The UK’s first study of stray cat population has been launched this week with cat lovers in Bulwell, Nottinghamshire being invited to download the free Cats Protection mobile phone app to track homeless cats.
Developed by Edinburgh University, the Bulwell Cat Watch app launched at in September and is the pilot test for the scheme. It is hoped the findings of the study will allow the charity to target neutering programmes to reduce and control stray populations.
Cats Protection’s Neutering Manager Jane Clements said that, if successful, the scheme will be trialled in other areas with a view to being rolled out across the UK.
She explained: “At the moment we are targeting a specific area of Nottingham which we believe has a fairly high stray population. We’re asking members of the public to download the app onto their mobile phone which will enable them to quickly and easily send photos and details of cats they believe are homeless.
“The data we gather will enable us to target our neutering work which in turn will help reduce the long-term stray population.
“Harnessing the power of mobile technology is really exciting for us and this project has the potential to revolutionise the way we tackle the stray cat population.
“If successful, we are looking for it to be eventually rolled out across the UK, to help us assess the numbers of stray cats and control populations nationally by means of targeted neutering programmes.”
Cats Protection is the UK’s largest cat charity and helps to neuter 159,000 cats and kittens a year, 19,000 of which are feral cats.
Jane explained that the charity operates Trap, Neuter, Return programmes to help reduce and control the number of stray or feral cats. Cats are caught in humane traps, taken to a veterinary surgery for the simple neutering procedure and then returned to their outdoor homes.
She said: “Because many stray cats have been born on the streets, they have not been sufficiently socialised and may be too wary of people to live as domestic pets. In these cases, the most humane approach is to ensure they are neutered and allow them to continue living in safe, outdoor environment.
“Removing feral cats may temporarily reduce the numbers but this leads to what is known as the ‘vacuum effect.’ Any cats left behind will continue to breed and others will move into the area which is clearly a good source of food and shelter.
“Neutering offers many solid benefits to cats and owners alike as a neutered cat is less likely to spray, less likely to roam and also less likely to fight. Neutering also helps guard against disease as fighting cats are more at risk of life-threatening diseases that can be transmitted through biting and saliva.
“If left unneutered, cats are prolific breeders, with females capable of producing 18 kittens a year, and the cycle continues. By breaking the breeding cycle, we hope to bring down the number of strays in the long-term.”
Although there is an estimated population of 10.5 million cats living as household pets, there is no accurate figure of the number of stray cats.
The scheme is already underway in the NG6 postcode region, an area with 8,000 households. The mobile app can be downloaded for free from the Google Play store or the App store by searching for Bulwell Cat Watch.
To find out more, visit www.cats.org.uk/bulwell-cat-watch