Cats are great pets. They are friendly, sociable and really value time spent in their owner’s company. In fact, there are around 8 million cats kept as pets in the UK. That means that approximately 1 in 3 households owns a cat. However, these figures are in fact an underestimate. For every cat with a home, it is estimated that there is one stray cat. That’s right – there could be as many as 8 million stray cats in the UK. These cats have no home, no shelter and no reliable source of food.
So why are there so many stray cats? The main reason is that they are very good at reproducing as a species. Female cats (called queens) are fertile from a young age – 4 months. They can remain fertile for their entire lives. They come into heat approximately 3 times per year or more and an average litter size is 4 kittens. This means that a standard queen can produce 12 kittens per year. If she lives for 15 years she can in theory produce 180 kittens in her lifetime. Now, say that half of her offspring are female. So 90 kittens. They could each produce 180 more kittens in their lifetimes and so on. So over her lifetime, by one measure, one female cat could have 16,200 Kitten “grand-kits” by the second generation. These amazing numbers give one indication as to why there always seem to be stray cats in the neighbourhood.
There are many readers of this article who perhaps think loads of kittens is no bad thing. There would be a cuteness overdrive. However, of course, there are not enough homes for all of these animals. Many end up diseased and starving, and suffer early and unpleasant deaths. It is for this reason that we should be grateful to the tireless volunteers of Cats Protection and Cats Protection Downpatrick & Newcastle branches for helping these poor animals. These animal-heroes rescue strays and ensure they are neutered at an early age at Downe Vets. Every cat that is neutered means a potential reduction of 16,200 kittens down the line. This is one of the biggest contributions to animal welfare in Lecale and should be applauded.
Neutered cats are healthy cats. They are less likely to fight and develop certain diseases. They are more pleasant house pets too. We have developed safe and effective techniques to neuter at 4 months – the age cats are fertile, to ensure they have a long and happy life.