Four Yorkshire animal charities have pooled their resources to humanely address an out-of-control feral cat colony in Dewsbury.

In late summer, Cats Protection began a targeted effort to find and capture feral cats living on the Dewsbury Moor estate. They found a staggering number of cats that had never been in human hands - many of whom were now nursing young kittens.

Cats that are born outside and never been in contact with people often struggle to adapt to living as household pets. Instead, the humane thing is generally to neuter and release them back to where they were found. But their kittens have the potential, through an intensive care and taming effort, to become happy family pets.

Rescued kittenBarbara Brotherton is an experienced foster carer for Yorkshire Cat rescue. When she heard about the many kittens caught at the estate, she offered to step in and help.

She says: "This is one of the worst concentrations of homeless and feral cats I've heard of; something had to be done. All those kittens faced an uncertain future if they weren't put into care immediately, and I just knew that Yorkshire Cat Rescue would do everything they could to help."

Some of the kittens that were found were merely days old and had to be hand-reared 24/7 - something which Barbara has extensive experience in doing.

Having taken in over 20 foster kittens from five different litters, and a few adult cats, Barbara reached out to local animal charities PAWS and Independent Cat Rescue; both of which agreed to arrange for foster homes for another 23 cats and kittens. In total, 3 adult cats and 44 kittens were placed in foster homes.

Yorkshire Cat Rescue is managing the effort of raising the kittens, including picking up the vet bill which has been growing as many of the kittens were so unwell they had to spend the night at the vet.

Barbara says: "To say that I am shattered and shell-shocked is an understatement, but I am also immensely proud to be part of such a broad collaboration between charities.

"No doubt this has already been an expensive exercise for Yorkshire Cat rescue, but they continue to offer their unwavering support. Everyone has rallied round to make sure no kitten had to be left behind or put to sleep. That really is amazing."

Although three of the most poorly kittens died, Barbara's remaining kittens are now all doing well - bouncing around the house.

She says: "It's amazing to think that these kittens were born outside and were facing a potentially short and stressful life without a family. Soon, because of everyone's effort, they will be put up for adoption. I can't wait for them to get all the love and attention they deserve, in their very own home.

"At least those that didn't make it said goodbye to the world in a pair of warm, loving arms. And that really does count for something."

Sara Atkinson, founder of Yorkshire Cat Rescue says: "This has been a real team effort; a success owed to a handful of dedicated foster carers, who are right now giving up all of their spare time and many nights' sleep to give these kittens a fighting chance. I am truly impressed and grateful.

"There are far too many feral and homeless cats in the UK, and many of them are not neutered which means the problem is spiralling out of control. We are doing all we can to support initiatives aimed at managing the situation, but I feel that local authorities could do more to fund efforts aimed at tackling especially high numbers of feral and homeless cats in their streets.

"Everyone with a pet cat can help too, by making sure they are neutered and don't add further kittens to a world already overflowing with unwanted pets."