Dunstable pilot scheme will track stray cats

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A major community project to track numbers and improve the welfare of stray cats in Houghton Regis and Dunstable will be launched this week.

Cats Protection’s Community Cat Watch scheme aims to track and record all homeless cats living in the postcode areas LU5 5 and LU5 4 in order to improve their long-term welfare.

Residents, community groups and businesses are being urged to help by reporting unowned cats through a specially-developed mobile phone app, Facebook page, weekly drop-in community hubs or by email, text or phone.

The charity hopes that by identifying cats living on the streets, it can better target its welfare and neutering work, helping both strays and the community where they live.

Cats Protection’s Head of Neutering Jane Clements said: “There are stray and feral cats living on the streets in all towns and cities, and a large number of these have become much-loved community cats.

“However, because many of these cats are unneutered, the number of homeless cats can rapidly increase and create a problem, both for their own welfare and the community as a whole. We’ll be working closely with the community in Houghton Regis and Dunstable to locate these cats and improve their health and welfare, through measures such as neutering.

“While we have the skills and tools available to help cats in need, we really need local people to help us locate them first. We’ll be regularly visiting prominent locations in the area so people can chat with us face to face, or residents can use our mobile phone app or text us to report a stray cat – it really couldn’t be simpler to get involved.”

The scheme will include a number of measures to enable residents to help build a picture of the number of homeless cats, including:

>Mobile phone app: The Cat Watch app will help local people report a stray or feral cat to Cats Protection. The app has been designed to be simple and easy to use, and is free to download on iPhone or Android. To download it, search for ‘Cat Watch’.

>Community Hub: Residents can come along to report sightings or discuss any concerns they have about stray or feral cats at one of the following mobile community hubs:

>Every Tuesday from 27 February to 1 May: From 11am until 1pm at Bedford Square Community Centre, Tithe Farm Rd, Houghton Regis, LU5 5ES.

>Every Wednesday from 21 March to 2 May: From 12pm until 2pm at Dunstable Library, Vernon Place, Dunstable, LU5 4HA.

>Email, text or call: Report sightings of stray or unowned cats to Cats Protection’s Community Neutering Officer Carly Bradbury by email on carly.bradbury@cats.org.uk or phone on 07968 470323.

>Facebook: The Cat Watch Facebook page will make it simple and easy to report a stray, and find out more about the scheme. Find it by searching for ‘Community Cat Watch’.

Cats Protection is the UK’s largest cat charity, helping around 190,000 cats every year through a network of over 250 volunteer-run branches and 34 centres.

Cats are prolific breeders, with females capable of giving birth to around 18 kittens a year, which means outdoor populations can quickly grow if cats are not neutered.

While there are around 10.3 million domestic cats living as pets in the UK, there is no reliable estimate of how many stray and feral cats live outdoors.

The project in Houghton Regis and Dunstable is part of a wider pilot scheme which has so far been trialled in Nottingham, Everton and Bradford. If successful, it will be rolled out to other parts of the UK with the aim of improving the welfare of the nation’s cats.