Local people are being urged to help animal welfare experts help bring a major problem with cat populations in parts of the North West under control.
Anna Hyndman from the Rainbow Rehoming Centre said people feeding a wild or stray cat may not be aware that they could end up being completely overwhelmed with cats and kittens they weren’t prepare for.
Ms. Hyndman said thousands of cats have been trapped, neutered and released in and around Derry and Inishowen over the years, but there is currently major problems in the Claudy, Strabane and Limavady areas regards feral cat populations.
She said that there were various steps local people could take to help prevent problems arising rather than having to seek help.
“We have an issue every year with people leaving cats that they have been feeding and then these cats are breeding and having kittens and people are contacting the centre when they are confronted with a big number of cats.
“The Rainbow Centre has been trapping, neutering and releasing kittens and cats for 15 years in our community and in the city of Derry and surrounding area that is 300 to 400 cats a year. There was a massive issue in Derry but the Rainbow Rehoming Centre worked very hard to get that under control, working hard with the community to help the town. We are trying to educate people that there is help and support there and all we need is people to make contact.”
Ms Hyndman said that Cats Protection now have a network of registered TNR (Trap, Neuter and Release) trappers, including herself, who support the public in trying to keep numbers of feral cats in the community under control.
“We need to get people to make contact and speak up and say they are feeding a wild or feral cat, before they have kittens, and always assume the cat is a female,” she said. “You will not get near a feral cat to trap it. Trappers will come and trap that cat and it will be neutered and get a full health check and will be put it back where it was found.
“But if it is not a feral cat and that cat comes to you and you take ownership of feeding that cat on a regular basis and you think it might have strayed the first thing you should do is try to reconnect it with its owner.”
This can de done via Lost and Found social media pages, public notices, speaking with neighbours or a local vet can check for a microchip.
Anyone on means tested benefits can get their cat not only neutered, but also microchipped for £5 from most vets, through Cats Protection’s ‘Snip and Chip’ scheme. “We would class that as responsible ownership,” she said. “Rainbow is sitting with a cattery full of cats . At least if they were microchipped and you contacted the owner.”
People living in the Derry area and seeking help con contact Rainbow Rehoming Centre directly or people can contact the Cats Protection Belfast Adoption Centre, who can put them in touch with a TNR trapper, via www.cats.org.uk.
Cats Protection’s new Foyle Branch is currently looking for volunteer trainee TNR trappers. Check out their Facebook page at : www.facebook.com/CPFoyle/
Anna also thanked Jollyes and other local businesses who continue to support the charity.