Call for cat desexing as animal shelters struggle with feline influx

Overwhelmed with kittens as a result of people not desexing their pets, SPCA area manager Danny Auger says they have 30 per cent more kittens than usual (file photo).

Warwick Smith/Stuff

Overwhelmed with kittens as a result of people not desexing their pets, SPCA area manager Danny Auger says they have 30 per cent more kittens than usual (file photo).

Animal shelters are being inundated with cats and kittens with no decrease in sight.

Overpopulation of animals is one of the biggest issues SPCA and other animal welfare organizations face. Every week they are seeing endless litters of unwanted and vulnerable animals turn up at their doors.

SPCA Manawatū area manager Danny Auger said about 10,000 cats and kittens had come through their shelters nationwide since August 2021.

Palmerston North SPCA took in about 1800 animals each year and almost 80 per cent of those were cats.

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“The amount of cats we see come through our centers, nationally, because of people not desexing is absolutely massive, and we are not seeing a decrease.

“It’s a huge problem, and it is not localized in any way.”

Auger said they had about 30 per cent more kittens than usual and desexing was a key way to improve animal welfare and an important part of responsible ownership.

Doing it as early as possible was “absolutely paramount”.

“What people don’t realize is that kittens can reproduce from as early as four months old, and have the ability to have three litters a year, so it doesn’t take long for the population to explode.”

Ruthie Henchman rescues and rehabs wild cats when she can, however, she says the cats are often too feral to house train, and she is forced to euthanize them.

DAVID UNWIN/STUFF/Stuff

Ruthie Henchman rescues and rehabs wild cats when she can, however, she says the cats are often too feral to house train, and she is forced to euthanize them.

Veterinarian Ruthie Henchman agrees.

She owns a 0.8 hectare property near Waituna West, in northern Manawatū, and has undertaken pest control in her area for many years. More often than not, those pests are cats.

“Over my years of pest control I had seen a huge increase in native birds returning to the area, however, I am heartbroken to find that number is decreasing again, and I can only put that down to the boom in the cat population.”

The past year had been the worst she had seen. Within a three-kilometre radius of her property, Henchman had already captured 151 cats.

“This is a massive problem in New Zealand, the scale of it blows my mind. Something has got to change.”

Henchman does her best to train and rehome what cats she can, however, many are too feral and need to be euthanised.

SPCA Manawatū is running a program called Snip ‘n’ Chip in an effort to reduce the amount of kittens coming through animal shelters.

Cat populations are exploding as people continue to ignore the message, 'desex your pets'.

Dean Kozanic/Stuff

Cat populations are exploding as people continue to ignore the message, ‘desex your pets’.

Snip ‘n’ Chip is online voucher system for cat owners that works with local veterinary clinics to help with the cost of desexing and microchipping.

For $20 owners are able to book in with a participating vet , and SPCA will make up the price difference.

“The reason we do Snip ‘n’ Chip is to try and take away the biggest obstacle, which is the cost,” Auger said.

“The cost can be significant. Depending on the vet it can be upwards of $120. That, for many people, is very costly.”

Henchman, who has received assistance from SPCA, said she was behind its Chip ‘n’ Snip campaign “wholeheartedly”.

“I have encouraged people in my area to use the opportunity SPCA are providing, and it’s been great for all of them. It’s the best thing you can do as a pet owner.”

More information can be found on the Snip ‘n’ Chip website.

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