Pet Scams: What You Need to Know

Thursday, August 22, 2013 by

It seems that every day at PetRelocation we receive questions from people who have fallen victim to pet scams. Many people outside of the pet industry have never heard of pet scams, so it is little surprise when well-meaning people end up losing money and time on one of these fraudulent offers. Here, we’ve provided some essential information on what a pet scam is, how to recognize and avoid a pet scam, and what to do when you think you’ve found such a scam.

What is a “pet scam”?

A pet scam occurs when a person pays money for a pet and never receives the animal. Typically, this happens when someone is looking for purebred puppies or kittens on the internet. Pet scams are often called “puppy scams” as victims are usually people looking for a specific breed of puppy (especially expensive breeds such as Bulldogs or toy breeds).

bulldog on leash

Bulldogs are a breed very commonly listed in pet scams

It is safe to assume that pets advertised in pet scams do not actually exist. Some scammers may go so far as to send “photos” of the pet, but they are likely just photos taken from internet searches. Scammers are simply trying to make money off of you and will tell you anything (including sob stories) to get you to send money.

How do I recognize a pet scam?

There are a few common features of online pet postings that are telltale signs of a pet scam:

  • Pets are advertised on a free site such as Craigslist
  • Advertisement states that pet is available for free, as long as responder pays shipping costs
  • Advertiser requires that money be sent via Western Union, MoneyGram, or a similar service
  • Offer to ship pet to your doorstep for $200 – $300 (real pet relocations cost a lot more than that, especially if pets are being shipped internationally) using a professional shipping service
  • Tell you that the pet will be shipped within a very short time frame (24 hrs) after payment. This is impossible, as obtaining the necessary paperwork for a pet move is a lengthy process.
  • Advertiser uses a free email address (such as Gmail or Yahoo) and uses poor spelling and grammar in the post
  • Telephone number is not given in email correspondence. If a number is given and the country code is 237 (Cameroon), this is a scam.

How do I confirm that this is a pet scam?

If the listing meets some of the above criteria but you are still unsure, try googling the email address given. If you find multiple listings for pets on other sites, this is a scam.

google logo

Search engines are the best tool for confirming pet scams.

If you are still unsure, try contacting the advertiser directly. Try to make arrangements to retrieve the animal yourself, saying you will fly to wherever the pet is located. If the advertiser refuses, this is a scam.

What do I do if I’ve found a pet scam?

surprised cat

Zack is shocked to discover the prevalence of pet scamming.

Unfortunately, unless a transaction takes place (i.e. you send money and receive no pet), a scam does not technically occur and there is nothing legally that can be done to stop the scammer.

The best course of action once you have confirmed a pet scam is to report the scam to as many anti-fraud sites as possible in order to make the scam easily found on search engines and prevent others from falling victim to the scam. You should also report the ad to the site which is hosting it (e.g. Craigslist).

Even if you have actually fallen victim to a scam, it is nearly impossible to take legal action. Scammers use throwaway email accounts and cell phones and fake names and addresses, so tracking down the real person responsible is almost impossible. The scammer who tells you she is in Colorado is more likely in an internet café in Cameroon (thus the grammatical issues with many scam correspondences).

Is there a current list of pet scammers?

Yes, you can find that list here. This list is, of course, not comprehensive as scammers will likely create a new free email account once one of their scams has been discovered. However, this list can still prove useful for recognizing a false pet transportation company.

How do I avoid falling victim to a pet scam?

Never buy pets over the internet. This is the easiest way to avoid a pet scam. Never pay for an animal you haven’t seen and interacted with in-person. There are surely plenty of cats and dogs looking for a loving home at your local animal shelter, so if you are looking to add a pet to your life try checking there first.

three dogs

Pets rescued from an animal shelter are every bit as loving and adorable as purebred pets.

If you are really set on one specific breed and you can’t find that type of pet at a local shelter, try locating a local breed-specific rescue organization. The AKC has a helpful list of national breed-specific organizations which can point you towards local rescues. Additionally, if you select a breed on Vetstreet’s list of cat breeds, the “Finding” tab will lead you to rescue organizations for that breed.

sassy bulldog

Finding the right pet through a shelter or rescue organization is the most responsible choice.

Check out IPATA’s thorough page on pet scams for more information and resources. If you have a question about a possible pet scam that isn’t addressed here, submit it here.

Were you aware of pet scams before reading this post? Have you ever seen or been victim to a pet scam? Tell us about it in the comments below.


