Moggie-loving feral cat catcher predicts population explosion in High Peak

A High Peak woman who has been battling to control the borough’s feral cat population for nearly 40 years says their numbers are now rocketing after her funding was withdrawn.

By Ben McVay
Wednesday, 18th November 2020, 12:30 pm

Sandra Cameron-Pilkington, 73, used to receive between £4,000-£6,000 every year to trap feral felines and have them neutered - keeping their numbers under control.

However in September charity Cats Protection completely stopped her funding - leading to a large surge in feral cats in High Peak towns and villages.

Cat-loving Sandra, who keeps 10 rescue cats in her own home, says the number of homeless animals in Buxton’s Fairfield alone has grown by 500 in the last two months.

Sandra Cameron-Pilkington with Miss Lilly - a female cat she rescued after finding her abandoned as a kitten

A cat can give birth to 4-5 kittens within nine-and-half weeks however their kittens are ready to breed at four-months-old - leading to an uncontrollable increase in their numbers without neutering.

Sandra told how the feral creatures - completely untameable by 12 weeks old - lived a ‘grim life’ fighting for food and hiding away from humans in the cold weather.

She said: “These are beautiful animals and they’re suffering.

“Two weeks ago I found one in Fairfield which had obviously been abandoned with a cancerous tumour and had to be put down.

Sandra Cameron-Pilkington says the number of homeless animals in Buxton’s Fairfield alone has grown by 500 in the last two months

“Then there was a female which had been someone’s pet living outdoors with two kittens - we managed to rehome the kittens but she had to be released after being neutered.”

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Sandra says many owners on low incomes are put-off getting their pets neutered by the cost - leading to their abandonment when they become pregnant.

However many are unaware they can have the procedure done for just £10 by applying to charity Cats Protection and showing proof of claiming benefits.

Moggie-protecting Sandra described how most people would walk past feral cats several times a day however they would not know it, adding ‘you have to know what to look for’.

She said that sadly, after the age of eight weeks old a cat will be completely wild and will have to remain on the street.

However, by neutering as many as she can Sandra hopes to reduce the amount of suffering.

Sandra is appealing for funding to carry on her work – to donate get in touch by phoning her on 07980 259 447.

Maggie Roberts, Cats Protection’s director of veterinary services, said trapping, neutering and returning (TNR) cats required a ‘huge amount of support’ in terms of administration - including risk assessments, record keeping, expenses, PPE and maintenance of equipment.

She added that this had been ‘exacerbated’ by the Covid 19 pandemic.

She said: “We have a duty of care to all our staff and volunteers and at this time we do not have the resources to provide adequate support to TNR volunteers who work outside our branch or adoption centre structure.

“Sadly, there are always many more cats than we have the capacity to assist.

“Cats Protection continues to offer advice on neutering owned cats and issues means-tested vouchers to support cats owners on low incomes to get their cats neutered.”

More information can be found HERE or by calling the neutering helpline on 03000 12 12 12.

In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a subscription or buying a paper. We stand together. Nancy Fielder, editor.