Many people who want a pet will look for a "Free Kitten" ad. What few of these people understand is that live animals are seldom really "free", and that the price tag can end up being quite high.
A lot of the people who get free kittens do not realize what care costs are later involved and sadly this can lead to a case where the kitten is not properly fed, or cared for.
Vaccinations, Vet Check, and Worming
If the free kitten has not been seen by a veterinarian, and it probably has not, it should be checked, vaccinated, and wormed. Free kittens often are loaded with worms or have ear mites. If neglected worms can cause many health problems for a kitten, and mean the kitten must eat more food to stay alive, as such food costs will be higher. A kitten with ear mites will eventually have ear pain, and could even become deaf.
Vaccinations are very important, especially if they kitten is ever going to be let outdoors. There are many disease that can kill a kitten with days of infection. Just because the kitten was free does not mean its life should be put at risk.
As a rule of thumb a person should never pay for an animal that is not vaccinated, nor should you accept someone's word that the kitten is vaccinated, all veterinarians provide vet certificates at no cost, which would be proof of vaccination.
It is also important to understand the risks of taking a kitten that is not vaccinated or checked by a veterinarian, in that the kitten could be very sick, have a heart problem, or other condition, that may require special medical care, or could shorten the kitten's life.
If a person has another cat, or kitten at home, the risk of bringing home a free unvaccinated cat could mean that their other pet also becomes ill and now the owner has two veterinary bills instead of none.
In some areas it is illegal to have a cat that is not vaccinated for rabies,and the fine may be greater than the cost of the rabies vaccination.
All in all a person may find that getting a free kitten and taking it to a veterinarian to have all the proper medical care done to it is quite expensive when they were simply looking for a "free kitten".
Spaying or Neutering
Spaying or neutering a cat is very important for behavioral reasons, health reasons, and to reduce the risk of it breeding and creating more kittens (although most people think they idea of letting their cat have kitten is sweet it has created a problem in that millions of kittens are euthanized in shelters yearly because more are born than there are homes for).
Spaying or neutering is usually done in the first year of the kitten's life, around 6 months for female kittens, and 8 to 10 for male kittens. In areas where cats are required to have a license, spaying or neutering usually reduces the cost of the license.
Of course all cats and kittens require other supplies, toys, litter, cat furniture, and cat food, so these costs are not specific to the "free kitten".
Buying, or Adopting, a Kitten
Typically when you buy, or adopt, a kitten, it comes with some of the above mentioned things already done. As mentioned you should never pay a cent if nothing has been done to improve the value of a kitten. Often when adopting from a shelter the adoption fee is lower than taking a free kitten to a veterinarian and having these things done to it yourself. They may even have vouchers for spaying or neutering, if these were not done.
Buying from a pet store or breeder usually sees higher prices. The pet store is trying to make a profit, and the breeder's higher price reflects the fact they have taken the parents to shows to prove their worth as breeding animals. As such buying from pet stores and breeders can be quite expensive compared to adopting from a shelter.
There are a few times when "Free" really means "Free". Some animal shelters adopt senior cats out to free. Some animal shelters adopt out feral cats for free. Sometimes a person can find a free cat on sites such as craigslist where the owner has had the pet vaccinated but for some reason cannot keep it. These are typically mature cats, not always kittens, again you must get proof of vaccination.
The actual cost of medical care needed in a free kitten is impossible to say since prices vary place to place. As well if there is a health issue the costs could be greatly inflated. In my area of Canada, at the time of writing, the costs to vaccinate, worm, and check, a kitten are under $100. The cost to spay a female cat is about $180, and about $90 to neuter a male cat.
Remember pets cost money, if you cannot afford to pay for a pet you probably cannot afford to own a pet and should reconsider getting a pet until your financial situation is better. There is nothing worse than having a sick or injured pet and being unable to help it due to financial concerns.