Adopting rescue cats and dogs from Pets At Home (a major pet store chain, UK)

Pets at home an outlet for adopting rescue cats

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Is it good or bad to adopt a rescue cat from a well-established, large, national pet store chain that has warehouse-sized facilities in retail parks across the UK? Pets at Home have gone into partnership with major animal charities such as the RSPCA, Battersea Dogs And Cats Home and Cats Protection. People have different views about this concept. For years, people have wanted to see an end to the selling of kittens from pet shops so this seems like a backward step. But is it?

Well, the first thing that I note about this story is that the online newspaper, the Daily Mail, states that rescued cats are being “sold” from a giant pet store chain, Pets at Home.

People who adopt a rescue cat pay an adoption fee. As far as I am concerned that is not a purchase price. The adoption fee is an amount of money paid so that the rescue centre can meet their overheads. They are non-profit organisations and therefore I think it is incorrect to say that rescue cats are being sold at this pet store.

Also, these are rescued cats. They are not cats turned out by the thousands by kitten factories or puppy mills, call them what you like, for profit. There is a big difference in (a) breeding cats for sale in large numbers at pet shops and (b) maximising the chances of an unwanted cat being rehomed by presenting them to the maximum number of potential adopters.

On that assessment, adopting a rescue cat that comes from Cats Protection through Pets at Home is a good thing. Let’s remember too that Cats Protection and Battersea Dogs and Cats Home have excellent track records of rehoming cats. I trust their judgement (although they have made the odd mistake in the past, in my opinion).

The downside is that adopting cats and dogs through a commercial organisation as big as Pets at Home might encourage selling cats and dogs at pet shops. In a way it endorses the processes.

Some senior people disagree with it, such as the past president of the British Small Animal Veterinary Association. And some Cats Protection people also dislike the idea.

It is a balancing act between the positives, which is rehoming more unwanted cats and dogs and the negative which is giving the impression that cats and dogs are products for sale.

If the in-store marketing is clear and it is made clear to customers that this is a rehoming service in partnership with these well known and large animal charities then, my position is that, I agree with it. I am not saying I am correct. These are just my immediate thoughts on reading the story that Ruth (aka) kindly pointed out to me today.

Two lasts points – (a) as I recall, the big animal charities are having difficulties in rehoming all the unwanted cats and dogs. This is a solution to that difficulty and (b) Pets at Home are already involved in raising funds for animal charities they state.

In the USA I believe it is fairly commonplace to see rescue cats up for adoption in shopping malls and stores etc. but I’d like confirmation of that from our American friends if possible.

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16 thoughts on “Adopting rescue cats and dogs from Pets At Home (a major pet store chain, UK)”

  1. Ruth aka Kattaddorra

    Debbie Connolly of Safe Pets asked CP some questions:

    I’d like to thank Cats Protection for responding to my Media request to have questions answered. As promised, here are my questions and their responses:

    Will the cats be left in store overnight unattended?

    The cats will remain in the store at night as moving them in and out of the store each day would cause them unnecessary stress. Only ‘ready to home cats’ that have been checked by a vet and given a clean bill of health will be placed in the centre. Comprehensive fire and burglar alarm systems are installed at the Pets at Home store. Should there be an incident, these alarms will immediately alert either the police or the fire brigade. Both organisations hold emergency contact details for Pets at Home and CP staff who can get to the sore at short notice if necessary. These security arrangements are as good as those we have in place at CP’s adoption centres.

    Do PAH receive any of the donation paid?

    No, the adoption fee that we receive whenever a cat is adopted goes directly to CP to enable us to carry on helping more cats in need.

    Will home checks always be done in the 24 hours between someone paying for the cat and collecting it?

