With the aim of improving the quality of life here for both humans and felines, the Agriculture Ministry is launching a NIS 4.5 million campaign to spay and neuter approximately 45,000 stray cats in cooperation with local authorities.By enabling municipalities to perform surgical sterilization of their feral street cats, the program will help reduce the suffering of cats while reducing a proliferation which, in many places, has become an environmental or health hazard, the ministry said.Each local authority can receive up to NIS 200,000 in funding to help cover the costs of sterilizations, hospitalization and returning the cats to their areas of habitation.“As a result of a multitude of feeders and food offerings in the streets, stray cats have multiplied significantly,” said Dr. Dganit Ben-Dov, chief animal welfare officer at the ministry’s Veterinary Services. “On one hand, this is a severe problem of animal welfare, since street life results in cats suffering. On the other hand, in many cases, the cats become an environmental hazard, posing risk to food establishments, various institutions and hospitals.” Unlike puppies of abandoned dogs, baby kittens tend to be born on the streets, so they become the fiscal responsibility of the local authorities from day one, Ben-Dov stressed. In cases where the ministry receives more requests for sterilization funding than had been accounted for in the budgetary plan, the local authorities will be ranked according to a number of parameters, including socioeconomic status, size of the human population, and the number of cats requiring the procedure, the ministry said. Each parameter will be weighed and added up, and those authorities that achieve the highest scores will receive the financial support.With the ministry funding, the local authorities will perform the sterilizations of a certain number of street cats over the age of four months by the end of May 2014, according to ministry instructions. The cats must be returned to the spot where they were found, but only after a recovery period in a veterinary clinic of around 24 to 48 hours, depending on how the cat has reacted to anesthesia, the ministry explained. Meanwhile, the clinics should also ensure that the cats have been vaccinated against rabies before returning to the streets.Although, according to estimates, there are approximately 200 million stray cats worldwide, there is no precise data on the matter, the ministry noted.Research conducted in Western countries has indicated that about 80 to 90% of domestic cats are sterilized, as opposed to only 2% of their stray counterparts.Since 2009, the Agriculture Ministry began funding the sterilization of stray cats in local authorities, and between 2009 and 2012, more than NIS 10m. was used to spay and neuter more than 90,000 stray cats in dozens of municipalities, the ministry said.