Continued growth in the market for online cat sales highlights the importance of PAAG
Cats Protection’s CATS (Cats and Their Stats) Report 2023 has found that the online marketplace for cats has continued to grow, with 71% of cats purchased in the 2022/2023 financial year found using online sources.
This has contributed to a total pet cat population across the UK of 11 million; with the top sources of acquisition being purchase (3.5 million cats) and adoption from UK rescues (2.6 million cats).
Now in its fourth year, Cats Protection’s annual CATS Report has continued to detect growth in the proportion of ‘bought’ cats (as opposed to adopted or taken on) in the overall pet cat population.
The report found that three of the top sources being used to find cats to buy (Pets4Homes, Gumtree and Preloved) are signed up to the Pet Advertising Advisory Group’s (PAAG) advertising standards, which seek to improve the welfare of pets sold online, highlighting the importance of PAAG’s work.
Another common online source used to find a cat to purchase is Facebook, which as a social media company rather than a classified website is not signed up to the PAAG advertising standards. The popularity of Facebook has decreased from last year’s report, but with one in five purchased cats still being found on the platform, Cats Protection is continuing to express concern around the impact of social media on the marketplace for cats:
Stefan Blakiston Moore, Cats Protection’s Advocacy & Campaigns Manager, said:
“With the online world playing an ever-greater part in our lives, it is no surprise that more potential cat owners are going online to find a pet. It is vital that cat welfare is a key focus for those sites allowing cats to be sold and that buyers are aware of the risks; this is why the work of PAAG is so vital.
“Cats Protection welcomes moves last year by Meta, the company which owns Facebook, to take down ”multiple, pages, groups and posts” contravening its ban on pet sales outside of ”legitimate businesses and shelters”; but work needs to continue in this area.
“As PAAG continues to work to improve the welfare of pets sold on those websites following its Advertising Standards, Cats Protection urges Meta to further collaborate with Cats Protection and PAAG to improve animal welfare and prevent unscrupulous individuals using Facebook to operate.”
The CATS Report 2023 has also continued to detect changes in the types of cats being obtained. The report found that 42% of cats obtained in the preceding 12 months are defined by their owners as a specific breed (either a purebred or pedigree) compared to 17% of those obtained more than five years ago.
As the trend towards buyers seeking out specific breeds continues, Cats Protection says there is risk that high-value cats could incentivise unscrupulous individuals into the market who put profit before welfare. As a result, the charity believes it is becoming more important for buyers to be aware of the steps that need to be taken to safely buy a cat. The charity has also stated that more needs to be done to protect the welfare of cats within the marketplace, in particular, those cats being intentionally bred with extreme characteristics.
Alison Richards, Cats Protection’s Head of Clinical Services, explained:
“It’s important that potential owners receive the right advice when looking to buy a cat. They also need to be made aware of the potential significant health and welfare issues that come with certain extreme characteristics we are seeing bred into cats.
“Of particular concern is the Scottish Fold, a breed of cat which has flat ears as a result of a cartilage defect that also impacts the cat’s joints, causing disease that can result in a lifetime of pain and suffering.
“It is welcome that through collaboration with PAAG, classified websites have been taking action to improve consumer awareness of how to safely buy cats. Further, certain sites are prioritising welfare by preventing the sale of cats with extreme characteristics that cause significant pain and suffering, a move very much welcomed by Cats Protection.
PAAG has set out its advice to websites around breeds with extreme characteristics and how it may be in contravention of advertising standards. PAAG will continue to work with websites to improve the welfare of cats bought and sold online, and is working to encourage buyers to use the kitten checklist.
Further information on Cats Protection’s CATS (Cats and Their Stats) Report 2023 can be found at www.cats.org.uk/stats