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France faces explosion in kitten population

Animal welfare groups have taken in thousands of young cats this summer after sterilisation programmes stalled during coronavirus confinement

It's an unexpected side-effect of the coronavirus crisis: the number of stray and abandoned kittens in France has soared, leaving animal shelters desperately short of space.

France has seen an explosion in its cat population, after sterilisation programmes were halted by confinement. The Société Protectrice des Animaux (SPA) said it had taken in more than 8,000 animals over the summer.

Most of them, the association's president, Jean-Charles Fombonne, said, were immature cats. "We have more cats in our shelters than in other years. The only explanation is the lack of sterilisation in March and April," he told AFP.

He said that, in a normal year, a relatively small number of cats would be abandoned. But, in 2020, he said that people had been handing in kittens they found in their gardens.

The SPA has launched 'adoption month' at its 62 shelters across the country in a bid to find homes for some of its new, young arrivals.

The Confédération nationale de défense de l'animal, which brings together 270 animal protection associations, also warned the situation was "very worrying for the kittens that are welcomed in large numbers in its member shelters".

It described the rise in kittens being brought in as "a real challenge" for animal welfare groups, volunteers and foster families, and said that sterilisation should be a general and required practice. It warned a pair of unsterilised cats can lead to the birth of 20,000 kittens in 4 years.

Abandoning an animal, including cats, is a crime punishable by up to two years in prison and a fine of €30,000.

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