THE RSPCA has revealed they were called to 446 incidents of neglected and abandoned cats in Dorset this year alone – as they voiced fears a boom in kitten buying during lockdown could overwhelm rescue centres.

The charity said it had received more than 45,000 calls nationally relating to cats, while this July saw a sixfold increase in Google searches of ‘kittens near me’ compared to the same period last year.

The figures have been released after RSPCA bosses revealed they had also dealt with 71 incidents of

neglected and abandoned horses in Dorset this year, and 550 cases involving dogs.

Alice Potter, the RSPCA’s cat welfare expert, said: “It’s fantastic that so many people are interested in bringing a cat into their home this year.

“However, with such high increases in people searching for kittens online, it’s important that prospective owners are doing their research and not buying a kitten on impulse.

“This means making sure they have the time, money and resources to care for a cat for the rest of their lives, but also ensuring that if buying a kitten they are buying a healthy and happy kitten from a responsible breeder.

“It’s true that we see much higher cases of puppy farms than unscrupulous kitten breeders but it does happen which is why it’s so important to do your research and make sure you’re buying from a reputable seller.

“Sadly, we do see cases of cats coming into our care who have been bought without the correct vaccinations, care or attention and the results can not only be devastating for the cats themselves but also the new owners who have to provide the time and cost it takes to look after these very poorly kittens.”

The RSPCA said it would always encourage people who are able to care for a pet to consider adopting a rescue cat – and that it was ‘great’ that there had been a 114% increase in the amount of people searching for cats to adopt on the RSPCA’s Find A Pet page compared to last year.

The charity rehomed 24,095 cats last year – 244 of them in Dorset.