By ITV Central reporter Ravneet Nandra
Alice Childs and her partner Stephen Griffiths have had the cats since they were kittens, but to make sure they're fed, they sometimes have to go without eating themselves.
The charity Cats Protection say they're seeing more and more owners being forced to give up their pets as a last resort to save money.
Alice Childs' cats Trouble and Rascal are now five years old.
She says she's struggling to balance her bills and the cost of looking after them. She said, "It's not a situation I've ever been in before.
"I've always been able to pay the bills and have a bit of fun on top. Put a bit of money aside. We've always been able to look after them but now it's a situation where sometimes I don't even want to get out of bed let alone breathe".
Alice works full time as a catering assistant at museum sites.
Her partner was made redundant before the pandemic, and is currently struggling to find work.
Like many across the Midlands, Alice's energy prices have gone up.
But she has the added cost of cat food, treats and toys, which she says she can't keep up with, and sometimes skips eating so her cats can instead.
"Just feeding them alone is upwards of £40 a month. The two cats, four sachets a day, plus the dried food, plus the treats, the toys. It's hard work at times.
"Sometimes it gets to a case where we don't eat just to make sure they've got food. And now the bills have gone so far behind you not even being able to catch up, it might be better for them to have a better home. Somewhere where there is less stress in the environment and can guarantee food in their stomach every month.
The charity Cats Protection say they are seeing this all too often and fear that as costs continue to rise, they'll see larger numbers of kittens and cats being abandoned or given up for rehoming.
But they have some cost-cutting tips on concerned cat owners.
Adopt don’t shop - adopting through a cat rescue charity as adopting a cat is generally much cheaper than purchasing one. What fees there are usually cover the cost of essentials such as vaccinations, parasite control and microchipping.
Pet insurance - High vet bills can be incredibly stressful – make sure your cat is insured to help you cope with any unexpected costs.
Make your own toys - Toilet roll tubes or egg-boxes are perfect for making puzzle feeders to make meal times more interesting for your cat. Old socks can be reinvented into a fun cat toy – simply fill with a couple of spoonfuls of dried catnip, tie off the end and give to your cat to enjoy. A length of string and a garden cane can quickly be transformed into a fishing rod toy to dangle.
Cosy cardboard den - Cats don’t need fancy expensive cat beds – a cardboard box and a blanket or old jumper works just as well.
Treats - Cats don’t need fancy treats in addition to their regular meals. Not only are they likely to expand their waistline but they can lead to a tummy upset. Instead, try taking some dry food out of your cat’s daily food allowance to offer as treats. Also remember that plain old water is by far the best drink for cats - milk and cream should be avoided.
Going on holiday - Keeping your cat at home is the safest and least unsettling option when you go on holiday as they’re less likely to be stressed and be more content in their own environment.
DIY scratching stations - For a cost-effective addition to scratching posts, look out for old carpet samples which are often cheaply available or even free at carpet shops.
Heating- The majority of cats in the UK are moggies with thick fur and a knack for finding the cosiest spot in the house – so even if it feels chilly to you, your cat will most likely be perfectly snug.
Neutering- Not only does it prevent unwanted kittens being born, neutering reduces the chance of cats’ picking up illnesses and helps them stay happier and healthier. For those needing financial assistance, Cats Protection may be able to help through its means-tested neutering scheme. To find out more contact 03000 12 12 12.