A number of people looking to buy hairless Sphynx cats for cheap fell victim to a scammer who meticulously shaves regular kittens to make them look exactly like the exotic breed.
Genuine Sphynx cats usually sell for $1,000 or more, so when Shayla Bastarache, from Alberta, Canada, saw an ad for a Sphynx kitten for just $650, last month, she thought it was too good a deal to pass up. There was no photo attached to the ad, but the price was so enticing that she agreed to meet the seller in a gas station parking lot an hour north of Calgary, at night. She handed him the money and received two hairless kittens, one for herself and one for a friend. Bastarache says she only realized that she had been scammed two weeks later, when both felines grew a thick coat and were revealed to be regular house cats. The cat lover, who owns two genuine Sphynx cats – for one of which she had paid $1,500 – said she was amazed by how thoroughly the animals had been shaved. “I don’t know how she did it,” Bastarche told reporters.
Photo: Holly Rattray
Soon after Shayla Bastarache’s case was reported by Canadian media, another woman cam forward with a similar story. Holly Rattray had posted an ad on Canadian free classifieds site Kijji, looking to purchase a hairless Sphynx. She was approached by a person called Tim, who offered to sell her a Sphynx kitten for just $700. Rattray arranged to meet a friend of Tim’s and pick up the cat in Red Deer, Alberta. She had to drive over two hours from her home in Bawlf, but just like in Bastarche’s case, the price was just too enticing.
Holly Rattray remembers that the woman she met in a parking lot seemed to be in a big hurry, and even accepted $550 for the cat, instead of the agreed $700. She stormed off as soon as she got the money, before Rattray had a chance to thoroughly inspect the animal. She later noticed that the poor kitten had wounds all over her body, which she now suspects had been done by a sharp razor blade.
She became even more suspicious after seeing how utterly hairless the kitten was. Genuine Sphynx cats usually have a bit of hair on the tail and near the feet, but this one was “literally hairless.”
Photo: Holly Rattray
“Even underneath its legs, it was so clean-shaven that my husband did question it,” she told CBC. “But my husband was like, ‘There is no way, honey, that someone could have shaved a cat this good.'” It turned out someone had indeed shaved the cat, because it soon grew a full coat. It turned out to be another regular house cat which they named Stripes.
After discovering that she had been scammed, Rattray did some online research and discovered a Facebook post by yet another Alberta woman who had fallen for the same trick. JoAnne Dyck had also bought what she though was a Sphynx kitten online, at an unusually low price – $700.
“He was like a little tiny kitten, no more than eight weeks old, and he was naked. Completely hairless,” Dyck remembers. “It looked like a sphynx because he was very, very skinny and his face was really angular.”
Photo: real Sphynx cats (Wikimedia Commons)
Only instead of wanting to be held to get warm, the kitten didn’t want anything to do with JoAnne and her family. It didn’t get along with her other cats, so she decided to give it away to another Sphynx lover. It wasn’t long before she learned that the kitten, named Vlad, had grown a full orange fur. However, his new owner, Shaniya Yung, decided to keep him despite being a regular house cat.
Both JoAnne Dyck and Shaniya Yung contacted the Royal Canadian Mounted Police about the scam, but were rebuffed because they didn’t have the seller’s information, and the supplied cell number wasn’t working anymore.
The Alberta Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said that it recently received its first call about a fake Sphynx, but no formal complain has been filed about it. And even if it had been, there’s not much they can do about it, unless someone actually witnesses the shaving and the cat in question has clear signs of physical abuse.
JoAnne Dyck says that the only way to avoid getting scammed is to buy Sphynx cats from reputable breeders, even if the price is considerably higher. “Definitely go to where the cats are being bred. Never meet them anywhere. If they won’t let you come to their house, their residence, it’s probably a bad sign,” she said. “Just be sure that it’s a reputable breeder if you’re looking for one of these specialty cats.”