Surrendering a Pet: How to Find a New Home for Your Cat or Dog

Pet care & safety
Giving a dog or cat up for adoption

When we take in a pet, it is a lifetime commitment to provide for them, love them, and treat them as we would any other member of the family. It’s more than just a promise to feed and water them. It’s a special bond between human and animal that shouldn’t be taken lightly.

But, in reality, sometimes bonds aren’t enough to make a relationship work. Just as in any adult relationship, sometimes the situation is not beneficial to either party and it’s best to find a new arrangement. It can be heartbreaking, but sometimes, despite a pet parent’s best efforts, they may find themselves needing to rehome a pet.

Before You Rehome

No matter what the reason, it can be devastating to rehome a pet. So, before you do, ask yourself if you’ve explored all the options.

  • Have you spoken with a trainer or behaviorist to address deal-breaker behavioral issues?

  • If you’re in a financial downfall, are there any financial support programs to provide pet food or temporary housing for the pet while you get back on your feet?

  • If it’s a vet bill issue, have you applied for low-interest financing options to help you with unexpected vet bills or talked to a non-profit clinic to help with preventative care? Sites like connect you with such groups.

If you’re ready to rehome your pet, here are some dos and don’ts:


  • Post a pet to craigslist or other marketing sites without a plan for screening potential adopters.

  • Drop the pet off at a shelter or vet’s office without their permission. It’s illegal and creates a burden on their resources.

  • Abandon the animal. As hard as a surrender may seem, it’s much more humane to transfer the pet to a shelter.


  • Make sure the pet is up to date on shots and is spayed or neutered. (There are many local groups that can help with this if you cannot afford it.) Groom them so they are in optimal shape for potential adopters to see them.

  • Create upbeat and personalized flyers and postings about your pet. Use quality, lighthearted photos on an inviting background where the pet is groomed and facing the camera. Use positive wording to be honest about why the pet needs a new placement, but upsell their best traits and personality.

  • Advocate for your pet by spreading the word about the situation. While your network may be smaller than the adopter pool at a local shelter, many people are more likely to take in a dog from a friend (or friend of a friend) if they can know more about the pet’s background and the reason they needed to be rehomed.

  • Contact your local rescues and vet’s office for resources. They may suggest a particular rescue (breed specific or other specialty group) that might have good options for your pet.

  • Ask local rescues if they’d be willing to post your pet as a courtesy listing or let you bring them to adoption events while they stay in your home.

  • Try posting on legitimate rehoming sites such as Adopt-a-pet or Get Your Pet. While there are many animals in physical shelters, your pet may be able to be adopted through these sites while they stay in your home temporarily. They can also provide you with information about how to screen adopters, handle the interview process, and even decline a potential adopter if you don’t feel it’s a good match.

  • Call the local shelter to discuss your options. While some shelters are unable to take in pets from owners or may not have space routinely, other shelters may allow you to schedule an appointment to surrender the pet when they have kennel space or a foster available. Don’t be afraid to utilize this resource, fearing judgement from the staff or that they’ll euthanize your pet. In some cases, shelters may even allow you to reclaim the pet and try other options if they aren’t able to place the pet.

Rehoming a pet can be a tough situation. But, in an era of online networking and non-profits looking to help, the time has never been better to seek a better arrangement for your cat or dog.