HACKNEY is the cat capital of England, if not of Britain. Other local authorities pick up dogs, but according to the RSPCA, the borough is the only one to look after the cuddlesome wee creatures.
The animal-aid organisation notes with a purr of pleasure that in Hackney a full-time cat protection officer, Barbara Read, works with charities to rescue and nurse unwanted fur bags back to health.
The figures – 40 strays rescued and re-homed in the last year – may seem underwhelming, but they impressed the RSPCA and it give Hackney an Innovator award.
One cat was found with a litter of kittens under a bush on Hackney Marshes. A volunteer fostered the bureaucratically named “Ruby”, and her young, who have now all been rehomed.
A male kitten was found with his sister, mother and father in a Clapton garden. All were rescued and foster homes found. It became clear, however, that the “boy” was not developing.
Tests showed he was suffering from hypothyroidism, which is rare in cats. He is still on daily medication but, at six months, he is now healthy.
Neighbourhoods councillor Feryal Demirci, risking becoming known as the cat councillor, said in a press statement: “By helping cats as well as dogs and promoting responsible pet ownership we are going beyond our statutory duty as a council.
“There are a large number of stray and feral cats in the borough, including pregnant mums and cats with kittens, all in need of protection.”
Anyone thinking of getting a cat should ensure they could look give it proper attention, which included neutering, vaccination and microchipping “so that any cats that do up in our hands can be quickly reunited with their owners”.
She might have added that a bell added to a collar when a cat goes out can reduce the effect of these animals on ill-prepared native animals. Cat depredation on British wildlife is much argued about, but the death toll of birds, insects and small animals probably runs into millions.
Hamish Scott 141014
* If you can foster or help in any way, see Cats Protection, a feline welfare charity.
* Cat pictures supplied by Hackney council.