Dear PoP – how do I surrender a cat in DC?

Photo by PoPville flickr user Vileinist

“Dear PoP,

I have a rather sad request – how can I surrender my cat to a shelter in DC? I took in a friend’s cat temporarily, as they were moving a few hundred miles and couldn’t yet bring the cat out. Well, they ended up turning around and moving back to DC in about a week’s time, and have since refused to take back the cat. I tolerate the cat, but my roommate (rightfully so) hates her; the cat is sweet to us, but she is aggressive to strangers, making it difficult to have friends over. After several months of trying to “work it out” through behavior modification and positive reinforcement, this weekend was the final straw, and I’ve been given an ultimatum to either lose the cat or move out. The original owner is still steadfastly refusing to take back the cat (saying it’s “my problem now”). I would drop her on his doorstep, but in the past he’s threatened to set her loose on the streets, and I couldn’t bear to have her become homeless.

So that brings me to my question: where can I surrender this cat in DC? It appears that some of the well known agencies (WARL, Wash Humane) don’t accept surrenders. (And before the Peanut Gallery rips me apart for wanting to give her up, I want to say that while I do like this cat, I can’t afford to break my lease/lose my roommate, and I am moving to the west coast in six months!) Thank you”

This is a very sad situation – anyone who takes in cats?

100 Comment

  • I’m sorry I can’t give any advice, but your friend sounds like an asshole.

    • Yes. Not really a friend at all. Big Time A-hole!

      I assume you’ve asked all your real friends to no avail?
      Maybe CraigsList (or, dare I say, FreeCycle) to find someone to adopt her?

  • WHS on NY Ave. They are legally required to accept all turn-ins. About a 50% chance this cat dies at WHS. Sorry, those are the general numbers for cats in DC.

  • Sounds like a really rough / sad situation, maybe try lost dog lost cat rescue foundation – they *may* take surrendered cats (I don’t know for sure, though). I adopted my cat from them and I believe he was originally surrendered.

    You could also ask the vet what he or she recommends. Might know of someone who is looking for a cat to adopt.

    • +1 for this recommendation

      I also do not know for sure that Lost Dog takes surrenders but I got my dog from them and am pretty sure that she was originally surrendered to them.

      • I got my dog from them too!

        If Lost Dog Rescue won’t take the cat, I would suggest posting on craigslist. If you can, try to avoid surrendering the cat to a shelter. It won’t last very long there.

        And there’s a special place in hell for someone who passes on their responsibility to take care of an animal the way your “friend” did.

  • Gosh, that is sad. Just wanted to offer a preemptive defense of the OP, because he/she is in a seriously bad spot. No good deed goes unpunished.

    I found a wonderful home for a stray I rescued from my alley, right here on PoP. (Hope PK is doing well!)

    And I found a home for another cat through a similar mechanism several years ago– posted on a community forum about the situation, and someone stepped up. So that’s my recommendation. Take an adorable picture, write the best description of the cat you can, keeping a balance between flattering and truthful, and post it around the various blogs and listserves. There’s a little work involved, but it feels so much better than dumping the animal off at a shelter that will probably euthanize it in 10 days.

  • Sorry about the situation, and like DL I can’t offer any advice about the cat.

    You initially referred to the original owner as “a friend”, but I would suggest that this person is no friend of yours. Not cool at all.

  • get new friends. what a douche.


    here are some tips from the baltimore spca… if you can make the drive up with the cat, it’s a great organization with a brand new facility.

    sounds like a sticky situation — good luck. you did the right thing by taking in the cat, and i hope the cat finds a lovely new home

  • let the cat loose…plenty of mice and rats in the city to go around.

  • pcat

    Please post a picture and tell us how old the cat is. Perhaps someone will take her.

  • Why don’t you give us the name and address of this so-called “friend.” This asshole needs to be thrown out on the street.

  • Homeward Trails is a no kill organization that works to foster and adopt out animals in the D.C. metro area. I’ve worked with them, and they are a devoted, wonderful organization.

  • I adopted my cat after his previous owner posted fliers up at GWU with the heading “Carmelo Needs a Home!” Just a thought.

  • Barns are often a great place for cats who don’t live well with people. The cat gets a warm bed, food, and plenty of space to avoid humans, while the barn gets pest control. A barn I used to ride at had a cat named Puddles who came to live at the barn because her family couldn’t handle the, well, puddles she left around the house. Might be a good alternative to a shelter, particularly if she might not be adoptable. I believe the only stable in the city is Rock Creek, but there are plenty in the near burbs. Wheaton has a large one, and there are several in the near Virginia suburbs. Also, some schools around have barns, i.e. Barry (in MD) and Madeira (in VA).

