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My grandma is moving into an assisted living facility. She currently lives on a 10 acre farm with her outdoor cat that's about 9 years old. A family member is going to be moving into the farm house. My grandma loves the cat very much, but can go either way in terms of keeping him or leaving him on the farm.

My question is which would cause the cat more stress, losing his owner or moving from a farm to a small urban apartment complex?

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Either situation will cause stress to the cat. The more important question should be: What is the best for the cat?

The answer depends on the personality of the cat.

  • If he is used to roam the farm every day and goes stir crazy if confined to the farm house for a day, you should leave him at the farm.

  • If the cat snuggles with your grandma or sleeps inside the house all day and doesn't care too much about going outside, move him in with grandma.

  • If the cat roams the farm and is very affectionate, you should ask yourself: Is the new apartment big enough? Will he find enough entertainment to be happy? Most problematic behaviors in pets are caused by boredom. If your grandma cannot play with the cat anymore due to physical constraints, she might become overwhelmed if he develops problematic behaviors. The safest choice is to leave the cat at the farm.

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    Just extending an otherwise spot on answer: age plays a factor here too. Younger cats are much more resilient to change than older ones. The older the cat, the more important it becomes to not take them out of their comfort zone (whether that's the farm or the owner) as much as you can. 9 years old is what I would consider old in terms of dealing with major changes, so it really needs to be tailored to the cat.
    – Flater
    Jan 21 '19 at 12:39
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I think it's more likely that moving to the living facility will be more stressful for the cat, although there should be other things about the situation you might also consider.

Cats generally don't become so attached to people they become obviously despondent in their absence, unlike dogs. However, a cat will definitely miss the familiarity of their person and their routine. But her cat's routine will be lost regardless, as your grandmother's routine will certainly be disrupted by transitioning to assisted living, and worse, in an assisted living situation, there will be strangers bustling in and out, which most cats will not handle well. Meanwhile, the fact that the cat is an outdoor cat means that it probably is already used to her not being where it is all the time.

Of course, cats come in a wide variety, so it may be the case that her cat is unusually attached to her, and so moving it might make more sense. In the end, it is up to you to assess if the cat gets unusually stressed from the absence of its human.

However, I think there are other things to consider. What your grandmother wants very much matters. Does she want to keep her pet? Losing your autonomy is obviously very hard, and holding on to particularly treasured things or beloved pets helps ease a very tough situation.

Lastly, I would consider the other factors of this particular situation, such as the fact the cat is used to be an outdoor cat on a farm. If it were allowed outdoors in an urban area, I'd be very worried it would be hit by a car. Therefore moving the cat may be an issue of the cat's safety. As for the alternative, making it an indoor cat, that would be another disruption to its routine, and as a result, and yet another source of stress. Many cats do not adjust well from being an outdoor cat to an indoor cat as well, sometimes even developing behavior issues due to the boredom.

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