Numbers of London cat rescues increases since pandemic

Cat rescues by the London Fire Brigade are more common in outer London boroughs compared to those within the inner-city.

According to data from the Greater London Authority, rates of cat rescues from January 2009 to April 2024 were highest in Haringey.

Haringey, Enfield, Southwark, and Merton also saw sharp increases in the numbers of rescues since 2020 and 2022.

In Enfield for example, there has been a 200% increase in cat rescues between 2020-2023.

These figures appear to imply a general increase in cat ownership during the city’s Covid-19 lockdowns.

NB: Data has been analysed up to 2023 in the line graphs for proportional representation (Flourish).

Regarding the sharp increases in rescues since 2020, an outer borough south west London veterinary surgeon said: “We have seen lots of kittens since the lockdowns.

“Owners offload them to local charities such as Animal Rescue and Care as they don’t want to keep them, it’s very sad.

“We couldn’t keep up with the number of cats people were buying, we were on a restricted service so we had less availability.”

The surgeon explained cats, which are rescued by the London Fire Brigade or otherwise, are taken by ambulance to the RSPCA in north London and are often feral.

The breed and behaviour of bought or adopted cats can be a contributing factor to the numbers of cat rescues.

The surgeon said: “Breeders want to make money.

“Bengal cats for example prefer to be outside, they are not concerned for the cats’ safety.”

Maria, a veterinary nurse from Medivet Kingston, had a feral rescue cat that went behind the plumbing under her sink.

Maria said: “Rescued feral cats often plan to escape anywhere, we heard ours crying from under the pipes, and the London Fire Brigade arrived in ten minutes.

“We only had our cat for a few days before he got stuck, he was four months old.”

Isobel Rogers, a business affairs executive, said: “Be careful what breed of cat you get, I think fancy breeds lack common sense.

“Mine is fully free range, but he’s not street-smart.”

Rogers had her kitten Percy, a British Longhair, rescued ultimately by a tree surgeon in Southwark in 2019, after an unsuccessful attempt by the London Fire Brigade whose ladder was not long enough for the tree.

Rogers said: “I watched Grenfell burn as they had no ladders above a few floors, it was traumatising, but I was heartened that they tried with Percy, it was the best money I ever spent.”

Regarding Southwark’s high statistics of cat rescues, Rogers said: “Southwark is a big area and quite green, cats need to eat grass, self-regulate, and come and go as they please, and Percy loves being outside.”

Outer boroughs Bromley and Richmond Upon Thames, which have the most and the largest green spaces in London respectively, have slightly below the average number of cat rescues across London (162).

However, both have a significantly higher population than for example Kingston Upon Thames, with a population of almost 168,000, according to the 2021 census reported by the Office of National Statistics (ONS).

According to ONS, in 2021 Richmond upon Thames had a population of almost 200,000.

Bromley had almost 330,000, and boroughs among those with the highest cat rescue statistics, Enfield and Haringey, have around 330,000 and around 264,000 respectively.

These statistics imply that London’s green spaces and population density are balancing factors regarding the numbers of cat rescues in London’s outer boroughs, and that higher borough populations are likely to have a higher number of cat owners, of which London has 14% in the UK.

Regarding the low statistics of City of London, Rogers said: “Inner-city is really dangerous due to a lack of water sources, if you see a dirty cat it’s because they’re dehydrated, Percy went missing in a heat wave.

“Inner-city also does not support pet ownership, most people rent and you mostly can’t have a pet.”

Dylan Taylor, media officer at Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, said: “It’s important that new owners consider their current lifestyle and living environment to ensure that their routine is best suited to welcoming a pet into their lives.”

A London Fire Brigade spokesperson said: “Firefighters love animals too and we are ready, willing and able to assist distressed or injured animals.”

Featured image by Tugce Gungormezler on Unsplash

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