Many healthy adult cats are euthanised annually in shelters, and novel approaches are required to reduce euthanasia rates. Waiving adoption fees is one such approach. However, concerns that less responsible owners will be attracted to free events persist among welfare groups. We evaluated evidence for differences in cat fate, health, and adherence to husbandry legislation via a case-study of a free adoption-drive for cats ≥1 year at a Western Australian shelter. Post-adoption outcomes were compared between free adopters and a control group of normal-fee adopters. The free adoption-drive rehomed 137 cats, increasing average weekly adoptions by 533%. First-time adopters were a significantly larger portion of the free cohort, as a result of mixed-media promotions. Both adopter groups selected cats of similar age; sex and pelage. Post-adoption, both groups retained >90% cats, reporting near identical incidences of medical and behavioural problems. Adopters did not differ in legislative compliance regarding fitting collars, registering cats, or allowing cats to roam. The shelter reported satisfaction with the adoption-drive, because in addition to relieving crowding of healthy adults, adoption of full-fee kittens increased 381%. Overall, we found no evidence for adverse outcomes associated with free adoptions. Shelters should not be dissuaded from occasional free adoption-drives during overflow periods.
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