A SPATE of incidents in which pedigree cats have been dumped has prompted a Cross Roads-based charity to issue a warning to people buying kittens.

Yorkshire Cat Rescue says it recently took in a pregnant stray Bengal cat which they named Kiki.

The group says that at the same time, other shelters picked up another stray pregnant Bengal in the Keighley area, as well as a pregnant Persian cat.

A spokesman for the charity said: "For cats that cost in the region of £400 to £500 each, it seemed unlikely that they had ended up on the street by accident.

"Kiki went into foster care so that she could give birth to her kittens in a quiet and safe environment.

"She gave birth to 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, the last two kittens died."

Sara Atkinson, founder of Yorkshire Cat Rescue, said: “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.

"When we heard about the other stray pedigree cats, we immediately thought something more sinister was up.”

She said she suspects Kiki and the other pedigree cats were dumped by an unscrupulous back-street breeder when they stopped producing viable litters of kittens.

She added: "Our vet estimates Kiki 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.

"Our worry 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."

She said she and her colleagues wanted to send a message out to people considering 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," she said.

"I sincerely hope 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 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, proper papers.”