AN ANIMAL welfare and rehoming group rescued 24 "badly abused and neglected" cats from one property earlier this month, despite its struggle to survive through the Covid-19 crisis.

Cat Watch Wilts, set up in August from a home in Amesbury, had not planned to take in or rehome any more cats during the virus outbreak that had halted its planned fundraisers.

Founder Marnie Buckland rescued the litter from a site in Pewsey however, made up of 13 adults and 11 kittens, after allegedly not being able to gather further support from Cats Protection or the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA).

Following the rescue on May 7 Marnie, who works as a portfolio support officer while running the shelter, had 35 cats in her care that were looking for new homes, in addition to her own 16 felines.

After collecting the cats, Marnie told the Journal: "I feel really good that these are now safe, they can make a new start.

"They needed to come here so it would be ridiculous if I didn't help, but now I am running out of room and it isn't fair on the cats."

The litter had been checked over by vets and brought to better health, but according to Marnie four have broken tails, one appears to be blind in one eye and the whole litter came to her with flu.

One of the cats from the litter, Tiny Flash, passed away this morning with Marnie describing the cats as "badly abused and neglected" in their previous home.

She added: "Tiny had a tumour in his nasal passage. I'm so angry I can't tell you, and feeling very broken."

Marnie is now liaising with the RSPCA to get the previous owner outed and banned from owning future animals.

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To accommodate the rest of the cats Marnie has two shelters which can home four felines, a room in her home is a dedicated 'foster home' for the cats, friends and family have accepted some of the animals and a catio is planned for the garden patio area.

However with recent attention turned to the NHS and Covid-19, the shelter is no longer raising money or receiving as many donations.

Marnie said she had maxed out her credit cards for the cause, adding: "This [pandemic] has been difficult for everyone, but we are really struggling without our fundraisers, and it doesn't help that people believe cats spread Covid-19 which is such a shame.

"Usually we make money from jumble sales but obviously we can't do that at the moment.

"If I had the money I would build more shelters but at the moment we just need funds to push through Covid-19."

Since August the shelter has rescued and rehomed more than 100 cats.

"Cats are being hurt, abandoned, [and] people just want cats as birthday presents. It's heartbreaking. I want to help as many cats as I can," Marnie added.

"People take kittens and just leave them when they become adults."

The shelter is currently appealing for an accountant and a contractor, to help with building the catio.

For more information, updates and how to donate visit the Cat Watch Wilts Facebook page.