RSPCA branches and animal centres across the North of England are facing a cat crisis with many reporting unprecedented numbers of felines in their care.
The crisis is so bad that most branches and centres are unable to take in any more cats at the moment and several have more than 100 desperately waiting for new homes.
RSPCA staff and volunteers at our centres and branches say the pressure facing them is escalating and they are calling on the public to help by offering some of these desperate cats a new home.
The cat crisis is believed to be due to a number of factors such as:
Owners can no longer afford to keep them and are giving them up
Their cat falls ill and owners cannot afford the vet bills and
Many cats are falling pregnant and having large numbers of kittens because their owner failed to neuter them.
The RSPCA is reporting that it has around 1,700 cats in the care of its regional establishments and private boarding centres* alone. Figures show that around 60 per cent of our cat intake is due to cruelty or welfare concerns and around 30 per cent are in private boarding establishments as there are no places in regional animal centres for them.
The RSPCA estimates that it costs the charity around £9.40 a day to care for a cat depending on circumstances (some will need more veterinary care than others for example).
Of those cats in our regional animal centres, just over 500 are available for rehoming, but it is taking on average nearly 34 days to rehome each cat. This is an increase of nearly five days over last year and the extra five days costs the RSPCA around £250,000 per year.
However, alarmingly these figures do not include the number of cats currently in our local RSPCA branches, which are separately registered charities. (Figures for many local branches in the North of England are on a separate document).
RSPCA branches can only take in so many cats, which are cared for in branch animal centres, private boarding or with fosterers, and often have long waiting lists of cats to come in when a space becomes free. This means that every time an RSPCA inspector or officer picks up an injured or abandoned cat, they struggle to find somewhere to take it.
Peter Bolton, Animal Operations Manager, RSPCA Midlands and North Region, said: “The RSPCA is struggling on all fronts with this cat crisis. Our inspectors are being called out constantly to deal with sick, injured, neglected or abandoned cats; our hospitals are full with injured cats whose owners appeared to have dumped them; we have more cats than ever who have been cruelly treated and our centres across the region are just full with cats and kittens needing new homes.
“Our staff across the region whether they are in an RSPCA centre, branch, hospital or are a field officer they all say the same – we are dealing with a cat crisis and it is getting worse.
“It is simply that more injured and abandoned cats are coming into RSPCA care than are going out.
“It is really sad because these problems could be avoided if owners just acted responsibly. The RSPCA like other charities, needs help from the public – so please if anyone is thinking about taking on a cat, come to the RSPCA first – we have literally thousands looking for new homes and a second chance.”
One of the key factors causing this cat crisis is cat owners who do not neuter their pets. Many people believe that cats should be allowed to have a litter of kittens before they are neutered but this isn’t necessary. The RSPCA recommends that all cats are neutered by four months, which is the age at which a cat can get pregnant. RSPCA cats are usually neutered before they are rehomed so this gives owners peace of mind that they aren’t going to end up with a litter of kittens they can’t care for. The RSPCA also urges owners to take advantage of the discounted neutering many charities offer.
Owners failing to get their cats neutered leads to more and more unwanted kittens. The result of many of these unplanned litters is that the kittens are either dumped or handed to people who may not realise the responsibility of cats – and these felines in turn reproduce and more unwanted litters result.
Across the region cats are being dumped in boxes outside centres or in streets, owners are constantly phoning the RSPCA to take on their cats because they can’t afford to care for them anymore, and other owners have discovered their cat is pregnant and they don’t know what to do with the kittens.
Another factor is that people don’t get their pets microchipped and RSPCA inspectors often pick up injured cats which have no means of identifying them to their owners. These cats then have to be treated and rehomed without their owners even knowing what happened to them as there is simply no way of tracing them to their owners.
If you cannot rehome a cat you could consider fostering or could still help by making a donation to your RSPCA local branch or centre and this money will be used to pay for the rising food costs and vet bills and in some cases private boarding.
Mr Bolton added: “Even if you cannot take a cat on full time, members of the public are being urged to perhaps become a cat fosterer and offer short term homes to the felines which branches and centres simply don’t have the room for.”
Cats are remarkable animals and owning and caring for a cat can be great fun and very rewarding. They are intelligent animals with complex needs and pet ownership takes time, money, and patience. Owning a cat can be a long term commitment but if you feel that you can help a cat in desperate need of a loving home, please contact your local RSPCA branch to find out more. Further information can also be found at www.rspca.org.uk/cats or http://www.rspca.org.uk/allaboutanimals/pets/cats/factfile
The number of prosecutions involving cats has seen a marked increase nationally. In 2011 there were 426 cases reported involving 1079 cats, in 2012 this figure had increased to 501 cases reported involving 1406 cats. To the end of August this year there have already been 306 cases reported to us involving 828 cats.