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Looking for kittens for sale during COVID-19? Here's our top tips to avoid getting scammed

The coronavirus crisis has resulted in a huge increase in people wanting to get cats and kittens. And with many of us remaining at home for the foreseeable future, it’s no surprise that many are ending up with new additions to the household.

With government guidelines on COVID-19 still in place, many sellers are opting to sell kittens online. Some unscrupulous sellers are going out of their way to make online selling of kittens a business, resulting in some cat lovers being scammed – either paying over the odds or receiving a kitten that is either sick or not yet ready to be homed.

Looking for kittens for sale during COVID-19? Here’s our guide to ensuring that you don’t get scammed and instead, receive a happy and healthy kitten.

Are the kittens healthy and ready to be homed?

Some scammers sell kittens that are either sick or too young to leave their mother.

Kittens should be at least eight weeks old before they are sold and should be eating solid food, having been fully weaned off their mother’s milk.

When viewing your potential kitten, ensure they are:

  • alert, bright eyed and with no visible health problems
  • sociable and happy to be handled

For full guidance on what to look out for, download the Kitten Checklist

Download the Kitten Checklist

Have you met mum?

COVID-19 restrictions have made it more difficult for potential owners to see kittens in the home before they decide to adopt. Ideally, you’ll need to see the kittens with their litter mates and mum where they were bred, ensuring that they seem happy and healthy. Remember to ask questions about the mother cat, kitten’s health and their medical history – you can take the kitten checklist with you for more guidance.

Remember to check current COVID-19 restrictions when considering entering premises, particularly if you’re visiting a private house. You can find the latest advice on the government website

Buying a kitten via video

As with most things during the coronavirus crisis, those selling kittens have resorted to using video to communicate with potential pet owners. However, unscrupulous sellers can use this to their advantage, operating scams this way. In some cases, they may:

  • bring in adult cats alongside litters that aren’t theirs
  • show a litter of kittens for sale via video, then delivering a different litter

To avoid being scammed, make sure you ask lots of questions about the kitten and if in doubt, ask to see a live video of the seller handling and playing with the kittens.

Delivering kittens to your home

COVID-19 restrictions mean that it has become more common for those selling kittens to offer to deliver the kitten to you at a social distance. If a seller mentions meeting you ‘halfway’ to save you’re a journey, they could be preventing you from seeing where the kittens were bred. Keep aware and make sure you check to ensure your kitten isn’t sick or underage – and that it is the same kitten that you chose!

Collecting kittens from someone else’s premises or home

If you’re collecting kittens (where COVID-19 guidelines allow), arrange for them to be placed in a suitable cat carrier outside the premises and observe good hygiene at all times.

Alternatively, following government guidance, you could make the handover in a room or open space, as long as social distancing is possible.

You can find out more about how to keep yourself and your cat safe on the government website

Buy from a local seller

If you’re keen on getting a kitten, opt for sellers local to you. This is especially important if the kittens are being delivered. Transporting kittens long distances is stressful for them. Stay suspicious of sellers offering to source kittens for you, especially from outside the UK. These kittens may have been bred abroad in a poor welfare environment, smuggled in illegally and transported long distances.

Paying over the odds for your kitten?

COVID-19 restrictions have resulted in opportunistic sellers hiking up prices for kittens as the demand is currently high. Try to do your research when it comes to agreeing on a price, and be mindful that you may pay more currently. ‘Moggy’ kittens, such as tabbies, gingers, black and white, may previously have been sold for £50 and are now being advertised as much as £350 per kitten. Purebred pedigree kittens are being advertised in the £1000s!

Does the seller have a licence?

If a seller is charging high prices for kittens and seems to be advertising regularly, they may be running a business. By law, commercial sellers must be licensed or registered by the local authority. To avoid being scammed:

  • keep an eye out for a license or registration number, included in any online adverts
  • research before buying – about the seller as well as the kittens themselves

Be aware of deposit scams

Think before you buy! Be mindful of paying upfront deposits for kittens you’ve never met, particularly moggies.

  • Scammers will often send photos or videos, persuading potential pet owners to make a deposit in advance
  • They might also ask for further funds to cover ‘unforseen costs’ such as pet insurance or vaccinations, after they’ve made the initial payment
  • The kittens are never provided and scammers give false contact details so they cannot be traced
  • Purchasing a pedigree cat? For pedigree cats, genuine deposits are often taken at the time of reservation after viewing at around eight to nine weeks old. Most registration policies prefer kittens to remain in the breeder’s home until 13-14 weeks of age – after their second vaccination

 

Get proof of pedigree

Looking to buy a pedigree cats like a Siamese, Ragdoll or British Shorthair? Before you buy, think about the following.

  • Do the research! It is best to seek out a registered breeder with a breed association such as Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF) or The International Cat Association (TICA)
  • Make sure you receive a formal registration certificate that evidences proof of pedigree when you purchase the cat. Only a certificate from a breed association is proof of pedigree
  • Be aware of sellers offering to post the certificate to you after you’ve bought the cat, in case you are being scammed
  • Don’t be fooled by ‘pedigree crosses’ either. Any cat advertised as a ‘pedigree cross’ is usually not a pedigree, and although it may have some pedigree ancestry, it is still considered a ‘moggy’ or non-purebred. Sellers often use this term to suggest pedigree status – and it is usually accompanied by a hike in prices!

What can I do if I have been scammed?

If you think you might have been the victim of a scam involving pet sales, report it to the police by calling 101 (only use 999 in an emergency) and speak to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or visit www.actionfraud.police.uk

You can also find more information about reporting scams on the Citizens Advice website.

Buying a cat? Why not adopt from us instead?

Have you considered getting a kitten or cat from Cats Protection instead? Our centres are often full with potential pets, eagerly awaiting a permanent home. All of the cats in our care are:

  • health checked
  • treated for fleas and worms
  • vaccinated against cat flu, enteritis and FeLV
  • microchipped
  • neutered, where appropriate
  • homed with free temporary pet insurance

Use our Find-a-Cat tool to see if there is a suitable cat in your area. If there aren’t any suitable cats or kittens for your household currently in our care, we can help advise you on the safest way to continue your search.

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Other useful resources

Buying a kitten - topic

Advice from Pet Advertising Advisory Group

www.paag.org.uk/how-to-buy-a-pet/cats/

Government advice on buying pets safely

www.getyourpetsafely.campaign.gov.uk/

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