Wendy Woodd (left) and Sarah Christie of the Pet Whisperer Rescue Trust. Photo / Eva Wilson
By Eva Wilson, Te Rito journalism cadet
Cat shelters are shutting their doors as past breeding seasons have left them overrun and without their usual "off-season" to recoup costs and resources.
Sarah Christie of the Pet Whisperer Rescue Trust says Auckland's stray cat population has become "out of control" since the beginning of the pandemic and is costing volunteer shelters thousands.
“It's doubled, it's nuts."
The rescued kittens are often sick with cat flu and other infections. Photo / Supplied
Christie says they closed in November but have taken in a further 200 cats due to the cases needing urgent support.
"We just can't ignore it because they need us. The thought of them dying painfully out on the street - we’d rather euthanise them less painfully."
“Last month alone, was $15,000 in vet bills."
In a single month, the small volunteer-run shelter had 42 cats desexed and 48 vaccinated, with further cash spent on medications and other treatments.
“Tail amputations are five or six hundred dollars. In December, we spent $3,000 on food."
Many cats and kittens are losing eyes to infection. Photo / Eva Wilson
Christie is being called out to retrieve "cat colonies" across Auckland and recalls recently picking up 17 cats from a single property. Many of the cats were severely injured, and all were suffering from cat flu.
“Having a cat for two weeks with hanging flesh from its face and no one calling the SPCA to get help, and then a photo goes on social media and everyone jumps.”
"If you see an animal with an injury, don't ignore it. Get help, shout it from the rooftops. One rescue or more will move mountains to save an injured animal."
Christie admits that it may be a struggle to find a shelter with the capacity to take in more cats but advises people to “pull at the right heartstrings” if they are not getting a response.
“We may not have a lot of money but we will take in the really bad ones if we have to.”
The situation has become so dire that she is now seeing industrial properties resorting to illegally "poisoning cats with rat bait", and an increasing number of cats being injured or killed due to abuse.
Christie says education is key to getting the population back under control and reducing animal abuse.
"Some people don't know about desexing. They don't know what the impact of not desexing will be one to four years down the track... Kids throwing kittens around and parents not stepping in. Why are you allowing your children to do this, and why are you not worried about it?”
“I don't know if people just don't care or if they don't know what to do.”
The organisation is urging the public to donate and desex their animals so that they can continue their rescue efforts.
Pet Whisperer Rescue Trust's 'sponsor a kitten' programme allows patrons who donate $40 to name a kitten and get updates on its adoption status, with the donation covering a month's supplies for the kitten.
Christie wants people to know that there are people who will help stray cats and to alert either a shelter or the SPCA to what they see.
"Feed them, it's easier to trap a cat when they’ve been fed regularly and know where its food source is. Just don't ignore what you see."
The organisation's Givealittle page can be found here.