    • I hate to break it to you, but when your mom said she sent Fluffy to a “barn,” she really got euthanized.

      • As someone who HAS a farm, some of us actually do need cats for mice control. I will see if anyone I know needs an extra.

        • Though, to be fair, we mostly take ferals that are used to living outside.

          • Trixie, I have two one year old ferals (one male, one female) that have been spayed and neutered, so please post again if you know of anyone that is looking for barn cats.

  • Is it just me or did anyone else immediately think of this cartoon?

    Sad situation – as others have chimed – doesn’t seem like much of a “friend” to me.

  • Jesus…you have pretty low standards for “friends”.

    Someone just doesn’t one day turn into such an asshole. Why are you and have you been friends with such a ridiculous waste of oxygen?

    And don’t take Erin’s advice and just make it someone elses problem by dropping it off at someones barn. I grew up on a farm and not a week would go by that someone didn’t just drop their cats, dogs off at our place thinking that because we had a farm that we didn’t mind taking care of everyones unwanted animals in the tri-county area. Strays breed into unmanageable numbers, crap everywhere etc. They don’t want your pets anymore than you do, and speaking from experience, the strays left in someones barn are likely shot anyway.

    • what he/she said

    • -1 for the useless judgemental comments.

    • -1

      FYI, your friends have equally low standards.

    • I grew up on a farm – and its true how many animals got dumped for us – cats, dogs, pigs even. Also we had a large barn cat population that grew to unmanageable, unfeedable proportions (sufficing on mice alone leads to famished, malnurished cats). I would say only give them to a farm if they agree to take them, and if they are neutered/spayed.

      Also, feral cats wreck havoc on native bird populations (as my mother, a birder, has seen in person with much dismay).

      Finally, this cat may be an indoor cat, and thus not suited for living outdoors. It could come to a quick end that way.

  • I got my cat from Homeward Trails. They may or may not be able to take yours, but they have a bunch of info at

    You should definitely send a photo and more description to PoP…maybe a reader here is interested in adopting.

    And if I were you, I’d never speak to this “friend” again.

  • After trying to find a new home through friends and famaily we surrendered our cat at the Humane Society office at Georgia and Geranium and they couldn’t have been nicer. You just give them basic info and sign something saying you won’t show and try to get the cat back and then you are done. Good luck!

  • When I first read this I thought it said “How do I surrender to a cat in DC?”

    Thought maybe there was some kind of weird cat wrestling scene going on in this town.

  • I’ve been trying to get women to surrender their cats since the day i first moved to town.

  • What a sad story. I believe the Washington Animal Rescue League would take the cat in and I am not sure about this, but I think they are a no-kill shelter. Also, you may want to try Alley Cat Allies — while they deal mostly with ferals they may be able to refer you to a no-kill shelter.

    Also, I agree with the person who suggested you post a picture. Maybe there is someone in the community who could take her. Good luck!

    • WARL is a no-kill shelter by definition (they do not kill more than 10% of adoptable animals), but they do kill animals. Also, they are not open-intake, and are choosy with the animals they take in. I doubt they would take this cat because it is not perfect, which is what they tend to take in. It is a great place to adopt an animal, but rarely help out in situations like these.

    • WARL is a really good place and they have a great cat facility

  • Did your friend give a reason? There is a special place in hell for your friend, both for what he did to you and the cat.
    I am the owner of a fractious cat. She is loving with my wife and I, only (even then she has bad days/moments). She was this way when we got her at 8 weeks and that was 13 years ago. We originally discussed giving her away, but we realized no one would take her if she was hissing and swatting at them, so we decided for better or worse we were in it for the long run. We love her a lot, as she us – when friends come over she will usually hiss and go hide away. Sometimes she even comes out to investigate and as long as no one tries to pet her, all is well.
    Can you give it another try? Try being apathetic (your guests too) toward the cat when your guests are there, even lock her in another room with her food and box. I wish I could take the cat but my cat won’t have it 🙂 I am glad you are trying to do the right thing. Good luck and try to find a non-kill shelter.

  • get her spayed and leave her in the alley or something.. i see bunch of cats roaming around in Mt. Pleasant. They seem healthy and looks like they enjoy the outdoors.

    And they most likely also take care of the rodent problem.

    May sound bad, but better than leaving the cat at shelter where it would be stuffed with tons of other cats or maybe even killed.

    • To humanely euthanize the cat would be kinder.

      There are plenty of unhealthy stray cats that you AREN’T seeing.

      Please don’t offer idiotic advice when you clearly know nothing about feral cat populations.

