There’s growing anger and dismay among island animal-lovers after news that the national charity Cats Protection has decided to wind down its support for rescuing, neutering and rehoming cats in the islands.

A local branch committee meeting scheduled for today (Friday October 18th) has been cancelled after three committee members resigned in protest at the decision by the national charity.

The resignations included that of former committee member Morag Smith, who first alerted to the planned closure of the branch on Tuesday.

She was asked to resign with immediate effect by her Cats Protection line manager and has also been told to surrender the foster kittens currently in her care, which were receiving veterinary treatment this morning.

Morag told today: “I am having to pass the kittens I am caring for to another fosterer, after Cats Protection threatened to send someone from the mainland to remove them from me. To say that I am upset would be an understatement.”

Local cat-lovers have been bombarding the charity’s headquarters in Sussex with demands for information and questioning why the decision has been made. One supporter received this response: “It is with great regret that after much discussion at a local level Cats Protection has made the decision to wind down branch operations. The charity is currently looking at other ways it may be able to support cats on the island.”

Among those putting pressure on the charity is Stornoway councillor Gordon Murray, who told “I am very sad to hear the news that Cat Protection has withdrawn its support from the excellent local branch in Stornoway.

“The local Cat Protection branch are so important in the treatment of cats and not only will it affect cats, but all wildlife and birds. The feral cat population will grow exponentially without a neutering programme. The welfare of cats on the island will be adversely affected.

“I’d like to pay tribute to all the volunteers who have worked at Cat Protection over the years and have made a huge difference to cat welfare on the island.

“I have written to our MP and MSP regarding this matter and I am awaiting a response from Cats Protection HQ.”

Much of the local protest movement is being shown by cancelled donations to the charity. A total of 27 individuals have notified the local branch that they are stopping their giving, one supporter saying: “I’m stopping all my donations to the Cats Protection League following this – previously my go-to charity. Shameful they have abandoned you.”

And there’s been comment on Cats Protection’s reported concern about the lack of value for money in the Lewis and Harris branch. One supporter said: “The running costs were substantial, but that reflects the amount of cats that were helped over the years.”

There’s still some hope for future cat welfare services, with the potential for the national charity to send trapping and neutering teams up to the islands to control the large number of feral cat colonies.

It’s also thought that an island-based and run alternative organisation could be established, with volunteers putting forward offers of help and a meeting currently being discussed among interested parties including the vets’ practice, SSPCA and RSPB.

Supporters commented on social media: “Please show your support in any way you can as this is a real loss. I do hope everyone supports the local team and voices their concerns to the charity nationally, as this is a huge blow for the welfare of animals on the islands.”

Cats Protection has been approached for further comment on this story.