The National Committee for the Protection of Animals expects to meet by next month to decide how a one-off €75,000 state grant can be best used to help control Cyprus’ out of control cat population.
The Committee was created by the state and is made up of stakeholders from the public and private sector, including animal welfare activists.
The one-off €75,000 grant announced by the Cabinet last week will likely go towards reviving a cat sterilising and neutering scheme that had just begun to show results when its €50,000 per year funding was cut off when the crisis bit in 2012-2013.
Committee member and president of C.A.T. Paws Cyprus Dinos Ayiomammitis said that while it was impossible to provide an exact figure: “There are two stray dogs or cats for every one person in Cyprus”.
He told the Cyprus Weekly that, based on the large numbers volunteers have recorded, the population of stray cats in Cyprus could easily be up to 1.5 million.
“A tom and a queen can directly contribute to the birth of 40,000 to 42,000 kittens over a period of just five to six years,” Ayiomammitis noted.
“Things have got worse because state funding for neutering and sterilisation schemes has dwindled.” He said that the €50,000 annual funding covering all of the south of Cyprus had, by 2015, dropped to €10,000 and then just €5,000 by 2016, which was, in any case, taken out of the annual subsidy divided up between some 23 animal welfare organisations.
“We will be happy to use the promised €75,000, but for a real impact, at least €100,000 would have to be spent every year for a period of at least five years,” Ayiomammitis said.
He also said it remained to be seen whether regular funding for the purpose would be included in the Agriculture Ministry’s 2018 Budget.
The long-term animal welfare activist also noted that stray cats were vulnerable to all kinds of dangers: “A pet cat can live for 15, 18, even 20 years, but strays live for a maximum of five to eight years. They get ill, hit by cars, abused, poisoned.”
Too large a cat population can also be damaging, as in the case of Cape Greco, where protected birds are in daily peril, Ayiomammitis said.
C.A.T. Paws has been helping people with low incomes wanting to get cats neutered and Ayiomammitis said he intended to propose the Committee devoted some of the new funding to doing the same.
“I know of domestic helpers who spend most of their €360 per month pay to buy food for cats instead of sending it home to their family as intended,” he said.