Rapid urban development has pushed up the number of stray cats and dogs in Beijing, and attempts to control the population are unlikely to be enough, an animal rights activist said yesterday. Zhao Xu , of the Association of Small Animal Protection, estimated at least 400,000 strays roamed the capital, many of them pets abandoned when their owners' homes were demolished to make way for new developments. 'There is no formal tally ... but there are definitely a lot more strays now than 10 years ago,' Ms Zhao said. 'There has also been very little public awareness of the need to neuter pet cats and dogs, so the speed at which the stray population multiplies is pretty high.' The association is working with animal hospitals to neuter 430 strays a month. Ms Zhao said the project, in conjunction with the Beijing Veterinarian Centre, marked the first step by the government to deal with the city's strays. The cost of the operations - about 200 yuan per cat - will be borne by the hospitals, while volunteers from animal welfare groups will trap and return the animals. The first batch of operations is due to take place on July 10. But a Hong Kong activist said similar projects elsewhere indicated that neutering such a small proportion of strays would have little effect. Fiona Woodhouse, of Hong Kong's Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said reports suggested that at least 65 per cent of the population would need to be neutered to stabilise or decrease the population.