Free Farm kittens are not as free as you might think, many have medical costs to them, and if these are neglected the kitten will suffer. Any time a new pet, especially a free one that has not been seen by a veterinarian, is brought home, the first thing that should happen is that it is taken to a veterinarian, especially if there are other animals at home.
Be aware most of these problems are associated with “farm kittens” that are barn raised, as opposed to those that were kept in the house. Any free kitten can really have these problems, not just those from farms, but farm kittens, especially when raised in a barn or outside, tend to have these problems more than others.
Ear mites are tiny, you cannot see them with your eyes. When ignored ear mites can cause pain in the cats ears and even result in deafness. A good majority of farm kittens are infected with ear mites. Treatment is easy, a few drops of ear mite medication in each ear twice a day.
Another problem with farm kittens is that they often have fleas. Fleas are a problem unto themselves, making the kitten itchy, but they also can carry tapeworm eggs, as such kittens with fleas often have tapeworms. Fleas on kittens are best removed by hand – using a flea comb. While there are medications to remove fleas, some (especially the over the counter medications) have been linked to pet deaths even when used correctly.
Free kittens, especially those raised in a barn, often come loaded with worms. They get these from consuming mice, and from their mother. Many products are sold in stores to kill worms, but most do not kill all types of worms, and chances are you will not know what worms a particular kitten has. Veterinarians can use a fecal sample to determine what worms a kitten has, or can give worming medication for all types of worms, including tapeworm.
Farmers tend not to vaccinate their cats. This means the kittens are often exposed to many disease at a young age, and may even be born with some (through their mother). These diseases can be life threatening, and can be a risk to any cat you may already own. Such diseases range from Feline Leukemia to Upper Respiratory Tract Infections.
Failure to Use their Litter Box
Most farms do not provide litter boxes for their barn cats. These cats simply go to the bathroom wherever they can, often in the dirt, or straw. When taken into a new home they need to have litter box habits encouraged, usually by confining them to a small room with a litter box for a few weeks. Some farm kittens, particular those who are three months or more, may not learn how to use their litter box consistently.
The authors farm cats are all spayed or neutered to prevent cat overpopulation problems.
Should you Take a Free Farm Kitten?
The decision is yours. Yes, all kittens need homes, and farm kittens do too, however you should not take free farm kittens unless you are fully prepared to take them directly to a veterinarian to be sure they are healthy. Anyone looking for a “free” kitten as an attempt to save money should not even consider taking a farm kitten, as these may even cost more in the long run than adopting one from a shelter, or if their medical needs are ignored, they will suffer. You may note that in some areas neglecting an animal’s medical needs is a criminal offense (neglect).
Your local shelter probably has other kittens who also need homes and will come already screened by a veterinarian, dewormed, and checked, and may come with a health guarantee, and coupons for discounts at shops in your area. Some might even come with some basic supplies if they were surrendered by their owner.
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