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14th of November 2018

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Please don’t rent a kitten from this horrible company

“Welcome a furry visitor to your home or office! The puppy or kitten can stay for just a day or overnight. And if you fall in love, you can be its forever home!”

When I first read this tagline by American startup Rescue Time, I admittedly got a little excited. Having a whole litter of tiny fluffs crawling over your desk? That’s like living the dream, right?

Well, it’s not. At least not for them. For them, it’s actually pretty awful.

Let’s take a closer look at what Rescue Time does. The company offers kittens and puppies — no adult animals, as far as I can see — for rent. Prices start from $79 for one pup or kitten, for one day. You can have them for 8 or 24 hours, or use a subscription-based plan for regular visits. The pets come individually, but also in sets:

Oh, and if you’re not into kittens and puppies? Rescue Time plans to also include other animals like bunnies, piglets and goats in their inventory.

Birthday kittens

So what kind of customers is Rescue Time targeting? According to the website, the company “is perfect for those who would love a kitten or puppy but are unable to have a full-time pet for any number of reasons.”

That sounds somewhat acceptable until you get to the customer testimonials:

I’m sure Brent’s grandma had a lovely day. The kitten, on the other hand, did not. Most cats hate being dropped in new surroundings. They need time to slowly adjust to a new space before they can feel safe.

According to Georgia SPCA, an animal shelter organization, “If no other cats or dogs are present in the household, the adjustment period usually takes one to two weeks, but it can take several months.”

With puppies, the adjustment period is similar: from a couple of days to several weeks. However, unlike cats, dogs rely on their owners to feel safe in a new space. Dropping off puppies at a strange place every day, with no familiar faces present, is extremely stressful to them.

And another concern: cute kittens and puppies aren’t young forever. What happens when they grow up?

Pet sitting and cat cafes

Look, I get that some people don’t have the time or financial means to have pets at home. But there are many other ways to temporarily look after pets, without dragging them all over town on a daily basis.

Plenty of websites and Facebook Groups connect pet owners with animals lovers in their neighborhood. You can become a (paid) cat or dog sitter and “borrow” dogs from owners when they’re on vacation. Plus, many bigger cities have “cat cafes” where you can interact with pets in their own habitat where they feel safe.

Rescue Time claims to “rescue” these animals by finding new homes through their program, as “adoption is encouraged.” You will, however, have to pay an undisclosed fee “based on veterinarian services rendered, breed and whether they’re puppies or kittens.”

I’m sure there are less exploitative ways to find adoptive owners. Animal shelters everywhere will tell you the same — whether through visiting days at the shelter or trial periods that are not just one day and that don’t come with a steep price tag. 

If you love animals, please don’t rent them purely for your own pleasure. And maybe next year, just get your grandma some fancy bath products again.

Update 16.50 UTC, November 9: Rescue Time responded that the pets are placed in foster home situations, as opposed to shelters, while they’re not at their paid visits with customers. More details about these foster homes were not included, however, nor does its website mention anything about such facilities.

As to what happens with older animals, Rescue Time states that they “care for animals until they find a new home.”

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