Cats Protection will begin a cause-related marketing campaign with Nestle's pet food division this month that it hopes will boost the charity's profile and yield £100,000.
Nestle Purina will print details about the charity's work on its Felix cat food brand, and run a fundraising promotion on its packs. The partnership aims to reach 70 per cent of UK cat owners - some 6 million homes.
The deal is a controversial one: campaign group Baby Milk Action urges organisations to boycott the Swiss giant because of the way it markets baby food products. However, Cats Protection PR manager Emma Osborne said only "a small handful" of the charity's supporters had expressed concern.
"Members are certainly in favour of it," she said. "This sort of deal really benefits us and helps cats in our care."
She also pointed out the deal was with Nestle pet care rather than the baby products division, which generates most controversy.
The partnership will begin with testimonials about the work of Cats Protection, which is the UK's largest feline-welfare charity, on Felix products. The two parties are meeting this month to finalise plans for a fundraising initiative later this year.
Nestle, which has supported Cats Protection for five years, said the deal represents "a six-figure investment". The charity estimates it has saved £2m on cat food over the last three-and-a-half years, thanks to subsidised Nestle pet care products.
Helen Ralston, Cats Protection's chief executive, said the Felix brand had a special appeal because its mascot is a black and white cat, the most difficult to rehome.
"What better than the Felix brand, with its charming and cheeky cat, to help raise awareness of this and other issues," she said.
Nestle Purina marketing director Jeremy Caplin said the two organisations shared the same values. "We are forming the perfect partnership to create happier, healthier lives for cats everywhere," he said.
Help the Aged and 4Children are among the charities to have worked with Nestle, although Breakthrough Breast Cancer rejected an approach last year.
Nestle won the award for most blatant case of corporate irresponsibility at an awards ceremony organised last week by Swiss NGO the Berne Declaration.
- Mike Brady, campaigns and networking co-ordinator, Baby Milk Action
Cats Protection's argument that it has formed a relationship with Nestle pet care and not Nestle baby foods cuts little ice.
The partnership is still an attempt by Nestle to promote their brands.
For us, therefore, it presents another opportunity to raise the issue of the boycott. I plan to write to Cats Protection, asking for an explanation of how they replied to supporters opposed to the relationship.
They have been used by Nestle and have put themselves in a difficult position. Other charities that have taken money from Nestle have defended Nestle by making statements we consider to be untrue, or simply passed correspondence on to them. I will be interested to see how Cats Protection handles it.
They should consider the impact of this on our campaign, and on others against Nestle's malpractice.