Friday, May 26, 2017

the cost of a rescue cat

Today I want to talk about cat adoption fees. The reason being, people often ask me about the fee charged by the rescue with which I volunteer. The reaction is usually shock. Then they sometimes say that they can get a kitten for free off the street, from a friend, etc. So, I want to explain why, in general, adoption fees exist.

This is going to be long and soapbox-y, so bear with me...

I volunteer with the Stratford Cat Project ("SCP"), a volunteer-run no-kill cat rescue. It's not a shelter, but rather a network of foster homes that care for rescued cats and kittens until they can be adopted. I don't volunteer as much as I used to since I've moved to another part of the state, but I try to help out when I can. People often ask me cat questions, which I try to answer; however, the most often-asked question is, "how much is the adoption fee?" I always inwardly cringe, because I always get the same reaction--shock. I then quickly explain why the fee is what it is, usually in a defensive manner because it frustrates me so much that people don't realize there's work and money that goes into taking in, caring for, and adopting out a cat.

Our rescue charges $150.00 for a kitten, and $125.00 for a cat (one year old or older). This is less than what it costs the rescue for each animal, which totals more than $200.00 per kitten and a bit less for a cat. However, this does not take into account any newly discovered, pre-existing or developing health issues, any catastrophic occurrences that require more vet care (such as being hit by a car, having a broken limb, etc.; many animals come to us in really rough shape and the stories are very sad). As you can see, the rescue makes no money off the adoption fee. And the cost I just mentioned is WITH a discount from the rescue's vet. If you were to take a kitten off the street and go to your vet, the cost would be at least double what the rescue pays.

Can you get free kittens or cats? Of course you can. They're all over the place: ads are on Craigslist or posted on community boards in pet stores; Facebook friends have kittens they need to offload, because they didn't spay their female cat (don't even get me started on that one...), or they have a friend who has a box of kittens that was dumped off on their doorstep; sometimes they're just walking along the street or they show up on your doorstep and "adopt" you. If you're lucky you'll end up with a kitten that is a little bundle of joy, is social, and doesn't have any illnesses or behavioral issues. If you're unlucky, you'll get one that's anti-social or even feral; one that's scared of its own shadow; has feline leukemia or any other illness that gives the appearance of normal; might be flee- or tick-infested; might be sick with an upper respiratory infection or conjunctivitis; might have some serious behavioral issues; or may have the dreaded ringworm fungus. While ringworm is not life-threatening, it is labor intensive to get this fungus cleared up and then disinfect your home. This is how many cats and kittens end up at rescues and shelters, as people generally don't have the patience and/or money to deal with these things.

By adopting a cat or kitten from a rescue, you're typically getting an animal that is up to date on all its vaccinations; has had testing to ensure its disease-free; has had its health issues addressed, if necessary; has been loved and cared for by many volunteers, thus it had typically been socialized well (although there will always be ones that are more timid by nature); and has been spayed or neutered (SCP does not allow the cat or kitten to be adopted out until it has been spayed or neutered).

I'm not saying that all cats and kittens don't deserve to be rescued or that you shouldn't rescue them--they do and you should. What I'm saying is that if you are looking to adopt a cat from a rescue, don't gripe about the adoption fee. The money you pay to the rescue helps to offset--not completely cover--the high cost of vaccinations, testing for disease, spaying or neutering, feeding and housing that cat/kitten until it's time to adopt it out, any necessary medications, and the time that goes into evaluating, monitoring, caring for, and socializing that little ball of fur.   

One other thing I want to say: if you adopt a cat or kitten, give it time to acclimate to your house, family and other pets. This doesn't happen in one day! I see so many people post online that they brought the cat back to the rescue because it was hiding under the bed all day after being in the new home for only a day. (One day! That's not even enough time for ME to adjust to the cat, left alone the cat to adjust to us and our house.) Sure, some will adjust very quickly, usually kittens. Others take a little longer. And still others, even longer. One of my cats took a full three weeks to feel comfortable enough to venture into other parts of the house by herself, and another week or two to fully acclimate to my house. Was it frustrating? Yes. Did I occasionally feel like it would never happen? Yes. But that's how it goes sometimes. And keep in mind, the cat or kitten you're seeing in those first weeks isn't always the cat it will end up being; those first weeks are tough not only for you, but for her, too. If you don't have the patience to deal with this, or don't want to deal with this, then you might want to skip getting a cat.

Hopefully I've helped you (the general "you") understand why rescues charge what they charge for adopting a cat or kitten. In general, this fee is not even covering the most basic vet expenses associated with each animal, let alone the more complex vet services, medicines, food and their time. In other words, they're not "making money by selling cats."

These are the kitties I adopted from SCP over the last few years.

This is Marty. He loves belly rubs and is very affectionate. I wouldn't have guessed he would turn out like this when we first got him, as he took a little while to acclimate. Even today, six months later, he still runs as we approach him sometimes. But then he comes right back; he's a little weird. LOL

Tiffany took no time at all to acclimate. She took the stance that she's the new queen bee of the house and just went with it.

Leia took the longest of them all to get used to us and the house. Although she was in a busy foster home with people in and out all the time, she was a little freaked out by the new surroundings. It took her a good three weeks before she would come out of her bedroom and down the stairs, and then another couple weeks to really feel at-home. There were times when I was ready to call SCP and say it wasn't working out. But I stuck with it because I knew what she was like before. Today, she's a pretty social kitty and loves chest rubs--chest rubs make her coo like a pigeon. As you can see, she's not exactly a lady...

This is Louise (above) and her sister Thelma (below). They are sisters. They came from a hoarding situation and were two of the few cats (out of more than 80) that were able to be saved. They were in SCP for several years before we adopted them. Strangely enough, they had no problems acclimating to the house. It's been about five years and, to this day, they really don't care for the other cats in the house. They're social with us, but not the cats. Although there are a couple they will tolerate.


  1. Great posting, Dawn!!!

    Tony T (SCP)

  2. They are all so cute. I know the fee sounds high to some people, but, it you were to get a kitten from a friend or Craig's list, you would have to get them spayed and neutered and examined by a vet; which, I think, would be more than the adoption fee you are charged. Also, I like the idea that the kitten/cat has already been with people and they will tell you how the cat reacts to children, other pets and just people in general. I think the SCP does amazing work and if I lived in CT, that is where I would go to adopt a cat. Good job. Dawn your post was so informative and I am sure people will understand better about the cost of adopting.

    1. Thanks! And with Craig's List, you really don't know what you're getting at all!

  3. In Australia it is a lot more difficult to get a free kitten. I did volunteer at a rescue for a while and one of the reasons they had a fee - other than all the reasons you mention which were also valid and applied - was so that they knew people were serious about wanting the animal.

    Great post! :) And your two grey and orange calicos remind me of my Big Kitty. :)

    1. Yes, that's another good reason for the fee. It tends to deter the people who are just looking to gift a kitten to their kid or family member.