’ll bring me a hair-tie. When he was little he went through this faze where he would collect small objects and store them in the bathtub – pen caps, rubber bands, candy bar wrappers.

When I left for work, Scout used to run up and bite my leg, clinging to me with all four paws – “don’t go!” During my lunch break I would sit on the patio with him. Together, we’d watch for birds.

When we play board games, Scout is the type of cat to bat around the Monopoly houses. “Oh! Let me rearrange these for you!”

I love my cat. I’d give everything possible for him. He’s my partner in crime.

If you are facing the difficult decision of re-homing your cat for whatever reason, I hope you are able to accept whatever decision you must make. Do not feel guilty. Just because you have to re-home your cat does not mean you don’t love your cat.

No matter what anyone else says or thinks, only you know what is best.

Under what circumstances could you imagine yourself re-homing a pet?


Tuesday 30th of July 2013

I have to ask if you personally know anyone that has "re-homed" a cat to a farm? I know two people that have. I don't think you are taking in to account cat behavior. The first cat was pretty quickly killed by the other farm cats and the other disappeared very quickly as well. We brought my Dad's kind kitty into our home with our other two kind kitties and my cats terrorized my Dad's cat and nearly killed her as well. I never in a million years would think that could ever happen. I'm up for trying all options, but perhaps a cat would have to go to a farm with no other cats or else have trial periods where you stay at the farm to observe how things go. Would the cat rather be put down or terrorized and torn apart? I'm sorry to be so harsh, but I dont' want people just dropping their cats off at farms. Also, a pre-requisite for even trying it should be that the cat be spayed or neutered. Thanks for the other good advice!


Tuesday 16th of October 2012

Im stuck in the middle. My boyfriends ex girlfriend bought a bengal cross cat, phoebe who's 7. She's a house cat and mainly lives in one large room of the flat. The ex didn't take phoebe with her when she left because phoebe marks territory. Although she uses her litter tray she also wees on bedding, towels, bath mats and most recently my dogs bed. She can also be unpredictable with hissing and scratching. She has clawed her way into the back of the sofa and sits in there even if you go too close to her hiding place with the Hoover a claw comes lashing out. The dog has to sit on the sofa whenever we go around as phoebe will claw her and hiss at her if her pass touched the ground. We are due to move into a house together in a couple of weeks. I am very worried about taking the cat. Although she will have access to a garden she still poses an inconvenience to taking the dog in and out from the garden as they would need to be supervised. I'm also worried about new furniture and carpets that she may damage. Today I called 7 rehoming centres who are all full-even their waiting lists. I just don't know what to do. I'm worried for the dog, for young children visiting and for having to live my life around the cat. Please can you offer any advice?


Friday 28th of December 2012

Hi Hannah! Have you tried using Feliway or Bach's Flower Remedy with the Bengal kitty? I'd also consider a trial of anti-anxiety therapy, under a vet's supervision, of course. There is Feliway spray and plug-ins. The Bach Flower remedy can be put into the kitty's water or just given as directed by your vet.

I have a kitty who was on short-term Ativan when my adult daughter returned home. He was anxious, not using his litterbox when she came back into the picture. All it took was about a week, and I ordered my daughter not to interact with Ryan unless she could make it a positive interaction. They still have a bit of sibling rivalry when she visits.

Another thing to try with sudden litterbox issues is changing your litter. I've found the corn-based litters to be least obnoxious and have had no issues using that type of litter.


Wednesday 13th of June 2012

My cousin and her fiance had to rehome their cat because he was becoming unpredictably violent. With her he just did the one-step-beyond-playfighting thing, nipping a little too hard and giving some minor scratches, but he started to full-out attack her fiance - to the point where they had to go to the hospital for some major stitches on his arm.

They were lucky enough that he's never been dangerous to anyone else and their vet was willing to take him and try to find him a home, but I know that she hated having to do it. They have no idea what started setting him off, but her fiance no longer felt safe despite the fact that they'd had this cat for 3 or 4 years and the two of them (fiance and cat) had actually had a really great relationship for that entire time. I can't imagine having to make that choice.

Fortunately, while he's a little crazy he's otherwise a great cat, so hopefully someone took him home who was able to help. I know that she had to force herself to stop checking in on him, though... it just made the separation that much harder.

I can't imagine a situation in which I would willingly rehome my cat. We have something of a mutual adoration society going on, and she's never had even a whisper of litter box trouble. I guess it's the kind of situation you're never prepared for until it's there.

Rachael Taylor

Monday 11th of June 2012

Great post Lindsay as always! Congrats on your wedding, I hope there's more photos to come!!

Lindsay Stordahl

Monday 11th of June 2012

Thank you!! I will have to post some more :)