Bosses at Preston’s RSPCA centre have made a desperate plea for help to try and solve a ‘cat crisis’.
The charity is reporting unprecedented numbers of felines in its care.
The situation is so bad that centres including the Preston and District branch in Ribbleton are unable to take in any more cats, while some have more than 100 animals waiting to be rehomed.
Now staff and volunteers have called on the public to help by offering some of these cats a new home.
John Wareing, president of the Preston branch, said: “This has been the worst year ever for cats. Every cat rescue centre is full to bursting and we’ve always got a waiting list.
“I can get 10 calls a day from people saying they have got cats they would like to give to us, or stray cats that are living in their garden or in a shed. I’ve never known anything like it.”
The cat crisis is believed to have been caused by a number of factors, including owners who can no longer afford to keep them or pay for vet bills.
Mr Wareing said: “We are desperate for cat food and cat litter. We’ve had our pens increased so we’re back to full capacity. I would estimate we have up to 40 cats in our care at any one time, but now we’ve got to feed all of these cats.
“We get lots of donations of dog food, which is great, but people forget about the cats and this ends up in us having to go out and buy food, with money that could go to medical bills and to caring for these animals.
“The state some of them are in when they come in is horrendous.”
Figures show around 60 per cent of cats being taken in by the RSPCA’s regional centres have suffered animal cruelty.
Around 30 per cent of the animals are in private boarding, as there are no spare places for them.
Regional centres are run by the RSPCA nationally, unlike local branches such as Preston, which are separately registered charities.
Mr Wareing said: “The RSPCA is paying for more and more cats to stay in private boarding, while it waits for space to come up in rehoming centres. Hundreds are staying in private catteries because the population is bigger than we’ve ever known.”
It costs the charity around £9.40 a day to care for a cat, depending on circumstances.
The charity is taking on average nearly 34 days to rehome each cat. This is an increase of nearly five days compared to last year and the extra time costs the RSPCA around £250,000 annually.
Peter Bolton, animal operations manager at the RSPCA, said: “The RSPCA is struggling on all fronts with this cat crisis.
“Our inspectors are being called out constantly to deal with sick, injured, neglected or abandoned cats, our hospitals are full with injured cats whose owners appeared to have dumped them, we have more cats than ever who have been cruelly treated and our centres are just full with cats and kittens needing new homes.
“It is really sad because these problems could be avoided if owners just acted responsibly.
“We need help from the public, so please if anyone is thinking about taking on a cat, come to the RSPCA first – we have literally thousands looking for new homes and a second chance.”
A key problem is owners who do not neuter their pets. The RSPCA recommends all cats are neutered by four months.
It also advises owners to have their pets microchipped, because RSPCA inspectors often pick up injured cats and have no means of identifying them.
If you cannot rehome a cat you could consider fostering and providing a short term home, or making a donation to the RSPCA Preston and District branch. Anyone interested in rehoming a cat or kitten should call the centre in Longridge Road on 01772 792553 or visit www.rspca-preston.org.uk.