Cats Protection is launching its biggest ever Fill a Dish appeal to help feed the many miaowing mouths in its care this Christmas.
The UK's oldest and largest feline charity rehabilitates and re-homes stray or abandoned cats, and the festive season is its busiest period.
"We don't encourage people to give cats as presents and so we don't re-home them immediately before Christmas," says Cats Protection's press officer Emma Osborne. "The fact that re-homing slows down means that we have more cats to care for."
Now in its 22nd year, the Fill a Dish initiative is being launched on 24 October through the charity's in-house magazine The Cat and other press activities. A sponsor form, which features 40 empty cat food dishes, will be sent to supporters who ring the help line on 08702 099 099.
Every dish sports a cat's name and has an accompanying photo. Each of the 40 sponsors then chooses a cat, fills in his or her personal information and, by paying 50p, fills up the dish and a cat's tummy.
Although the appeal is targeting the organisation's existing members and volunteers, it is hoped it will strike a chord with all cat lovers.
"We love to give the rescue cats and kittens in our care some tasty Christmas dinners, but this doesn't come cheap," says Judy Bernstein, the charity's head of promotions. "This appeal is an ideal way for people to show their support for Cats Protection at a time when the branches really need it."
The appeal, which is sponsored by HiLife Petfoods, aims to raise £70,000 for the charity's 260 branches and 29 shelters to feed up to 10,000 cats over Christmas.
In a change to its usual structure, the campaign is offering some new incentive prizes. Everyone who sponsors a dish will be entered into a draw for the chance to win one of eight cash prizes ranging from £20 to £200. The eight people who fill the most dishes will also be rewarded with gift vouchers.
Completed forms, along with cheque or postal orders, should be sent back to Cats Protection by 31 December 2003. The money raised will then be split between the charity's branches and shelters.
Fill a Dish is Cats Protection's most successful and longest-running campaign. "It is a nice and easy campaign that people can get involved with every year," says Osborne.