Research done at the Edmonton Humane Society (EHS) by the ASPCA®'s Dr. Margaret Slater confirms that fee-waived cats are just as loved and valued as ones with a price tag.
The study from November 2011 to February 2013 analyzed surveys of 344 adopters who participated in one of six fee-waived events held at the shelter during that time. What makes this research particularly powerful is that it directly compares 138 non-fee-waived adopters to 206 fee-waived adopters at the same shelter during the same time period.
Edmonton's fee-waived promotions were often seasonal, and long-term shelter residents and older cats were always included. "Based on our research, fee-waived adoptions are well worth considering as a way to increase live releases," says Dr. Slater.
The latest research at EHS bolsters that theory with exciting findings:
There was no statistical difference in post-adoption veterinary care received by fee-waived and non-fee-waived cats. Regardless of fee status, most adopters brought their cats for follow-up veterinary care.
There was no statistical difference between fee-waived and non-fee-waived adopters when it came to retaining cats into the future. In other words, fee-waived cats were just as likely to remain in their homes as non-fee-waived cats.
More than 80% of the people who participated in the fee-waived study said they "strongly agree" that EHS considers cats to be valuable and that they would adopt from EHS again. This is important information for shelters to have to alleviate fears that the public will get a false impression that fee-waived cats are not valued.
Waive Fees and Adopters Will Come
Fee-waived events bring out adopters. In addition to those who care about helping cats in shelters, some adopters are moved to action by the thrill of the event; others by the financial savings.
Dr. Karen Lange, director of veterinary services for EHS, says that when events include fee-waived adoptions, a 50 percent increase is generally seen in cat adoptions.
Another piece of good news from the study is that 87 percent of adopters of fee-waived cats considered the length of time a cat had been at the shelter as a factor in selecting their cats, whereas only 13% of regular adopters took that into consideration. This suggests that fee-waived programs entice adopters who are specifically trying to be part of the solution to homeless cats. One study participant said she was saving up to buy a specific breed of cat, "but after hearing about the fee-waived event, I decided to help a cat in need." And another fee-waived adopter was a former Birman cat breeder who decided "to get an ordinary cat who needed a good home."
Several adopters mentioned that they had been considering adopting for months but had done nothing about it. The fee-waived events provided the impetus for them to take the plunge.
The study showed that 19 percent of the adopters reported they could not normally afford the adoption fee. An EHS fee-waived adopter described herself as "a woefully underemployed single mother who budgets and saves for monthly cat care, so the fee-waived event made a big difference for me."
However, the research also showed that even among those who could afford to pay the adoption fee, 30% said they would prefer a free cat. On top of that, Slater's research discovered that fee-waived adopters were much more likely to make a donation to EHS than non-fee-waived adopters.