      • What an odd thing to say. “Euthanize” is just a fancy word for “kill.” If I were a cat, I’d rather go longer between meals while living on the street than “humanely” get KILLED. I never understood how people can advocate euthanzation as the kinder, gentler choice. The cat will still be DEAD even if you are playing Barry White while you KILL her.

        • The cat will be dead, but not suffering from malnutrition, thirst, illness, injury, freezing temps… yeah, I think it’s the kinder alternative.

          It might make YOU feel better about what you’re doing, but I truly think it’s not better for the animal.

          • How exactly do you think animals lived before humans started bringing them inside as their own personal plaything? If anything, we’ve hurt animals by making them so dependant that they can’t even function without us.

          • Welcome to Earth. Life is hard.

            How about we “euthanize” all the people suffering from malnutrition in DC… It would be the best for them right?


          • @ Joan: Cats were domesticated thousands of years ago, so it’s a little late to turn back today. How they survived beforehand is irrelevant now. It surely wasn’t on city streets.

          • Another Guy named Chris – you are correct, it would be best for many in DC to be euthanized. Especially those written up in the Thursday supplement for abusing animals – should be first on the list.

          • Yes, but you can reverse the trend. Its called Darwinism. The strongest will survive.

            it just sounds foolish to me to say killing it is a better option. In my world alive> someone else said, do you advocate killing the malnurished DC population as well? Stop spouting your opinion off as fact and name calling while you do it.

          • I can’t bother to continue any conversation with someone who sees no difference between painlessly euthanizing an unadoptable pet and killing a human being.

    • A cat that is used to living indoors is usually ill-equipped to live outside full-time. Don’t do it.

      (And really, MtP, don’t offer advice when you obviously know nothing about cats.)

  • Give the friend a break! Stuff happens. When I moved in with my gf I had to give up the cat; she made a valiant effort to try living with him, but he tore up her furniture and gave her severe allergic reactions. It was a tough decision but in the end I decided it wasn’t fair to hav eher suffering…

    • Did you con some friend into taking your cat temporarily, and then stiff them to resolve the situation on their own? Yes? Then you’re a bitch, too. No? Then your situation is nothing like one.

    • No bad words – giving someone a cat with the understanding that you will not be taking it back and lying about the situation being temporary while masking your real intentions are ENTIRELY different. Please tell me you get that? No breaks for the friend!!!!

  • Cats shouldn’t be outside. They live short, disease-filled, miserable lives outside where they often fight with other cats and animals. On top of this cats are one of the top predators of birds and exact a steep toll on other creatures like reptils, amphibians and even invertibrates.

    Stick a bullet in its head before sending a cat outdoors.

    • My cat LOVED the outdoors. I never saw an indication that he’d been in a fight or killed something (aside from the time he was batting a half-dead cicada around) and he never picked up a disease. He mostly just loved to climb trees, and to tease dogs by sitting on a fence where they couldn’t reach him.

      • Oh – that was YOUR cat that made my dog dash out into the street to chase her, pulling the child holding the leash over so she busted her chin on the sidewalk, nearly getting both dog and cat hit by a car and causing an accident when the driver slammed on her brakes?

        • Why would you have a kid walking a dog near the street anyway?

        • Uhh, not unless that happened out in Fairfax…

          • Umm – because SIDEWALKS generally run alongside STREETS?

            City dogs are used to seeing dozens of squirrels on a walk, can be taught to “leave them” and squirrels when spooked run UP TREES not between parked cars into the street.

            At least once a week I see cars nearly hit cats in the street.

          • I mean I lived in Fairfax when I had that cat.

        • So what you’re saying is that you put a CHILD in an OUT OF CONTROL SITUATION and now are blaming OTHER people when something bad happens?

          Sorry. Your fault for being an idiot.

      • saf

        Perhaps he’s the cat who comes and despite being fed at home, stands guard over the ferals’ food so they can’t eat?

        Also, he’s really bad at crossing the street. He’s going to die under the wheels of a car some day.

        • Actually, he used to follow me down the block but would refuse to cross when we got to an intersection. Smart fellow…

    • +1 I read somewhere the average lifespan of an indoor cat is 16 years, for an outdoor cat, 6 years. Also, as a bird lover, it’s a terrible shame to unleash a non-indigenous killing machine loose among declining native bird populations.

  • There are 6,187 cats (248 pages worth) currently looking for adoption on within 100 miles of Petworth.
    I sympathize with your plight, commend your efforts to solve a difficult problem, hope someone comes through from this posting to take the cat, but mostly I encourage you to not take on any feelings of guilt in giving this cat away, even to a shelter that must humanely euthanize it.

    There is no such thing as a “no kill” shelter. Only shelters who push off the difficult and heart-breaking duty to other shelters.

    • Emmaleigh504

      +1 Don’t feel guilty about having to give the cat away. You didn’t sign up to take it forever.

