Two black cats playing

Cat charity urges owners to neuter pets this National Pet Month as vets bills soar

A Greater Manchester cat charity is urging pet owners to ‘take responsibility’ this National Pet Month following a surge in abandoned and feral cats in the area. 

Kitty Rescue Bury is a small charity which relies solely on public donations and is run by a small team of eight unpaid volunteers. 

In 2020, the team supported approximately 50 cats at any one time.

Now there are more than 200 in their care, with a further 250 awaiting help, and the charity provides food for nine feral feline colonies in the area. 

With vets bill rising from £5,000 per month to more than £11,000, the team are in dire need of support due to the overwhelming additional demand.

Founder Chantelle Farrow from Radcliffe, Bury said: “We always promote responsible pet ownership and this includes neutering your pets – even if they’re indoor cats. 

“We’ve known male cats break into homes to mate with unspayed female cats who are in heat, resulting in unwanted litters.

“It’s not just about the rise in street cats that we’re dealing with, it’s about overall health too.

“Neutering has so many positive benefits, including minimising roaming and fighting, eliminating fatal birth complications and preventing illnesses like FIV [feline immunodeficiency virus], cancer and pyometra.” 

Chantelle started the charity in 2018 after volunteering at other places and discovering there was a need for more trapping in Bury, which is something that most charities don’t offer due to the costs, time and dangers involved in the process. 

The foster-based rescue traps and rehabilitates feral street cats; a rising problem which could be vastly reduced by owners opting to neuter their pets. 

Chantelle continues: “There are a lot of myths, such as ‘they need one litter’ or that it might change the pets personality – this simply isn’t true. 

“If you’re unable to spay or neuter because you can’t get to a vet or can’t afford the costs, then please reach out to us or any rescue in your area for support”. 

Princess, a white Persian cat, was rescued from her owner after being accidentally poisoned with flea treatment. 

The owner surrendered Princess to the volunteer-run charity, who nursed her back to health and incurred a vet bill of nearly £1,500.

Kitty Rescue Bury looks after cats via foster families rather than in cages, which helps them integrate into a home environment and become used to everyday noises, along with being socialised by volunteers, children and other pets.

Chloe Brandon, assistant manager at Kitty Rescue Bury, said: “The UK is in a bit of a ‘cat crisis’ at the minute and one of the best ways to combat this is by neutering. 

“We also understand that people may feel too ashamed to seek help until it’s too late but cats can breed at an alarming rate – even with their mum or siblings. 

“We won’t judge  – we’ve dealt with a lot of cases and have seen how people can get into overwhelming situations quite quickly through no fault of their own.”

This unprecedented rise in breeding is something that is being reflected across the sector. 

The RSPCA and other animal welfare charities are seeing an unprecedented increase in cats coming into their care – and the public are urged to help tackle the overpopulation crisis by neutering their cats, which can be done from around five months old. 

Over the last 10 years, the RSPCA has neutered more than 46,000 cats, however, Cats Protection’s ‘Cats and Their Stats Report 2023’ and the PDSA ‘PAW Report’ found that 1.4 million – equating to 13% – of owned cats are still unneutered.

Alice Potter, cat welfare expert at the RSPCA, said: “It’s heartbreaking that we’re seeing so many amazing cats flooding our centres and branches and having to go on waiting lists in private boarding.

“We’ve seen a 30% drop in rehoming which has left us facing a situation where we have cats coming in faster than we can find homes for them. 

“We know the cost of living crisis is one of the single biggest challenges facing animal welfare right now. 

“Our Animal Kindness Index found that a growing number of people are finding keeping pets more expensive and are worried about the costs of feeding their animals. 

“Unfortunately, we’re also seeing the impact on the frontline – with reports of abandoned animals soaring as owners resort to desperate measures.

“We want to keep pets in loving homes and support owners. We’ve launched a Cost of Living Hub, a dedicated telephone helpline and our pet food bank partnerships continue to go from strength to strength.”

A hand-reared rescue kitten – image supplied by Kitty Rescue Bury

National Pet Month 2024 runs from 1 April – 1 May and celebrates and raises awareness of responsible pet ownership across the UK through educational campaigns. 

You can learn more about Kitty Rescue Bury, seek support or donate here and find support for the RSPCA Cost of Living Hub here

Header image @lvalentinejourno

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