Two years ago, our oldest cat died. A year ago, so did our second. Both were elderly; their deaths were sad, but not unexpected. They're buried together in the woods in our backyard.
Four weeks ago, we decided it was time to have cats around again. We visited several local shelters and finally adopted a pair of three-month-old female kittens: a feisty short-hair calico and an affectionate black domestic longhair with extra toes on its front feet.
We believe in adopting from shelters rather than buying purebreds for both humanitarian and economic reasons. While we've always been sort of opposed to declawing — my wife calls it "cutting off their fingers at the first knuckle" — we reluctantly decided to have them declawed because we both work and wouldn't be able to spend the necessary time teaching them not to shred the furniture.
What floored me was the cost. The adoption fee for each cat was $150 plus tax. That included a bunch of veterinary care prior to adoption, plus free microchipping and spaying afterward. Both had colds — a common ailment in shelters, where animals live in close proximity to each other — so a vet visit and some antibiotics cost $50. Declawing was another $200 apiece - no charge for the extra toes. They also got their distemper boosters. Four weeks in, and we've invested more than $800 in these two "free" cats.
Declawing was a choice, of course. The fees in the Twin Cities are far higher than those at shelters out in the country, but that's a staggering amount of money — and it doesn't even include things like food, litter boxes, or litter.
I understand that shelters need to cover expenses, and I don't begrudge them or the vets the money. We love the cats — even if they keep us awake at night with their playing or by jumping up on the bed and purring in our ears — and can afford the cost, but it has set me to wondering: At what point does the cost of adoption start interfering with their mission to save animals?
A lot of families that might otherwise make wonderful homes for abandoned animals simply can't afford to spend that kind of money on a pet. Are the shelters dangerously narrowing their customer base in a pennywise, pound-foolish fashion?