ANIMAL welfare campaigners have spoken of their shock after two men were charged with allegedly drugging kittens to encourage passers-by to hand over cash on Princes Street.
The “cynical” practice has been spotted on several occasions by concerned passers-by and reported to the SSPCA and police, raising fears it is becoming a common practice in the Capital.
A number of men have been seen begging with kittens and older cats which “look like they are on drugs” outside the House of Fraser store and Zara in recent weeks.
Edinburgh Cat Protection League and UK-wide charity Cats Protection have labelled the practice “disgusting.”
A spokesman for Cats Protection said: “We are shocked to hear about this. However, we are pleased to hear the Scottish SPCA and the police are keeping a watch on the situation and that this has resulted in a couple of arrests.”
Edinburgh Cat Protection League were equally “horrified” and voiced concerns about the cats’ welfare.
A spokeswoman for the organisation, which on average rehomes up to five cats a week, said: “We received a phone call about this last week. Kittens would not sit still on someone’s lap for long. You would want all of these cats to be in a home to be honest.
“It’s disgusting to think that people could do this to a cat just to make money from them.”
Welfare group, Scotland for Animals, said the unusually “dopey” appearance and behaviour of the cats suggested that they had been drugged.
Scotland for Animals spokesman John Patrick said: “We have had an overwhelming number of members of the public contacting us and asking for the police to investigate.
“In my opinion, and in that of others, the cats look drugged and in a state of distress. A cat would not normally sit on someone’s knee like that and they are also in a noisy environment.”
Davie, 57, who has been homeless with his dog, Soph, for the past five years, has a regular spot where the pair sit on the thoroughfare.
He said: “I first noticed a couple of men with cats around seven or eight weeks ago and one seemed to have a different kitten every week, one day it was ginger and the next it was black.
“They always looked dopey and much too young to be away from their mother.”
He added: “I’ve had Soph for eleven years and have been homeless for the last five, I don’t bring her along for sympathy. I bring her along because she‘s all I’ve got, she’s my life and my constant companion.
“I don’t use her as a cynical ploy to get money from people.”
Shopworkers from Zara also voiced concerns after seeing people with cats begging outside the store.
One worker said: “Lots of cat owners have said to me that a cat or kitten would not sit on someone’s lap like that for so long – it seems odd. I think that’s why people think it was drugged. The street is noisy too.”
A Police Scotland spokesman confirmed two men had been charged with animal welfare offences, relating to the possession and handling of cats.