Hoaxes & Rumors

Classic Miscaption: Cosmetic Cat Testing Photo

Classic Miscaption: Cosmetic Cat Testing Photo

An image allegedly shows cats being tested for cosmetic purposes. Is this real or fake?

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The photo is real but the caption is not.

First, let’s take a look at the image and caption being circulated. The following caption has often accompanied the photo above:

This is what you are supporting when buying cosmetics / beauty products tested on animals such as L’Oreal, Lancome, MAC, Estee Lauder, Cover Girl, Revlon, Maybelline, Clinique, Olay, Neutrogena, etc. Just to name some, there are tons, tons, tons more! Especially in all companies that recently expanded its market to China.

PS – It’s not just rabbits and mice, cats and dogs too.


The photo in question does not show cats being prepared for cosmetic testing. These animals were actually being spayed and neutered as part of a program called Operation Cat Nip for an Adopt-a-Thon drive in Florida back in 2011.

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This photo was included with a story which reported the rescue of 697 cats in a hoarding case. 300 of the cats were spayed and neutered, while 60 of those rescued had to be euthanized. The task was performed by about 25 University of Florida veterinary students and residents from UF and UC Davis.

The caption of the photo in the original story read:

University of Florida vet school students and veterinarians work to spay and neuter cats as part of Operation Cat Nip on Wednesday.

The cats were seized on June 7, 2011 from Haven Acres Cat Sanctuary in Florida. The owners described the sanctuary as a no-kill facility for unwanted cats, but poor conditions led authorities to remove the cats and put them up for adoption. Neighbors had complained about the sanctuary, citing noise and odors coming from the property. The original report stated:

Haven Acres cats are being spayed or neutered in the style of Operation Catnip, a sterilization program at UF in which stray and feral cats undergo surgery in assembly line fashion with staff at various stations doing anesthesia, vaccinations, surgery and recovery.

Second Photo

A follow-up report two weeks later included a separate photo which showed a more complete image of the multiple surgeries in progress.

Operating room

The second article reported that 258 cats had thus-far been adopted, with the remaining cats being transferred to local rescue groups and shelters. It was also reported that the hoarders from which the cats had been rescued had been charged with 47 counts of animal cruelty.

No Contest Plea

The cat hoarders in this case eventually pleaded no contest in March 2012. They were given 15 years probation, fined over $600,000, and prohibited from owning or rescuing any cats in the future.


The short YouTube video below summarizes the information in this article.

Bottom Line

The image does not depict cosmetic testing on cats. The animals were being spayed and neutered in preparation for an adoption drive. Five years later, the photo continues to circulate on social media with bogus captions suggesting it is related to cosmetic testing on animals.


Updated January 14, 2016
Originally published May 2013

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