An animal lover has warned about the dangers of buying a cat online as part of a new campaign to avoid kitten "con artists".
In January 2021, mum-of-two Amy Guthrie, of Ashbourne, was searching online for a kitten.
She saw a group of eight-week-old kittens and especially liked the look of one of them, a female tortoiseshell and she contacted the seller online.
After having a WhatsApp call with the owner, Amy felt so sorry for the kitten, she drove to Leeds to buy her.
After noticing the kitten was not eating or drinking when she got her home, she took her to her own vets.
They discovered the kitten was only six weeks old and had a number of health issues.
She said: "I wanted to get another cat as we love them and we also have a friendly rescue cat called Barry who was lonely after losing his other companion cat - he loves being around other animals.
Amy contacted the seller after spotting the kitten.
She said: "She (the owner) asked me for a deposit of £100 to reserve the kitten and promised to send further details.
"The seller then didn't respond for more than a week and I had to do a bit of detective work to track her down via social media."
Amy asked if she could see the kitten with its mum.
Any said the seller said "no" owing to the risk of Covid-19 and so arranged a WhatsApp call instead where she could see the kitten.
Amy said: "I was surprised at what I saw. The kitten she held up was seemed so much smaller and frail than the one I'd seen in the photo, and the seller was handling her a little too roughly.
"I again asked if I could visit the kitten before purchase, but the seller said I had to decide there and then if I wanted the kitten and if yes then I had to pay the balance of £195 before going over.
"I felt so sorry for this poor kitten that I agreed to the terms.
"The seller was in Leeds - a journey of an hour and a half - and I was concerned for this poor kitten as soon as I got her.
"Her tummy was swollen, she reeked of cigarette smoke and there were little bald patches all over her body. When I got her into my home, she wouldn't eat or drink."
Amy took her to her vet who confirmed she was just six weeks old and had a range of health issues including a worm infestation.
Amy said: "After she received much-needed treatment, I cared for her on a 24/7 basis over the next few weeks with the help of my husband and kids. Barry lent a helpful paw too, sitting next to our kitten and helping her to groom herself from time to time.
"One year on, this cat - who I called Persephone - is healthy and thriving. I am so glad I went through with it - I have no idea what would have happened her if she'd remained with the seller."
Cats Protection has released a new film warning people to beware of kitten con artists.
New research shows that a quarter of us have noticed a suspicious advert for a cat or kitten seller on Facebook, but 23% don't feel confident knowing what questions to ask to ensure the sale is legitimate.
With the UK due to enter a kitten breeding season, Cats Protection has released a 10 minute documentary, called "The Big Kitten Con", to highlight the potentially tragic risks of buying an underage kitten online from unscrupulous sellers who put profit above welfare.
In their new video, Cats Protection has issued some advice and guidance on things to look out for and questions to ask when looking at cats online.
The groups says people should be thinking and asking:
Can we see the kitten with its mother? Ideally twice.
Are they happy to give us the full information?
Take up-to-date pictures of the environment to make sure it is clean?
Do they have a protocol for fleaing, worming and vaccinations?
Can we confirm their age, that they are eight-weeks-old or older?
Do they have the right paperwork to support that?
If you are pressurised into making a decision very quickly then this is a "red flag".
Do your research
Cats Protection say buyers can look out for a few key things that could help determine how old a kitten may be.
First thing is eye colour. If it is blue, probably the kitten is too young.
Weight is another thing to look our for. They should weigh around about 800 grams or more.
They should have nice clean eyes, clean nose, clean bottom and no sign of anything like fleas or other parasites.
Join the campaign
Madison Rogers, Cats Protection's acting head of advocacy and government relations, said: "Buying cats online has soared in recent years, fuelled by modernisation and the recent pandemic.
"Though many sellers are responsible people, there are unscrupulous individuals who will exploit the anonymity of the Internet to sell kittens that have been taken from their mums too young, denying them vital nutrients and social development, while passing them off as healthy, eight-week-old kittens.
"As well as giving advice we are encouraging the public to join our campaign by signing a petition calling on the Government to regulate cat breeding.
"We want anyone who breeds two or more litters of kittens in a year to be licensed which would make them subject to regular inspections.
"This will bring unscrupulous sellers out of the shadows and help protect helpless and innocent kittens."