AN animal charity volunteer claims Hartlepool accounts for “80 per cent” of Teesside’s stray cat problem.
Irene Robinson, of The Cat Orphanage, is calling for town residents to be more educated on the importance of neutering to avoid the “escalating” problem of unwanted and dumped cats and kittens.
She said: “It’s getting out of hand.
“It’s partly to do with education.”
She hopes to organise a meeting with Hartlepool Borough Council chiefs, RSPCA officials and housing associations to help support residents who are having trouble with litters.
But RSPCA bosses say they are not aware of a particular problem in Hartlepool.
Irene said: “We are having trouble with people with big numbers of cats. They are not getting them neutered.
“All dogs have to be micro-chipped and there is work towards getting dogs neutered.
“But they are not the same with cats because there’s no legal duty.
“They are getting dumped all over, and nobody seems to be doing anything about it.”
She said the Cat Orphanage, and also Cats Protection, get most of their calls from Hartlepool for help retrieving stray cats.
And it is not just strays that is a problem – in recent weeks, Irene has been called to report of a kitten that had been shot in Clifton Avenue and had to be put to sleep, and a kitten on the Central Estate which had veins in its nose damaged after a caustic substance was thrown at it.
Irene added that it’s not good for cats to have “litter after litter” and that the kittens tend to be sold to irresponsible people, to the point where they are dumped on the streets if the owner is unable to cope.
She said she recently received half a dozen calls where cats had been dumped and then had kittens in people’s gardens, in Elwick Village, Elwick Road and in King Oswy.
Irene, who lives in Billingham, added that Owton Manor and Rift House had particularly had problems with strays. She said cats can produce three or four litters of four or five kittens a year. Irene said a Private Members’ Bill is going through Parliament to stop kitten farming, and hopefully if it is approved, it will improve cats’ welfare.
She added that letting cats have so many litters is leading to health problems for kittens, including a killer leukaemia virus, and that kittens were dying from fleas.
An RSPCA spokeswoman said there is a major problem with cats not being neutered “everywhere”, not just Hartlepool.
“There are simply far more cats than there are homes for them and until people stop allowing their pets to breed this will continue,” added the spokeswoman.
“It is a falsity that cats should have one litter before being neutered.
“Anyone looking to take on a cat should please go to a rescue centre where there are a great many of all different ages looking for new homes.
“Cat neutering vouchers to help pay for and in some cases do the procedure for free are often available from animal charities in an effort to tackle this problem.
“We will always attend abandoned cats/kittens which have the potential to suffer.”
Irene urged anyone who finds stray kittens in their gardens to call her on (01642) 899396 or Cats Protection on (01642) 589090.