Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Free to good home?

We got this kitten from a well-intentioned Hyde Parker who had put an ad on markplace for a kitten "free to a good home." The owner, who genuinely cared for the kitty, got her on Saturday from a relative's girlfriend (whose cat had kittens) but thought she might be developing allergies, so kitten had been spending her nights in a carrier on the porch. We're happy we could intercede with this kitten, because "free kittens" often have a very rough ... and short ... life.

It costs more to take a "free" kitten to the vet for deworming, spaying, and vaccination than it would to pay the fee to adopt a rescue cat. So a free kitten might end up with an owner who can't afford or doesn't care to provide veterinary care. Then when the cat gets sick or pregnant -- out it goes. People who get free kittens from strangers often do so because somebody trying to get rid of kittens will not do reference checks. Some of these people then take kittens into apartments or student housing where they are not allowed pets. When they're caught and face the choice between eviction or getting rid of the cat, out the cat goes. Or free kittens end up at animal control, and the owner just doesn't bother, and instead gets a new free kitten. Sometimes free kittens and cats (and other pets) end up as dogfighting bait, reptile food, or possibly even lab animals.

Don't fool yourself into thinking these scenarios are statistically insignificant. Where do you think all the stray cats come from?

What To Do If You See A "Free To Good Home" Ad

What can you do about free kittens? If you come across people trying to give away kittens for free, refer them to your local humane society. Offer them info. If necessary, help to spay the mother cat so that this doesn't happen again! If this is somebody on the street (or a "lemonade stand"), just take all the kittens and bring them to your local humane society. You will be doing everybody a favor.

If you see an ad, contact the person. Let them know about the dangers of "Free To Good Home" ads and tell them to proceed very carefully with the adoption, to do reference and landlord checks, etc. You can come prepared with a sample application! Do not feel embarrassed to contact the person who posted the ad. Many people are grateful that you took the time to inform them of dangers they were unaware of. Urge them to consider taking the kittens to the local rescue. If nothing else, take them yourself and bring them to the local rescue or humane society.

If the ad you found was on the internet, contact the site owner to request that they forbid the posting of ads for free animals on their site. Also contact your local newspaper and ask them to run a warning about placing "Free To Good Home" ads. Here is a sample letter.


  1. I cannot agree with this post more. It always deeply troubles me when I see 'free kitten' signs. I like the positive action suggestions mentioned here.

    If I may add something, I want to note that there is also the additional risk of the kittens being separated from the mother far too early, IMHO. The people giving away these kittens aren't the best judges of when to separate a kitten from their moms. And it can cause issues that the potential 'adopter' may be unaware of.

    My experience:

    12 years ago, waaaay before I was involved in cat rescue, my sister in law saw a person standing on a street corner with a shoebox of 'free' kittens in Rogers Park. This was precisely how I ended up with my cat Cheatham. He was accompanied by his two brothers, Dewey and Howe (get it, Dewey Cheatham and Howe?). My sister in law just acted on instinct--and then called me to foster them. The kittens were no more than 4-5 weeks old and had to be bottle-fed, thoroughly vetted, and of course neutered (they were all boys), which as I recall at my private vet at the time, was very very expensive for the three of them.

    I suppose what was deeply concerning and remains so to me is just how very traumatic the experience must have been for the kittens (my SIL later told me that the person confessed when she grabbed the kittens that there had been a fourth sibling that ended up god knows where). My most vivid memories are that they all had trouble with eating solid food (and with drinking from a bottle, too, and KMR is not cheap), and it took several weeks before they were really healthy. Not to be too dramatic, but sometimes when I look at my cat I shudder to think where his other sibling from the free box ended up.


  2. Something else I thought to add....hidden health problems.

    Our 'free' kitten Cheatham is also our cat that was later diagnosed with a grade 2 heart murmur and mild cardiomyopathy, for which we give him daily medication and semi-annual echocardiograms.

    I am gladly willing to do this for my cat, but other people might not, and perhaps that is how cats with health problems end up abandoned.


  3. Your link to the sample letter is going to PETA

    No letter that I can see.