It’s almost impossible to walk past the window of a pet shop without stopping to look at the adorable fuzzy cats and kittens pouncing playful around their container, but this is where your involvement with these aww-inducing cats should start and finish.
Unfortunately the majority of cats, specifically kittens, that you see in pet stores are unlikely to have come from a reputable breeder. It is estimated that over 90 percent of kittens in pet stores were born in kitten mills.
Kitten mills work on the same premise as puppy mills. Cats are contained in cages and continually bred until they can no longer reproduce at which point they will be put down.
Kittens from kitten mills are are often raised in awful conditions and have congenital health problems or behavior issues that cost even more money and frustration over time. Not to mention the stress and misery they bring your poor cat! Most of these problems won't become apparent until you have taken your cat or kitten home.
With all this in mind it can be tempting to run to the nearest pet store and give a much needed home to one of these poor creatures, but this only encourages the trade. You can bet that there is another kitten from a mill ready to take the place of the one you’ve just bought.
In comparison, adopting a cat is the ethical decision. As many as 200,000 cats are taken in by shelters and rescue organisations - and most of those animals will never find a home. It’s also much cheaper for you, the human, as your cat is much more likely to have been vaccinated, wormed, flea treated, desexed and, depending on the state, microchipped, which saves you money. You’ll know exactly what you’re letting yourself in for as staff will be able to give you information about a cat's medical history and temperament and you’ll be surprised at the variety of cat breeds available at shelters and rescue centres.
The RSPCA advise against adopting or buying a kitten over the internet, newspaper advertisements or from a pet shop unless you are able to visit the breeding facility to see the conditions for yourself. Kittens should not be sold until they are eight weeks, they should have been weaned and be fully self sufficient.
With social media sites sporting the hashtag #adpotdontshop to encourage animal lovers to adopt from shelters rather than buying from pet stores, the world is waking up to the reality of kitten mills.
If you’re thinking about adding a cat or kitten to your family you’ll have no problem finding one at your local shelter or rescue centre. Or, find out how to choose the right cat for you and your family.