Tough Questions: Do You Need To Re-Home Your Pet?

Tough Questions Do You Need To Re-Home Your Pet?
Recently in my facebook decluttering group a question was brought up: what to do when you need to rehome a pet?
I would never recommend “decluttering” a pet. I don’t believe that is something we should consider when embracing minimalism. Our personal family dog and a cat bring much joy and companionship and I believe as pet owners, it’s our responsibility to make sure they get the love and care that they need.
But there are situations in life, when we find we are unable to give them everything they need, whether it be attention, exercise or, yes, even love.
For these animals, it is love that can drive the change. No doubt it is difficult for them to understand when they are displaced and find themselves in a new home, but there are times when finding them a new home is the best option.
If you are to the point where you feel resentful of your pet, please do not keep them out of guilt. If you are not loving them and giving them the attention they need, that is unfair to them and they deserve a home where they will get that love and attention.
When does being a good pet guardian mean choosing not to be a pet guardian anymore?
I have a friend who got a dog to help her special needs child, it was definitely a good thing in the beginning, but as the little aussie grew, he began herding the children and nipping at their heels. Being a single mom of 3, she didn’t have the time to devote to training him, nor the financial ability to to have someone work with him. He spent most of his days locked up in the garage with his kennel. She had incredible guilt at the thought of getting rid of him, because she had been taught that pets are for life. Finding him a new home meant setting her personal view on it aside, for his best interest. It took many interviews and several overnight stays, but now he’s with a loving home that enjoys him.
When looking at estate help with older family members, it’s important to make sure their animals are cared for. Is the person able to give them exercise, remember to feed and water them, and clean up after them? Sometimes daily care is challenging, and though difficult to face and work through, it’s very important to address and advocate for the care of these companions.
When children are born into the family, sometimes the animals in the home just don’t do well with little ones. If you are not able to monitor all interactions, it’s important to consider how to handle that situation. It’s not fair to the animal to lock them away, nor is it fair to them to allow them to be crawled on and not given space. It’s possible to teach children to not touch the animal in certain spaces (our dog’s bed is her sanctuary, the children have been taught to leave her alone when she is there), but to avoid “accidental bites”, be sure that the animal feels safe in home, as well as your children’s safety.
There are loving people who will rescue animals, which is a wonderful and caring thing to do. But there does come a point when there are too many animals to care for and the home isn’t healthy for the person, or the animals.
Just like with our human family, there can be personalities that don’t mesh well. Some people know that they can’t spend more than a couple hours with another family member or conflict arises. We work around these differences, often with limiting contact, even though we do love that person. If an animal’s personality clashes with a human family member, it’s just as important to note.
There are often financial situations that come up- losing a job, having to relocate, having to care for elderly relatives. Each time we have major life changes, we need to make sure our companions are going to adjust and do well in the new situations.
Questions to ask yourself before re-homing your pet:

  1. Do I need to spend more quality time with them? Often times we can be annoyed with an animal because we haven’t taken time out to really be with them. Set aside a couple hours to play with them, go for a walk, take them to the park, etc. Just like human relationships, we often times don’t realize how much we enjoy being with a person until we spend quality time together.
  2. Do they just need a walking buddy? Sometimes life happens and we can’t walk the dog every day. There are dog-walkers that we can hire, but there may be a single neighbor that is in need of an exercise buddy, without wanting the full responsibility of a pet. If you know someone that walks or runs everyday, they may feel safer with a furry friend by their side and be happy to fill that need.
  3. Do we need a break to re-evaluate our situation? Sometimes one can feel that they are just ready to be done with having pets- the hair, food and poop-scooping is frustrating and feels like a hindrance to actually enjoying companionship. Before completely rehoming, it may be good to take a month off. Many places offer foster homes for pets and a family will take care of them for you while you re-evaluate your feelings and experience what it really is like without your pets nearby. Let someone else care for your pets for a month, put away the food bowls and beds to see what life is like without them. You may find that you love them and need them more than you thought, and if by the end of the month you realize that they will be better loved and appreciated in another home, that’s ok. It’s important to take time to think through it without making a rash decision.
  4. Are they getting older and needing more care? Sometimes people enjoy an animal until they get into their senior years and need more care. It’s important to continue giving them the care and love they need. When you adopted them, it was understood that you would care for them for-better-or-worse, and that is something you need to follow through with. It’s important to give them a good quality of life as they age. To avoid resenting increased costs of care, build a set amount in your budget to cover those expenses so you are never caught off-guard.

How to re-home a pet:
If you come to the realization that re-homing your furry companion is unavoidable, take every action possible to insure they are safe and loved.

  1. Contact your breeder or local animal rescue for resources and suggestions.
  2. Check with close friends and family to see if they are looking to adopt a companion.
  3. is a great resource- giving you a walk-through on how to go about listing your pet, what steps to take to interview and how to do as much as possible to insure the pet is safe.
  4. Often times a “re-homing fee” is recommended to deter people who either cannot afford the care of an animal, wish to “flip” the animals for income, or other bad situations. If you are giving your pet to a friend or family member, this isn’t always necessary.
  5. Interview! Ask lots of questions, if they have own pets in the past, as for the vet’s number and the groomers number, do a “meet & greet” at their home so you can see where your pet will be living. Consider a 3 week trial period (with contacting them after 48 hours) to make sure it’s a good fit before making it a permanent placement.

