RSPCA Cymru is urging people to do their research before taking on a pet as figures show there has been a huge spike in people looking to buy or rehome kittens this year.

This July saw Google searches for ‘Kittens near me’ increase sixfold compared to the same period last year (a 667% increase)*. During the lockdown, there has also been an 188% increase in searches for kittens within just a few months**.

There has also been more than 45,000 incidents across England and Wales relating to cats reported to the RSPCA so far this year (up to 29 September).

Many people have found they now have more time on their hands during the lockdown, so it is unsurprising that many have sought a pet to keep them company. However, the RSPCA would always urge anyone thinking of getting a pet to consider whether they can care for them in the long-term – and not just for a pandemic.

Last year RSPCA Cymru and its network of independent branches rehomed 1,178 cats across Wales.

Alice Potter, the RSPCA’s cat welfare expert, said: “It’s fantastic that so many people are interested in bringing a cat into their home this year. However, with such high increases in people searching for kittens online, it’s important that prospective owners are doing their research and not buying a kitten on impulse. This means making sure they have the time, money and resources to care for a cat for the rest of their lives, but also ensuring that if buying a kitten they are buying a healthy and happy kitten from a responsible breeder.

“It’s true that we see much higher cases of puppy farms than unscrupulous kitten breeders*** but it does happen which is why it’s so important to do your research and make sure you’re buying from a reputable seller.

“Sadly, we do see cases of cats coming into our care who have been bought without the correct vaccinations, care or attention and the results can not only be devastating for the cats themselves but also the new owners who have to provide the time and cost it takes to look after these very poorly kittens. This is why the RSPCA and other cat charities have come together to create The Kitten Checklist to provide vital information, such as ensuring you see the kitten with its mum and siblings in the place where they were bred, and peace of mind for anyone looking to bring a kitten into their home.”

This Adoptober, the RSPCA is encouraging people to adopt a rescue cat instead.

During the lockdown, there has also been a 114% increase in the amount of people searching for cats to adopt on the RSPCA’s Find a Pet page compared to the previous year.****

Alice added: “It’s great to see so many people are looking to adopt a rescue cat with more than a million people visiting our cat Find a Pet page during the pandemic.

“We are braced for a kitten season boom next year as routine neutering procedures had to be put on hold during the lockdown. This means that whilst the UK is already facing a cat overpopulation crisis, we may now see even more unplanned litters of kittens. If you’ve got a kitten during lockdown, it’s so important to get them booked into your vets for a spay or a snip.

“Kittens can get pregnant from just four months old and there may be a longer wait than usual at some vet practices due to the pandemic, so it’s important to get them booked in early. We believe neutering from four-months-old can help tackle the overpopulation crisis and ensure we don’t see more unwanted litters being born and putting extra strain on rescue centres like the RSPCA.”

Cats are popular pets with the charity rehoming 24,095 cats last year across England Wales, compared to 7,480 dogs and 2,569 rabbits. That’s 2,008 cats a month, 463 a week, 66 a day, three every hour or one cat rehomed every 20 minutes.

RSPCA Cymru and its network of independent branches rehomed 1,178 cats across Wales in 2019.

At RSPCA Llys Nini Branch – who rehomed 349 cats last year – staff are looking for a home for the beautiful Conga. He has been at the Penllergaer centre for six months for the duration of lockdown, after he was brought into the charity’s care by RSPCA animal collection officer Ellie West back in March as a stray following concerns of his welfare.

Conga 1 - Adoptober Oct20Centre manager Gary Weeks said: “Conga is a very shy and an independent cat who is looking for a calm and patient owner who can help him feel safe and settled.

“To begin with he was very nervous and stayed in his bed until the evening when it was quiet. During lockdown he has been gradually spending more time outside of his bed, exploring his pen and chilling in the sun.

“With time and lots of TLC we are hopeful he will come around as his confidence blossoms. He is looking to be adopted to an adult only home with no other animals. We hope his purr-fect home is just around the corner.”

At RSPCA Bryn-Y-Maen, the Upper Colwyn Bay centre rehomed 203 cats in 2019 and currently have several furry felines looking for their forever home.

Animal centre supervisor Chris Butler said although they are currently under a local lockdown – rehoming is still taking place – however they are only offering animal adopter appointments to those living locally.

“We hope that any people in Conwy who are thinking about getting a pet think about rehoming a rescue animal. We would love to chat to them and show them the many animals looking for their second chance of happiness.”

Cleo - Adoptober Oct20One of them is Cleo who is currently in foster care. She has been in RSPCA care for 385 days – half her life – as she is around two years old.

“She is super friendly and loves a fuss,” said Chris. “Although she is wary of children and loud noises, she can tolerate this and walks away when she has had enough.

“She loves playing with her toys and will make a lovely companion. Please get in touch with us if you can offer her a loving home.”

RSPCA Newport Animal Centre rehomed 254 last year. They are currently looking for homes for beautiful cats called Edgar and Patrick

Animal care assistant Kathryn Elworthy said Edgar is a quiet boy but is so full of love. “He was found as a stray and although he is happy to have a nice warm bed, he is a little unsure of cattery life and would much prefer to be in a loving home,” she said.

“For health reasons, it is important that Edgar is kept indoors. He is also looking for an adult only home, preferably where he will have some company through the day so he can get all the love and attention he deserves.

“Handsome Patrick is looking for a special home where he can settle in and slowly get to know his new owners.

“When he first arrived at the centre he was nervous and unsure, but he has now settled in and loves attention from his carers.”

Elsewhere, RSPCA officers in Neath and Carmarthenshire have been dealing with a number of semi feral cats at the two locations. Several homes have been found for some of them, who have been taken into RSPCA care, and others are due to be collected in the near future.

Animal welfare officer Paula Milton said: “There were around 18 cats at the Neath location and new owners have been found for many of them, but we have a couple who are still looking for homes.

“While at the Carmarthenshire location there are around 12 adults, four older kittens and five young kittens who we are shortly going to be arranging to collect. We’ve been working closely with Cats Protection who are going to help with neutering these cats and support rehoming.

“Clearly, we are expecting a bit of an influx of cats needing to be rehomed. If you are interested in providing a home for a rescue cat – we’d love to hear from you – please keep an eye on our Find A Pet website over the coming weeks.”

Under current Covid rehoming protocols anyone interested in fostering or adopting an animal from the RSPCA should visit the charity’s website to see which animals are available near you and should check with their local centre for the current process applicable in that area.

New coronavirus local lockdown restrictions have impacted rehoming procedures at RSPCA centres in Newport, and Bryn-Y-Maen in Upper Colwyn Bay. Due to restrictions on people entering and leaving the local authority area, animal adopter appointments can only be offered to those living locally, until further notice. This is to avoid encouraging travel in and out of lockdown areas.

In regards to RSPCA Llys Nini Animal Centre in Swansea – please contact the centre for more information on changes to their rehoming procedures.