Animal charities are warning of the potential population explosion of abandoned cats unless people have their pets neutered.
They say that more than 850,000 cats in the UK have had accidental litters, creating a welfare crisis as there are not enough people willing to give the kittens homes.
Stray cats are not only at risk of suffering disease and starvation they are also a threat to wildlife when they struggle to survive on the streets or in the countryside.
With rescue centres at risk of being overloaded with unwanted kittens, nine welfare charities have united on World Spay Day to call on owners to have their pets sterilised.
The charities, which make up the Cat Population Control Group, say there are already 11 million cats in Britain and thousands are being abandoned every year as females continue to fall pregnant at an alarming rate.
Research from vet charity PDSA has revealed that only 15 per cent of cat owners whose animals have had kittens planned for the litters.
Nicola Martin, head of pet health and welfare at PDSA, said: “Our research has shown that unprepared cat owners are putting themselves in an unnecessary and potentially challenging position by not getting their cats neutered.
“The impact of this can be both costly and stressful if a cat becomes pregnant as it can be very difficult to find loving new homes for large numbers of kittens.
“As a result, we know that sadly many cats end up in rehoming and rescue centres.
“Neutering has numerous health benefits for your cat and is, in fact, not as expensive as many people think.
“By getting your cat neutered, not only will you be avoiding the risk of an unwanted or unplanned pregnancy but you will be reducing their risk of contracting diseases such as cancer or FIV – the feline equivalent of HIV.
“Many pet owners also believe that neutering should take place when their cat is around six-months-old but our advice is that for maximum health and welfare benefits, it should take place from four months of age.”
According to PDSA’s Animal Wellbeing (PAW) Report, produced in conjunction with YouGov, nearly a quarter of cat owners whose cat has not been neutered said it was because they “hadn’t thought about it”.
Other top reasons for not getting the procedure done included simply not getting around to it and that it was too expensive.