Cats Protection

Posted on: 25 March 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves

Cats Protection, (formerly The Cats' Protection League), is the biggest UK charity devoted to the welfare of cats.

A Long And Noble History

Cats Protection, (formerly The Cats' Protection League), is the biggest UK charity devoted to the welfare of cats.  This year the charity celebrates its 75th birthday, and one can only wonder at the thousands upon thousands of cats it has helped and saved during that time. 

The Start

A group of cat lovers and pedigree breeders met in Caxton Hall, London on 26 May 1927, under the chairmanship of Miss J. Wade, to form a society devoted exclusively to promoting the interests of cats. The Cats Protection League (the CPL) was launched as an educational society to raise the status of cats. However, the founder members soon realised that practical cat rescue work would also have to be undertaken if they were to achieve their aims.

Mr Albert Steward was the CPL’s first General Secretary. His great ambition was to create a free purpose-built clinic in Slough where sick, injured and stray cats could be treated. In the early days, the charity’s work spread with the support of existing cat clubs around the country that were willing to further the CPL’s aims.

Every effort was made to attract supporters and members, donations and legacies for the CPL’s work. Expenditure was carefully balanced with the accumulation of a reserve fund that, over time, has enabled the creation of an organisation that has stood the test of time.

Prestbury Lodge in Slough was officially opened on 5 July 1935 as the organisation’s first Headquarters. The back garden was earmarked for the future construction of the purpose-built clinic. The property had been donated to the CPL by an early supporter.

A CPL monthly publication, The Cats Mews Sheet, first appeared in January 1931 as a medium for feline-related suggestions, enquiries and information. In January 1934, the publication doubled in size to eight pages and changed its name to The Cat.

The CPL’s first calendar, The Velvet Paws calendar, appeared in 1933 priced at 1/6d. From its modest beginnings, demand for the charity’s calendars has grown steadily with sales now in excess of 70,000 annually.

The first Cat Week was organised by the CPL in Slough in October 1933. It was so successful that the supporting Cat Clubs followed suit. Cat Week prospered during the 1930s, petered out during the war, became the principal fund-raising event during the 1950s and 1960s then faded away again before enjoying another revival in 1993 as National Cat Week. Cats Protection Week, as it’s now known, is held in September each year.

The War Years

During the war, the CPL produced a series of informative leaflets and posters concerning the physical safety of cats during the war, the problems of feeding which lay ahead with the advent of food rationing and the expected increase in the number of strays roaming the streets as a result of bombing, evacuation and family disruption. Regular articles in The Cat supported these efforts and co-operation with other animal welfare organisations resulted in the formation of the National Air Raid Precautions for Animals Committee to alleviate animals’ suffering and distress.

The CPL’s services were considerably reduced during the war. Members were scattered and it became difficult to co-ordinate activities. Nevertheless, a skeleton service in London and some provincial cities struggled on with the CPL supplying baskets, pens, cages, collars and advice to cat owners. The work of the initial cat clinic at Prestbury Lodge also continued during this time.

The Tailwavers Scheme was introduced in June 1940 to provide a fund for the Prestbury Lodge clinic’s work as well as to help the bombed-out cats of London. In the first year 187 cats were enrolled as Tailwavers at a cost of 5/- per feline.

Post war: the 1950’s and 1960’s

The CPL’s voluntary Branch and Group network started in 1946. In theory, CPL Groups were responsible for fundraising and CPL Branches for active cat rescue work. However, in practice, there was little difference and many Groups eventually became Branches. The network remained relatively small until the mid-1970’s when several factors caused its growth (see below).

Due to the increased availability and affordability of veterinary neutering procedures in the 1950’s, the London Committee of the CPL introduced an assisted neutering scheme for cats with other Branches following suit.

Constant appeals for funds continued during this time for the creation of the purpose-built clinic at Slough. By the mid-1960’s, the clinic was at last in full operation and continued to operate until 1978 when the CPL’s Headquarters moved to Horsham, West Sussex.

Increasing affluence in the early 1950’s created a growth in the charity’s cat rescue and rehoming work. A country property in Haslemere, Surrey, was acquired for cattery purposes in the early 1950’s which became the first CPL Shelter to provide temporary refuge for cats in need.

Onwards and upwards

The CPL Branch network grew rapidly throughout the UK from the late 1970’s to early 1980’s with 20 to 30 new Branches forming and many new members joining every year. Prior to this time, the network had been a relatively small, self-initiating affair with only 34 Branches in existence in 1978. The reasons for the charity’s growth at this time were threefold: the CPL’s increased professionalism; improvements to the format of The Cat; and more representation from regional members on the CPL’s central committees.

A small CPL Shelter network existed in the late 1970’s. By the turn of the century some 20 years later, a national network of 29 HQ and Branch Shelters had been created with plans in place to further expand both the charity’s Shelter and Branch networks.

The CPL’s commitment to feline neutering was further strengthened in 1970 with the introduction of a national assisted neutering voucher scheme by the charity’s Headquarters. The scheme, still in existence today, provides financial support to people on a low income to have their cats neutered. It is estimated that one in ten cats in the UK are currently neutered through the financial support of the charity.

In the 1980’s, moves were made to further interest young people in the work of the CPL. A junior page was introduced in The Cat, and, in 1990, a teaching pack was introduced as a resource for primary school students. The provision of educational resource packs to primary and secondary school students continues to the present day, and, further publications have been successfully developed for the charity’s younger members.

Seventy-five years on, the feline welfare message of Cats Protection, as the charity has been known since 1998, has well and truly spread across the UK. With its network of 29 Shelters and 250 voluntary Branches, Cats Protection helps around 170,000 cats and kittens every year. The charity’s longstanding aims remain as follows:

  • To rescue stray and unwanted cats and kittens, rehabilitate them and rehome them where possible.
  • To encourage the neutering of all cats and kittens not
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