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25th November 2021

A cat charity has issued a warning about the risks of buying underage kittens over the internet that could turn out to be sick or diseased.

Cats Protection says that kittens are being taken from their mum too young and then sold online for the sake of profit, compromising the pet’s health and welfare.

As a result, the charity has launched a campaign - #Eightpreciousweeks – to raise vital funds and awareness to help prevent kittens suffering in the future.

Driven by the recent pandemic, there has been rise in buying online with 340,000 cats and kittens being found on the Internet out of a total 500,000 purchased this year. The main sites selling them include Gumtree, Preloved, Facebook and Pets4Homes.

However, this sadly corresponds with a rise in instances of kitten and cat fraud, with 1,146 reported to Action Fraud in the 2020/21 financial year compared to just 190 in 2019/20.

An example is Cookie, a four-week-old kitten who was traded on Gumtree. 

Cookie was handed over in the dark to an unsuspecting buyer who didn’t realise the terrible condition the kitten was in until she got him home.

As well as being emaciated, Cookie’s eyes were puffy and scabbed over and his fur was matted with pus. It took many weeks for Cats Protection to nurse him back to health and find him a new home.      

“In the past year we have heard examples of unsuspecting buyers being mis-sold kittens,” said Catherine Cottrell, Cats Protection’s Director of Marketing & Income Generation.

“Some devious sellers are separating kittens from their mothers before the recommended age of eight weeks, which denies these kittens the vital nutrients and social development that they require to develop into healthy, adult cats.   

“The run up to Christmas is never a good time to introduce a new kitten or cat, since it can be a busy time in many households, but if people are tempted by an online purchase, we’d urge them to visit our website where they’ll find a list of questions to ask before purchasing a kitten. Always do plenty of homework and don’t be rushed into making a decision.” 

TV personality and animal welfare campaigner Deborah Meaden has lent her support to Cats Protection to encourage consumers to be aware of the risks. 

“Online shopping has undoubtedly become a huge part of our lives – particularly during the pandemic. But when it comes to cats and kittens, buying online isn’t without its risks,” said Deborah.

“It’s shocking to see how easy it is for unscrupulous sellers to operate online and put profit before kitten welfare.

“Consumers may find themselves duped into purchasing kittens which are too young or sick, leaving them with high vet bills, or in some cases, a kitten which tragically dies.

“Cats Protection’s work with government and extensive advice to consumers is vital to ensure potential cat owners get a healthy and happy pet - and stamp out the mis-selling of pets.”

Cats Protection’s campaign, which includes TV adverts airing on ITV shortly, will run throughout this winter and people can find advice, take an interactive quiz and make a donation here:

Cats Protection is the UK’s leading feline welfare charity and helps over 200,000 cats and kittens through a national network of 210 volunteer-run branches and 37 adoption centres.


For media enquiries please contact Cats Protection’s Media Team on 01825 741 911 or email

To watch the TV advertisement, please visit or visit

For photos of Cookie, and Deborah Meaden, please click on the Dropbox folder at

Notes to editors:

  1. From Cats Protection’s Cats And Their Stats (CATS) Report 2021, produced by Basis Research for Cats Protection and consisting of 10,519 interviews with cat owners and non-cat owners carried out between 8 March and 12 April 2021. Further details at
  2. Cats Protection is the UK’s leading feline charity, founded in 1927 as the Cats Protection League. We ask that you use the name Cats Protection when referring to the charity.
  3. The charity’s registered charity number is 203644 (England and Wales) and SC037711 (Scotland).
  4. Action Fraud is the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and cyber crime. If you think you’ve been a victim of fraud, contact your bank immediately and report it to Action Fraud online at police.ukor by calling 0300 123 2040.
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