Life under lockdown has yielded an unexpected bonus for some of Battersea’s loneliest animals – unlimited cat cuddles and double daily walkies.
The south London-based charity, ordinarily home to up to 400 cats and dogs across its three sites, currently has around 60 would-be pets cared for by a skeleton staff as social distancing and temporary safety measures introduced following the coronavirus outbreak continue to pose challenges for operations.
But despite the changes – and a multimillion-pound drop in its revenue stream – Battersea Dogs and Cats Home said its long-term residents have been enjoying the extra attention after staff doubled rehoming efforts and sent another 150 animals out for fostering in the week leading up to lockdown, leaving the number of furry occupants at just a fraction of their normal capacity.
Rob Young, head of centre operations, told the PA news agency: “The animals are quite happy, the ratio of staff per animal is probably higher than it normally would be before the lockdown so all the dogs are getting at least two walks a day along with some socialisation, and all the cats are getting as many cuddles as they wish.
“Not all cats like a cuddle as you probably know.
“There’s no stress, with (fewer) trains going past the Battersea centre in London in particular.
“The dogs haven’t been walked off site because we didn’t want to risk it in that way. Otherwise we’ve got the paddocks, we’ve got the green areas within the three centres (London, Windsor and Brands Hatch) as well, so they’ve been getting a lot of attention. They’ve been quite happy.”
Mr Young said the charity was “inundated” with requests to temporarily foster animals as lockdown restrictions were introduced, and said they were concerned some pets would no longer be wanted as vast numbers of people were urged to work from home.
He said: “We were worried that we’d see a lot of animals abandoned at our door because of the situation that people find themselves in, but we’ve not seen that either.
“I think we’ve been pleasantly surprised with how the public have reacted quite responsibly and the great British public being the animal lovers that they are, I think they’ve responded really well. So we’re really pleased actually how it’s gone so far.”
The charity has now received clearance from Defra to begin rehoming animals, under strict conditions, while preparing to reopen properly when allowed to do so.
But despite the workaround, the pandemic has caused its revenue stream to be severely affected through a lack of key fundraising events such as marathons.
Mr Young said: “We expect to lose an awful lot of money over the course of this year. We think anything up to about £11 million over the next 12 months.
“So we’re able to carry on functioning as we always would. We have enough reserves to be able to care for our animals and look after our staff.
“But obviously it is a concern that we aren’t able to fundraise like we used to do, the same as everybody else.”
For more information on adoption, visit battersea.org.uk