Recently released figures from 2015 reveal that animal charities are dealing with a crisis in stray cat numbers. The Cat Population Control Group, which is made up of the UK’s leading cat charities, including RSPCA, Blue Cross and Cats Protection revealed the areas in the UK which are hotspots for cat-related incidents.
The worst affected area in the UK was Oldham for 501 calls per 100,000 population, closely followed by Bradford, which reported 473 calls. In 2015, the RSPCA took in 18,928 cats nationally, compared to 5,177 dogs. Some boroughs of London reported higher numbers of incidents than the entire of the city of Leeds. Barking and Dagenham reported 375 incidents, while Leeds had 347.
This problem is particularly prominent in the summer months, RSPCA veterinary director, Caroline Allen explains: “animal charities are inundated with kittens with no one to care for them - many have been born in a garden shed to a cat that has not been neutered. Sadly others can be deliberately dumped by owners who did not expect their cats to give birth.”
It isn’t known why some areas are more problematic than others, but some have suggested that economic problems might be to blame for people being unable to care for their pets. It’s no coincidence that the areas with higher than average levels of food bank dependency are also reporting high levels of cat-related incidents.
What can be done to solve the problem?
At the moment, microchipping laws only cover dog ownership, but it is still important to make sure cats are microchipped, particularly if they go outdoors. Owners should also be encouraged to neuter or spay their cats before allowing them outdoors.
As Caroline Allen noted: “To tackle this problem we need to work together as animal charities are struggling to cope with the demand. We strongly believe the answer lies in owners neutering pets to prevent unplanned litters and also keeping all microchip details up to date so if cats do end up straying we can quickly reunite them with their owners.”
The demand for kittens is so high that animal charities are competing with online sellers, who might not be the responsible breeders we might hope for. Instead of visiting a local shelter and choosing a kitten from an abandoned litter, people are quickly able to go online and choose a kitten within minutes. This means that not all new pets are vaccinated, neutered or microchipped, and not all pet owners have the means or desire to carry out these essential steps.
Responsible cat breeders have the opportunity to educate prospective cat owners on the importance of getting their new pets spayed or neutered, which will hopefully go some way in cutting down the number of unexpected cat pregnancies and subsequent abandonment.