We’ve come a long way from our humble beginnings in 1927 – from a time where cats roamed the streets and were regarded as pests, to the feline-loving society we live in today.
Cats Protection is now considered the UK’s largest feline welfare charity and along the way, has encouraged positive change in law as well as education. Last year we helped over 205,000 cats and kittens through our national network of over 250 volunteer-run branches and 32 adoption centres.
Take a look below at a brief history of Cats Protection from the beginning....
While the thought of cosying up with your cat on the couch is now considered a great way to spend the afternoon, it was unthinkable in the 1920s and unfortunately thousands of cats were subjected to cruelty, neglect and starvation.
A rabies outbreak in 1923 saw a restriction in the importation of cats and attention soon turned to the plight of the ordinary moggy. Under the chairmanship of Jessey Wade, cat-lovers came together to form a society devoted to promoting their interest, and so began the work of the Cats Protection League.
While originally set up as a way to inform and educate the general public, Cats Protection soon grew as a charitable organisation. The Cat’s Mews Sheet was founded in 1931, changing its name to The Cat in 1934, with Jessey Wade as Editor and continues to inspire and inform its readers today.
1935 was an important year for Cats Protection, gaining its first designated Headquarters, in Slough, through a legacy gift. Adapted for the care of sick and injured animals, it soon became renowned as a place for rescuing cats that had been left abandoned and in 1940, more than 200 people a month called on the Headquarters for help.
With the outbreak of war, the all-important Tailwavers Scheme was introduced in 1940 to help relieve suffering among cats in blitzed-out areas and proved particularly popular, with 187 cats joining the scheme in the first year.
Providing a temporary refuge for cats in need, it’s no surprise that the financial outlay was huge and in 1950, the charity was granted a legacy in the form of a country property in Haslemere, Surrey. During these post-war years, things moved quickly for our organisation as it sought to change legislation for positive change. 1951 saw the introduction of the Pet Animals Act, giving local authorities the power to inspect local pet shops. The 1954 Pests Act made it illegal to use spring traps, often intended for rabbits but also proving particularly dangerous to cats.
The Cat magazine celebrated its 21st anniversary in 1955 with an issue that highlighted the work of 16 branches around the country. This featured the history and events of larger branches in London, Manchester, Liverpool and Edinburgh, to smaller branches in Bradford and Bexhill.
With the ever-changing decade of the 1960s came numerous changes in animal protection laws and as a result, it became an offence to abandon an animal without reasonable cause. In 1963, cat boarding establishments became subject to strict licensing – something Cats Protection had been campaigning for.
Unsurprisingly, membership grew considerably and in 1977, the organisation reached over 10,000 supporters. The headquarters at Prestbury Lodge, Slough was sold in 1978, moving to a new setting in Horsham where the charity could concentrate its efforts on accommodation for cat rehabilitation.
Celebrating its 60th anniversary in 1987, A Passion for Cats was published as a compendium of writings on the care and history of the animal. Giving an insight into the charity’s work, it sold over 35,000 copies.
Renowned as an organisation for informing and educating the public, the organisation began to target school pupils in the introduction of their first teaching pack for primary school children. Distributed to teachers for free, it proved particularly popular and has now expanded to include teaching packs aimed at Key Stage 1 and 2 pupils as well as Key Stage 3 and GCSE students.
1998 saw the organisation rebrand from the Cats Protection League to the charity we know today. With a new logo and new name, Cats Protection began to promote its work at events and shows across the UK. Along with several veterinary trade shows, the charity has a presence at a range of popular lifestyle shows including the Knitting and Stitching Shows, the BBC Good Food Shows and Your Horse Live.
Our National Cat Centre in Chelwood Gate opened in 2004, combining all of Cats Protection’s work – from cat adoption and education to veterinary care and administration.
2007 was a particularly special year for the charity – it marked our 80th anniversary and saw us firmly establish ourselves as the largest feline welfare charity in the UK, helping over 140,000 cats every year with the assistance of an invaluable ever-growing group of volunteers.
April 2013 saw the launch of Find-a-cat, with many potential adopters using the tool to input their postcode and seek out a new pet. With a television advertising campaign increasing awareness in 2014, there continues to be cats and kittens placed in new homes.