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More Support Needed to Tackle Excessive Cat Households

30 June 2015

UK - Cat charity Yorkshire Cat Rescue is calling on housing associations forr support in tackling excessive cat households.

The recent surrender of several large groups of cats from single households has prompted a cat charity to call on housing associations to provide greater support in tackling households with out of control cat populations.

In the first of two recent cases, Yorkshire Cat Rescue was called in to help a lady who owned 10 cats. She had originally just taken in a single pregnant stray which quickly turned into an unmanageable 10-cat household.

The charity removed the cats, including three pregnant females, and returned just a single neutered cat to the owner.

The rest were neutered, vaccinated, treated for a variety of conditions and put into foster homes for assessment.

Unfortunately, one cat was so ill that it was put to sleep immediately. The pregnant cats were also suffering from a series of illnesses, and the inherent inbreeding led to the death of several of the kittens.

“This was not a case of deliberate neglect but one where a single act of kindness became the foundation of an unmanageable situation. The owner was clearly aware that there was an issue, but feared she might be evicted if the housing association discovered the scale of the problem. But with a Yorkshire Cat Charity hat on, we were let into her home and from there we were able to provide the necessary support,” says centre manager, Sam Davies.

According to Sam, this case is symptomatic of a culture where blame is handed out faster than help and support.

“People who collect cats usually start by opening their home to one or two abandoned animals in an act of kindness. Unfortunately, if cats are not neutered at a young age, they always breed and from there, the problem escalates at an alarming rate. Inbred, unvaccinated and unneutered, the cats usually end up sick and stressed while continuing to breed out of control. They become a nuisance and blame is then pointed at the owner who is often desperate for help but afraid to ask for it.” 

Belle came from a household of 19 cats when she was pregnant with Arthur and Martha

A second recent case involved a lady who had found two kittens dumped in a box. Brother and sister, two quickly became 19 – all of which looked exactly the same as they were effectively genetic copies. 

When Yorkshire Cat Rescue arrived to remove the cats, one mother cat was nursing three kittens – all of different ages.

“It was impossible to determine which kittens belonged to which mothers,” says Sam. “We just knew the cats had to go and thankfully our network of foster carers stepped in at a moment’s notice to help.”

According to Sam, people who hear of cats living in crowded squalor often want to report the owner for neglect and abuse.

“We are trying to approach the issue with compassion – offering to help alleviate and prevent further problems by neutering and re-homing these large groups of cats. We are showing people the same kindness that they once offered to an animal in need.”

In the case of the 19 cats, none of them had been given a name although all of them were friendly.

“These cases have been hard on our fosterers who have poured time, love and effort into saving the lives of sick kittens with all odds stacked against them. Many didn’t survive, but they died in a warm, loving home where at least they had been given a name. Had they been born in their original home, most would have suffered alone and died in pain.”

Eye infections, cat flu and other conditions were rife in cats and kittens from both homes. Amongst the kittens that did survive, one lost an eye and another was left blind from untreated conjunctivitis. Both however have since been adopted by loving new owners. 

“A lack of veterinary treatment and a high level of inbreeding is the only thing that prevented both of these packs of cats from growing bigger still. One of the mums we saved gave birth to four kittens and only one survived despite our best efforts to save them all. I would be lying if I didn’t say it has left a mark of sadness on us all, yet we are now even more determined to address the issue than before,” says Sam. 

Martha was left blind from untreated conjunctivitis

The cost of stepping in and rescuing the 10 and 19 cats respectively has run into thousands of pounds. Some neutering vouchers were provided by Cats Protection but the extensive vet bill and the cost of worming, flea treating, vaccinating and neutering the remaining cats has all been covered by Yorkshire Cat Rescue.

Now, the charity’s founder, Sara Atkinson wants housing associations to step in and provide formalised financial support.

She says: “In many of these cases, the cats are simply a symptom that a person’s life is completely out of control. Often, once we have taken the cats away to be neutered, the owners don’t even want them back. They are relieved that someone has stepped in and helped alleviate an unbearable situation.

“If the housing association in these two cases had been left to deal with the cats, they would probably have had to spend hundreds of pounds on euthanasia. In addition, they may have been forced to evict tenants who were in breach of their lease terms. We provided a socially responsible and humane solution for both the cats and the owner at a substantial cost and huge emotional effort from those involved.

“We want to propose working with other charities and putting in place volunteer animal welfare and neutering ambassadors who can offer advice to people who might be struggling to cope with a growing number of pets. Whenever possible, we will always step in and rescue cats from households where the population has bred out of control, and I hope more housing associations will consider a formalised collaboration as part of a responsible pet policy.”

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