You’re driving down a peaceful country road. The weather is beautiful, the birds are singing and then you see it. Off in the distance. You hope its for a garage sale, but the sign you see says “FREE KITTENS”.
For those of us in RESCUE and who do TNR, little is as upsetting as seeing one of these signs.
One day while on route to my feral rehab facility, I passed a “FREE KITTENS” sign. My mind rushed to all the horrible implications these signs invoke. First of all, giving an animal away for FREE is a really bad idea. Free implies worthless. It devalues the animal.
When no money is involved, people tend to make snap decisions. Cats that are taken home on impulse are very often no longer wanted once the novelty wears off and cast out. You know what that leads to. A bunch of breeding cats running around. Something that strikes fear in the hearts of all of us in Rescue.
Beyond this, are the unscrupulous people who are nothing but thrilled to grab a free kitten. Many of these innocents are sold to animal testing labs, used for snake food or dog fighting bait.
There is nothing good about a FREE KITTENS sign. When animals are given away, there is a very strong likely hood that they have not had any de-worming or flea treatment. Of course they are not spayed/neutered, vaccinated or tested for feline leukemia and FIV. You get what you pay for when you take a FREE KITTEN. Sometimes you get lucky, but many times, you get a sickly cat that didn’t get the proper start in life because often times these irresponsible pet owners who put out these signs let the kittens go before they have been properly weaned and have gotten the necessary nutrition from mama.
Speaking of mama, what about her? Once the problem of the excess cats disappears, mama is left to reproduce. Why get her fixed? After all, the kittens go like hot cakes!
On the day I was driving to my rehab facility, after composing myself, I did what I always do, I stopped and talked to the cat owner. This particular sign really bothered me because it was so nicely done. It was obvious to me that it was well made to be used over and over.
Never knowing the mind set of the people you approach, I was happy to meet this very cool guy named Derek. He took my C-SNIP flier and listened to me advise him about how C-SNIP could help him get his mama cat and kittens fixed once the babies were 2 lbs and weaned.
I kinda jokingly (but seriously) threatened Derek. I told him I travel this road at least twice a day and if he didn’t want me bugging him constantly, he would have to take the sign down and wait till he could get the mom and kittens fixed, thereby at least insuring that they would not be reproducing once they got to their new homes
Before I left his property, he was out at the curb taking the sign down.
Derek and I talked a couple times after that. He took the cats to C-SNIP and got them all fixed. A little while later, Gina was driving down the road and saw a new sign. This one said FIXED KITTENS!
When she told me about it, I was elated. I called Derek shortly after and he told me that he kept the mama and one kitten, but the other 5 kittens were all in new homes.
I asked him if he gave them away or asked for some money. He said that he asked $20 per kitten. This was my suggestion when I first approached him. Surely a fixed kitten is worth way more than $20, but making money was not Derek’s intention. He was simply trying to make sure that the people taking one of his kittens wasn’t going to haul it straight to a testing lab. And $20 is too much for snake food or dog fighting bait.
After paying the bill at C-SNIP, he actually was up $5 on the deal.
When asked what he did with the sign, he turned toward his fire pit. Of course, I had to have the sign! It was my first ever known turn-round of a FREE KITTEN sign.
When looking closely at the sign, you can see where he changed the FREE to FIXED.
Derek did right by his mama cat and kittens.
You can make a difference too. When you see FREE KITTENS signs, stop and give the people the number to C-SNIP. That number is 616 455-8220. Keep this number handy in your car. Knowledge is power. Pass it on. Save lives. Help bring about a day where there are no more FREE KITTENS signs!
at my TNR rehab space at Brooknelle.