A Whanganui cat rescuer says hundreds of stray and abandoned cats in the city are being left to starve.
Robyn Dandy blames changes at the Whanganui SPCA which she says have made it difficult for people to help strays.
"They always used to take in strays but now it has become really difficult to get their help," Ms Dandy said.
However, the SPCA refutes the claims and said it has necessary rules around picking up cats to prevent pets being mistaken for strays.
Ms Dandy rescued cats and kittens for six years before moving out of Whanganui temporarily six months ago.
"I ran Kitten Rescue for about six years but had to stop for health reasons. Now I'm back in Whanganui and I wasn't going to do it again. But people are ringing me constantly."
Ms Dandy said people have told her the SPCA won't help. "Either they say they are full up, or they want to put collars on the cats for several days first.
It's a cruelty issue to leave them starving like that. I've taken in many starving cats and kittens that have either died or had to be euthanised because they have been without food for too long. I think the SPCA needs to do more."
Whanganui resident Ngarie Mahoney is another confused about who to call about stray cats.
She said her neighbour moved to Wellington three weeks ago and left behind several cats, one of which had since had kittens.
"I ended up looking after one of the cats but I use a walking stick and it gets under my feet. It's very cute but I can't have it live with me."
She said she rang the SPCA to have the cat re-homed and was told it needed to put a collar on the cat for several days.
"I really don't understand why," she said. "It has been abandoned. The owners have been gone three weeks. If I wasn't feeding it, it would starve."
Mrs Mahoney eventually gave the cat to Ms Dandy.
Ms Dandy also uplifted the mother cat with kittens but several other abandoned cats remain at the neighbouring property. She feeds them daily. Meanwhile, she has found homes for three of the four kittens and welcomes inquiries for the remaining kitten, plus two young cats. Her contact number is 021 209 7028.
RNZSPCA chief executive Andrea Midgen said the society would take in sick or injured cats if the cats were taken to the centre.
"If you find a sick or injured cat please take it straight to the SPCA centre so our team can get the cat the help it needs," Ms Midgen said. The society would come out if the cats were hard to catch, or people had no transport. "It's a case by case basis. We are a charity and don't have unlimited resources."
She explained the use of paper collars and said they were used to prevent pets being mistaken as strays.
"The paper collars have a note to ask whoever owns the cat to contact the finders, so they know if the cat is being cared for.
"We do this because in many cases people mistake a cat for being stray when it actually has a family who are caring for it. Cats are opportunists and will keep visiting homes if there is food around."
Ms Midgen said in more than 80 per cent of cases where a paper collar is used, the cat's owner gets in touch - "so the programme is very successful".
Since the Whanganui SPCA merged with Manawatu SPCA there had been an increase in animals being adopted, she said.