    Potential adopters will go through the same process as they would when adopting from any CP centre, ensuring people cannot buy a cat on impulse. Last year we reviewed our rehoming processes and in particular our approach to home visits. We now take a more flexible approach meaning in some cases a home visit will be carried out, other times not – every adoption is looked at individually. Whether or not a home visit is carried out will be decided by the local CP branch or adoption centre because they are best placed to make those decisions. As well as home visits we are now also using a mixture of questionnaires, discussions with potential adopters and also technology such as Google maps to check for busy roads near potential adopters’ homes. Our aim is to match the right cat to the right home. This more flexible approach makes it as smooth and easy as possible for people to adopt a cat from us and also to ensure that we use our limited resources in the best possible way without compromising cat welfare. We aim to complete the homing process as quickly as possible, depending on when prospective owners are available to have further discussions and/or a home visit if needed.

    Are cats always homed neutered, chipped and vaccinated?

    Yes, every cat that is adopted from CP will have been examined by a veterinary surgeon and will be microchipped, vaccinated, neutered if old enough and comes with four week’s free insurance. We provide these benefits and treatments so people don’t have to deal with these important issues following adoption, which is a big plus for money-conscious owners.

    Will CP staff or volunteers be with the cats during all of the opening hours?


    1. Ruth, is this the way your comment should look? The reason why it was not published immediately is because it contains links and therefore the software automatically holds it for moderation.

      1. Ruth aka Kattaddorra

        Thanks Michael, yes that’s the bit I copied to paste here and I realised after I’d clicked ‘post comment’ it had copied a whole lot more on the same page and that was why it had to wait for moderation.
        Thanks for sorting it out 🙂
        I think those question and answers explain a few things more clearly.

  2. This sort of situation may not be as ideal for the UK as it is in the US where cats are coming out of the woodwork. Anyone wanting a cat, just has to pick one up from a street, store parking lot, or around a restaurant.

    In my area, the rescue groups really struggle to adopt out to suitable people. They have to present an “attractive package” (health screening, spayed/neutered, vaccinations, etc) that justifies their adoption fee and offers peace of mind to potential adoptees that a cat is healthy.
    The rescue groups that set up at major pet stores here are a godsend to cats.

  3. Ruth aka Kattaddorra

    Marc the vets interesting opinion:
    ‘Anger as charities sell off rescue cats at giant pet superstores after years of campaigning against the sale of animals in shops’ Very interesting this one particularly as these 3 charities were the only 3 refusing to support the Pup Aid petition. Personally I think it’s a disastrous step backwards for animal welfare giving strong message that it’s OK to sell pets in pet shops’

  4. Ruth aka Kattaddorra

    What worries me about this is, how many families out with a child will give in to him/her begging ‘Oh I WANT that cat’
    Someone truly wanting to adopt a cat will have thought out the pros and cons and go to an Animal Sanctuary purposefully to choose their pet, whereas seeing them on display could lead to impulse buying for the wrong reason!
    I really can’t decide if it’s a good or a bad idea, I don’t like the thought of living creatures ‘on display’ yet some will no doubt get good homes.
    Our local Pets at Home has been said to have staff not overly concerned with animal welfare, I don’t know if it’s true or not. But if it is and they can’t care for rodents and fish properly, then how can they care for cats? How can they advise prospective ‘owners’ about cats needs?
    I just hope the staff of all the branches of PAH are given intensive training in all aspects of cat care before this happens!

    1. This is the bit that makes me feel a bit easier about it – “The centre in Pets at Home will contain spacious pens that have been custom-built to our welfare standards and the cats will be cared for by charity’s staff and volunteers. It has purposely been separated from the rest of the store to avoid large numbers of people passing by the pens, thereby minimising stress to the cats.”

    2. If Pets at Home can do exactly what Cats Protection do in terms of the safety checks and procedures, that should prevent abuses but I wonder whether it is impossible to do that in a large store.

  5. I guess it’s not so bad as it looks on the face of it.

    I think the most important thing is who adopts them – they need to be checked – maybe home checked etc – as long as all that is being done properly I can’t complain.

