By John Moyle
A new kitten is just a click away as vendor sites such a Gumtree and Trading Post are now commonly used to advertise animals for sale.
Buying online is often ruled by impulse rather than reason, and by the time a prospective buyer has transferred the funds they have unwittingly bought into a world of pain.
Backyard cat breeders frequently use these sites to advertise their animals, but it is a case of caveat emptor, because other than a cute photo the buyer is given no idea of the condition of the animal, its provenance or health, and no comeback if the animal is diseased.
“It’s a mixed bag. You don’t know what you are getting yourself into,” said Kylie McKendry, marketing and communications coordinator of the Cat Protection Society.
With cat breeding season now in full swing, Ms McKendry said, “It was a slower start to the season this year, but now our foster carers are getting full and in January we are expecting many more animals.”
The Cat Protection Society receives up to 1,000 cats a year, with a large percentage being kittens.
“When a litter of unwanted kittens comes to us they go into foster care until they are old enough to be desexed,” Ms McKendry said. “An experienced foster carer will be able to determine their personality, so that we are able to tell a prospective buyer about their behaviour and energy levels as well as their physical wellbeing.”
Desexing of kittens should be done at eight to ten weeks.
A quick look at Gumtree’s first page for kittens in the Sydney area shows nine un-chipped kittens for sale from $30 to $100, while for $500, a cat-boarding specialist is offering a purebred Ragdoll with vet checks, microchipping, vaccinations and worming.
“Cats can be bought from breeders or adoption agencies but they cost more, so I think the hip pocket plays a big role in people going online,” said Miriam Meek, deputy director of the Potts Point Veterinary Hospital.
“You see a beautiful fluffy kitten on Gumtree for $50 but those cats come with nothing. Cats from unlicensed breeders are often unwell and they can have diarrhoea, intestinal parasites, fleas and cat flu, which can last the lifetime of the cat, and they can become carriers.”
Elizabeth Bay resident Liz C knows about cats, having had her Ragdoll Frankie for 17 years.
But when Frankie died from diabetes and renal failure, an emotionally distraught Liz was soon searching online for a replacement.
“I started looking after about three days and after three weeks I bought two of the cutest cats I had seen in that time from Gumtree,” Liz said.
“I paid $100 each for the cats, and I wanted a pair as they are happier when I am at work.”
As the kittens were located in Sydney’s outer western suburbs, Liz had to rent a car to pick them up. When she arrived at the cattery, she found that the animals had no health checks and were infested with fleas.
“They were riddled with flea debris, which is flea poo, and when I bathed them the water turned brown,” Liz said. “I then had to get them their shots, and chipped and desexed, which costs hundreds for both.”
Kylie McKendry said that, “It is unfortunate that there is not enough regulation in this area”. And while the RSPCA and Animal Welfare Australia have the power to prosecute, the Cat Protection Society does not.
The RSPCA currently uses the example of a 2012 legal case to deter people from approaching unregulated catteries.
On 24 July 2012, RSPCA inspectors entered premises at Hill Top and found that cats were being kept in squalid conditions and had been urinating and defecating throughout the house.
The woman who owned them removed all her clothing, claiming that she was incontinent, and the inspectors had to call the police.
The cats were removed and given a health check before being placed into care.
The cat breeder had eight charges of animal cruelty brought against her, was fined and placed on a good behaviour bond and banned from owning animals for ten years.
When you are selecting a kitten over a mature cat from a breeder it is important to view both parents so that you, the purchaser, have an indication of any inherited defects plus an idea of its disposition. These conditions are not always possible to determine until the kitten is mature.
This is why you should approach reputable organisations such as the RSPCA, the Cat Protection Society or Sydney Dogs and Cats Rescue.
“All of our cats are desexed, they have had their first vaccination and they are also up to date with their flea and worm treatment,” Ms McKendry said. “You just pay a registration fee and they come with a seven-day health guarantee, and a bag of food, and you are paying just $150 for the animal.”
“I was told that my kittens were Ragdoll cross, and that is dubious, but they are gorgeous nonetheless,” Liz said.
Miriam Meek said that while unlicensed breeders remain a problem, there are plenty of reputable breeders to choose from.
The RSPCA is currently calling for the websites that sell our furry friends to adopt specific guidelines regarding the advertising of pets. These guidelines, established by the RSPCA, aim to better protect the welfare of animals being listed for sale online.
If you want to support these guidelines to keep our kitties safe, or you’re looking for more information about buying your next best friend online, check out the link below!