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Cat charity issues buyer beware warning as online sales rise

The UK’s leading cat charity is urging the public to be wary of being mis-sold kittens in the face of a summer surge in the online sales of felines.        

Cats Protection says there has been a staggering 118 per cent increase in cat or kitten advertisements on Gumtree, Pets4Homes and Preloved in June 2021 compared to June 2020 (22,803 versus 10,477) while the average price per feline has risen too (£474 versus £327).

However, this has attracted unscrupulous individuals who have found clever ways around selling restrictions on pet websites and social media, with Cats Protection recently being contacted by a number of people who said they were mis-sold a kitten.

Action Fraud, the UK’s national centre for online fraud and cybercrime has also reported an increase in instances of kitten or cat fraud. In the 2020/21 financial year 1,146 instances were reported to them, with cat adopters losing an average of £216 each, a huge increase on 2019/20 where only 190 instances and an average loss of £169 was reported.   

Samantha Webb, 32 from Truro says she was tricked when she obtained her kitten Franky in May this year.

“I saw a photo of playful kittens on Facebook with a caption saying ‘10-week-old kittens ready to go, mum can be seen’, says Samantha.

“I sent the person a private message to discuss further, and on the day that I went to collect my kitten, the seller messaged me to say there would be a charge of £30.

“On arrival, I was handed a frail and limp kitten who wouldn’t open his eyes. He looked quite different to the kittens in the photo. I handed over the money just so I could get this poor kitten to the vet, who confirmed he was just four weeks old and had a neurological condition called cerebellar hypoplasia caused by his mum having a virus during pregnancy.

“I was told to treat Franky as if he was a new-born and after a lot of bottle feeding and tender loving care he’s developing well. I’ve reported the incident to Facebook and the RSPCA and feel it’s important that other people know about unscrupulous sellers out there.”  

“Samantha’s case is one of many that have been related to us by worried cat lovers,” says Madison Rogers, Cats Protection’s Senior Advocacy and Government Relations Officer.

“A common theme is how some sellers are exploiting the coronavirus crisis to trick unsuspecting buyers. Buyers are told they can’t see young kittens with their mum cat in their home environment because of social distancing rules.

“Instead, buyers are sent misleading photos or videos or the kittens are simply handed over on the first meet up, with the buyer not realising that the kittens are sick, diseased or have severely impaired immune systems owing to being taken from their mum when they were too young.

“Cats Protection has a handy, free-to-download kitten checklist, which provides advice on buying any breed of kitten and we hope adopters find this a useful tool to help them make the right choice before they buy.”

“Criminals have and will continue to use the coronavirus pandemic as an opportunity to scam unsuspecting victims, says Pauline Smith, Director of Action Fraud.

“We would always recommend that you view the animal in person before paying any money. If you cannot see the animal in person, ask for a video call. If something doesn’t feel right, trust your instincts and do not pay any money until you’re certain it’s genuine.”

Cats Protection’s top tips before purchasing:     

  • With the relaxation of coronavirus restrictions, ask to see the kittens in their home and with their mum so you can check they are healthy, alert and with no visible health problems. Remember to maintain good hygiene before and after handling any new cat
  • Find out more information about the seller before you purchase. By law, commercial sellers must be licensed or registered with a local authority and should be able to show you their licence or registration number
  • If you think you might have been the victim of a scam then report it to the police by calling 101
  • Consider adopting from a reputable cat charity where you can visit cats and/or obtain proof of their age and medical history

To download the kitten checklist, visit https://www.cats.org.uk/media/3722/the-kitten-checklist.pdf

To adopt a cat or kitten from Cats Protection please visit www.cats.org.uk/adopt-a-cat

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