‘Horrendous’ year for homeless cats

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Purfect . . . Furever Homes Loanna Mesman of Edendale holds five kittens which were found with their abandoned mother on a dairy farm. PHOTO: SANDY EGGLESTON

Gore and Mataura have a growing problem with abandoned cats and kittens, an animal rehoming group volunteer says.

Furever Homes manager Loanna Mesman, of Edendale, is part of a group working Southland-wide to foster abandoned animals for the short term before finding permanent homes for them.

Ms Mesman said the population of abandoned kittens and cats had “boomed” since the Gore SPCA closed in 2020.

“People have got no place to go.

“They used to sign their [animals] over to the SPCA. Now they just dump them on the side of the road.

“This year has been horrendous.”

Southland-wide, the charity was dealing with about 300 cats and kittens a year that were abandoned or needed a new home.

“We feel like we are constantly the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff and we’re constantly banging our head against a wall, because nobody wants to be held accountable.

“It is a huge issue,” Ms Mesman said.

In the 10 years she had been part of the group she had seen many examples of cats in trouble.

The youngest mother cat Ms Mesman was given was four and a-half months old and had four kittens.

“She’s already feeding a litter of kittens and she is pregnant with another litter.

“Healthwise that is detrimental to the mother as well.”

During the cleanup after the 2020 flood, Ms Mesman was asked to visit a Mataura resident.

Before the flood he was feeding 17 cats.

Most of them were not his and had turned up on his doorstep after being dumped or abandoned.

She arranged for his three cats to be spayed and took the others away for desexing and rehoming.

Some people contacted Furever Homes every year to have unwanted kittens picked up.

“We call them serial offenders.

“Each time those people came up with reasons why they had not had their cat spayed such as not being able to find the cat when it was time to take it to the veterinary [clinic] or because their child was sick.”

It was important cats were desexed, she said. She was prepared to take animals to the vet or help in any way she could so cats did not have to suffer.

At the moment Furever Homes, which had no access to Government funding, seemed to be the only group dealing with the problem.

“We desperately need help with funding as we are reliant on public donations.”

SPCA area manager Sophie McSkimming said stray cat populations were an issue nationally.

“We’re in the midst of a busy kitten season and many of our centres are full with kittens and pregnant cats, with new ones coming in each day.

“This is not just an issue that’s felt by other rescue groups, but one that we deal with on a daily basis also.”

The group would always take in animals that needed help.

“SPCA’s remit is to care for sick, injured, abused and neglected animals

— these animals are our main priority.

“We simply do not always have capacity to take in people’s healthy pets that they wish to surrender,” she said.

The group encouraged people who could no longer care for their pets to try to rehome them through other means first.

“If they have exhausted all options and we have capacity, then we will take the animal into our care.”

The SPCA offered support, including food, flea and worm treatments and vaccinations to rescue groups in the Gore and Mataura areas, including Furever Homes.

“We . . . always offer to take in cats in their care.

The Gore SPCA premises has been closed for more than a year, as it was unfit for purpose, but SPCA’s services were available through its partnership with VetSouth.

“Anyone with concerns about a vulnerable, injured or sick stray cat or kitten, or any other animal, can contact SPCA directly and we will organise with VetSouth for the animals to be taken into care.”

The SPCA was also a charity and received less than 5% of its funding from the Government, which had to be spent on the inspectorate arm of the group.