Pioneering project tackles Sheffield’s cat crisis

Cat Misty bonding with Cavalier spaniel Poppy
Cat Misty bonding with Cavalier spaniel Poppy

A pioneering project is on a mission to spay as many felines as possible to tackle the over-breeding of cats and kittens.

Cat Smart is a RSPCA-funded scheme set-up to help ease the cat overpopulation crisis by neutering and microchipping as many cats as possible, as well as educating the public on responsible cat ownership.

This World Spay Day the RSPCA is celebrating the success of the Cat Smart scheme in Sheffield which has spayed more than 500 cats for free since launching in August 2017.

On Saturday, February 24, the RSPCA hosted an event with the PDSA to mark the international awareness day which saw a record 60 cats neutered in nine hours.

Carrie Stones, Cat Population Control Manager at the RSPCA said: “The scheme has now spayed over 500 cats and helped lots of owners with discount vouchers and microchipping. Our aim is to reduce the number of unplanned litters, many of which end up in rescue centres.

“Around 70% of litters are unexpected and this means there are a lot of owners who are getting much more than they bargained for. The romance and the reality of having a litter of kittens are very different and so we have been helping to change people’s attitudes about neutering their pets.

“We along with other members of the CPCG (Cat Population Control Group) are calling for cats to be neutered from four months old when they can first become pregnant and start going outside.”

Jason and Miranda Hollins are just one family who have been helped by the project. Their cat Misty was just under a year old when she fell pregnant unexpectedly - having FOUR litters in a row.

Jason, who lives in Sheffield, said: “Misty was just under a year when she became pregnant. We had been on holiday and were planning on getting her spayed when we got back but when we returned my mother-in-law who had been looking after her broke the news that she was pregnant. We were shocked - we thought a year was about the right time to get a cat spayed.

“Then she had her kittens and there were five cats in the house running up the curtains and walls. It was overwhelming. We decided to keep two of the kittens, Elvis and Elton because the kids fell in love with them. Misty and our cavalier spaniel Poppy are both very close to the two boys too. We had to wait two weeks after the other kittens had all been rehomed before we could get her spayed but trying to keep her in the house with three cats, two dogs and five children coming and going was impossible.

“She was determined to get outside. We had two or three male cats sitting on our fence and Misty was just crying at the back door. If the window was left open even a little bit she would be out. She ran up my shoulder and out of the door once when I was letting the dog in. She was a nightmare!”

Jason’s wife Miranda found the Cat Smart page on Facebook and Jason messaged seeking some help. The week before Misty was due to be spayed by the Cat Smart group, the vet told the family that she was pregnant - now for the fourth time.

Jason added: “We just couldn’t believe she was pregnant again! A week after she gave birth, Carrie contacted us to get her booked in as soon as possible. Luckily, Misty started to push the kittens away from about six weeks - I think she was exhausted and just over being a mum now. The kittens were rehomed and Misty was finally spayed 9 weeks after the last birth - now she acts like nothing happened.

“When she got caught we didn’t realise you could get them done so early. We thought it was around the year mark then Cat Smart told us they could get pregnant from four months, as soon as they can start going outside really. The past few months have been very hectic with looking after 13 kittens in total and it has definitely changed our attitudes about neutering!”

Cat Smart has also teamed up with academics from the psychology department at the University of Sheffield in a bid to better understand choices made by pet owners.

They will analyse questionnaires completed by owners at the neutering clinics to explore their knowledge and intentions and monitor the impact of the Cat Smart scheme.

Another cat owner who was helped by Cat Smart was Gemma Beresford from Sheffield who has five cats in total. Her cat Molly was just five months old when she had two litters one after the other.

She said: “This was such a shock to us as we didn’t know she could get pregnant so young. We also thought that after one litter that would be it, she wouldn’t have any more but she was very quickly pregnant again. What made it worse was that as Molly was really just a kitten herself, she didn’t want anything to do with the kittens and wouldn’t feed them which meant we had to hand feed the kittens every couple of hours.

“After my experience with Molly who is now 10, I knew I had to get my boys done straight away. Being deaf it can be hard to access services, for example I struggle to have a conversation on the phone, and whilst I do have a cochlear implant and can hear, I still struggle with the telephone, accents and different voices, so the best method of communication for me is through text or Facebook. This is why Cat Smart was great for me, it was so accessible, quick and easy to contact, I would send a message and they would quickly respond.

“I was so pleased that my cats were neutered and chipped, it’s given me peace of mind. Cat Smart has been great, fabulous in fact.”

For more information find Cat Smart on Facebook.