THE credit crunch is to blame for vast numbers of people giving up their pets.

That's the view of Bournemouth and District Cats Protection and the Dogs Trust, who both say that many people can no longer afford to have pets and others are now reluctant to take them on.

Bournemouth and District Cats Protection welfare officer Brenda Mitchell says the branch is being swamped with cats by people who are tightening their purse strings.

What many people do not realise is that animals from Cats Protection come ready vaccinated and chipped and in the case of elderly cats medical bills are taken care of after adoption she says.

Brenda is appealing for people to consider adopting one of the "affectionate" cats currently in their care.

Many people are moving to smaller properties where it is not practical to own animals and others choose the cat as the first thing to ditch when times get tough, said Brenda.

The branch is currently looking after 45 kittens and 35 cats, two of which are pregnant she added.

She said: "We don't know which way to turn.

"I think it is the credit crunch. The cat goes first. It's a really sad thing but I think people are finding they can't afford their cats. A lot of people are moving to smaller houses where it is not suitable to have cats.

"It's never been as bad as this. We ask other branches if they can help but they are all in the same position and we have got such a long waiting list. Last Monday we had 18 cats waiting to come in and no space. I've got cats staying in vets costing us a fortune," she said.

A spokesperson for the Dogs Trust said it too was starting to notice the effects of the credit crunch.

She said: "Some re-homing centres have reported reduced footfall and a lower number of people wanting to re-home a dog. Others have noticed increased calls from people unable to pay their vet bills. And many re-homing centres have had worried calls from dog owners forced to move into rented accommodation as they cannot afford to buy a property".

RSPCA spokesperson Jo Barr said that a couple of its re-homing centres have reported people handing over pets they can no longer afford to keep.

She added: "Nationally the RSPCA has not yet seen any evidence that the credit crunch has caused an influx of animals into its centres.

"However individual animal centres have reported one or two such cases recently. It is inevitable that people living nearest the breadline are most likely to feel the pinch as the credit crunch takes effect.

"They should seek advice from organisations such as the RSPCA and also consider taking out pet insurance to cover any unexpected vets bills. Anyone thinking of taking on an animal should first find out exactly how much it will cost to keep and ensure that they can afford to look after it for the whole of its life."