The charity recently took in a pregnant stray Bengal cat which they named Kiki. At the same time, other rescues picked up another stray pregnant Bengal in the area, as well as a pregnant Persian cat. For cats that cost in the region of £400-£500 each, it began to seem unlikely that they had ended up on the street by accident.
At Yorkshire Cat Rescue, Kiki went into foster care so that she could give birth to her kittens in a quiet and safe environment. Just a few days later she produced five kittens – all seemingly of the same full pedigree as their mum. But within a week, three of them had died and the last two had to be hand-fed by their foster carer as Kiki’s milk was drying up. Eight weeks later, despite all efforts to save them, the last two kittens died.
Sara Atkinson, founder of Yorkshire Cat Rescue, says: ‘Bengal kittens sell for hundreds of pounds and are usually treasured by their owners. So we were immediately suspicious when no one came forward to claim Kiki despite all our efforts to find her owner. When we heard about the other stray pedigree cats, we immediately thought something more sinister was up.’
Sara suspects Kiki and the other pedigree cats were dumped by an unscrupulous back-street breeder when they stopped producing viable litters of kittens. ‘Kiki is a mature lady in cat terms; our vet estimates that she could be around eight years old. Her teeth are in appalling condition and she had very little body fat when we found her.
‘A good breeder would only let a cat have a litter once every couple of years or so. Sadly, Kiki has most likely been used for intensive breeding since she was very young, only to be thrown out on the street when she became a financial burden instead of a money-making tool. Our worry at this point is for any remaining cats that may still be used for intensive breeding, and for others that have been thrown out and are living on the streets.’
The charity wants to send a message to people thinking about buying a pedigree cat this winter. ‘The cost of buying a cheap pedigree kitten from a kitten farmer is the health and wellbeing of both mum and kittens. In Kiki’s case, five little lives were lost. They had a profound impact on the people who work and volunteer for Yorkshire Cat Rescue. I sat up night after night with two dying kittens, and poor foster mum, Emma had to say goodbye to the remaining two little kittens after eight weeks of raising them in her own home. Her son even dedicated his holiday to feeding and caring for them when they were only tiny. Such a great shame and a real tragedy. I sincerely hope that Kiki’s story will highlight the perils of buying kittens – or indeed any animal – without making sure the mum is first and foremost a happy and healthy pet. If people particularly want a pedigree cat, they should make sure the breeder is registered with the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF) and that the kittens come with full and proper papers.’
To see the many non-pedigree yet wonderful cats available at Yorkshire Cat Rescue visit www.yorkshirecatrescue.org/