Wisteria Cat Rescue in Walderslade housing 140 cats as cost of living crisis sees rise in abandoned pets

Rescue centers are struggling to house animals as the cost of living crisis has caused a rise in abandonment.

Wisteria Cat Rescue in Walderslade is currently housing 140 cats – the highest number it has ever had since it started in 2020 – amid a national problem which has been branded the most urgent threat to pet welfare.

Billy Devitt explains the cost of living impact on rescue centers

Manager Billy Devitt has been forced to put a message on the charity’s answer phone saying it is unable to take in any more felines.

He said: “It has been horrendous. Two week ago I put that message on there, it was relentless. We are sadly having to prioritise emergencies.

“I sat down to lunch [on Tuesday] and three people just tried to phone to give up their cats because they are moving away or because of the cost of living.

“I am trying to support people in keeping their animals in their own home by offering food and veterinary advice.”

Research by the RSPCA and the Scottish SPCA – the Animal Kindness Index – looked at the nation’s attitude towards animals, and revealed that the rising cost of living and ownership is the most urgent threat to pet welfare.

In the South East, 70% of people said that the cost of looking after their pet had become more expensive over the last 12 months while 31% said they were worried about being able to afford to properly care for them.

Wisteria Cat Rescue is currently housing around 140 cats
Wisteria Cat Rescue is currently housing around 140 cats

Billy added: “It has definitely peaked at the moment. I do not just think it is cats, it is all animals. You have got to ride the storm out really. We are finding it is hard because the need for our services is so much greater than we ever imagined.

“We are finding there is actually a slow on re-homing. Re-homing has gone down because of the long-term expense on people.

“I would say to owners, you have got to get your animals neutered. The last resort should be to give them up. It is not an easy process – there are waiting lists.”

He also urged owners to get in contact with charities like his which can offer help with food and medication and give advice.

Natasha McPhee, from Animals Lost and Found in Kent, said she has had stressed owners calling for advice as they cannot afford to feed their pets. Some are struggling to cover vet bills and considering using cleaning products and human creams to treat them.

She said: “The cost of living has gone up and no one can afford to look after their pets. It is ridiculous, everything is going up but people’s wages are not.

Natasha McPhee says the organization is seeing a fall in donations.  Picture: Steve Crispe
Natasha McPhee says the organization is seeing a fall in donations. Picture: Steve Crispe

“People are dumping animals and just leaving them behind. Every rescue we have spoken to are all full. We focus on rehabilitation and we are trying to do that but when we need to get the animal into a rescue, there is no space.

“We are having to re–home them but if it goes wrong and they are brought back we have nowhere to keep them. It is definitely hard with everyone at the moment.

“Everything is having a knock-on effect – pet food and cat litter is getting more expensive. People are really struggling. We are trying to do the best that we can but we cannot help everyone.”

The Animal Kindness Index also suggests that 18% of owners are worried about the cost of feeding their animals as prices increase across the board.

“Dogs, cats and rabbits are being dumped all over the place,” Natasha said. “Some people release them but some people dump them in boxes. They should take them to a rescue. I know they are full but put them on the waiting list.

“We have definitely seen a rise in dumping and abandoning animals. It is everything not just food and water, it is the care of them too.

Volunteers from Animals Lost and Found in Kent are trying to help where they can
Volunteers from Animals Lost and Found in Kent are trying to help where they can

“We are also struggling as donations are going down. People are canceling their payments as they cannot feed themselves and their children.

“It has a massive knock-on effect. We are just scrapping through. We got to our last food pouch the other week and luckily got a donation just in time but this is scraping the barrel. It is hard but we all try to keep helping.”

And it is not just Medway people who are struggling. The Ashford Garden Cattery has started offering pet food parcels to anyone in the borough who is finding it tough.

The RSPCA has also seen an increase in rescued animals coming into their care, with many rehoming centers already full and others close to capacity.

In the first five months of this year, the charity took in 49% more rabbits, 14% more cats and 3% more dogs than the same period in 2021 with searches for “giving up pets” doubling this year.

Emma Slawinski, director of advocacy and policy at the RSPCA, said: “It is great that our research has confirmed we are a nation of animal lovers, however, we cannot ignore the stark suggestion that the cost of living crisis is the biggest single threat to pets in the UK today.

Ashford Garden Cattery has opened a pet food bank
Ashford Garden Cattery has opened a pet food bank

“We are on the brink of an animal welfare crisis due to the rise in pet ownership during the pandemic, coupled with the cost of living pressures biting – especially those on lower incomes. It is absolutely heartbreaking.

“We are starting to see the knock-on effects of this as we, and other charities, predicted. Tragically we are starting to see an increase in the abandonment of pets and growing numbers of cats and rabbits being rescued and coming into our care.

“It is worrying to see that 33% of pet owners have experienced issues they did not expect with their pets and, sadly, we are now seeing an increase in pets coming into our care, many because owners are struggling to afford to pay for behavioural support, vet care or even to feed their pets.

“The RSPCA and the Scottish SPCA prioritise animals most in need of neglect and cruelty and would urge any struggling pet owners to seek help to address problems at the earliest opportunity so that problems do not spiral out of control.”


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