EVERY hour 60 cats or dogs go missing in the UK. Tens of thousands of cats are reported lost annually, and a quarter of those are never reunited with their owners, writes Kathy Jones.

Britain is a nation of animal lovers, and family pets were never more in demand than during the Covid lockdown which saw record numbers of people becoming owners.

So what is happening to Hereford’s pet cats? The city has seen a rush of missing moggies since the spring, leaving owners like Thomas Fletcher and Donna Wills distraught and desperate for news of their whereabouts.

Mr Fletcher, of Hampton Park, said: “Willow went missing on May 29.

“She had been sat with me before she had supper, after which she went out as normal but never returned. Her basket was empty the next morning.”

“I’m devastated,” said the former security worker. “She meant everything to me and was my family. I’ve done everything I can to find her but no luck. I’m just surviving day to day.”

Two-year-old Willow is an all black neutered and microchipped female. Mr Fletcher, aged 40, had adopted her with her brother Fluffy from Cats Protection Hereford a little over two years ago.

Unfortunately, Fluffy, a grey-and-white male maine coon, was killed on the road just a year ago.

“He was my best friend and both he and Willow were my therapy pets,” said Mr Fletcher who suffers from depression and mobility issues.

“They were my entire world and no two cats were more loved.

I honestly believe someone has taken Willow as there have been no sightings despite all the posters I have put up, social media posts and my registering with Pets Reunited.”

Across the city in Richmond Street 47-year-old Donna Wills is desperate for news of her black-and-white Yugi who has not been seen since June 16.

“I’ve put posters all around the area, on social media and posted leaflets door to door. It’s like he’s disappeared off the face of the earth – I think he’s been taken.”.

Unusually, Yugi is a polydactyl cat and is distinguishable by extra toes on each paw.

He is a large neutered male aged about six years.

“I took him in as a stray, even though I already had a cat. He was in a bad way,” said Ms Wills, who suffers with fibromyalgia.

“He came into the garden one day and just crawled onto my lap as if to say, ‘I’m staying here’.

"My older cat, Hermes, bonded with him immediately and is now missing him big time, crying every day.”

Ms Wills lives alone with her cats and says Yugi’s disappearance has left a massive hole in her life.

Cats Protection is the Uk’s largest cat charity and offers invaluable advice on how to locate missing cats. It also provides neutering, vaccinations and microchipping guides.

But with pet theft on the increase GPS trackers may lead the way to a solution.

  • In an effort to help distraught owners, the Hereford Times launched its online pets appeal service, which aims to reunite owners with their lost pets. People can fill in a simple form here. Their appeal is then uploaded to www.herefordtimes.com and shared to a potential audience of thousands on the paper's social media platforms.