  6. I’ve just this minute seen this statement on the CP Facebook page, it answers my questions

    Cats Protection and Pets at Home
    It is a very sad fact there are too many unwanted cats in the UK in need of homes. Cats Protection has thousands of cats currently in care so having a homing and information centre in a Pets at Home store will help to encourage more people to consider adopting a homeless cat. It will also enable us to further promote cat welfare and responsible cat ownership to the public. This follows in the footsteps of other animal welfare charities that already have homing centres in Pets at Home stores.

    The welfare of cats will be safeguarded in the same way as that of the cats in our care across the UK and potential adopters will go through the same process as they would when adopting from any Cats Protection centre, ensuring people cannot buy a cat on impulse.

    The centre in Pets at Home will contain spacious pens that have been custom-built to our welfare standards and the cats will be cared for by charity’s staff and volunteers. It has purposely been separated from the rest of the store to avoid large numbers of people passing by the pens, thereby minimising stress to the cats.

    For a number of years, many of our volunteers and staff across the country have been working with Pets at Home to raise vital funds and awareness of our work with cats. The centre is the latest step to expand our capacity to find unwanted and abandoned cats new homes, in addition to our existing network of 287 branches and centres. In consultation with volunteers from the charity’s board of Trustees and those most closely affected, it was felt this was an opportunity to increase the number of cats adopted and to inform the public about responsible cat ownership.

  7. I have mixed feelings about this, one the one hand I’m not comfortable with cats being displayed in a large pet shop, I’ve been in Pets at Home shops and seen the kids congregating round the rabbits and guinea pigs for sale and parent lifting little ones up to gawp at the furry prisoners and that is why I’m worried about it, the whole point of having the cats (and other animals) at the shops is for people to see them and be persuaded to adopt them so they have to be accessible and I’m worried that some of the cats will be scared and upset by it. Having read Dee’s comment though I’m now thinking that only the more outgoing cats will be displayed in this way, but will they be left there are taken back and forth daily? I’d also hope that the usual home checks and rules apply and that there isn’t going to be a slackening off of these.
    On the plus side of course there are so many cats (and dogs and other animals)homeless and the rescues are bursting at the seams and managing on less donations than ever before as the government starves ordinary people of as much cash as it can making it hard for families to have anything left over to donate, so this must seem like a lifeline to them. Pets at Home do raise a lot of money nationally for charity and they allow individual charities to raise funds in their stores as well so in my opinion they do really want to help.
    Having said that though if you look on PAH Facebook pages there are often comments that the staff don’t know how to look after animals and remarks that dead fish are left floating in tanks and small animals not cared for properly so I’d hope there would be someone from CP, or someone chosen by them, to care for the cats at the store. I think the Mail online has exaggerated and sensationalised this but I also think there is a lot to worry about it and a lot to sort out before we can rest easy about it.

  8. Here, rescue cats are by the multitude at major pet chains like Petsmart and Petco.
    Various rescue groups such as HSUS, Sheltering Hands, and S.T.A.R have specific areas within the store to adopt out.
    I think what bothers me the most about rescue groups that take from the kill shelters (S.T.A.R.) is that they are choosy. They take the prettiest (not black) and friendliest cats to put up for adoption, leaving so many behind.
    Even though I know what they do is still good, it breaks my heart that so many never have a chance.

    1. Thanks for clarifying the American position, Dee. I’ve been to the US quite a few times and recall going to a shopping mall and seeing a great looking cat rescue organisation that was part of a shop. I was surprised. Clearly the system works. I guess you approve the Pets at Home partnership then.

      1. Absolutely. The Pets at Home has my thumbs up.
        Whatever works, works for me!
        An adoption fee here doesn’t mean that the cats are sold. The fee, usually, covers the spay/neutering, vaccinations, and testings to ensure health. The average fee is $75 – $100 per cat. There really isn’t a lot of excess that goes to the rescue groups. But, that and donations are how they survive. They’re really not out to make a buck (especially Sheltering Hands, my love). They want loving homes for their cats.

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