Three kittens Reuters

The People's Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA), a veterinary charity in the UK, has said that households across the UK are unprepared for the births of an estimated 4.3m kittens from unplanned litters. The charity revealed that 850,000 cats have had unplanned litters in the UK.

The PDSA, along with eight other animal charities that make up the Cat Population Control Group (CPCG) are urging owners to get their cats neutered and spayed to avoid a population explosion that would badly effect rescue centres already struggling to cope.

Nicola Martin, Head of Pet Health & Welfare at PDSA, said: "Our research has shown that unprepared cat owners are putting themselves in an unnecessary and potentially challenging position by not getting their cats neutered."

"The impact of this can be both costly and stressful if a cat becomes pregnant as it can be very difficult to find loving new homes for large numbers of kittens. As a result, we know that sadly many cats end up in rehoming and rescue centres."

The numbers come from estimates made by the charity after their research showed that only 15% of owners whose cats had had kittens had planned it. Another report said that 24% of owners who hadn't had their cats neutered said they simply "hadn't thought about it"; 13% said they hadn't got around to it, and 8% said it was too expensive.

Martin said: "Neutering has numerous health benefits for your cat and is, in fact not as expensive as many people think. By getting your cat neutered, not only will you be avoiding the risk of an unwanted or unplanned pregnancy but you will be reducing their risk of contracting diseases such as cancer or FIV – the feline equivalent of HIV."

"Many pet owners also believe that neutering should take place when their cat is around six-months-old but our advice is that for maximum health and welfare benefits, it should take place from four months of age."