Is the UK’s cat population out of control?
The RSPCA has warned that the UK cat population is sky high, so much so that it has reached crisis point. There is now no more space at the inn for these frisky felines as the RSPCA reports that the cats they have taken in has risen from 29,269 to 31,556 in just two years – equating to an 8% increase of unwanted kitties.
The cat crisis
The UK cat population is estimated to be between 9.5 million and 11.6 million with 24% of the adult population being cat owners. As much as 75% of all cats are acquired as kittens, which therefore leaves many rescue and older cats unwanted. Research also shows that the number of new homes taking in cats has declined by 10%. Abandoned and unwanted cats cost the RSPCA a massive £2.45 million last year and at the end of 2013 the charity said it was forced to rely on private boarding houses to look after 30% of their cats as they no longer had room.
The RSPCA states that “urgent action is required to proactively address the cause of the cat population crisis.” At the moment the charity is blaming irresponsible owners who are allowing their cats to breed unnoticed with an enormous 85% of cats having unplanned litters. In the RSPCA’s report, “Tackling the Cat Crisis,” the public’s perception of neutering is also blamed. It states that “there is a widely mistaken belief that a cat should have a litter of kittens before she is spayed” and that “having a litter of kittens has become a deeply ingrained social norm.” As well as cat owners generally having this opinion on neutering, ascribing human emotions to our pets is also being blamed for the rising cat population. The report says how thoughts such as “she’ll make a good mum” and “I don’t think it is fair to deny her the right of motherhood” are contributing greatly to the crisis.
The RSPCA is urging owners to neuter their cats; they predict that the neutering rate must increase from its current rate of 86% to at least 92% in order to stop the growing population. It has been understood that cats should be neutered from the age of six months; however, cats actually reach sexual maturity at the age of four months.
First, there needs to be a change in attitude to neutering as many owners wrongly believe they are disadvantaging their cat if they don’t let them have kittens. Many cat rescue organisations have been making an effort to educate cat owners on the benefit of neutering while the RSPCA’s report concluded that “neutering needs to be repositioned as the act of a caring, loving cat owner” in order to further prevent the out of control cat population escalating further.