Free Kittens – A Cat Tale

posted May 27th, 2013 by
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by Camille Hulen

“Kittens, free to good home.” It’s spring! The newspaper classified pages and Craigslist abound with ads for free kittens. In addition, kittens are peddled from the back of pick-ups in parking lots or on street corners, where a few sellers will ask a nominal amount for them.

The child sees them: “Oh, aren’t they cute?” Then Mom relents and takes one home. We won’t talk about the unsold ones dumped in the country or drowned in the river. The following is the story of one kitten purchased under such circumstances.

Two friends of mine were driving through a neighborhood when they spied a beautiful Siamese loose in the middle of the street, anxiously trotting along to follow a woman who was paying no attention.

When they stopped to inquire, the woman admitted that this was her cat. However, she no longer wanted it. “I got this kitten for my little boy, but he’s gonna kill it, so I turned it loose.” She then proceeded to tote her case of beer toward the apartment.

My compassionate friends, of course, followed up. “How did you get this kitten? Has it had its vaccinations?”

“Well, I gave $150 for this cat and just put it in my pocket and brought it home. What vaccinations? I don’t know about that stuff,” the lady replied.

The lady agreed to relinquish ownership of the cat, and my friend Linda then made arrangements to pick up the kitten from her the next day.

When Linda arrived, there the kitten presented a pitiful picture sitting alone outside the door with all of its belongings: a kitty condo, a litter box and food. The kitten was immediately taken to a veterinarian, and spayed and vaccinated at the expense of some Good Samaritans.

Fortunately for this kitten, our Internet network was able to find a loving home with owners whose cat had died recently. Kitty is now well cared for and will lead a wonderful life.

How many other kittens are not so lucky as this one because their owners have no idea of what responsible pet ownership entails? They think buying a big bag of cat food monthly, along with a toy at Christmas, is sufficient.

This is the reason that rescue organizations ask so many questions to screen applicants carefully. Reputable agencies will also be sure the cat is already spayed or neutered and must charge a fee to cover this expense. How many “free” kittens are abandoned when the novelty wears off? We see them every day: former pets, unspayed and forming feral colonies with their offspring, or taken to the shelter and euthanized.

Adoption is a commitment to a lifetime relationship—a cat will live close to 20 years. ASPCA estimates a first year cost of cat ownership to be approximately $1,000, and at least $670 per year thereafter. Kiplinger agrees, putting the cost between $500 and $1,000 per year.

What are some of the costs? To begin with, a sizable pet deposit is generally required of tenants with pets. Some estimates of recurring annual costs are: food, $115; litter, $165; treatment for flea prevention, $144; annual medical exams and vaccinations, $160.

This does not include miscellaneous things such as grooming expenses and care while you are on vacation. There should also be savings available for emergency veterinary care in case of illness or accidents.

So, the next time a person asks, “How much is that kitty (doggie) in the window?” The answer is, “There is no such thing as a free cat.” However, the love of a cat is priceless.

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