7 Tips for Keeping Your Cat Hydrated

Wednesday, August 21, 2013 by

If you’ve ever owned a cat, you know that it is a rare sight to see your feline friend lapping up water from his bowl. Dogs will happily drink from a bowl of water, but many cats seem reluctant to drink. This can be problematic for a few reasons.

Hydration is essential to the health of cats, especially those who live or play outside in warmer weather. Additionally, chronic kidney disease is a very common ailment in cats, and as many as 1 in 5 cats will be diagnosed with some type of kidney disease by the time they reach age 15. Kidney function relies heavily on water intake, so cats with kidney problems need even more water than their healthy counterparts. Keeping well-hydrated can also help to prevent common urinary health issues such as urinary tract infections and urinary stones or crystals.

gray cat meowing

“Those ailments sound just dreadful.”

Here are a few tips for making sure kitty gets plenty of water and stays happy and healthy.

1. Keep it Clean

Many owners see that there is water in their pet’s dish and think that is good enough. However, cats prefer to drink fresh water (who doesn’t?) and might turn their nose up at a bowl of water that has been sitting around for a day or two. Change your cat’s water at least once a day. Additionally, be sure to clean your cat’s bowl with soap and water regularly to avoid any slimy bacterial build-up.

2. Try Different Bowls

It will come as no surprise to cat owners that felines tend to be finicky. Maybe your cat doesn’t like the way water tastes when it comes from a certain kind of bowl. Try different kinds of bowls made of various materials (glass, plastic, ceramic, stainless steel) to see if your cat has a preference.

cat eating from steel bowl

Stainless steel pet bowl via Petmate

3. Does This Water Taste Funny to You?

Some cats don’t like the taste of minerals in water and will not want to drink water from the tap in an area with hard water. Try giving your cat bottled or filtered water and see if he prefers it. If your cat still doesn’t drink (or you don’t want to buy bottled water exclusively for the cat), try flavoring tap water with a small amount of tuna juice (the water in which canned tuna is packed) or chicken broth.

4. Provide Sources of Running Water

Maybe you’ve seen your cat (or someone else’s cat on Youtube) playing with running water from a faucet or a stream. Many cats are fascinated by running water—use this fascination to your advantage. To see if your cat is interested in drinking running water, let a faucet run or drip for a few minutes and watch to see if your cat drinks from it. If so, you can make this a routine—turn on the faucet a few times a day to encourage kitty to drink.

gray cat in sink

Peanut is clearly a fan of running water.

Another popular solution for cats who prefer running water is to purchase a cat fountain. The movement of the water in a cat fountain is useful in its ability to both capture the interest of cats as well as keep the water clean and fresh. Cats may at first be a bit confused by the fountains, but  many owners swear by them. Petmate offers several cat fountain options, including one with a UV light to kill pathogens and another with a fun bubbling effect to pique kitty’s curiosity.

infinity cat fountain

Cat drinking from Petmate Infinity Cat Fountain via Petmate

5. Switch to Wet Food

Because cats are not naturally inclined to drink, they get the majority of their water from their food. If your cat eats only dry food, he is missing out on a lot of moisture. Dry food contains only about 10% water, while water accounts for about 80% of canned food.

calico cat

“Did somebody say ‘food’?”

Switching your cat’s food suddenly can cause digestive issues, so try incorporating wet food into your cat’s diet slowly. You can keep feeding your cat dry food and supplement with wet food, replacing about half of his meals with cans. If your cat already eats wet food, try adding a bit more water or broth to his meals to make them even more hydrating.

If your cat doesn’t want to stray from his favorite dry food, try adding a bit of water, tuna juice, or broth to his kibble to add moisture.

6. Place Bowls Strategically

Offer several dishes of water around the house for your cat to choose from. Place the bowls where your cat likes to hang out. Be sure to avoid placing bowls near your cat’s litter box, as he will likely not want to drink there.

7. Know Your Cat’s Preferences!

Cats can be picky, so the best thing to do is figure out what your cat likes and stick with that. If he always tries to drink from your glass, leave him glasses of water around the house. If he’s enjoyed ice cubes in the past, add ice cubes to his food or water. If he never drinks from his ceramic bowl but loves drinking from the metal rainwater bucket outside, replace his bowls with metal ones.

Cats may not always be expressive, but careful observation can lead to a better understanding of your cat’s preferences and better accommodation of those preferences to meet his hydration needs.

orange tabby sink cat

Because a post can never have enough sink cats.

Is your cat a reluctant drinker? What do you do to encourage your cat to drink? Tell us your stories in the comments below!