Yorkshire Cat Rescue has urged housing associations to more actively support tenants in managing their pets, after one man's cat became 33 in just two years.

The charity was alerted to the fact that a man was living alone with a substantial number of cats at a housing estate in Bradford. Officers were unable to capture the cats, which faced an uncertain future unless a charity with a no-kill policy agreed to step in.

Luckily, Yorkshire Cat Rescue did.

The charity took in 17 cats from the man’s home in the first instance, followed by a further 15 a little while later. All of the cats were related to a single female he had rescued from the street in kindness two years ago. Unfortunately, she had become pregnant after escaping from his home, and so the problems began.

Centre manager Sam Davies says the cats were clearly much-loved pets despite the fact that they were living in unsuitable conditions.

“I have rarely seen this many cats living indoors in such a small space; it was quite simply phenomenal and a little unnerving too. But the cats were well fed and most of them were friendly so this is not a case of animal cruelty; more a case of animal unawareness and things just getting out of control very quickly.

“Initially, we prioritised removing the cats that were pregnant plus some of the kittens. Later on, we came back for the remaining cats except for two which will now be neutered.”

The latest group included three litters of kittens. Sadly, many of them were suffering from severe eye infections – something that spreads quickly in a contained environment. One of the kittens was so poorly that she sadly had to be put to sleep, one is blind and one will be living with some visual impairment.

Sam says: “Eye infections caused by feline herpes are incredibly common in kittens that live inside in such large numbers. Sadly, in some of these cases, the conjunctivitis was so bad that they probably haven’t been able to open their eyes for weeks. Untreated, it can cause serious damage to the eyes so we are now doing our best to treat them."

The kittens are now in foster care, and the adult cats are settled in at the re-homing centre. Sam says they have all become incredibly friendly with the one-to-one attention given to them by staff and volunteers.

“Even the cats that were a little shy at first have started to come out of their shells. These are definitely not cats that have ever been abused, and they are all showing their lovely adventurous characters. I am confident that they will all end up as much-loved family pets, and that makes it worth the effort."

Sara Atkinson, founder of Yorkshire Cat Rescue, says housing associations should implement more comprehensive pet policies, and do more to help tenants who are struggling to cope.

She says: “This is a classic case of someone trying to help an animal, but who ends up out of their depth due to a lack of resources and knowledge. This cat owner could have been facing eviction and the cats would most likely have been put to sleep. Instead, they have been saved and he can remain in his home with just a few, neutered pet cats, because the housing association took appropriate and compassionate action and engaged in a collaboration with a charity.

“Feeding homeless or stray cats without taking steps to ensure they don’t breed is false kindness. They always go on to produce unwanted litters of kittens and the problems ends up out of control. More information is needed to educate people about what it truly means to save a cat, and keep it happy and healthy. Housing associations can play a huge role in distributing neutering leaflets and putting up posters.”