When Cats Get Abandoned at Animal Shelters

Twelve cats were recently abandoned in the Lenawee Humane Society parking lot in Adrian, MI. Ten of the cats were contained in taped-shut boxes.

The shelter was at capacity for cats, which is common during kitten season. Also, they currently do not have a full-time veterinarian. Fortunately, the community stepped up with donations to help get cats, most of which are sick, treated by local veterinarians.

Should those that dumped the cats be shamed or shown compassion?

Desperate people do desperate things.

Dumping Cats at Shelters and Rescues

Sadly, this is not the first time cats have been dumped at this Humane Society.

When local rescues are full, sometimes people feel they have no options when their cats need to be rehomed.

So, the cats get abandoned at the shelter when the rescue is closed for staff or volunteers to find.

It’s not a great situation. The cats are scared and often sick.

Usually, the shelters can scramble and work something yet to make room for the cats.

The Shelter is Better Than Dumping Them in the Country, Probably

It’s unlikely they will euthanize other cats to accommodate the newly abandoned cats when the shelter is a no-kill shelter. Therefore, people abandoning their cats in the shelter parking lot may feel like the cats will have the best chance in the long run at the shelter.  Desperate, they don’t care how it affects others waiting to surrender a cat to the shelter.

If the shelter is a kill shelter, they may not realize that they are sentencing other cats to an early death to make room for their cats.

When cats are dumped in the country, there is no guarantee that someone will find them. Or that they will make it to a home or farm willing to care for them.

So, shelter abandonment may be seen as the best option for those that feel they have no choice other than dumping cats at a shelter.

The Response to Cat Dumping at Shelters

The responses range from thanking the shelter for helping the cats to sadness. And sometimes, as in the situation shared above, criticizing the shelter for shaming the cat dumpers in their post.

Should more compassion be shown? If too much empathy is shown, will that encourage more people to dump their cats without coordinating with the shelter?

We usually don’t know the story behind the abandonment.

  • It could have been a landlord who found cats left behind when renters moved out.
  • Someone realizing they have more cats than they can afford.
  • A family member having to remove cats from a bad situation.

So, it’s hard to know how to respond without the background sometimes.

Ideally, people would find solutions for cat rehoming other than leaving their cats at a shelter without an arrangement for surrender.

What Can You Do

First, get your cats spayed or neutered. If they are fixed, your cats will not accidently add to the cat overpopulation problem! If you can’t afford a full-service vet, look for a low-cost clinic.

Consider Trap Neuter Return (TNR) for stray cats that are doing okay living outside. Some stray cats needed to be rescued as they didn’t have the skills for outdoor life. The cats will be fixed and less likely to cause issues with other cats. Their breeding will end, and fewer kittens will be born outside.

For feral cats, TNR is almost always the answer. They are unfriendly and not adoptable, so trying to take them to a shelter doesn’t usually end well.

Unfortunately, with the combination of the veterinarian shortage and cat overpopulation problem, cats will likely continue to be abandoned at shelters. Do your best and what you can to help the cats in your community. Get involved with TNR or make donations to shelters and cat rescues.

Read Next: Why I Have No Plans to Start a Cat Resuce

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Heidi Bender is the writer and founder of the Joy of Cats. She enjoys sharing cat information and providing helpful cat tips. She considers herself a cat lady and currently cares for eight cats.

1 thought on “When Cats Get Abandoned at Animal Shelters”

  1. THANKING YOU for your wise and compassionate article, Heidi. I work in cat advocacy and encounter this on a daily basis. I also see the results of feline overpopulation combined with poverty and in many cases, complete lack of education and even empathy. All of these, plus, as you correctly point out, the veterinary shortage along with the fallout from the disastrous pandemic policies, add up to yet more suffering for cats. Spay/neuter and TNR, along with humane education and adoption for life, are the answers, as they have always been and will always be. Sharing with gratitude. You are a true friend to cats.


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