      Take it to a shelter where it can be adopted or humanely euthanized. Don’t release it on the streets because it probably die in a painful, violent way.

  • I got my cat from craigslist. 4 years now…fat and happy.

    I know my home county shelter releases cats after spaying or neutering if it is not adopted, it’s not all that uncommon a practice. Post availible to good home, if no luck try a catch and release shelter.

  • Hey PoP, you reading this stuff? It started out really constructive and helpful… it has now devolved into name-calling (“you’re a bitch.” “no, YOU’RE a bitch”) and ridicule of people’s good-natured advice (labeling it idiotic, etc).

    This is what I was talking about. No, it doesn’t happen always, but damn, it sure happens a lot.

    My point? Try not to take it personally when I say that this blog is often a clearinghouse for people’s vitriol. It’s just my empirical opinion – and not unjustified.

    • I agree. Very common. There are also a few specific individuals (hi Joker) who apparently see every new blog post as an opportunity to play internet smartass and insult someone.

      • Gee…if pointing out the obvious…being that you have a “friend” that deserves the “dick” of the year award, and that pawning your problems on someone because they have a farm isn’t a great idea either is “insulting” to you, then you are hilariously delicate and life is gonna chew you up and spit you out.

        Grow up anon, adulthood is for adults.

        • Point made. Most of what you post is some variation of the above.

          Hopefully we won’t all ‘grow up’ to be like you.

    • I said the advice was idiotic, and I stand by it. They clearly know nothing about feral populations; to advise someone to kick a housecat out on the streets is foolish and cruel, however “good natured” you may think they are.

      • couldn’t make the point without being rude about it?

        • When someone blithely advocates a cruel, lazy and illegal way of handling an unwanted pet, it’s idiotic. Is calling it so rude? Maybe, but true nonetheless.

          I do try to be friendly and polite in all interactions, but the old French/Cuban temper comes up when the situation involves animals or kids.

    • To be fair though, that person made some really bitchy comments.

    • Why do you think he seemingly ignores this stuff? These drama-filled comments sections are good for business. More clicks.

      • +1 That is totally why I clicked on the article in the first place. I don’t have any constructive advice for the OP, but I wanted to see what awful comments would ensue.

  • Move out.

    Either YOU realize yourself that the cat has to go, or you’ll always blame your roommate for making you put the cat to sleep and you’ll never be happy living there again.

    Yes, living alone costs more, it’s a hassle to move, etc. But, at some point, you’ll have to take the leap, anyway. Then, on your own, you can decide on your own time whether to keep the cat, or get rid of it. Or get a new cat.

    Sounds like you tried hard to make the cat a pet, so at this point, good luck.

  • The person who dumped this cat on you in the first place “refuses” to take back his/her cat? Here’s a suggestion: put the cat in a bag, go visit the “friend” who dumped the cat on you in the first place, and dump the cat right back in the house of its owner. Then you can refuse to take it with you when you leave.

  • Some of the commenters here seem to be on loan from DCUM. Now THAT’s a vicious group.
    Notice that not one person has stepped up to take the unfriendly cat.
    PHOTOS. Cute cat PHOTOS. That’s what will work.

    • I would love to, but I already have two cats (both of which were, in fact, adopted from the street). I suspect most people willing to take in a cat already have their fill of pets as well. Hopefully some cat lover reading this post is new to the city or otherwise looking for a new pet.


    Florida retirement home for cats. Pay someone to take care of your pet when you pass on…

  • me

    Try Madison Greene- they’re out in Virginia, but they hold adoption fairs at the PetSmart at Potomac Yards off of Rt 1 every Saturday and Sunday. Google them. They should be able to help out.

  • Contact Homeward Trails Animal Rescue. We got our kittens from them. They love cats and will provide a foster home while doing everything possible find someone to adopt the cat. The website is:

  • The Washington Humane Society, as DC’s only open-access shelter, does in fact accept surrendered animals. Per their web page, the New York Avenue location accepts “stray and unwanted” animals 24 hours a day, 7 days a week: I believe their Georgia Avenue shelter also takes surrenders, but only during the hours when they are open to the public. If the cat originally came from a shelter, you could also return her to it, as many shelter put clauses in their adoption forms that unwanted animals should be returned to them rather than put out on the street/sent to another shelter/dumped on unsuspecting friends/etc.

  • I adopted my cat through Craigslist from a woman who found her on the street and did’t want to give her to a shelter. I’ve found that adopting through these shelters can be horribly bureaucratic and some have some silly rules (which I understand are for the cats’ best interests). Craigslist was easy for her, and easy for me, and it didn’t cost anyone a dime.

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