Alberta SPCA investigates hairless-cat scam as another buyer comes forward

The Alberta SPCA's new investigation into the sale of fake hairless sphynx kittens will focus on the welfare of the counterfeit cats.

Alleged abuse of animals motivated by money, society says

Shayla Bastarache holds her cats Moofasa, left, and Nyla at her home in Calgary on Thursday. Bastarache was looking for a hairless sphynx cat and thought she had found a good deal last month on Kijiji. The cat, named Moofasa, turned out not to be a sphynx. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

The Alberta SPCA has started an investigation into the sale of fake hairless sphynx kittens that will focus on the welfare of the counterfeit cats. 

The investigation comes as another person reported spending hundreds of dollars for two exotic cats advertised on Kijiji, only to discover they were regular cats that had been meticulously shaved. 

The SPCA said Friday it has opened an investigation into allegations the seller removed the cats' hair and whiskers to make them look like sphynx cats, a rare and expensive breed of feline that is naturally nearly hairless.

Roland Lines, communications manager of the Alberta SPCA, said the initial report was from someone who no longer owned the cat.

"Our officer is now trying to interview the current owners, hopefully get access to some of the veterinary records because I believe some of the cats have been taken to see veterinarians," he said.

Lines said it may be difficult to track down the person selling the cats. But that person could be charged with causing an animal to be in distress, which carries a maximum fine of $20,000.
Shayla Bastarache plays with Moofasa, left, and Nyla at her home. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

The possibility of fraud in these sales is outside the scope of the Animal Protection Act, the society said. 

Lines said the alleged abuse of the animals was motivated by money. Sphynx cats typically sell for more than $1,000 each. 

Lines advised people buying pets not to meet strangers in a dark parking lot. 

"If you want to be sure you're not giving money to a criminal, I suggest you go to a humane society to adopt an animal," he said in a news release. 

People "absolutely" set on a breed and unable to wait for it to be available from an animal shelter should get the identity of the seller and see where the animal was raised, he said.

Kittens for $650

Shayla Bastarache had also come forward with a story of being scammed by an online vendor. 

Bastarache owns two real sphynx — the latest she bought for $1,500.

When she found a woman selling sphynx kittens for $650 each on Kijiji, she agreed to meet the seller in a gas station parking lot an hour north of Calgary.

In the dark, she exchanged cash for two of the cats — one for her and one for a friend. Bastarache named her kitten Moofasa.

About two weeks later the kitten's hair grew back, and Bastarache realized the deal was a scam.

While some of the buyers reported the scam to RCMP, they say they were told not much could be done without the seller's name.

A cellphone number the seller supplied was no longer in service.

Vlad was advertised as a hairless sphynx cat, but grew a coat of orange fur. (JoAnne Dyck)

The first woman to come forward about the scam was JoAnne Dyck.

The Red Deer, Alta., resident bought a kitten named Vlad for $700 after responding to an ad on Kijiji.

The person who posted the ad said they were in Calgary, but the seller told her a friend could deliver the cat to Red Deer.

Dyck sold Vlad several days later to Shaniya Yung, of Blackfalds, Alta., because the cat didn't get along with Dyck's older cat.

"For two or three days, it still seemed like it could be a hairless cat, but then it started growing more and more and more hair and whiskers and hair in the ears and things like that," Yung said.

Yung said she was shocked at how thoroughly the kitten, a tabby cat, had been shaved, and so was her veterinarian. Vlad had some nicks on his body and an infected cut on his tail, but has made a full recovery.

Holly Rattray of Bawlf, Alta., said she arranged to buy this kitten off Kijiji believing it was a hairless sphynx cat. But, after the seller quickly handed off the animal and left, she soon realized it was shaved. She provided these photos of the kitten as she got it, and later once its hair regrew. (Holly Rattray)

Holly Rattray of Bawlf, Alta., also arranged to buy a hairless cat online, but instead received a meticulously shaved regular kitten. 

"It's an unbelievable thing that someone would do this," she said.

After Rattray put an ad on Kijiji looking to purchase a hairless kitten, she communicated via email and later text message with someone who called himself Tim.

She met a friend of Tim's in a Red Deer parking lot.

The woman seemed to be in a big hurry, Rattray said, agreeing to take $550 instead of the asked $700 then quickly driving off.

It wasn't until later that Rattray was able to fully inspect the female kitten, named Stripes, which had wounds all over its body that Rattray believes were nicks from a razor blade.

"We basically just had this kitten thrown at us that was totally, like, mutilated and sliced up," she said.

With files from The Canadian Press