Cats Protection’s “The Big Kitten Con” documentary features traumatic accounts from two women who were duped into purchasing kittens at less than the legal age for commercial sale which is eight weeks old. Sadly, both kittens died from debilitating illnesses.
A third person, a veterinary nurse, also talks about battling to save the life of a four-week-old blind kitten that was purchased over the Internet.
The video coincides with a Cats Protection survey of over 2,000 people which shows that around a quarter of respondents (23 per cent) are not confident knowing what questions to ask if they were to purchase a kitten online.
And around four in ten (42 per cent) said they’d recently noticed a suspicious advertisement for a cat or kitten across Facebook, Gumtree, Pets 4 Homes or Preloved.
Common concerns included the ad saying nothing about the kitten’s health (48 per cent), the kitten looking far too young to be rehomed (45 per cent) or sellers demanding money up front before buyers were allowed to collect their kitten (39 per cent).
Last year, 340,000 of the 500,000 cats that were purchased in the UK were found online on sites like Facebook, Gumtree, Pets 4 Homes and Preloved.
“Buying cats online has soared in recent years, fuelled by modernisation and the recent pandemic,” says Madison Rogers, Cats Protection’s Acting Head of Advocacy and Government Relations.
“Though many sellers are responsible people, there are unscrupulous individuals who will exploit the anonymity of the Internet to sell kittens that have been taken from their mums too young, denying them vital nutrients and social development, while passing them off as healthy, eight-week-old kittens.”
Cat-loving actor and presenter Caroline Quentin provides the video’s narration while veterinary surgeon and star of CBBC’s The Pets Factor Dr Fabian Rivers gives advice to consumers, including asking to see the kittens with the mum cat at least twice and asking for clear evidence that the kitten is eight weeks old.
“Every day as a vet I see more cats come through my door that are set up for failure from the very start,” says Fabian.
“It’s so important that we take these living, sentient, amazing beings much more seriously, especially when they are young and vulnerable. They are not accessories or toys and they have to be treated with much more respect.”
Caroline added: “As a cat lover, I am more than happy to lend my voice to the ‘Stop the Big Kitten Con’ documentary and to support Cats Protection with their campaign calling on the government to regulate cat breeding, helping to prevent the mis-selling of kittens online.”
Madison Rogers said: “As well as giving advice we are encouraging the public to sign a petition calling on the Government to regulate cat breeding. It has just been introduced in Scotland and we would like to see England, Wales and Northern Ireland follow suit.
“We want anyone who breeds two or more litters of kittens in a year to be licensed which would make them subject to regular inspections.
“This will bring unscrupulous sellers out of the shadows and help protect helpless and innocent kittens.”