• What does cruelty-free mean?

    “Cruelty-free” means it’s not tested on animals. “Cruelty-free” is not the same thing as “vegan”, which means it doesn’t contain any animal-derived ingredients.

    Brands can be cruelty-free without being vegan. If you’d like to ensure that all the products you use are both, you can visit our list of cruelty-free brands here and refine it with our vegan filter. You can also shop cruelty-free and vegan products here using the same filter.

    Similarly, a brand can technically be “vegan” without being cruelty-free. Some brands claim that their products are vegan, although they were tested on animals. We consider this to be misleading advertisement and we don’t recommend purchasing from these brands.

  • If a brand says they’re cruelty-free, should we take their word for it?

    Unfortunately, the term cruelty-free isn’t regulated by the FDA. This means that any brand can make that claim with no legal consequences, even if they do test on animals.

    If a brand makes a claim like “cruelty-free” or even “not tested on animals”, it might mean that the company itself doesn’t test on animals, however they might not consider their suppliers, animal testing performed by third parties, or ingredients being tested on animals.

    Always check our updated database first.

  • How do you determine if a brand is cruelty-free?

    Instead of waiting for brands to reach out to us, we contact them ourselves. Our goal is to classify all the more popular brands found in stores so you can make conscious decisions.

    Animal testing can occur at multiple levels. When contacting brands, we ask them a series of questions that address every step of the production process. Most brands initially provide a generic response, but we continue to dig deeper. When the company gathers all the information for us, we classify them as either cruelty-free, not cruelty-free, or in the grey area.

    In addition to this, we do our own research to ensure that brands aren’t giving us false information regarding distributors and presence in China.

  • What does it mean when a brand is in the grey area?

    It means that it’s unclear whether or not the brand tests on animals. Most brands who fall under this umbrella either have been unresponsive to us after several attempts (spanning the course of several months or even years) or refused to provide additional details about their suppliers, ingredients, third parties, and so on.

    In some cases, like with Dove and Herbal Essences being in the grey area, the brands are opening themselves to the possibility of post-market animal testing in mainland China. Although the risk is small, we don’t consider any company that takes that risk to be cruelty-free.

  • What questions do you ask brands to ensure they're truly cruelty-free?

    Instead of waiting for brands to reach out to us, we contact them ourselves. Our goal is to classify all the more popular brands found in stores so you can make conscious decisions.

    Animal testing can occur at multiple levels. When contacting brands, we ask them a series of questions that address every step of the production process. Most brands initially provide a generic response, but we continue to dig deeper. When the company gathers all the information for us, we classify them as either cruelty-free, not cruelty-free, or in the grey area.

    Our questions address every step of the production process. First of all, a finished product can be tested on animals, as well as the individual ingredients used in the product.

    Secondly, animal testing can either be performed by the brand itself, by its suppliers (manufacturers, vendors, or any company that provides the brand with products or ingredients), or by any third parties (such as laboratories that aren’t affiliated with the brand).

    Lastly, in mainland China, there are laws that mandate animal testing in most cases even as of 2022.

    Our questions are:

    1. Does your brand test on animals, for either finished products or ingredients?
    2. Do your suppliers test on animals? How do you ensure this?
    3. Do any third-parties test on animals on your behalf?
    4. Do you test on animals where required by law?
    5. In which countries are your products sold (excluding online sales)?
  • How do you make sure brands aren’t lying?

    We rely on brands being transparent by making their full animal testing policy available publicly in our database. Although there’s no definite way to ensure that brands that truthful, lying would cause them a PR disaster. We also monitor the presence of beauty brands in China, and we’ve already exposed brands like Wet n Wild and Physicians Formula lying about their presence in China (both brands currently in the grey area) as well as Charlotte Tilbury (now back on our cruelty-free list).

    We find that most brands are honest with their animal testing policy, even when they make the decision to start testing on animals like it was the case for NARS, By Terry, Eve Lom, or Elemis.

  • How reliable are certifications like Leaping Bunny or PETA?

    They can be reliable, however both have their pros and cons. The main problem with these certifications is that they’re done on a voluntary basis, meaning the brand must contact Leaping Bunny or PETA. For this reason, it’s no surprise that over 80% of popular brands on the market are not certified by either. This makes it hard for the average consumer to find products that are truly cruelty-free.

    In addition to this, PETA approves several brands that are available in mainland China as long as they bypass pre-market animal testing. However, based on our research thanks to Humane Society International, there’s still a small risk of post-market animal testing, which these brands could be subjected to in the future. PETA has stated that such brands will be removed from the market if the Chinese authorities decide to have their products tested on animals, which is highly unlikely given the size of their inventory and global presence.

    Leaping Bunny is a reliable certification, but unfortunately, they don’t certify many of the popular brands found in stories like Target, Ulta, or Sephora. In addition to this, we found an important loophole that you should be aware of: brands that offer supplements can be certified cruelty-free by Leaping Bunny even if their supplements are tested on animals. This is because they fall under the umbrella of drugs and not cosmetics. All brands who sell supplements that are classified as cruelty-free in the Cruelty-Free Kitty database have confirmed that their supplements are not tested on animals.

  • What should we look for on product packaging if we want to shop cruelty-free?

    First, beware of claims like “cruelty-free” or “not tested on animals”. These claims alone are not enough to prove that a brand is cruelty-free.

    You might also see bunny logos in many shapes and forms. Sadly, most of these bunnies are unofficial and therefore meaningless. When looking for logos, the Leaping Bunny and PETA logos are the only official logos to look for (while remembering the caveats above).

    Remember that brands are legally allowed to use deceptive marketing when it comes to animal testing. We always recommend searching our database before making a purchase.

  • What is animal testing “where required by law”?

