CECIL the cat was a sorry sight when he was brought to Cat Rescue of Chippenham in a filthy and skinny state.

But the moggy was nursed back to health and fitness by the dedicated band of volunteers organised by cat lover Jean Gilbert.

Cecil only weighed about two kilos and needed three baths and a lot of grooming before his dirty, matted fur was clean. Cecil has now been re-homed and weighs an impressive 6.5 kilos.

But the work goes on for Mrs Gilbert of Saddlers Mead, Chippenham, and at the moment she has 14 abandoned or unwanted cats and kittens kept in special cat houses in the garden of her home. Among them are two six-month-old kittens who were part of a litter found abandoned in a skip in Chippenham.

Mrs Gilbert said: “We seem to have more cats and kittens than ever before. My phone rings from early in the morning until late at night with people who have found abandoned cats, are worried about strays or have an unwanted cat.

“Some people who have a cat they no longer want can be quite rude. One woman rang the other day and almost ordered me to take her cat as she no longer wanted it. Even when I explained we were full she just said she didn’t want it and we had to take it. We never turn a cat away so I just had to find someone to foster it.”

A total of 70 cats and kittens are being cared for by Mrs Gilbert and her team of volunteers which includes Mary Patterson, who goes to Mrs Gilbert’s home two or three times a week in her role as a ‘cat cuddler’.

She said: “I go there for a few hours at a time to play with the cats and help look after them. We get cats of all ages from tiny kittens to really old cats. We are really in need of loving homes where they can spend the rest of their lives.”

She believes that the country’s economic situation has made the plight of cats more difficult as more people have moved into rented homes rather than buying and landlords are not keen to accept pets.

She said: “There are many sad stories of people who don’t realise until the day they move they must get rid of their cat. In many of these cases cats are abandoned or are given to us by the owners. Some have had their cats from kittens and phone up in tears as they have to move and have no option but to re-home their pets and in some cases we have rescued them just prior to euthanasia.

“This year has been particularly hard and traumatic for the charity.”

All cats are given full veterinary checks paid for by the group and are neutered or spayed before going to a new owner. The charity has to pay thousands of pounds a year in veterinary bills alone and is constantly fundraising to cover the cost.

If you think you can give a cat or a kitten a new home ring Mrs Gilbert on (01249) 653443.