Editor’s note: The photographs in this post might be too harsh for some to take. We’re running them, though, because we believe this is an important issue and facilities like the ones described below must be stopped.
On a frigid January day in the town of Savoy, Massachusetts, 31 cats and kittens got a second chance at having any kind of life when authorities served a search warrant at a home in response to numerous complaints from neighbors.
What the authorities found almost defied belief: cats and kittens with terrible eye infections, crawling with fleas and anemic almost to the point of death. Cats whose ears were festering with mites, cats who could barely breathe because of upper respiratory disease. Cats so terrified and unsocialized that some of them had to be left behind for trap-neuter-return operations.
“This is pretty severe,” Savoy Animal Control Officer Carol Loholdt told the Berkshire Eagle. “I’ve never seen upper respiratory infections to the point where there is blood coming out of their faces. One cat — I’m not sure he’s going to make it.”
Sounds like a classic hoarding situation, right?
No. This was a kitten mill. Animal abuse and animal cruelty, pure and simple.
The owner of this house of horrors called himself a breeder. And all those half-dead, nearly feral cats were purebred Ragdolls, which he was selling over the Internet for $250 each.
The cats have been divided between Northern Berkshire County Animal Rescue and the nearby Dakin Pioneer Valley Humane Society, and both organizations are working diligently to save the cats’ lives and, once that’s done, get them used to being around people.
"Please be aware that due to the environment that they came from, these cats do not have the classic ‘Ragdoll personality,’" Dakin Pioneer Valley Humane Society wrote on its Facebook page. "These are traumatized and undersocialized cats who will need a very quiet and patient home that will allow them all the time they need to feel comfortable."
I can’t help but wonder what the hell anyone who actually bought a cat from this individual was thinking. I also wonder what happened when the buyers got their cute, friendly little Ragdoll kitten and found that the cat was sick and unsocialized.
For that matter, I can’t believe anyone would think they could get a healthy, responsibly bred purebred kitten for $250. And I really can’t believe that anyone would buy a kitten, sight unseen, over the Internet. For God’s sake, people, a kitten is a living being, not a pair of shoes! You can’t just send it back (with free return shipping) if it turns out this kitten wasn’t what you wanted.
Puppy mills get a lot of publicity, and almost everyone who cares about dogs has heard again and again about the horrors of puppy mills. But few people know that the same thing happens with purebred cats. When a breed is popular, there will be people who cash in on the craze by imprisoning them in terrible circumstances and forcing them to breed over and over again until they die — or the “owner” kills them because they’re no longer viable breeders.
If you’re going to buy a purebred cat, don’t support people like this guy in Massachusetts. Save your money and buy the cat of your dreams from a responsible breeder who really cares about the breed, not the almighty dollar. It might cost you more in the short term, but in the long run you’ll get a healthier cat and you won’t be supporting the morally bankrupt human scum that run kitten factories.
“I hope people who bought cats from him see what they were supporting when they paid him,” Loholdt told the Eagle.
Me, too, Ms. Loholdt. Me, too.
What do you think? Have you seen a kitten mill in action or been involved in a rescue of cats from one of these mills? Do you know someone who actually bought a purebred kitten through a mill or at a pet store? How did it turn out? Share your thoughts in the comments.
About JaneA Kelley: Punk-rock cat mom, science nerd, animal shelter volunteer, and all-around geek with a passion for bad puns, intelligent conversation, and role-play adventure games. She gratefully and gracefully accepts her status as chief cat slave for her family of feline bloggers, who have been writing their cat advice column, Paws and Effect, since 2003. JaneA dreams of making a great living out of her love for cats.
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