The Rainbow Rehoming Centre in Derry has issued an urgent appeal for new homes for the cats and kittens currently in their care.
Pet owners and those feeding stray cats have also been warned of the pressing need to get them neutered to prevent an explosion of unwanted litters on their doorstep.
There is now a growing waiting list for domestic felines looking in need of the centre’s help, and staff and volunteers are hopeful that homes can be found for some of their current residents to free up space.
The call comes as it emerged that 160 cats and 113 kittens have already been rehomed since January this year, to families as far away as Scotland. All were neutered.
The Eglinton charity has also trapped, neutered and released a further 300 wild cats.
Anna Hyndman from Rainbow said: “We have only so much room. There are always people ringing in looking for help with cats having kittens, and what is more shocking is that it is often people with their own cats that they haven’t neutered.
“We are about stray, abandoned and cruelty cases, but of course we will help people that let their cats have kittens, but they need to be more responsible and get their cats neutered. Getting them neutered at five months would certainly help the problem of unwanted, stray, abandoned cats in Derry and we are trying to get the word out that if people are feeding a cat, it is just as important to get it neutered. In our experience people generally are very kind and are just trying to help the cat and it’s just about getting the neutering message to them.
“If somebody is feeding a wild cat they can contact our centre and we can help them.”
Among the cats waiting for a home is one-year-old Ozzy who was taken in as an eight-week-old stray and rehomed. Ozzy however has been returned because of a change in his owner’s circumstances.
Anna paid tribute to the generosity of local people, including those foster kittens and local photographer Keith Rutherford for giving up his spare time to take pictures of the Rainbow’ cats and dogs for the rehoming appeals.