Carolyn Hax: Is it ever okay to return an adopted cat to the shelter?

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Adapted from an online discussion.

Hi Carolyn: I’m so sad as I’m writing this. Two and a half years ago, my kids persuaded me to adopt a cat from an animal shelter. We did our homework, the staff at the shelter got to know us, and when they had the “right” cat for us, they pinged us.

It is clear this is not a family-friendly cat. We have heaped love and toys on her, talked with her vet, provided the proper food, stimulation, quiet spaces, etc., and it’s not working. The cat hisses every time anyone tries to get close (except when it is time to eat!), poops on the floor routinely — even though we have done ALL the vet’s suggestions about litterboxing — and causes lots of stress to me and my kids. She has attacked all three of us, completely unprovoked. I get along great with other cats.

Is it ever okay to give a cat back to the shelter? I feel she would be much happier in a different, quieter home. My kids (12, 10) would be devastated, even though they know I deal with 99 percent of the cat issues.

Anonymous: This sounds like a miserable animal, so, yes, allowing the shelter to find her a more appropriate home might be the only humane choice you have. Talk to the shelter staff. If you’re feeling ashamed — I’ve returned a pet, and felt awful — then please let yourself off the hook. The home has to fit.

Re: Cat: You feel guilty about returning the cat because of your unhappiness. Would you feel better about it if you reframed it as the cat’s unhappiness? Because that cat sounds pretty discontent.

Re: Cat: I’m a volunteer at an animal shelter. Returning an animal because of behavioral issues is not unusual or frowned upon by shelter staff. Some animals belong in a quieter household. “Anonymous” should not feel guilty, nor subject her family and the cat into a situation that benefits neither.

Hi Carolyn: I’m finding myself frustrated that my husband’s fun activities tend to take up one full weekend day per week. Golfing, fishing, hunting … all take at least six hours and some prep or breakdown time. I don’t know why I’m so frustrated, I don’t like to golf, hunt, or fish, so I don’t feel like I’m missing out on the fun. We just celebrated our two-year wedding anniversary and have been together for about seven years, and these aren’t brand-new activities he’s taken up.

Maybe it’s all the pandemic time at home and political stress and upcoming events that have triggered my frustration … any ideas on how to cope/redirect those feelings would be great.

Weekend Woes: Please, I beg, find something you like to do that can occupy a slab of your weekends. I’m not typically so bean-count-y, but this is going to gnaw at you unless and until you have something in your life to make you look forward to those six-plus hours every weekend. Something to shift your mind from, “Why does he keep ditching me?” to [absorbed with chosen separate activity].

… Unless you start to look forward to weekends to be rid of him — but the whole point of my advice is to preempt that alienation.

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