Huge surge in abandoned cats and dogs as RSPCA urges struggling owners to use pet food banks

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The cost-of-living crisis is forcing increasing numbers of owners to hand over their pets to charities and rescue organisations as food bills and vets’ fees rise.

Older people and middle-income earners are the largest groups giving up their cats, The Independent can reveal.

Caseloads at both Dogs Trust and Cats Protection are at record levels, while RSPCA officers are dealing with 25 per cent more abandonments year-on-year.

And it comes as struggling owners are being encouraged to use pet food banks to feed their animals as costs become prohibitively high for many people.

Cats Protection says it experienced a 90 per cent increase in older people passing on their cats in 2022 compared with the year before.

Some 400 older owners asked CP to take on their cat, exacerbating waiting lists of animals needing rehoming.

The charity used modelling based on handover data to judge which sorts of owners were worst hit by the inflation crisis, and it found a 44 per cent increase – to 900 – in families handing over cats to the charity last year. Numbers of young single people giving up cats rose 58 per cent to 200.

Meanwhile, owners asking the Dogs Trust charity to take their pet went up by 19 per cent last month alone, from 42,000 in November.

A leading dog welfare charity has seen an increase in people looking to give away their best friends

The RSPCA’s Animal Kindness Index for last year found seven in 10 pet owners were worried about the cost of caring for their animals and a fifth were concerned about how they would afford to feed them.

Inflation is running at 10.5 per cent, and despite government intervention, average energy prices have nearly doubled in six months to £2,500 and are due to rise to £3,000 in April 2023.

Nearly one in three (31 per cent) dog owners are worried the cost of living will curb their ability to give their pet all the care it needs this year, the Dogs Trust found in a YouGov survey earlier this month.

Cats Protection has said middle income earners account for the majority of people giving up pets

Cats Protection said that, unusually, most relinquishments appeared to be coming from middle-income earners, with particular trouble spots in the east and south of England and Wales.

Last year animal-welfare campaigner Dominic Dyer urged ministers to set up a “cost of living pet crisis fund” amid fears that millions of dogs and cats could be put down or abandoned as people struggled with pets’ bills.

The RSPCA and Blue Cross have both set up pet food banks for owners and animals in need, saying demand for help is at record levels.

“No pet should have to go hungry and no one should have to choose between feeding themselves or feeding their pets,” the Blue Cross says.

Both charities, which are also appealing for donations, have suggestions online for owners on how to save money to encourage people to keep their pets if possible, so that fewer need rehoming.

Sites of local food banks can be searched on their websites.