Volunteer animal groups are sounding the alarm about an astounding stray and feral cat population in Surrey that’s poised to balloon even bigger.

The Surrey Community Cat Coalition believes up to 34,000 cats are roaming free in the city, and warns that number is likely to grow when kitten season starts in the spring.

“The challenge is that Surrey is the largest, fastest-growing city in Metro Vancouver, and with more people comes more cats,” said coalition manager Lubna Ekramoddoullah.

“There’s also a lack of pet-friendly housing so as people are moving into these places, they’re abandoning their cats on the street.”

Homeless cats face serious hardships, according to the coalition, including starvation, disease, broken bones, and an unending cycle of pregnancies.

Volunteers in Surrey have been trapping the cats, spaying or neutering them, and releasing them again, but the coalition said it needs the city’s help.

“We’re hoping to just open the dialogue so they can understand the problem,” Ekramoddoullah said.

Surrey bylaw business operations manager Kim Marosevich said the city is aware of its problematic cat population, but it needs a plan before it can commit any funding.

“We need to know what we are going to do, how we are going to do it, and then we can talk about paying for it,” Marosevich said.

One of the coalition members is the Vancouver Orphan Kitten Rescue Association, which has already helped curb similar issues in Vancouver and Burnaby.

VOKRA said there used to be thousands of feral felines in Vancouver as well, but thanks to its trap-neuter-release program, there are now fewer than 200.

It took about six years for the populations to decline, however, and the process isn’t free.

The Surrey Community Cat Coalition said raising awareness and encouraging all cat owners to spay or neuter their pet will also be key in controlling the wild feline population in the long term.

For more information or to learn about adopting a rescued Surrey cat, visit the coalition website.

With a report from CTV Vancouver’s Michele Brunoro