    In order to be available in China, brands like NARS, Benefit, and Clinique are required to pay for their products to be tested on animals. Unfortunately, hundreds of popular beauty and personal care brands have complied with these tests in order to enter this lucrative market.

    The mandatory animal testing laws only apply to brands that are sold in China in physical stores (online sales bypass animal testing). The laws also exclude Hong Kong and Taiwan, which are not part of mainland China.

    If a brand claims to test on animals where required by law, this brand is not cruelty-free, even if they claim to be making an “exception” in China. No matter where animal testing is performed around the world, it’s still animal testing.

    In order to avoid animal testing, companies can choose to sell online-only and remain cruelty-free. This is the case with many big brands like Fenty Beauty, Drunk Elephant, and Huda Beauty.

  • What’s the latest update on China’s mandatory animal testing laws?

    As of 2022, animal testing for cosmetics is still the norm in mainland China for brands that are not manufactured locally. In short, if a beauty brand is sold in stores in mainland China, their products were most likely tested on animals.

    Over the past decade, there have been several updates to China’s animal testing laws. There’s a lot of misinformation about these laws. For example, some publications have stated that China “banned” animal testing. This is unfortunately false. Although the Chinese government has taken some steps in the right direction, it’s far from being over. Each year, an estimated 50,000 to 120,000 rabbits are used and killed in cosmetic experiments in the country.

    Since 2021, China has removed the requirement of pre-market animal testing for both domestic and foreign “ordinary” cosmetics. “Ordinary” cosmetics include most makeup, skincare, fragrance, hair and personal care. “Non-ordinary” cosmetics (also called “special use” cosmetics), which still require pre-market animal testing, include the following:

    • Hair growth products
    • Hair dyes
    • Hair perming products
    • Hair removal products
    • Breast beauty products
    • Body fitness products
    • Deodorants
    • Sunscreen
    • Anti-freckle products
    • Whitening products

    So far we’ve covered pre-market animal testing, which is testing requirements before the product can be sold in China.

    There’s also animal testing that can occur after the product has already been approved for sale. If there’s a consumer complaint, the Chinese government will pull any product from the shelves and have it tested. Until recently, these post-market animal tests were performed on rabbits. According to Humane Society International, animals have not been not used in post-market animal tests for the past few years, however, they’re still possible on paper.

    Because of the possibility for these post-market animal tests to be performed on rabbits, brands that are sold in stores in mainland China can not be considered cruelty-free even if they bypass pre-market animal testing. We’ve spoken with Humane Society International this past year and animal tests have not yet been removed from the list of post-market tests allowed to be used.

    In 2022, the only way for a company to completely avoid animal testing in China is to be sold online-only.

  • If a brand is made in China, are their products tested on animals?

    No! Brands can be manufactured in China and be cruelty-free, like it’s the case with e.l.f., NYX, or many other drugstore brands. If you see “made in China” on a product, rest assured. If you can find the brand in our database and it’s marked cruelty-free, it’s not tested on animals. Products are only tested on animals if they’re sold in China in stores.

    You can read more here.

  • Is animal testing banned in some countries? What does this mean?

    Yes, animal testing for cosmetics is banned or limited in every country in the European Union, Australia, Canada, Colombia, Guatemala, Iceland, India, Israel, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, South Korea, Switzerland, Taiwan, Turkey, the United Kingdom and several states in Brazil.

    Although federal and state bans are a sign of progress, It’s important to understand what they really mean. Unfortunately, even if animal testing is banned in your area, you could be purchasing cosmetics that were tested on animals. These bans can only enforce what happens within the country, so brands that fund animal testing elsewhere in the world, such as China, will still be available for purchase.

    That being said, it’s important to encourage bills against animal testing. We can only fully get rid of this practice once it’s banned worldwide, so every new ban is a celebration.

  • What does it mean when a cruelty-free brand is owned by a parent company that tests on animals?

    In the beauty industry, a handful of companies own the majority of the popular brands you see in stores. The main ones include L’Oreal, Estee Lauder, Unilever, Procter & Gamble, and Coty—none of which are cruelty-free.

    Some cruelty-free brands are owned by these larger corporations. For example, Garnier, IT Cosmetics, and NYX are all cruelty-free, but they’re owned by L’Oreal which is not. You can see the complete list here.

    The issue of parent companies isn’t black and white. On one hand, supporting brands like Garnier over their non-cruelty-free brands lets the parent company know that there’s a demand for cruelty-free practices. On the other hand, we might also indirectly be supporting a company that tests on animals.

    Unfortunately, shopping cruelty-free can be difficult as our options are limited in most stores, where over 80% of brands test on animals. This is especially challenging in some countries around the world. Here’s what we recommend:

    • Try to purchase cruelty-free brands that are not owned by a parent company that tests on animals. We provide many options that are available in stores.
    • Only buy from parent companies that test on animals if there’s no alternative. These brands are still cruelty-free, and they can be easier to find in stores.
    • Avoid buying from brands that are on our list of brands that test on animals.
  • How can I find a cruelty-free alternative for a specific product?

    You can easily find alternatives to most products in our “find products” section, AKA our shop. We researched thousands of products and curated the best ones, so you can know for sure that the products you’re buying are truly cruelty-free.

    When you buy through our shop, we donate 15% of our proceeds to animal charities like Beagle Freedom Project and Cat House on the Kings. You’ll be linked to top retailers like Sephora, Target, Ulta, and Amazon so you can shop in confidence.

    Here’s how to use our shop:

    • Go to Find Products in the menu on our website (www.crueltyfreekitty.com)
    • Scroll down and select your category, for example “Hair Care”.
    • Click the “Refine” button and select the additional criteria you want, desired price point, and product type, for example “Dry Shampoo”.