If you are an animal lover, you probably follow multiple rescue groups and animal threads on social media. In just about every part of the country there are "Free To Good Home" pages on Facebook, listings on local neighborhood sites, and notices posted at your local feed store dedicated to rehoming unwanted pets. We see them every single day. If you are looking for a pet, "free" might seem like quite a bargain; in reality "free" really means "as is," and everyone who has ever considered buying a used car knows exactly what THAT means.
Once you get your "free" kitten home for a snuggle, you might notice all the tiny black dots moving around in her fur. You need to get those fleas under control before they start to bite you. It's a good bet that your kitten hasn't seen a veterinarian, received any vaccinations, or been dewormed, so you should take your kitten to a qualified veterinarian as soon as possible. If your kitten is scratching at her ears, has crusty eyes, is coughing or sneezing, or has any wounds on her body, your vet will need to prescribe additional medications. Your kitten won't have been spayed or neutered, so you should schedule that surgery as soon as possible (definitely before your kitten goes into heat).
A random sampling of three veterinarians in Lexington provided the following average costs for services:
Veterinary office visit: $50
FVRCP and Rabies Vaccines: $45
Flea Control: $85 (for 6 months)
Spay Surgery: $250
Total: $480 (not including follow-up visits and vaccine boosters)
This is a long, long way from "free."
If you are savvy about looking for the best prices for medical care for your pet, you will find a number of clinics and programs (The Lexington Humane Society has a good one) that offer low cost spay/neuter services. The wait for a clinic appointment can be weeks, if not months, but the cost savings is well worth it. You will still need to address the fleas immediately, and have a vet treat the worms and any illnesses ASAP.
At Itty Bitty Kitten Rescue, our adoption fee for every kittens and cat is $79.50. Our kittens have received multiple doses of dewormer and flea control, have received all age-appropriate vaccinations, and have been spayed or neutered. If they have been ill, they have received antibiotics as directed by a veterinarian. In addition, our kittens have been given the best nutritional start in life with quality kitten food specifically formulated for tiny kitten bodies (we feed Royal Canin kitten products).
IBKR will often reach out to people posting "free" kittens and offer to take them into our rescue where they will receive the care and medical attention they deserve. We also offer to spay the mothers of these "free" kittens, at no cost to the owner, so that there will be fewer kittens in the future. The lives of these babies matter, and no kitten should have to be discarded for "free."