The sad reality of what can happen when cats are left unneutered translated to a cautionary tale for all cat owners when a Harrow man ended up with a house full of 17 cats during lockdown.
It highlights the threat of a summer kitten crisis that could be worse than expected, after a Cats Protection survey showed a lack of awareness about feline pregnancy.
The team at Harrow’s Cats Protection Homing Centre was alerted to the urgent case when an overwhelmed man realised he couldn’t cope as he went from having one cat to living with multiple litters within a short time – and all because his cat was unneutered. Clearly out of his depth and concerned for the welfare of the cats, he did the only sensible thing; he asked for help from the nearby Cats Protection’s Harrow Homing Centre.
Harrow Homing Centre Manager, Lydia Sawyer, said: “When we got the kittens back to the centre we realised that one litter was only four weeks old and the other just five weeks. That’s when the true picture became clear.”
The issue arose when an unneutered female gave birth to a litter of four and it soon spiralled from there. A young male in that litter mated with his own mother and sisters, who delivered their own litters, and the population in one home escalated to 17 cats.
Lydia said: “One kitten was in a bad way. He wasn’t breathing very well and so we rushed him to the vet, who said that the kitten, who we named Damien, was unlikely to survive. But he still had some fight in him so we decided to give him a chance. He is still a bit rattly and has some mucus on his chest but he is making rapid improvements. He’s a little fighter.”
The health check revealed that the kittens were anaemic and some had heart murmurs, probably as a result of a bad flea infestation.
Thankfully, all the cats are doing well, having benefitted from the expert care from multiple teams in Cats Protection’s national network. One mum and her two-week old kittens went to a fosterer with Cats Protection’s Chiltern Branch, the four-week-old kittens went to a fosterer in North London and the five-week-old kittens went to a fosterer in Harrow.
Oscar, the dad has now been neutered, vaccinated and microchipped in line with Cats Protection’s policy and is at the charity’s East Surrey Branch, waiting to be rehomed by the Hands-Free Homing process. Thankfully, his days of fatherhood are over.
Cats Protection’s recent survey of one thousand cat owners showed a lack of awareness about neutering, with 77 per cent unaware that a female cat can become pregnant as early as four months of age and 86 per cent didn’t know a cat can have as many as 18 kittens in a year.
The charity can support owners on limited incomes with the costs of neutering pet cats when vet practices are fully operational again. To find out if you are eligible, call Cats Protection’s Neutering Line on 03000 121212 (option 2) or visit www.cats.org.uk/neutering