Calls for regulation as animal charities flooded with unwanted kittens

Animal charities say they're being rushed off their feet by an influx of abandoned kittens.

During lockdown essential vet services didn't include desexing, resulting in a surge of unwanted kittens.

The summer season is also the start of the kitten season, as many cats breed in the spring - this means an increase in unwanted cats.

"Pretty manic, it's been absolutely non-stop, we have had to call in other rescues for help," Sam Williams from Loose Leash Cat Rescue says.

Cat owners who don't believe in desexing are partly to blame.

"Seeing the kittens that have been inbred, born with deformities, that we've had to make the call to put them over the rainbow bridge... it's just getting worse and worse. Every year they're getting sicker and sicker," Williams says.

A kitten waiting to be adopted at the SPCA.
A kitten waiting to be adopted at the SPCA. Photo credit: Newshub

COVID-19 has also contributed to the rising number of unwanted kittens in 2020, as vets are still dealing with a backlog of animals needing desexing.  

"A lot of them are catching up on surgeries from during that time, so we are expecting an extraordinary amount of unwanted litters coming into our care this year," SPCA general manager Ros Alsford says.

In 2019, the SPCA rescued more than 27,000 cats and kittens.

Once kittens are brought into the centre, they are desexed, microchipped and vaccinated. When they reach 850 grams, they're adopted out.

Caring for those kittens takes up a massive chunk of the SPCA's time and effort, Alsford says.

"Seventy-five percent of incoming animals are kittens, so it's a huge number and puts a lot of pressure on our resources and staff's time. It's a big problem."

It's a problem the New Zealand Veterinary Association believes isn't going away.

"There's been lots of work done for years and years around this, but we're not making any headway," NZ Vet Association chief veterinary officer Helen Beattie says.

But there is a proposed solution that could stop kittens from flooding in.

"We'd love to see some regulation around this. So central government stepping up to say you can't just breed any old cat - and get some national-level legislation wrapped around it," Beattie says.