Paws-ing for thought.
WHEN my dear old gran said she was "up a gum tree", she meant she was safe. In her wise head, the gum tree was a place of sanctuary.
It may have come from her imagining possums escaping hounds and climbing the nearest tree to safety.
But for other people, being "up a gum tree" implies being in a sticky position - opposite to my gran's interpretation.
Whatever it means to you, for many people Gumtree is now something quite different.
It is the place where anyone can place a free advert for virtually anything.
You can turn up, take a look and then decide whether to buy or not. But what if it is a pet you are after? A recent search on Gumtree revealed large lists of pets for sale. They included birds (1227), cats (2472), dogs (5986), fish (1602), small furries (1746) and others (a remarkable 2456, comprising a huge variety of bearded dragons, ponies, tarantulas, tortoises and pythons).
I have no doubt that many of these are genuine and that there are good reasons for their sale. The problem is there is no one to police those that are not genuine.
Gumtree's rules state that no single person should sell more than two pets in a year.
But when there are so many unscrupulous people about flogging animals to the unwary, you need to have caution.
Cats Protection told me a story recently about a young couple who went in search of a kitten. Making contact with a seller on Gumtree was easy.
A visit was arranged and they were more than a little dismayed to find the kittens living in a house with dubious hygiene credentials.
Feeling sorry for the fourweek-old kittens, they paid a deposit of PS90 for two of them and arranged to return three weeks later to pick them up.
They tried, over a fortnight, to phone the mobile number to enquire about their new pets and were not too worried when it always rang out.
But they were devastated when they knocked on the door to collect them to find the house deserted. The kittens and their deposit were long gone.
People should be careful when buying pets from anyone and should always check their credentials in advance.
Or you could always contact a reputable charity. In this particular case, how much better would it have been to contact Cats Protection to rescue a healthy, wormed, chipped and vaccinated kitten?