Cat charity boss at centre of welfare scandal after it was revealed she kept 18 pets in her three-bedroom house QUITS… but insists her animals are ‘happy and healthy’
- Number of cats Linda Upson cared for reportedly left other staff despairing
- Keeping too many cats in one property can cause the pets to become stressed
- Charity’s CEO Charles Darley already announced resignation after scandal broke
The chairman of the UK’s largest cat charity has stepped down after it emerged she was keeping 18 cats in her three-bedroom house, even as she insisted they were ‘happy and healthy’ in her first public comments on the issue.
The number of cats Linda Upson was looking after had left other staff despairing, fearful about how the charity might be viewed and ‘nervous about using her as a spokesperson’.
The Essex-based charity – Cats Protection – has itself commissioned research into the problems of multi-cat households in the past, which found that environments that do not provide enough space can cause the pets considerable stress.
Guidance from the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs advises that cats must have ‘enough space so that they can get away from one another if they want to’.
The number of cats Linda Upson was looking after had reportedly left other staff despairing and fearful about how the charity might be viewed
Interim chief executive Charles Darley has already resigned after an internal investigation concluded Miss Upson should keep her position – only asking her to assure them she would not house any more of the pets.
He disagreed with the decision, telling the Telegraph that his welfare concerns were shared by five other animal charities who were consulted over the issue.
‘Make sure there’s enough space for them to get away from each other’: Defra’s guidance for looking after cats
DEFRA issued a ‘Code of Practice for the Welfare of Cats’ to go with the Animal Welfare Act 2006.
The document does not specify a maximum number of cats that can be kept in a house, but includes the following relevant sections:
‘If more than one cat shares a living space, provide sufficient extra resources (e.g. toys, beds, litter trays and hiding places) and give them enough space so that they can get away from one another if they want to.’
‘…. many cats are happier living without other cats and can be reluctant to accept new cats. A cat may suffer if they cannot avoid other cats they do not like or has to undertake activities such as sharing food bowls or litter trays.’
‘… keeping too many cats together can result in a stressful and unhealthy environment, which may make it difficult for you to meet the individual needs of your animals.
In a statement released yesterday, Miss Upson struck a defiant tone and insisted she had always properly cared for her animals.
‘I have today stepped down from my role as Cats Protection’s chair of trustees and my role as a trustee on the board because I passionately support Cats Protection and do not wish recent news coverage to detract from the charity’s vital work helping cats in need,’ she said.
‘Cat welfare and wellbeing have always been a paramount concern for me and I have always ensured my own cats and foster cats receive the best possible care.
‘My cats are aged between nine and 19 years old. I believe they are happy and healthy as each has their own feeding bowl, litter tray and other resources.
‘They are all fully vaccinated and regularly taken for veterinary consultations. I also have no foster cats at this time.’
Mr Darley – who was just three months into his 12-month contract when he decided to step down – previously described how Miss Upson said she ‘didn’t think it was a problem’ when confronted with concerns over her pets’ living arrangements.
He said: ‘I’ve been in and out of more than a dozen charities, and I’ve never encountered a position like this before.
‘Many of the [trustees] are passionate cat lovers, so they may see this behaviour through a different lens from people who love cats but don’t love them in quite the same way.’
Cats Protection has 10,000 volunteers and 1,000 employees who help care for some 126,000 cats and kittens, and the charity receives £75million in donations each year.
Several corporate sponsors are reported to have contacted the charity with their concerns after news reports first emerged of the scandal last week.
Interim chief executive Charles Darley recently announced he was leaving just three months into a 12-month contract
Angela Swarbrick, its deputy chairman, said: ‘We would like to thank Linda for her dedication to our organisation’s work on cat welfare for the past two decades.
‘We realise this has been a difficult time for Linda particularly following her decision to step back from her duties as chair between mid-December 2021 and January 2022 to consider her position with the charity.
‘Cats Protection takes governance seriously and our trustees follow the Charity governance code.
‘The charity undertakes regular reviews and has committed to an external review of its governance procedures and processes to ensure that we are confident in delivering the next 10 years of our strategy so we can do the best for cats.’