*A Note On Pets And Minimalism
Having pets is personal preference, it has very little to do with a minimalist philosophy. I have been asked a few times if letting pets go is “the next step in a minimalist journey”. But, I would say no.
Minimalism is letting go of superfluous items, so one can have more time to devote to things that bring them joy. This takes of different forms for each individual: travel, volunteer work, handicrafts, relationship building, reading and often times, pets.
Now, certainly, if you do not love your pet, it’s unfair to them to just be endured. But if you have animals, it’s good to revisit your reasons for getting them in the first place, as they are not an object that can simply be cast off, it’s important to take great care in any decision involving them.
Do you have helpful suggestions or re-homing resources? List them in the comments below.

About Rachel Jones

Hi there! I’m Rachel Jones, and I founded Nourishing Minimalism in 2012 at the beginning of my minimalist journey. If you're looking for encouragement in your journey, I go live in my FREE Facebook Groups every weekday- feel free to join me there: Nourishing Minimalism Facebook Group


  1. Gina Hosmer on April 14, 2016 at 11:02 am

    annnnd just like that, I’m no longer following you. First: Pets are not “clutter” nor are they “possessions” – unless you are planning a post about whether or not one needs to rehome one’s children in the name of minimalism you should be ashamed! Second: Your suggestion is far from the best. If your pet comes from a responsible breeder, contact that breeder first; if it’s from a rescue group, contact the rescue – both often require you do so as part of your adoption agreement! “Rehoming” a pet on Craigslist or any site is little more than selling it for dog fighting bait in many cases, and shelters do not need more animals.
    Our animal companions are our responsibility, period. Unless there is a DIRE situation an animal should never be given up and even then there are services to shelter a pet during a transition and not separate it from its family. If you cannot commit to an animal for its life, if you cannot take its custody and care as seriously as you would that of human children, don’t bring one into your home to start.

    • IthacaNancy on April 14, 2016 at 4:49 pm

      Please read the post! It is clearly stated that pets are not clutter! Also the first suggestion was to contact a breeder. There are hoarders and people who can’t give their pets what they need. How much better for them to hear that it’s okay to let go of something that they can’t handle – instead of locking a dog in a garage or putting them out on a chain. There were also suggestions about getting help that would enable a pet to stay in the same home. We have “rescued” three pets and I’m grateful that those families recognized the need for a change. We also passed a Guinea pig on to a friend’s family who had younger children who loved it to the end of its natural life. Please don’t be so rigidly judge mental – we all want the best for pets.

    • Karen T. on April 16, 2016 at 5:08 am

      Gina, you apparently didn’t read the post in its entirety; nothing of what you are objecting to is suggested in this post. No where is it suggested that pets are anything other than members of our family to whom we have responsibilities, just like any other family member. The author acknowledges that sometimes there might be situations in which continuing to keep a pet might be difficult if not impossible, or not the best situation for that pet. It is only in those situations that rehoming might be considered. And she suggests contacting the breeder or rescue group first.

    • Lauren on April 16, 2016 at 2:14 pm

      Maybe try reading the post first next time. Rachel insisted that pets are not clutter and supports rehoming them only in “dire” situations (to use your words). No need to spew your hate and unwillingness to have real conversation.

  2. Jennifer on April 14, 2016 at 12:22 pm

    I gotta hand it to you for taking on this thorny issue — I have no idea how to talk about this.
    When I read the post, I didn’t read “declutter your pets.” Instead, what came to my mind was a friend whose furry family has veered into animal hoarding levels. Every now and again she’ll remark that it’s more than she can handle but adamantly believes a pet is a life-long commitment. She experiences incredible guilt because she can’t engage at the level she believes her animals deserve, yet holds herself to an unreachable standard given the number of animals she has and her resources — and in the meantime her animals don’t get the interaction they should. In her case, I’m inclined to think that rehoming, through vetted channels, might be in the best interest of both the animal and human.
    Another example I can think of is my grandmother whose failing health left her largely unable to care for her pets (go on walks, lean down to pour food, as her memory faltered she couldn’t remember when she let them out and there would be accidents which she struggled to clean). We’re a family of animal-lovers and her pets were rehomed with her children who brought them to visit, but it didn’t make the decision any easier. It was necessary and, in a big picture sense, was part of sorting out her estate.
    Being a good pet parent is doing what is best for the animal for its whole life — which includes, but is not limited to, giving time and love, medical care, making end of life decisions, and being brutally honest with yourself as to whether you are truly suited to be the animal’s guardian.

  3. Lola on April 14, 2016 at 3:48 pm

    We had a dog for 2 years and the kids loved him. But when we became foster parents, and different children began entering our home, our dog became irate and started biting. No amount of playtime or walking him would prevent this. It was unreasonable to keep him in his kennel at all times or the children away from him at all times. So we found a friend who volunteered to take him. He is living a happy life and is loved and cared for and we can visit him. I think your advice is a good. And I think the safety of your family should come before a pet.

    • sue on April 23, 2016 at 6:23 pm

      Playing devil’s advocate here, I think it is sad that you chose new family members over the dog. When you take on the responsibility of a pet, just like a child, you agree to keep their best interest in mind. If fostering is too stressful on your current family (yes, even the dog), perhaps you should reconsider.
      I know I will receive flak here, for taking a dog’s situation over foster children’s, but clearly you did not think of your dog as a family member. Please don’t ever get another dog. Your life may change, yet again.

  4. Julie on July 24, 2018 at 6:13 pm

    My dog is 6 yrs old I love her to bits I’m heart broken over the past year half 2 years her behaviours shows vary protective over me and aggresive if anything or one is near me .she has become stressed if left alone .most poeple i know suggest it’s me who is causing her to be this way .I’m seriously contemplating re homing .

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