A new veterinary school has joined forces with an animal welfare charity to highlight the national cat overpopulation crisis.

The partnership between the University of Surrey School of Veterinary Medicine and the Royal Society of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) aims to improve animal welfare, said the charity – one way being to increase awareness of the need for early neutering of cats by vets in practice. The school also hopes to train student vets by work experience in RSPCA centres and hospitals.

Elsewhere in the combined approach, the two organisations are co-hosting a training evening on December 2 on the overpopulation of cats and related issues.

A panel of experts will include:

  • Surrey’s Gail Anderson
  • the RSPCA’s chief veterinary officer James Yeates
  • representatives from the regional RSPCA inspectorate
  • representatives from Cats Protection

“The idea behind the evening is both to share with vets in the area the problems we are facing with the overpopulation of cats, and provide a forum for us to discuss the best ways of dealing with it,” said Dr Yeates. “Last year was horrendous in terms of the number of cats abandoned.

“They were left in boxes outside our shops, by rubbish bins, in woodland and all kinds of places – it was heartbreaking. We think at least part of the problem is because not enough people get their cats neutered and then can’t cope with the unplanned and unwanted litters of kittens.

“If we can all work together with vets to tackle these problems, we are more likely to come up with a solution. Let’s hope this evening is the launch pad for finding a solution in Surrey.”

Prof Anderson, a veterinary surgical specialist and head of veterinary education at Surrey, said: “By highlighting the advantages of early age neutering for cats we can address the problem of unwanted teen pregnancies in cats that add so much to this problem. We want our vet students to be leaders in changing the attitude to early neutering so it becomes the norm for the profession.”

So far this year, the RSPCA said it has rescued 384 neglected, abandoned or cruelly treated cats
in Surrey – up from 260 in the county in the same time period last year. Nationally in England and Wales, this number is 30,205 – up from 27,840 in the same period in 2013.

Research, meanwhile, has revealed 85% of litters are unplanned, with the RSPCA thinking this is mainly caused by owners not realising their cats can get pregnant from as young as four months old.

More than 120 vet practices from across Surrey have been invited to the information evening, said the RSPCA, and it will count as CPD. Refreshments will be provided, it will cost £20 per head and it will be held at the university in Guildford.

Anyone interested in attending should contact the university’s Julia Gerhold.

For more information on the overpopulation of cats issue, meanwhile, visit the RSPCA’s website.

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