Have you ever heard of a teacup cat? I saw the first two examples of these at the hospital today (yesterday by the time you read this). They’re littermates—little ragdoll “teacups” (roughly 30% smaller than they should be). They were twelve weeks old and looked little bigger than your typical eight-weekers.

They were cute as a button—you can well imagine what two tiny ragdoll fluffballs would look like. Talk about cute overkill in extremis.

They’d just arrived on a plane from another state and the new owner (a typically responsible sort, judging by the care she gives her mixed breed dog) had 48 hours to get them checked out and given clean bills of health.

Problem is, they weren’t exactly the picture of feline wellness. They were loaded with coccidia (a common protozoan parasite in catteries and kennels). Their eyes were the standard weepy, watery, gunky eyes characteristic to smush-faced breeds (brachycephalics). One appeared to have ringworm (culture pending). And both had suspicious clicking sounds in their hips—a serious “oh no.”

The other issues I can handle. The last one’s a deal-breaker, though (in my book, at least). Hip dysplasia is a biggie (yes, even cats get hip dysplasia). That’s why I referred them to my friendly neighborhood orthopedic surgeon for digital X-rays and a consultation.

Truth is, I’m pawning them off on him because I can’t bear to see people cry when they need to send already-beloved puppies and kittens back to the scene of the crime (on another stressful flight, to boot). And an orthopedist who handles hip replacements in cats is the ideal professional for these issues anyway.

How does this happen?...you might wonder. And the answer is: home-based kitten factories (the cat version of the puppy mill we’re so fond of bashing on this site). Because cats are not quite so lucrative, smaller operations of well-intentioned (if misguided) individuals tend to comprise the bulk of these irresponsible breeders.

My question is...who signed their health certificates? How can any self-respecting vet hand over bill of health for these kittens? Did he/she not run a fecal test? Did he/she not examine their skin? The hips I can understand—that’s a little trickier. But the chronic conjunctivitis? At least make a note of it on the certificate. Ship them with the necessary meds, at least. It’s not like the standard of veterinary care is lower in Chicago than in Miami—please!

Given their other maladies, I’m duly concerned about these animals’ FIP, FeLV and FIV status, among other unseen issues like occult cardiac disease—not to mention predispositions to a number of other genetic diseases that will manifest in months or years.

Despite their ailments, I have little doubt this owner will take on the care of these cats rather than send them back to an uncertain outcome. If previous experiences with these situations are any guide, the new owner will clash angrily with the breeder. The breeder will quite possibly call me to rant over my condemnation of his/her kittens’ health. And then I’ll get my chance to call them out on their relentless BS. I’m looking forward to it—it’s the only bright spot in this all-too-common story.