THE rapid expansion of the cat population poses a big problem locally as in many other areas of the country.

The Cats Protection League, the UK's largest feline charity, this week launched a free neutering scheme in St Helens for cats belonging to owners on low income.

The League points out that a female un-neutered cat can be responsible for 20,000 descendants over five years.The aim is to persuade all owners to have their pets neutered to preven unwanted cats and kittens roaming out of control or becoming wild.

Until March16, St Helens and Warrington Branch of Cats Protection League, along with many other branches around the country, will be providing the free neutering service

"Like many areas of the country, we have a problem with unwanted cats and kittens. Responsible preventative measures such as neutering need to be taken very seriously by cat owners", said Kath Jones, St Helens Branch Coordinator. "Our full-cost neutering voucher scheme aims to help stop the problem where it starts to reduce the number of abandoned and suffering cats in this area".

The campaign has been timed for maximum effectiveness, according to Debbie Pearce, Head of Operations at Cats Protection. "Anecdotal evidence would suggest that the kitten season is starting earlier in spring due to the recent spate of milder winters", she said. "By starting our campaign in February, we hope to reach female cats before the toms do. Additionally, despite some male cat owners' fears that neutering tom cats is the unkindest snip of all, we would stress that neutering both male and female cats is essential for controlling the cat population".

To obtain a full-cost neutering voucher should call the St Helens Branch of Cats Protection on 01744 817718. It should be noted that full-cost neutering vouchers are limited and are issued on a first-come, first-serve basis.