The Welfare Of Cats

Where ever a group of people live together, there will be a club for something. Animal welfare in general and cats in particular, are no exception, and a number of organisations exist for the care and protection of animals.

The oldest and largest of the organisations for the welfare of cats, came into being at a meeting held at Caxton Hall in London in 1927, under the chairmanship of Miss J. Wade, and it was decided that, "...that a society be formed to be devoted exclusively to promoting the interests of cats and that its name be The Cats Protection League". Defined objectives were established: to rescue stray and unwanted cats and kittens, rehabilitating and rehoming them where possible; to inform the public on the care of cats an kittens; and to encourage neutering of cats not required for breeding. These objectives remain the same today.

The first organising secretary was Mr A.A. Steward and the headquarters were established at Slough. Early achievements included the introduction of an elasticated collar for cats, the development of a simple cat door, the setting up of a clinic at Slough, and the provision to accommodate cats, pending rehoming. Progress was held up by World War 2 which created its own problems of cats made homeless by bombing or family separations, colonies becoming established on bombed sites, and the worry of finding cat-food in a rationed economy. After the war everyone had their own problems, but in the 1960s, the League began to expand, becoming Registered Charity No 203644 in 1962. The most important early move was the pioneering of the spaying of female cats which is just as essential as the neutering of male cats, if the population is to be contained.

The Cats Protection League is now over 60 years old, and has eight large shelters, administered from the headquarters in Horsham, and over 150 groups and branches. There is a large group of members, supporters and workers helping cats to have a better life every year.

The oldest and best known animal welfare organisation, is the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) which started in 1824, getting its Royal prefix at the instigation of Queen Victoria in 1840. The RSPCA looks after the welfare of all animals and inspections can be seen on cattle markets, pet shops, street markets, farms and everywhere that animals are involved. The RSPCA has an excellent record for prosecuting people who perform acts of animal cruelty, and has many branches and an active junior section which encourages caring for animals in the young.

Another organisation which cares for most pet animals is the People's Dispensary for Sick Animals, set up in 1917 by Mrs Maria Dickin, with the objective of providing free treatment for sick and injured animals where the owners are unable to afford the normal fees. The PDSA has treatment centres in many towns throughout the United Kingdom, supplemented by an auxiliary service provided by veterinary practices in areas where the PDSA doesn't have it's own facilities. The treatment is normally restricted to pets whose owners are in receipt of state benefits, or otherwise clearly unable to afford private fees. Urgent cases receive initial treatment, irrespective of the owner's financial position. The PDSA also offer guidance to pet owners on animal care, and runs an active educational programme.

Apart from The Cats Protection League there are other organisations which focus only on cats: The Feline Advisory Bureau is a registered charity, founded in 1958, which promotes the knowledge, understanding and treatment of feline diseases. It has established a scholarship, at the University of Bristol Veterinary School, which pays for a veterinary surgeon to study feline medicine. The FAB produces a variety of publications on cat diseases and other cat matters, such as boarding-cattery construction and management.

The Cat Action trust is a registered charity founded in the 1970s to deal with feral cats. The policy of the Trust is to trap feral cat colonies, find homes for kittens, and to neuter and return to site those which are too feral to become domesticated. Feeding rotas are set to care for the cats on site, and to watch for new arrivals. This has led to the acceptance of such colonies, especially in industrial surroundings which were previously seen as pests.

There are many other groups that deal with cat welfare, ranging from the Cat Survival Trust, which cares for endangered wild cats, to the many local welfare groups, which often need financial contributions to help improve the cats life. All these organisations are in need, not just of money, but of help of all kinds. There are those who do the trapping, cleaning and feeding of the cats, but there are plenty of other jobs, from fostering to fund-raising. All caring people should give their support to these organisations.



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