An animal welfare group has hailed the success of its programme to control Hong Kong's feral and stray cat population, but it had a word of warning for people who feed them.
The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) set up its Cat Colony Care Programme in 2000. The method behind its attempts to stabilise and reduce the number of stray and feral cats involves three steps: trap, neuter and release.
The rise in the number of homeless cats it has treated has been dramatic, and the results have been impressive. In 2000, 355 cats were handled. The figure last year was 6,317.
"There's a decreasing trend concerning complaints about these cats. We're having to euthanise fewer animals and we're seeing fewer sick cats," said Fiona Woodhouse, the SPCA's deputy director of welfare. "It also shows that it has been effective in drawing public participation to control the stray cat population."
The organisation does not necessarily support people feeding cats that live on the streets, because if they are fed without being de-sexed, their reproduction rate increases and their numbers rise again.
"This will end up increasing problems and triggering complaints. If you are feeding these cats regularly, you should make sure they're neutered," Woodhouse said.
She added that the cats were capable of surviving by themselves.
Last month, Jim Collins, 72, and his wife Sue, 67, had their membership at Hebe Haven Yacht Club suspended for three months for feeding feral cats despite the club's protests.
Collins said he had been a member of the club since he first moored his houseboat there 20 years ago. He and his wife lived on board and now have no home.
"You have to have permission from the landowners or the management before feeding these feral cats," Woodhouse said.
But she also said that the SPCA had a registered colony at Hebe Haven and they were happy to talk with club officials to try to find an amicable solution.