7 min read

Kitten Factories Actually Exist And They’re Terrible

A man in Australia just got busted for running a kitten factory, where kittens and cats were found riddled with infections and living in filth; 30 of the 72 Bengal cats seized were so sick they had to be euthanized.

The man will pay $32,000 in fines and be banned from breeding animals for a decade - but some say the punishment isn't enough. "This is the worst example of a kitten factory that Wyndham has ever seen," Steven Lambert, director of city transformation for Wyndham, Australia, where the facility was located, told Australia's Star Weekly.

The sad truth is that kitten factories - also called kitten farms and kitten mills - are a huge problem worldwide because they're often more easily hidden from view than puppy mills. According to Animals Australia, a "lack of transparency, regulatory oversight, and the actions of unscrupulous breeders all combine to create what can be, at best, a life of deprivation and chronic boredom for cats and their kittens or, at worst, a living nightmare."

Kitten farms are spread across the U.S. - and people say they're just as bad as puppy mills.

Companion Animal Protection Society (CAPS) is a nonprofit dedicated to protecting companion animals from cruelty in pet shops and puppy/kitten mills through investigations, legislation and rescue.

"We've investigated breeders who have puppy mills without knowing that they had cats, or not being able to gain access to the cats," Deborah Howard, president of CAPS, told The Dodo. "If we don't get access to the entire facility, the cats would be the hardest to see because they are completely indoors."

Kitten mills that are USDA-licensed can sell their live products to the pet shop industry. And even in these facilities, cats "are crammed into dirty cages, covered in matted fur and sleeping in overflowing litter boxes."

CAPS sends investigators into kitten mills, and what investigators find "look 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."

CAPS did an undercover investigation of one USDA-licensed kitten factory run by a woman in Nebraska, and what they found was horrifying.

"When I was there, I saw 25 cats and 15 kittens living in small cages and pens," a private investigator of these facilities, who goes by "Pete," wrote on the CAPS website. "The pens had food, water and litter boxes, but the litter boxes were overflowing with feces. Urine stained the floors. Fur and dirt were everywhere."

The woman running the facility even admitted the place was a mess, telling Pete, "I'm lucky you weren't a state inspector because of the way those pens look. Or USDA."

Breeders who sell cats and dogs to pet stores are required to be licensed and inspected by the USDA, but according to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the inspection reports show that breeders are often guilty of repeated violations of the Animal Welfare Act "for crowded and dirty conditions" - and the consequences are inadequate.

In February, the woman CAPS investigated was fined $5,000 and put on probation for a year, which means that USDA inspectors will be visiting her facility and fining her more money for every sick cat they see. But she still has her breeding license.

And while it's hard to keep tabs on the conditions of USDA-licensed facilities, it's unthinkable how bad life is for kittens and cats in backyard breeding operations. No one knows for sure how many unlicensed kitten factories might be in operation in the U.S.

Like with puppy mills, the sad truth about kitten factories is that the only way they'll ever totally disappear is if people stop buying pets.

The cats who survived the kitten factory bust in Australia have, thankfully, all found homes.

If you're ready to add a loving and furry family member to your home, adopt, don't shop: Visit Adopt-a-Pet.com to get started.

Click here to learn how you can help CAPS keep fighting for animals.