Taxi booking app Uber has been delivering kittens to customers in Australia but animal charities have raised concerns for the animals’ welfare.
On Thursday, Uber users in six cities including Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane could have 15 minutes of “cuddle time” in return for a $40 (£20) donation to cat shelters.
The company said it asked screening questions to check people’s homes or offices were safe and emphasised that adoption information was given out to help charities home the kittens.
Mandy Jones, head of rehoming at the Blue Cross, said that although new and innovative ways were needed to find homes for cats, driving kittens around was not the answer.
“Their welfare has to be the priority,” she added. “Most cats and kittens find travel very stressful - anyone who’s heard the noise they make in the car will know that.
“They also have a very strong sense of territory and become easily stressed in strange environments.
“The chances are a very scared and traumatised kitten will be delivered to you, with little or no interest in any amount of cuddles you may have to offer.”
Nicky Trevorrow, Cats Protection’s behaviour manager, said taxis would be better used taking owners to get their cats neutered so there are fewer unwanted kittens.
"Cats are a solitary species that like to control their own environment and territory and many would find it stressful to be transported and introduced to a number of strangers," she added. "If they are already anxious, then this is likely to increase their fear of travelling or social situations. "
The director Peta UK, Mimi Bekhechi, said she hoped the initiative would lead people to take in unwanted animals.
“A kitten isn't for 15 minutes but for life so hopefully, these interludes will lead to a real home for a real cat for the rest of his or her life,” she added.
“Peta urges careful screening of all adopters, just as should occur with the adoption of a human child.”
When Uber delivered kittens in the US in 2013, six out of around 25 animals driven around found homes on the day, which raised $14,200 (£9,300) for shelters in Seattle, New York and San Francisco.
A spokesperson for Uber said there were no current plans to bring “UberKITTENS” to the UK.
“Having seen the pictures, videos and stories coming out of the US and Australia there are plenty of people in the office who are desperate to have their 15 minutes of kitty-cuddle time,” he added.
“When we run UberKITTENS we partner with animal shelters to make sure that the cats are treated with love and respect, that good amounts of money are raised for their charity and we also hope that many people who enjoy their time with the kittens end up adopting them and giving them a permanent loving home which is the perfect outcome.“Reuse content