Anyone who has put cats or kittens up for adoption has been warned to NEVER give cats away for free.
But the Winn Feline Foundation funded a study to see what would be the outcome if shelters and rescue organizations–not individuals–tried offering cats for adoption at no charge while still following their usual adoption procedures, and the results were quite different from what was expected.
Why would they plan this study, even though the logic would say that a person who can’t afford to adopt a cat probably can’t afford to keep a cat considering food and veterinary care? Because there are so many cats in shelters who would otherwise be euthanized for overcrowding in open-door shelters, and no-kill shelters have a finite number of cages and other resources and they end up turning away cats, but a person who can’t afford the adoption fee can still provide a loving home for that cat, and save a life, directly or indirectly.
As background on the “free cat” issue, it’s not just guesswork, but follow-ups have shown that these adopters are not always interested in the cat as a pet. Often the adopter just wants a “mouser”, for instance, and the cat gets no care and no real home. Other times the cats are not even intended to be adopted as pets, but are used for horrible purposes like hunting bait, or, as might be suspected, taken to a lab to be used for experimentation.
But if a shelter or adoption agency would go through its full adoption procedure–interview, application, background checks, follow-up visit–with the exception of collecting money, then they’ve done what they would do for any cat to help find it a good home.