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IN many parts of the world, including the UK, there is an overpopulation of companion animals. In some cases, this may be a relative problem, for example, an excess of particular breeds or types of dogs. However, for cats the overpopulation issue is considered to be the product of sheer numbers. It has been shown in the UK that the number of unowned cats may be higher than the number of unowned dogs, with one study reporting over 150,000 cats entering UK shelters in 2010, compared with 90,000 dogs in the same period (Stavisky and others 2012). Another study showed that the numbers of dogs and cats entering shelters in 2009 was approximately 130,000 (Clark and others 2012). This discrepancy shows the difficulty in collecting reliable data about this important animal population. Currently, there is no statutory requirement to register rescue shelters and rehoming centres, in contrast to boarding kennels and pet shops, and this makes identifying and assessing this population a matter of some logistical difficulty.
It is clear, however, that there is a large population of cats that are unwanted. These cats may be free-roaming strays or ferals which, given access to appropriate resources, can be extremely prolific, causing nuisance and public health problems. There are welfare implications associated with uncontrolled breeding, including the transmission of infectious diseases. Unwanted cats may also be relinquished by their owners …
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