Published: 06:00, 23 February 2021
| Updated: 15:51, 23 February 2021
Fighting toms and feral kittens could run rampant due to delays and cancellations to procedures to neuter pets during the pandemic.
Vets were told soon after the first lockdown was imposed that they can castrate animals if they deem it necessary for population control reasons.
But Mary Knott, who runs Thanet charity Cats in Crisis, has been inundated with calls from distressed owners who have been unable to get their felines snipped or had appointments pushed back.
With breeding season having already begun, she expects the problem to lead to an increase in complaints about unruly toms and feral or unwanted litters.
“We are receiving calls every day from distressed cat owners who say vets are refusing to neuter unless there are exceptional circumstances,” Ms Knott said.
“The rescues have done a lot of good work over the years neutering, but it looks like it’s unravelling and we’re going back to areas having rampant unneutered toms. They cause hygiene issues and attack people’s cats.
“There are a number of feline infections spread by mating – like feline AIDS and leukaemia – which often result in the cats dying or having to be put to sleep.”
The Margate branch of the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals’ (PDSA) says it is only able to offer “emergency treatment at this time”.
Staff from Plunketts in Ramsgate and Broadstiars surgery Briar House also stress they are just neutering pets for welfare reasons and in urgent cases, which include instances where male and female cats live together.
However, Companion Care Vets in Broadstairs says it is still taking bookings to neuter pets.
Ms Knott - whose charity covers Margate, Broadstairs, Minster and Ramsgate – says she has humane traps out to catch unneutered stray toms across the district.
However, she and her team of volunteers at Cats in Crisis have struggled to home the creatures as they have not been able to sterilise them as quickly as usual.
Ms Knott added: “We feel like we’re having to beg to get them neutered, whereas before lockdown it was a routine thing. It seems to be different in different areas, but Thanet has a bit of a problem.
“We are urging vets to do something quickly to remedy this situation.
“The breeding season has started and we need urgent help now.
“We’re aware of a very sad case where a woman in a flat has been unable to get her male cat neutered and her neighbours can smell it and have made a complaint to environmental health.
“Through no fault of her own, she’s faced with a very smelly cat that she’s desperately trying to get neutered and she’s ended up with this awful problem with her neighbours.”
Under coronavirus guidelines,vets have been advised that procedures needed to improve the health and welfare of animals, which includes neutering, can continue.
British Veterinary Association vice-president Daniella Dos Santos says services can vary between practices.
“All vets have been advised work that is essential for animal health and welfare can continue,” she said.
“This may include neutering for population control if the vet deems it to be necessary.
“However, we know vets are having to work differently due to Covid-19, and the range of services will vary from practice to practice.
"This may vary due to staff resources, or practical considerations around Covid-safe working within their practice buildings.”