Thousands of kittens could be left homeless in Britain this year due to their owners being unable to neuter their cats throughout lockdown, experts have warned.
Cats Protection, the UK's largest feline welfare charity have estimated that a maximum of 84,000 more kittens than usual could be born as a consequence.
The rough estimate is based on the number of cats who are usually neutered and each cat having up to three litters a year but does not account for kitten mortality.
Felines can start mating from four months old and will mate even with cats that are related to them, leading to fears of a “kitten crisis” as unplanned pets are abandoned.
Many owners have been unable to get to the vets to neuter the animals during the lockdown measures and since the start of lockdown the RSPCA have seen 17 cat abandonments reported to them each day.
Jane Clements, Cats Protection Head of Neutering, said: "The key to avoiding a kitten crisis is prevention of unplanned litters.
"When you realise that an unneutered female cat can have up to 18 kittens per year, the size of the problem becomes clear.
"Keeping males and females apart and unneutered cats indoor will make a huge difference to the number of unwanted kittens that are born and will hopefully prevent a huge increase in the number of unwanted kittens."
RSPCA cat welfare expert Alice Potter said: "Whilst many parts of our daily lives have changed or been put on hold at the moment, the kitten season will not stop so it's important that cat owners are prepared.
"Cats aren't fussy about who they mate with and any related cats like brothers and sisters will mate so if they haven't been done, it's important to keep them apart.
A RSPCA spokesman said: "The UK has been facing a cat overpopulation crisis for many years.
"But with lockdown rules making access to neutering more difficult the plight of unwanted kittens is set to worsen."
Last year, 216,261 cats in England and Wales were neutered.