New figures from a Yorkshire cat charity have revealed that the largest group of cats being rescued to be un-neutered mother cats and their kittens. The data has prompted the charity to sound the alarm and urge people to neuter their cats before they reach full maturity.
“We have been taking in a lot of pregnant cats, but even I was surprised at how large a proportion of our rescues fall into this category,” says Sam Davies, Centre Manager of Yorkshire Cat Rescue. “Most of them are friendly and have clearly not always been living outside; they have either been abandoned or gotten lost which in itself is sad. But the bigger problem is that they have very rarely been neutered.”
Between September 2015 and September 2016, the charity took in 963 cats and kittens – half of which (449) were un-neutered strays. Of that half, 265 were kittens that had been born outside.
Sam says: “If we had not stepped in, those 265 kittens would either have died or grown up to breed themselves; exacerbating the country’s problem with feral cats. Neither is a very comforting prospect.
“Every single un-neutered female cat that lives outside will quickly begin to establish their own colony. The kittens born here will be feral and numbers will escalate at an alarming rate. Sadly, many kittens will also die from exposure to the cold, disease and predators.”
According to International Cat Care, 80% of kittens born outside do not survive their first year. The females that do become part of the feral breeding population before they are a year old.
Sam explains: “The vast majority of the cats handed in as strays or that we accept as surrenders are not neutered, despite year-round awareness campaigns from animal charities.
“In a single week this autumn, I counted 80 requests for cats that needing to be re-homed. 46 were already homeless and 17 of those were just kittens.”
In the 12 months between September 2015 and 2016, Yorkshire Cat Rescue took in, among others, 32 pregnant stray cats that gave birth to 87 kittens in their care and 71 un-neutered, stray females.
Sam says: “Cats can become pregnant by the time they are just four months old. By taking in these pregnant and un-neutered female cats, we don’t just improve their wellbeing; we are removing them from the country’s stray breeding population. A female cat can have up to three litters of kittens in a single year – becoming pregnant while she is still nursing her current litter.”
Yorkshire Cat Rescue recently took in Rita – a pregnant cat who was already nursing two kittens. She now has two 11-week old kittens, and four week-old kittens. “Rita is a prime example of what is happening to homeless, female cats across the country. It is sad that she is in this position, but sadly her story is far from extraordinary or unique. The message really has to start getting through to pet owners: neuter your cats.”