Cats and kittens

Cats and kittens

When you buy a cat or kitten, it must be:

  • of satisfactory quality;
  • fit for its purpose; and
  • as described.

In addition, any person buying a cat or kitten has the right of an implied guarantee that the seller can sell the cat or kitten. This means that, although this guarantee may not be in writing, the seller still promises that nobody else has any right to prevent the sale.

You can find out more about your rights in the section Introduction to your legal rights.

In England, regulations make it illegal for any person to sell a cat or kitten as a pet in the course of a business, unless they have acquired a licence authorising them to do so. It is also illegal for a licence holder to sell a kitten if it is younger than 8 weeks. If the kitten is younger than 6 months, it may only be sold by its breeder and the breeder must be the same named individual that appears on the licence. If the seller is the breeder, they should be able to show the kitten with the kitten's mother.

In Scotland, the following people must be licensed:

  • Anyone who sells animals as pets in the course of a business
  • Anyone who keeps animals in the course of a business for later sale as pets
  • Cat breeders who breed 3 or more litters of kittens in any 12-month period.

It is illegal for a licence holder to sell a kitten as a pet or to permanently separate it from its biological mother, if it's under 8 weeks old. A kitten under 6 months may only be sold by its breeder, who must be the person named on the licence. It may only be shown to a prospective buyer in the presence of its biological mother (unless she has died).

A cat or kitten may only be sold from the licensed premises and, in the case of breeders, from the licensed premises where it was born and reared. The sale of the cat or kitten may only be concluded if the buyer is personally present at the licensed premises. This means that it would be illegal to sell or buy a cat or kitten at a public place or market, unless that forms part of the licensed premises.

Pedigree cats

Owners can register a pedigree cat or kitten under 2 separate bodies in the UK. These are the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF) and the Felis Britannica, which is the UK branch of the Federation Internationale Feline (FIFe).

If the cat or kitten is registered (or registration has been applied for) with the GCCF, then the seller should give the buyer a signed personal pedigree form showing at least 3 generations of ancestry, detailing names, breeds and colours, together with registration numbers. If the cat or kitten is registered with the FIFe, the buyer should receive a certified pedigree from the Felis Britannica.

To change the official ownership of a cat or kitten registered with the GCCF, the seller should give the buyer a 'pink slip', which the buyer should complete and send together with a fee to the GCCF office. In the case of cats and kittens registered with the FIFe, the buyer should simply return the official pedigree together with the fee to the Felis Britannica for their name to be added to the register.

Caring for the animal

Before buying a cat or kitten as a pet you must keep in mind that you're taking on a long-term responsibility.

In the UK, the owner of a cat or kitten has legal obligations to:

  • provide it with a suitable environment and diet;
  • enable it to exhibit normal behavioural patterns;
  • give it the appropriate level of companionship (including whether it needs to live with or apart from other animals), and;
  • protect it from pain, suffering injury and disease.

Codes of practice have been published in England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, all aimed at helping you comply with your legal duties. Although non-compliance with the codes is not an offence in itself, they are taken into account when deciding if you've broken the law.

Most sellers will therefore want to emphasise the need to care for the animal. To address this, the seller often puts terms in the contract of sale that ask the buyer to promise that they'll look after the animal. Unfortunately, this is very difficult to enforce and means very little in practice.

If you suspect that an animal is being treated cruelly, contact the following organisations:

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