Objective: To identify feline and household characteristics associated with relinquishment of a pet cat to an animal shelter.
Design: Case-control study.
Sample population: Households that relinquished cats for adoption (case households) and a random sample of current cat-owning households in the same community (control households).
Results: Potentially modifiable risk factors with the highest population attributable risk for relinquishment were owners having specific expectations about the cat's role in the household, allowing the cat outdoors, owning a sexually intact cat, never having read a book about cat behavior, cats having daily or weekly inappropriate elimination, and inappropriate care expectations. Frequency of inappropriate elimination and aggression toward people were not associated with declaw status, but these behaviors were more common among sexually intact cats, compared with sterilized cats. Owners of cats in case households were more likely than owners in control households to cite cost of sterilization as a reason a cat was sexually intact. Cats found as strays and cats acquired with minimal planning were at decreased risk of relinquishment.
Clinical implications: The identified risk factors can be modified by cat owners and veterinarians to decrease the estimated 4 million cats euthanatized annually in animal shelters. Owner education programs are needed as well as increased awareness on the part of cat owners and veterinarians of the importance of resolving feline inappropriate elimination problems.