A national cat welfare charity has today launched a desperate appeal for people to neuter their pets following fears that 2011 could be the worst year yet for unwanted kittens.

Cats Protection has made the appeal because it experienced an 18 per cent increase in kittens arriving at its adoption centres during summer 2010 and this has led to concerns that this year could be even worse.

And early indications are worrying as the organisation’s volunteers and staff are already reporting dumped litters of kittens, which has left the charity wondering how it will cope if its fears are founded.

“Although we always take in a large number of kittens during the warmer months, the exceptional increase we experienced last year put an intolerable strain on our already limited resources and I’m worried what this could mean for us in 2011,” explained Ian MacFarlaine, Cats Protection’s Neutering Manager.

“By alerting people to the potential kitten crisis I’m hoping to call a halt to the spiralling numbers of kittens in the UK. Just one unneutered female cat can produce up to 18 offspring in one year so neutering really will help drive down the number of unwanted kittens. We can provide financial assistance to owners on limited incomes to help them get their cat neutered so there really isn’t any reason we can’t reduce kitten numbers.”

On average, the charity takes in a staggering 5,700 unwanted kittens each year through its branch and centre network and looking after those kittens costs a total of £1.9 million.

Pippa, Paul, Primrose and Peter are examples of unwanted kittens in need of homes this year. They were born at Cats Protection’s National Cat Adoption Centre in Sussex to a mother cat called Poppy. Ian explained: “Poppy was pregnant when she was brought to us - the owner was concerned they wouldn’t be able to cope once Poppy’s kittens arrived. Though we do our best to help every cat, cases like this highlight that owners can relieve the pressure on themselves and charities like Cats Protection by getting their cat neutered.”

Meanwhile, Cats Protection’s Bridgend Adoption Centre in Wales has just taken in a five-week-old abandoned kitten named Annie. When she was found, Annie was thin, covered in fleas and suffering with cat flu; the centre is currently nursing her back to health.

To seek advice on neutering, please call Cats Protection’s national Helpline on 03000 12 12 12 (lines open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm) or log on to www.cats.org.uk