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If you’re looking to buy a new kitten online, be wary of unscrupulous sellers who put profit before cat welfare

Welcoming a fluffy new kitten into the family is an exciting time, with lots of play, laughs and cuddles ahead. If you’re adopting your new feline friend from Cats Protection, you can be sure they’re happy, healthy and exactly what you were expecting (they’ll even come with four weeks’ free pet insurance too!).

tortoiseshell-and-white newborn kitten held in blue gloved hand with 'Eight precious weeks' text

However, if you choose to buy your new pet, there can be some risks to look out for. 68% of the cats purchased in the last year (Cats Report 2021) were found online, including on sites such as Pets4Homes, Gumtree and Facebook. The anonymity provided by the online marketplace can unfortunately make it easier for unscrupulous sellers to put profit before cat welfare.

To avoid becoming a victim of kitten mis-selling, be wary of some of the pitfalls of shopping online for pets.

They could be too young

Kittens should not be separated from their mothers before they are eight weeks old, as this family time is crucial for their health and development. During those first eight weeks, kittens get vital nutrients and antibodies from their mum’s milk, helping them to grow strong and their immune systems to develop. Being with their mum and siblings also helps them to learn important life skills, such as grooming, toileting and playing. Some unscrupulous sellers may advertise kittens as being over eight weeks old, but actually sell them younger so they can make a quick profit.

brown tabby kitten asleep with head resting on front paw

They could be sick

If sellers are more interested in money than cat welfare, they may not get the kittens they’re breading the right veterinary care, or provide them with a clean, safe environment to grow up in. Young kittens are particularly vulnerable to illness and disease, especially if they don’t get to spend their first eight weeks with their mother. If you buy a kitten from an irresponsible breeder, you could be left with expensive vet bills or, even worse, the kitten may not survive.

You could be paying too much

Due to the increase in demand, the price of kittens sold online is already rising, but some sellers use a few cunning tricks to make even more money from unsuspecting buyers. There have been cases of people paying increased prices for pedigree or part-pedigree cats, only to discover the kitten they’ve bought is actually a regular moggy. Only cats with official paperwork from a breed association can be truly classed as pedigrees, so it’s important to check this before handing over any money. Remember though, moggies make great pets too!

black and white kitten with blue eyes

You could not get a kitten at all

Unfortunately, buying pets online makes it easier for sellers to scam their customers out of money, and this has been made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic. Social distancing restrictions have meant that buyers may not have been able to visit the kitten they were thinking of purchasing, and some ‘sellers’ have taken this as an opportunity to provide fake photos of the kitten and ask for money up-front when there is no such kitten for sale. It’s important to see the kitten with their mother at least once before you decide to hand over any money.

You could be funding poor cat welfare

There are of course lots of responsible cat breeders out there, who ensure the kittens they sell are healthy, as advertised, and appropriately priced. However, if you don’t do your research to find them, you could end up giving money to unscrupulous sellers who put cats’ lives in danger. If you come across one of these deceitful sellers, avoid handing over any money and instead report them to the police by calling 101 and Action Fraud. If you have concerns about the kitten’s welfare, also report it to the RSPCA.

How to buy a kitten responsibly

tortoiseshell-and-white kitten behind glass window of a cat pen

A great way to ensure you’re getting a healthy kitten is to adopt from Cats Protection. For a relatively small adoption fee, you’ll be guaranteed to receive a kitten who is vaccinated, wormed, microchipped and neutered, and who has been looked after by trained cat carers. However, if you do decide to buy a cat, make sure you read up on our kitten buying advice first, so you can avoid unscrupulous sellers out to make a quick profit.

Sadly, many kittens who are mis-sold online end up in the care of charities like Cats Protection. To find out how you can help us protect the lives of these vulnerable kittens, follow our #EightPreciousWeeks campaign.

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