Page last updated at 13:13 GMT, Monday, 17 August 2009 14:13 UK

Battersea facing 'cat emergency'

Black and white kitten
One of the lucky ones - eight-week-old Ralph found a new home fast

Battersea Dogs and Cats Home is facing a "cat emergency" - with what could be the highest number of felines waiting for pens in the institution's history.

A sudden unexplained rise in the number of cats being abandoned has seen 143 out of 145 of the shelter's pens full.

There are currently 174 cats waiting for a place at the south London home.

A spokeswoman said: "We are having a cat emergency at Battersea - we have more cats than there are in the entire cattery waiting to come in."

The shelter has noticed a 20% rise in the number of people taking on stray dogs, which has helped to counteract the high number dumped due to feeding costs during the recession.

Some of the cats can be waiting for over a year to find an owner
Battersea Dogs and Cats Home spokeswoman

But nearly 10% fewer people are taking on cats - leading to the backlog waiting to enter the home.

Ros Davies, a cat re-homer, said: "This summer's drop in re-homing figures has taken us all by surprise."

The crisis has been compounded by the high number of kittens, which are usually born in summer.

It means people arriving at the home with cats they want to give up are put on a waiting list.

The home's spokeswoman added: "We are appealing for anyone who may be thinking of taking on a cat to come in.

"Some of the cats can be waiting for over a year to find an owner."

Staff at the shelter think the waiting list of cats needing pens may be the longest it has ever been.

'Bedraggled-looking thing'

Jane Finn, 52, who runs a sign-making business, visited hoping to adopt a cat - and ended up taking three home.

She said: "We intended to take one cat or maybe two if they needed to be homed together.

"We had decided on two when I saw this bedraggled-looking thing.

"She was ever-so skinny, covered in shaved patches and had had teeth out - she looked quite awful."

Ms Finn continued: "I thought 'who else is going to take her on? She'll be stuck here'.

"So I persuaded my husband it would be a nice thing to give her a decent home for the last years of her life."

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