A cat charity has reached a milestone after its 1,000th litter of kittens arrived.
Yorkshire Cat Rescue, based in Keighley, has been able to digitally record the number of felines which pass through its shelter since introducing an online management system in 2010.
Six years later, centre resident Miss Agatha Tibbs and her new kittens have become the 1,000th family to be cared for by volunteers.
Despite the statistic highlighting the charity’s commitment to taking in unwanted cats, the figure has also provided staff with an insight into the region’s unwanted pet problem.
A lack of awareness of the need to neuter young cats leads to many owners being overburdened with unplanned litters. Some are taken to cat charities, but other kittens are simply abandoned and become strays or part of feral colonies.
Foster carer Sheila Pepper realised the milestone was approaching when a kitten born to Magic, a cat in her care, was allocated number 999.
“When I read the number 999 I didn’t know whether it was cause to celebrate or commiserate. On one hand, it is a testament to the huge effort of everyone who has been involved with Yorkshire Cat Rescue since 2010. On the other, it is a sad reminder of just how many unwanted kittens are born in the Yorkshire area each year.”
The 1,000th litter became four healthy kittens, who have now been neutered, vaccinated, chipped and wormed ready for the adoption process.
Yorkshire Cat Rescue founder Sara Atkinson believes the scale of the issue means it will take fewer than six years to reach 2,000 litters.
“A thousand litters of unwanted kittens born in our care in just over six years is, if nothing else, a stark reminder for people to neuter their cats as soon as they are old enough, which means around the age of four months.
“Sadly, this message still isn’t getting through and, as a result, we are taking in more pregnant cats each year. Each year we take in more cats than the previous; a trend which I can’t see reversing unless something is done centrally to educate pet owners and encourage early neutering.
“Luckily we have an amazing network of families who volunteer to foster pregnant cats until they have given birth and been allowed to raise their kittens in a warm loving home. But the cats that end up with us are the lucky ones. Many more continue to live outside as strays or in feral colonies where they breed three or four litters each year. It is a harsh and, often, short life where the kittens that aren’t rescued face a myriad of dangers and diseases.
“Britain’s stray cat problem is escalating and the issue is yet to be addressed properly with funds from local authorities or government.”
In 2015, Yorkshire Cat Rescue took in a record 935 cats and kittens; a rise of 8 per cent from 865 in 2014.