A tiny kitten who was cruelly mis-sold over the internet and too young to be away from his mother is now thriving in a family home thanks to Oxford cat-lovers.

Little Dexter weighed 450g - no more than two cups of rice - when he arrived at Oxford and District’s volunteer-run branch of Cats Protection.

The very young cat had been mis-sold as an eight-week-old female ‘part-pedigree’ online.

When the new owner took her home the kitten did not eat or drink for two days and she was so concerned she contacted the charity.

Cat adoption team leader Gillian O’Neill said: “Rather than being eight or nine weeks old as advertised, he was, in my estimate, four or five weeks old. It was also plain to see that he was not properly weaned.”

Ms O’Neill immediately took the kitten to the vet.

He was so underweight that his spine and rib cage could be clearly felt beneath his fur and Dexter was close to dying.

Ms O’Neill then tried to feed him kitten milk from a bottle and a saucer but in the end he had to be fed by syringe day and night. He also wanted constant company.

Oxford Mail: Dexter when first with the branch. Picture Cats Protection

Ms O’Neill said: “Being separated from his mother so early not only meant that Dexter had not been appropriately transitioned to solid food but that he would also not benefit from learning typical cat behaviours such as appropriate toileting, grooming, hunting, interaction with others, safety and play.”

Unfortunately Dexter was soon back at the vet with an eye infection where is was confirmed – amazingly - that she was not female as everyone first believed but a male.

Cats Protection has now placed him in a loving home with a family in Witney.

New owner Joanna said: “Dexter has settled in really well and is a very happy kitten. We had two female cats already and he has taken a real shine to one of them, Daisy, who looks after him.

“It is very sweet to see. He is very friendly and really loves to play. We are very happy we were able to give him a home.”

Oxford Mail: Dexter weighing 1kg and ready to be rehomed. PIcture Cats Protection

Dexter’s original owner did attempt to report the matter to the police but the methods of contact were no longer working and the listing had been removed.

Cats Protection’s senior advocacy and government relations officer Madison Rogers said: "Sadly we fear there are many underage kittens being sold online by unscrupulous vendors who are impatient to make a quick profit. 

“Before the pandemic, buyers may have heard alarm bells if a seller offered to deliver a kitten to them, or said it was not possible to view the kitten with its mother. But the guidelines and restrictions on visiting other households made it very difficult to be sure of a kitten’s background.”

Cats Protection is supporting the Government’s Petfished campaign to help people research pet sellers online before buying.

Under the current law, kittens must not be sold commercially under eight weeks old and they cannot be sold via a third party seller under six months old.