Sunday, 25 August 2013

Crisis: Cyprus, island invaded by stray cats

After drastic cuts on sterilization programmes

22 August, 15:01
 Cats in a Cyprus shelter
(ANSAmed) - NICOSIA, AUGUST 22 - The population of stray cats in Cyprus is out of control after the grave economic crisis hit this Mediterranean island which has drastically cut funding over the past two years for the sterilization of stray animals.

The situation is getting worse, according to a report in the Cyprus Mail, due to the well-known fertility of cats: a female cat can give birth to up to eight kittens three times a year and with the end of sterilization programmes the capital Nicosia and cities along the coast including Larnaca, Limassol, Paphos, Aya Napa and Potaras risk being invaded by cats.

Apart from problems related to hygiene and nighttime cries and fights, local animal rights activists are concerned by a rising number of poisonings and acts of cruelty against cats.

'Sterilization and castration are the only way to prevent the problem from getting worse', the president of the Cypros association for the prevention of cruelty against animals (Cspca) Toula Poyadji told the paper. 'If cats continue to reproduce at this rate, citizens will have to deal with the kittens in whatever way they consider fit'.

Until 2011 the agriculture ministry allocated funding to vet services to fund a programme to serilize and castrate the animals. A ministry employee who asked not to be identified said the government allocated 17,000 euros from 2006 until 2007. The sum grew to 34,000 euros for 2008 and 2009 and further increased to 50,000 euros for 2010 and 2011. 'Unfortunately, due to the crisis, these funds were cut. The ministry still gets suggestions on possible solutions but disregards them', the employee was quoted as saying. With the funding, authorities were able to castrate some 1,700 cats and the feline population was growing anyway.

Some 300 per city were castrated though about another 300 could be found in every district of a city, said Maria Anastasi, president of local animals' rights group 'A vpoice for animals' and a teacher at the police academy on issues concerning the protection of animals.

Other rights' groups have started their own sterilization programmes and have asked government agencies and vets for help, so far unsuccessfully.

'We asked them to castrate the cats at half price between August and December, when cats mate, but our idea was not welcomed', said Toula Poyadji, recalling that Cspca in the past 10 years helped a lot of people sterilize their cats paying part of the price for the operation.

Meanwhile the growing number of cats is also putting shelters on the island under pressure, such as one near the monastery of Ayios Neophytos close to Paphos in which about 200 cats are cared for, though their number is growing by the day.

In the past four months alone, 100 kittens were abandoned there, said Dawn Foote who has volunteered at the shelter with husband Mark for the past two years.

'The problem is peopledon't have money anymore to make it to the end of the month', so they can't provide for their cats or much less sterilize them, she said.