The RSPCA and other cat and vet organisations have come together to create a ‘kitten checklist’.
The charities, working collaboratively under the name The Cat Group, have put together The Kitten Checklist to act as a guideline for anyone considering buying a kitten to know what to look for and spot the warning signs of a bad breeder.
The checklist includes common signs of ill health, the kitten’s behaviour and how comfortable he or is around people, all of which indicate whether they have come from a conscientious breeder.
For those considering buying a kitten, it is important to see them with the mother and in the place where they have been bred, to get proof of vaccinations and ensure that the mother and kitten are both healthy, happy and socialised.
Alice Potter, RSPCA cat welfare expert said: “Although we would always urge people to consider adopting a rescue pet instead, for those who are considering buying a kitten, we want them to be able to make the most informed decision they can when buying from a breeder.
“Sadly, we do see cases of cats coming into our care who have not had the correct vaccinations, care of attention and the results can not only be devastating for the cats themselves but also the new owners who have to provide the time and cost it takes to look after these very poorly kittens. We hope that The Kitten Checklist will provide vital information and peace of mind for anyone looking to bring a kitten into their home.”
Sadly, these owners discovered first-hand what can go wrong when buying a kitten.
Lucie Boucher from Sheffield bought her two cats from a seller on Facebook. There were no problems with her first cat Millie who was a healthy and happy kitten, but when she went on to buy her second cat, Daisy in the same way, she soon realised the risks of buying online.
When she arrived at the property to collect the kitten, she was told to wait on the doorstep and wasn’t allowed to see the mum. Lucie realised almost immediately that the kitten seemed to be very young and was covered in fleas.
Lucie said: “When we collected her, she was very dirty and yellow and her nose and ears we full of dirt and you could see the fleas crawling on her. We took her straight to the vet and were told that she had developed anaemia due to the fleas.”
With advice and treatment at a significant cost, Lucie went home and cared for Daisy, needing to feed her every couple of hours as she was too young to be away from her mum. The family cared for Daisy round the clock until she was strong enough and old enough, and back to full health.
Aisha from Middlesbrough bought her kitten Muezza from a Gumtree seller in Sunderland after falling in love with the picture of the grey British shorthair kitten online.
The advert said he was eight weeks old and ready to be rehomed, so she went along to the house to collect him, but sadly within days Muezza was showing signs of Giardia, a contagious parasite and became very ill.
Aisha said: “Alarm bells were ringing when I went to the house to collect him. I asked to see the mum and the seller was really on edge when I asked that question. She said the mum was outside and she couldn’t find her. He was advertised as eight weeks old but when we got there, she told me he was seven and a half weeks which we now know based on the vet examination that this wasn’t the case, he was only about five weeks old.
“The first day we brought him back he was really excitable and full of life and then he just deteriorated really quickly. It took about four vet visits and lots of different medication. He was very lethargic and had diarrhoea, it was so bad that we couldn’t even pick him up without him leaking. I had to take annual leave from work to care for him. We kept him in one room as he would have been contagious to our other cat and I was constantly cleaning and washing him as he couldn’t control his bowels. He wasn’t responsive for so long, I really thought I was going to lose him.”
After a week of Muezza being poorly, Aisha decided to contact the RSPCA and report her concerns.
Aisha added: “It’s not about the money, I spent hundreds on his as well as the vet fees but it’s the principle that he wasn’t ready to leave his mum in the first place and he was really poorly.”
Giardia is a contagious parasite which is spread as a result of an unhygienic environment often with multiple animals and poor cleaning. It’s also seen alongside other gastrointestinal infections such as salmonella and can be passed to people.
These stories show why it is important to buy from a reputable breeder, see proof of vaccinations, see the mother and the environment in which they have been bred, and watch to see if they are well-socialised kitten, which can help to ensure you rehome a happy and healthy kitten.
A Gumtree spokesperson said: “We are sad to hear of these cases. We take the welfare of animals very seriously and work hard to ensure our site is a safe place to find pets in need of rehoming. We do not allow ‘wanted’ ads in our Pets category, as there are plenty of pets to choose from on the site and it sanctuaries across the country.
“We will also delete any ads we believe are encouraging or indicate signs of animal cruelty. We continue to focus on educating our users on how to buy pets safely and responsibly, and would encourage all our users to follow this checklist, as well as our existing guidelines around listings for pets that can be found on our website.”
For more information about The Kitten Checklist you can visit https://www.rspca.org.uk/adviceandwelfare/pets/cats/kittens.