Residents in Dubai are reportedly killing stray cats after a municipality campaign for controlling the UAE's feline population kicked off last month.

Volunteer group Feline Friends Dubai said street cats are being poisoned and attacked by residents who fear the animals are spreading infectious diseases.

As part of its campaign, Dubai Municipality warned residents about "a growing risk" of catching diseases from stray cats.

"Lack of controlling this phenomenon will cause health hazards to the society. It will also deform the general appearance of the city," a widely circulated municipality notice stated.

Though the exact number of stray cats – or infections from them – is unknown, a top municipality official stated earlier that the problem is increasing.

"Stray cats are breeding successfully. Please don't feed or pet these cats; they may be infected with contagious diseases," Adil Al Badri, Head of Stray Animals Control Unit, Dubai Municipality, said. The unit had asked people to call hotline number 800 900 if they spotted street cats.

However, Lesley Moncey, co-chair of Feline Friends, said people have taken matters into their own hands. "Some people are setting up traps for the cats. They then kill them. A lot of people have panicked. They don't realise that diseases like toxoplasmosis are quite hard to catch. And without cats, there might be a rat infestation, which is definitely a greater health problem."

Zubair Haider, a 29-year-old marketing executive from Pakistan, said he has "homed" stray cats many times, but never fallen sick. Toxoplasmosis is a contagious disease that can lead to a miscarriage in pregnancy. It is transmitted by ingesting cat faeces or eating meat infected with toxoplasmosis.