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Out of the bag . . . SPCA North Otago manager Rachel Van Grunsven with a cage full of abandoned cats. PHOTO: TYSON YOUNG

Since they shifted to Tokarahi 22 years ago, Steve Cooper and his wife have spent countless hours and hundreds of dollars helping abandoned cats that have been dumped in the rural district.

He believes the situation in North Otago has now reached a boiling point.

The most unnerving part of the problem was seeing dead “cats for Africa” strewn on the stretch of road between Tokarahi and Oamaru, he said.

Sometimes, people who dumped cats “genuinely” believed they were helping them, Mr Cooper.

“They think, by dumping them out in rural areas, the cats will live off rabbits. Cats don’t live off rabbits – they can’t.”

Soon after abandonment, many cats were killed by dogs, cars or humans.

The animals that managed to survive had to fight starvation and disease, and often died slow and painful deaths.

Mr Cooper has regularly seen pregnant cats dumped or new litters of kittens abandoned.

“If the mother is pregnant, they don’t hunt – therefore they don’t get enough to eat.”

Recently, Mr Cooper found a colony of cats near his home in Tokarahi.

He took the two female cats and a litter of five kittens to the Oamaru SPCA.

Everyone had to change their mind towards cats if they wanted to make a change, he said.

“They wouldn’t dump cute little puppies the way they dump cute little kittens. They wouldn’t run over puppies and just leave it – but they do with cats.”

One memory etched into Mr Copper’s mind is when he watched people throw a bag from the window of a passing car.

“I followed the car up, watched them spin the bag and throw it out the window.”

At first, Mr Cooper thought it was a bag of rubbish, but after pulling over to investigate, he found a badly injured kitten wrapped inside the bag.

SPCA North Otago manager Rachel Van Grunsven also believes there is a cat problem in North Otago.

Recently, she had three pregnant females brought into the SPCA, which she said was unusual for this time of year.

The North Otago branch had eight cats brought in on one day a couple of weeks ago.

“That must be a record for us,” she said.

Ms Van Grunsven believed the main reason behind the cat infestation was owners abandoning cats that had not been desexed.

It had also become the norm to get phone calls from real estate agents about cats being left behind on properties.

“Oamaru is pretty horrific for leaving cats behind at properties, and dumping.”

Ms Van Grunsven said the easiest solution to fixing the problem was for a person to avoid buying a cat if they could not afford to desex it.

“It’s just about being responsible and desexing – not dumping.”

Abandoning an animal without provisions for their needs is an offence under the Animal Welfare Act 1999.