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Bromley's cat crisis: Borough overrun with homeless moggies

PUBLISHED: 06:00 30 August 2013

This kitten, if left non-neutered, could be responsible for around 80,000 kittens in just seven years.

This kitten, if left non-neutered, could be responsible for around 80,000 kittens in just seven years.

Archant

The number of cats in Bromley in need of a home has hit crisis point, the RSPCA has warned.

Headley, one of the many cats waiting for a home at Foal Farm.Headley, one of the many cats waiting for a home at Foal Farm.

Irresponsible and accidental breeding is to blame, according to the animal welfare charity, which had 371 cats in care last month in the Kent area – including parts of the borough.

It is said that a single female cat and her offspring can be responsible for about 80,000 kittens over seven years, with the average feline producing three litters a year.

RSPCA branch support specialist Becky Blackmore said: “Our RSPCA branches are run by local volunteers and they are often on the receiving end of frustration when the public ask us to take on their unwanted cats.

“Branches never put a cat to sleep if it can be rehomed. However, resources are now so stretched that we need the public to support us to ensure we can continue to provide this service for unwanted, abandoned, sick and injured cats in Kent.”

A pair of cats wait for new ownersA pair of cats wait for new owners

This stark warning is seconded by staff at the Bromley and District RSPCA branch, which has just one volunteer cat fosterer.

Cats found in Bromley are therefore placed into independent catteries, which are currently experiencing a spike in feline guests due to the summer holiday season.

Foal Farm animal sanctuary, in Jail Lane, Biggin Hill, is also feeling the burden of a surge in abandoned cats, with vets and animal centres turning to them for help.

Lisa Steward, head of the cat team, says the fear of healthy cats being put to sleep means the sanctuary never refuses an animal.

“We will always take them in,” she says. “You just don’t know what places will put a healthy cat to sleep. It’s scary.

“You just don’t know what people will do and I wouldn’t like the guilt of someone putting a cat in a plastic bag and throwing it in a river.”

The cat centre at Foal Farm presently has 82 cats in need of a home. Lisa says they can take up a surprising amount of space when certain animals need to be kept separate from others due to illness or aggression.

Despite almost reaching breaking point, Foal Farm remains careful about who it allows to take home an unwanted cat.

“If we weren’t so picky about where they go, then maybe we’d have less cats,” explains Lisa. “But if we choose the wrong place, then they will only end up back here eventually, so it pays to make the right checks.

“We perform home checks for each cat and look for specific details. A home by a main road might not be ideal for a cat that likes to come in and out a lot, but might be ok for an older cat who spends most of their time indoors. We look at things like that.”

The current high number of homeless pets can be attributed to too few animals being micro-chipped and owners not neutering their pets, according to Lisa.

The sanctuary will always look to find a missing pet’s owner and have a legal obligation not to make any permanent changes to the cat – such as micro-chipping or neutering – within seven days, though life-saving operations are permitted.

With numbers rocketing, the RSPCA are keen to dispel some misconceptions in the hope of preventing some owners from winding up with an unwanted litter.

Becky added: “It is a myth that it is best for a female cat to be allowed to have one litter of kittens – the health and safety of both male and female cats is best safeguarded by neutering at four months of age.”

Both the RSPCA and Foal Farm are appealing for both potential owners and animal lovers who would enjoy fostering a pet to get in contact with them.

If either of these options interests you, visit foalfarm.org.uk or rspca-bromleyanddistrict.org.uk.

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