Cats Protection urges the public to be aware of the dangers of buying a kitten online during the coronavirus pandemic.
Sadly the COVID-19 pandemic has created the ideal conditions for unscrupulous vendors to sell kittens that may be sick, poorly socialised or too young to be safely parted from their mothers.
With the average cost of buying a cat rocketing by nearly £100 this year, buyers could be duped into buying poorly kittens from sellers posing as caring and responsible breeders.
According to figures from tech4pets, prepared for Cats Protection, the average price of cats and kittens on selected pet selling websites has increased throughout the COVID-19 pandemic – with the average price for July 2020 (£329.41) up 40% from the July 2019 average price (£235.23)
Little Lola was sold at just five-weeks-old, too young to be away from her mother
One kitten sold online this year was Lola, who was advertised for sale in October for £200 and described as a 10-week-old kitten in an online advert.
After purchasing her, Lola’s new owner’s circumstances soon changed and she was handed into our Evesham Adoption Centre in Worcestershire, where it was discovered she had in fact been just five weeks old when she was sold – nearly a month before she could have safely been parted from her mother.
Lola is now nine weeks old and, after being cared for by the team at the centre, she has been rehomed.
Cats Protection’s Head of Advocacy & Government Relations Jacqui Cuff said: “Lola is one of the lucky ones – although she was sold too young, she went on to be cared for by our dedicated team who made sure she was happy, healthy and got all the care she needs. But the best care for her over her first few weeks would have been to remain with her mother.
“Sadly, we fear there are many underage kittens like Lola being sold online by vendors who are impatient to make a quick profit. These kittens can go on to have serious, life-threatening illnesses or be so poorly socialised that they’re not suitable as pets. They may then end up being handed into animal charities, or worse – abandoned to fend for themselves.
“With all of us spending more time at home, it is understandable that many people would want to welcome a new pet into the household. However, we’re asking buyers to think very carefully when using online adverts to find a new kitten.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has created the ideal conditions for unscrupulous pet sellers to thrive, as they appear to have a credible reason for not allowing buyers to view the kitten with their mother first.
“Before the pandemic, buyers may have heard alarm bells if a seller offered to deliver a kitten to them, or said it was not possible to view the kitten with their mother. But the guidelines and restrictions on visiting other households means it is now very difficult to be sure of a kitten’s background.
“This is one of a number of issues we’re working on to improve feline welfare across the UK. We’re grateful for support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery, which helps make this work possible and ensures a better future for one of the nation’s favourite pets.”
Buyers should think carefully before purchasing a kitten from an online advert and refer closely to our Kitten Checklist, which features lots of tips and advice for purchasing kittens safely.
Cats Protection’s warning follows the government’s Petfished campaign to help the public research pet sellers thoroughly online before buying a new pet.