You see them everyday in newspapers and postings online, “Free Cat To Good Home”. The reasons these people give for sending their cat away varies from "new baby on the way" to "I am moving and can't take the cat with me." Whatever the reason, more and more people are posting ads hoping to get rid of their cat instead of working out the problem. Many times, they are hoping to do it quickly without even inspecting the new home that the cat might be going to, which can put them in danger.
“Without some kind of pre-screening process for ‘adopters,’ it’s very possible that these poor cats could end up in neglectful or outright cruel environments,” said Alexis Boyle of the Arizona Humane Society.
According to the AHS moving, allergies and cost are three of the top excuses people use when surrendering a cat to a shelter. Moving, however was the top one used when dumping a cat, and that some people simply fail to see the cost factors when getting a “free” cat in the first place.
“Someone decides they want a cat, and they get one for free, and then don’t realize that the pet costs more to maintain than to purchase or adopt. Add, litter, food, vet bills (especially vaccinations and spay/neuter surgery), toys, beds, etc., and soon enough, the cost is more than they expected,” Boyle mentions.
Heather Allen of HALO (Helping Animals Live On) also lent support to the fact that moving is also a widely used reason why cats are surrendered to them, but that isn’t the main one.
“Most of the people that come to us with cats want to surrender them because of moving, allergies or not using the litter box. We do get the occasional person who wants to give them up because they got a new pet and the cat doesn’t approve,” says Allen.
With August being Cat Health & Safety Month, Cat Galaxy is attempting to warn people that posting ads giving your cat away for free is not the answer to solving the problem and that cats should not be seen as disposable when a certain situation happens. But ads offering free cats not only jeopardize their lives (because they could end up in the hands of an animal abuser) but also can be taxing on the shelters that ultimately end up with the cat in the first place.
"Undoubtedly, free cat ads are frustrating for us because these cats rarely come spayed or neutered (meaning they’ll likely just perpetuate the problem in their new homes). Even more frustrating is that the family with the unspayed/intact female that bore the unwanted litter rarely has her spayed, even after the litter, meaning she’ll just continue to have more (presumably) because it was much easier for them to simply give away her kittens than actually get her spayed,” said Boyle.
Boyle also says that people need to seriously think things over when it comes to picking out a cat and that caring for them is a lifelong commitment and not a short-term one.
“Selecting a pet is a very serious choice that should not be made on cost alone. Age, health, temperament, and breed – these are all things that need to be taken into consideration once someone has decided they can afford to keep a companion animal. Otherwise, a ‘bad’ match can be made, and, yes, they end up at our shelter as one of 800 cats and kittens we take in every week,” Boyle added.
“Free cat” ads also post another threat to cats because animal abusers could answer them claiming they’ll give the feline a good home when in reality, puts the cat or kitten in danger.
“A big concern with "free to a good home" ads is the fear that the kittens will be acquired for reasons other than being a pet - feeding pet snakes for example. Another big concern is that "free" means the cat or kitten has less value so it simply is not valued as much as something that is paid for,” said Jan Raven of AzCATs an organization that rescues feral cats.
“Free cat” ads also seem to be a never ending cycle, and many people are posting them in an attempt to pass the cat around, which is not safe for the animal especially when the potential adopter does not have to go through the normal adoption process that animal rescue organizations have in place.
“Cats are generally acquired passively - which means they are found, just show up, a friend or family member's cat has kittens and you are persuaded to take one. "Free to a good home" ads still require action - you have to call and go to the home,” Raven added.
When it comes to services banning “Free cat” ads, Raven says she would love to see this happen but whether or not a newspaper or online service will do so is another matter. She offered this handy advice if newspapers or online services like craigslist doesn’t wish to end or put a stop to them.
“At a minimum I'd like to see the ads preceded by spay/neuter information and shelter adoption information,” Raven says.
The AHS also agreed that the “free cat” ads also need to come to an end because of the dangers they pose especially when the cats could end up in a very bad situation.
“We feel these kinds of free cat ads and lists should be banned. They leave too many opportunities for these animals to fall into the wrong hands,” Boyle said.