Tulane Classifieds offers alternative market for pet adoptions

Akash Desai, Senior Staff Reporter

For seniors Emma Tower and Ella Weiner, stepping around a cluster of tiny tails, little toys and Tupperware containers of dry food has quickly become a daily routine.

In addition to the three male orange tabby kittens Tower is fostering, Weiner and Tower’s apartment on Palmer Avenue is home to Tower’s 2-year-old cat, Frida, who she adopted through the Facebook group Tulane Classifieds. 

“A girl from Loyola posted saying that some girl had left [Frida] at a Walgreens and kept coming in [to the store where she worked] with this tiny kitten,” Tower said. “She was like, ‘I’ll just take it,’ and posted.”

Tulane Classifieds allows members to make their own listing for goods they want to sell, including concert tickets, furniture, clothing and used cookware. Recently, posts about animals have been among the most popular. Since Aug. 4, 22 cats, 9 dogs and a ferret have been advertised for adoption in the group.

Fostering the animals

Several Tulane students who foster animals for the Louisiana Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, an animal shelter in the New Orleans’ Algiers neighborhood, have posted on Tulane Classifieds to bring attention to the available pets.

Tulane junior Gina Zwicky, who lives off campus, subscribes to a foster email newsletter with the LASPCA and saw that a mother cat and her five kittens needed a temporary foster home.

“I filled out an online application, was approved and was contacted because they had a litter of kittens that needed to be in a foster situation because they didn’t have enough cage space at the LASPCA,” Zwicky said.  

The LASPCA, not the student, sets the adoption process, including fees and paperwork. Tower’s foster kittens need to reach two pounds before they can be adopted, but she already has posted photos of the cats on her personal social media pages to increase interest in the animals.

“I’ve been posting on Facebook and Instagram,” Tower said. “I might see if we can keep them until someone wants to adopt them just because I don’t like the idea of them just sitting in a cage once they’re adoptable size. But [the LASPCA] might like it better, they might want them there because it’s easier to advertise them once they’re at the location.”

Screening interest

Within two hours of posting on Tulane Classifieds, Zwicky’s Facebook inbox was flooded with messages from Classifieds members who saw her foster kittens.

“I have a couple of very serious people coming to see them but I probably got like 25 messages just from the one Classifieds post,” Zwicky said. “I get a lot of initial interest but not a lot of follow-up.”

Tulane alumnus Jeannette Oriano, who lives on the Northshore, received even more messages than Zwicky. She took in five stray kittens that were abandoned by their mother. Oriano decided to adopt them out on her own rather than through the foster process.

“102 [messages] — it was unbelievable how many people were interested in kittens,” Oriano said. “I’m still get[ting] messages from people.”

While Oriano did not charge an adoption fee, she screened the many messages to avoid a dangerous situation.

“I got crazy people who replied, but I ignored them,” Oriano said. “I asked them if they were going to homes with other pets, if they had pets and the reason they wanted a pet.”

Classifieds members have commented on the adoption posts with warnings that free cats are more likely to be used as dogfighting bait. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals alarms potential owners of this danger with a section on Craigslist that mentions free small animals are prone to severe animal abuse.

“Gerbils, hamsters and young kittens are often acquired to be used as snake food,” the statement writes.

Zwicky recalls receiving disturbing messages in her previous experiences fostering animals.

“People will send weird violent messages, like ‘Oh, I want to do violent things with these cats,'” Zwicky said. “Not this time, thankfully.”

Oriano chose to use Tulane Classifieds instead of Craigslist to avoid the level of anonymity.  

“Craigslist is open to the public and you deal with people [and] don’t know their backgrounds,” Oriano said. “At least with Tulane Class[ifieds] you can look at their profile and have a good idea if they are educated and want a kitten for a family pet.”

Second thoughts and surrender

Once a pet is surrendered to the LASPCA, the animal is not separated on the adoption floor from the rest of the animals. Survival rates for cats in shelters, at 37 percent, are lower than the percent of cats that are ultimately euthanized, at 41 percent, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

“They’re all mixed in together whether they came in as a stray or they were surrendered by their previous owners,” LASPCA Communications Associate Destinie Hammond said.

The months with the highest rate of surrender, according to Hammond, are May and June. These coincide with the end of the academic school year for universities in New Orleans, and college students contribute largely to the overflow of pets in the shelter.

“Once school’s over, that’s when we get some returned adoptions particularly from the college students,” Hammond said.

Zwicky said potential adopters are biased toward younger animals, and that students often do not consider the full life of the animal. 

“A lot of people are looking for the cuteness factor too … people want kittens, people don’t want adult cats,” Zwicky said. “It’s definitely very much an impulse control kind of thing.”

While Tower believes college isn’t necessarily the optimal time to get a pet, she looks forward to having Frida by her side.

“It’s not a good time I guess, but I don’t know, I like to take care of something,” Tower said. “I like the companionship.”