“AMONG all the pain and suffering however, we also have a lot of happy endings too.”

Sylvia George volunteers at a local cat rescue service and has seen the best and worst outcomes for the growing number of cats they take in every year.

“Last year we re-homed 101 cats, some of whom had been left for dead,” she says.“We always carry out home checks before we allow a cat to be adopted and it is so heart warming when we see cats who had been abandoned settling in to their ‘furever’ homes - after what they have been through it must be pure, unimaginable luxury.

We delight in receiving regular photos and bulletins from people who have adopted our residents, showing not only how well the cat is settling in, but also how their lives have been enriched.”

Sylvia is one of a number of volunteers at PawPrints Cat Rescue in Bradford.

“I first heard about the rescue five years ago from a leaflet in a pet shop and we went on to adopt two kittens who were being cared for by a foster parent. I was inspired by the founder, Elaine, who has literally dedicated her life to rescuing, nursing back to good health and re-homing as many as is possible of the many abandoned and ill-treated cats and kittens roaming the streets.”

Since it's conception, and in common with other cat rescue services, the centre has grown.

“We are at crisis point in West Yorkshire - every rescue is at breaking point and we all need as much help as possible,” says Slyvia. “We have 60 cats/kittens at present at the rescue and in foster homes, along with a waiting list of hopefuls.

“Some of our volunteers are also helping a colony of cats and kittens who have been left on the streets to fend for themselves. Also, in the last few of days alone we have been alerted to a number of other cats and kittens in need of help.”

Carlos Flowerday also volunteers, fitting his work at the centre around his job in human resources.

“At the heart of it, it’s because I love cats; I’ve had them pretty much constantly ever since I was really young, and they’ve given me so much pleasure, laughter and love over the years. So, spending some of my spare time to try and help cats who have had a tough past seems like a small price to pay.”

“I fit volunteering around my job, so with long hours, it tends to be mainly weekends for me. Mostly, that means fund-raising; local supermarkets offer us days where we can collect cat food donations instore, as well as cash.

“Recently I have been to Tesco in Great Horton and Asda in Rooley Lane in a couple of weeks. It probably averages out at about a day every three weeks, though there are busier periods.”

Thankfully, instances where cats have been deliberately mistreated are fairly rare, but it’s a lot more common for a cat owner to simply ‘not bother’ to have their cat neutered, and that can soon store up real issues.

“Fund-raising is essential to keep pace with the costs of providing care for the cats, but it’s good fun too. People are so generous, plus everyone loves to talk about their own cats; lots of people stop and tell me that they’ve adopted cats from local rescues. You can do a little gentle education too, about the importance of having cats neutered.”

PawPrints also run stalls at local shows, fetes and festivals.

Cats are taken in for all sorts of reasons, explains Carlos, who has four cats of his own. “Thankfully, instances where cats have been deliberately mistreated are fairly rare.

“Sometimes, a cat’s owner dies, and none of their relatives want to home the cat; that’s one of the saddest things for me - a cat who has lived all its life in a proper loving home, suddenly having to come to a rescue with lots of other cats around.

“Last spring, we came across a cat we think had been a stowaway on one of the delivery lorries. He just turned up, very cold and hungry. We tried everything we could to try and find his owners, but with no success.”

Many problems are caused by owners failing to have their pet neutered.

Female cats can become pregnant from just four months old, when they’re still just kittens themselves. Colonies of un-neutered cats and their kittens can grow really quickly, with in-breeding exacerbating the spread of diseases like cat flu.

“The only way this suffering can be eliminated is through education and awareness,” says Sylvia, who owns seven cats. “We give out leaflets on neutering/spaying at events and fundraisers, covering information on charities who can help such as the Cats Protection, the RSPCA, PDSA and Blue Cross.”

Rachel Clegg came across the rescue in 2014 while searching for my missing cat. Sadly, he had died but she saw the work they were doing and wanted to help.

“We have grown a lot in 3 years and have a fantastic team of volunteers all with different skills whether hands on with the cats, arranging fundraising events, helping with the social media. I feel proud to be a part of that,” she says.

Rachel, who also has four cats, spends time cleaning and feeding the cats as well as giving them cuddles. “I spend a lot of time caring for and socialising them ready to find loving new homes,” she says. “I am often the one showing visitors round the rescue and I spend a lot of time taking pictures and promoting the cats and kittens on our Facebook page. I also spend a lot of time networking with other rescues in the area to help cats in crisis find rescue space.”

“Over the three years I have been involved in the rescue we have had a number of cats abandoned either in flat/house evictions, on the streets and on the doorstep - some pregnant, some sadly too ill to save.”

“We are currently helping on a situation where an organisation got a cat for ‘rodent control’ and failed to spay her which has resulted in a colony of more than 13 cats, most with cat flu and various other conditions.”

“I often think that people don’t mean to be cruel, it is just that they are uneducated on the benefits of having their cat neutered and vaccinated.”

She adds: “Rescue work is heartbreaking yet for the most past rewarding. It is a continual emotional roller coaster as you do not know what you are going to be faced with on a daily basis. We treat all the cats and kittens we rescue as if they were our own cats. The rewarding part is seeing those sa,d malnourished or poorly cats come in to us and transform into shiny coated, healthy, beautiful cats and finding amazing homes. That is why we do what we do.”

Says Sylvia: “We never cease to be amazed by the kindness of strangers who donate for the welfare of our cats, whether it's a monetary donation in our collecting buckets, a donation of food or by many other methods.”

People on various benefits qualify for free neutering or reductions.

“Volunteers are vital to us, and we would welcome help in other ways such as fundraising, fostering, donations or offering storage facilities,” says Sylvia.

*To contact the rescue: paws_in_need@yahoo.co.uk; PawPrints Cat Rescue Facebook; PDSA: 01274 740070