A ground-breaking project to help stray cats, which has also brought benefits to people living in socio-economically deprived areas, has received a huge £100,000 funding boost.
Cats Protection’s Bulwell Cat Watch project set out to help improve the welfare of stray cats through an innovative community-partnership concept.
The scheme, which inspired local people to participate through a specially-developed mobile phone app and a community engagement approach, helped identify and neuter cats living on the streets.
Along with a similar scheme in Liverpool, the project has now received a huge funding boost following a £100,000 grant from Support Adoption for Pets, a charity which supports animal rehoming organisations.
Cats Protection’s Head of Neutering Jane Clements said: “This funding will make a huge difference to our work and enable us to expand our activities over the next 12 months.
“Our Cat Watch project has been a great success in improving the welfare of stray cats, by ensuring they’re neutered and in good health. But there’s also been an indirect benefit to the wellbeing and confidence of our community volunteers. By working closely with people living in the area, we’ve found people who had never had the confidence to join in social activities have been getting involved, making them feel part of the community and helping them feel less isolated.”
The benefits to the wellbeing of volunteers in Bulwell have now been documented in a research paper, and the concept is now being used in other areas of the UK.
Jane added that work on the Cat Watch project had been a long-term project, but the benefits to cats and the community would last well into the future.
She said: “Cats are prolific breeders, so if there are many unneutered strays on the streets they can quickly multiply and cause problems. The traditional approach has been for charities such as Cats Protection to carry out neutering programmes directly. While this can work well, the problem often re-emerges very quickly, as unneutered cats move into the area and the community do not feel they have any role in what happens, or have any feelings of ownership.
“Our project was all about forming a community-partnership, so that we could train and encourage local people to own the project in the future and keep the community cat population stable. It’s not a quick fix – we invested heavily in time and effort to engage with people through all sorts of means, from working with residents and community stakeholders to attending local events and groups and engaging with people on social media.
“Once the ground work was in place, it was clear to see that we had already made a huge positive impact in the way cats were viewed. We neutered cats, and the number of strays stayed low.”
Similar schemes are also running in Liverpool, Houghton Regis and Dunstable.
Laura Messenger, Grant Funding Coordinator at Support Adoption for Pets, said: “It is a real privilege to be able to help such an important organisation that works tirelessly to care for and rehome cats in need. They are doing a remarkable job, and we’re delighted to be able to support them so that they are able to continue helping more cats in need.”
Cats Protection is the UK’s largest cat charity, helping around 200,000 cats every year through a network of around 250 volunteer-run branches and 36 centres.