Dirty kittens at a Nebraska Kitten Mill. Yesterday I met my friend Anna for coffee. The place we went was good but too trendy. Four dollars for a cup of drip? What’s wrong with people!? But I was there for conversation, not savings, so I let it go.

Anna knows all about our work at CAPS, so we talked a bit about the recent law we helped pass in New York. New York City pet shops can’t hide where they get their dogs from anymore, and that’s gonna help put a lot of puppy mills out of business.

“Good,” Anna said, “I hate puppy mills.” And she meant it, too; I could see her outrage. But then, after a beat, she added—

“That’s why I bought a cat.”

My throat clenched. Anna was busy showing off instagrams of her cute new kitten, Reggie, but my mind was racing. Should I smile and change the subject? Or do I suck it up and tell her about kitten mills?

Kitten mills are USDA-licensed livestock facilities that pump out kittens for the pet shop industry. The cats living in them are crammed into dirty cages, covered in matted fur, and sleeping in overflowing litter boxes. We know because we’ve seen them. CAPS sends investigators into kitten mills, and what we find looks just like puppy mills — but with cats. Mothers are bred until they drop. Kittens are sick and dirty. Cats are kept in feces-stained pens, with no physical or mental stimulation.

Undercover investigation of kitten mill owner Claudia Obermiller

Healthy cats are supposed to play and explore and groom themselves for up to half the day. But kitten mill cats are filthy and depressed. They have infected eyes and grimy fur. Most have no view of the outside world and no hope of ever leaving their pens.

Cat living in a feces-covered pen

Newborn kittens like Reggie, who manage to survive the assembly line, and the long trip to pet shops, are put into display boxes — sometime for months — waiting to be bought. Many pet shops are sad, dirty places, but even the clean pet shops still get their cats from kitten mills. Always.

Kitten mill kittens on display in a New York Pet Shop

I decided to tell Anna. She was angry and embarrassed, but I cut her off mid-apology.

“It’s not your fault,” I said. “You didn’t know. I didn’t know till I started working for CAPS.”

She wanted to help. “But how?”


An adopted cat gets a loving new guardian at the Heaven on Earth animal shelter

There are even more cats than dogs euthanized every year in animal shelters. Shelter cats desperately need loving homes, and they come in all sizes, ages, and breeds. Plus they’re a lot cheaper than pet shop cats. Adopting from animal shelters is one of the best ways to drive kitten mills out of business.

Anna agreed. She said she’d never stop loving Reggie — it wasn’t his fault where he came from. But she swore to get her next cat from a shelter and to spread the word about kitten mills and pet shops.

You can help, too. Adopt, don’t shop.

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