Pandemic pets: Meet Willow the cat nobody wants


Words by ITV Central News Production Journalist Bron Mills

Willow is an 18-month-old cat with a sad history. Just one of many homeless cats being looked after by volunteers at Northwood Grange Cattery in Whitchurch.

She had no known health problems when she came into the cattery's care. The volunteers became worried about her, as she began to lose weight.

They believe she has been impacted by the stress of being in care and now she won't eat from a dish.

She has to be hand fed and volunteers are taking turns bringing her home every evening, and on weekends, to make sure she eats.

Pancake and Suzette, 8 years old, were living in a garden for 4 years after elderly owner passed away.

Yvonne Jennison, who owns the Northwood Grange Cattery, said the pandemic has introduced a wave of new complications for cats and kittens.

She told ITV Central she is seeing an increase in stress-related illness in cats in her care.

"We have had so many older cats put into our care, and more kittens than ever. With the older cats, in most cases - their owners have died and their families don't want to keep them."

Yvonne, who has run the site for 22 years, said the likely reason behind the growing numbers of kittens in her care is due to new cat owners in lockdown being unable to access a vet to get their pets neutered.

Lily is a mother of four kittens who is 10-months-old (left) and one of her kittens (right)

"Female cats can get pregnant when they are just months old. We have two mothers who are just 10 months," she said.

The cattery was rehoming around 100 cats on average per year, before the pandemic began.

Last year, that figure almost doubled to 185, and already this year, they have rehomed over 200.

Milo, Cinders, Ebony, Mickey

"At any one time, we used to have 20-25 cats in our care" Yvonne said, before adding: "Now, we have 50, and at a time it reached over 70".

Andrea Gabbitas is a trustee with the Shropshire RSPCA branch. She says that "we've all heard of lockdown puppies, but no one seems to be talking about the cats".

The cattery are continuing with their rehoming efforts, and have successfully rehomed over 200 cats this year. But with the increase in numbers, they are looking for more help.

"RSPCA Shropshire Branch welcomes enquiries from anyone who would be interested in becoming a fosterer. Full training will be provided and all expenses incurred (food, litter etc) will be paid by the branch."