Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Coping with pet-related grief FAQs

Cats Protection understands just how much your cat means to you and what you may be going through if your pet is missing, had to be rehomed, is nearing the end of their life or has recently passed away.

To support cat owners at this difficult time, Counsellor and Pet Loss Specialist Julia Dando took to our Facebook page to talk to them about their grief.

Here are just some of the queries she helped with:

Question: I had my cat put to sleep because someone poisoned him and I’m having trouble coming to terms with having to make that decision. I keep seeing his beautiful face as he was leaving me!

Answer: What a heart-breaking thing to have to go through. The decision we make when we have to let our pets go doesn't really feel like a choice but can leave us feeling devastated and guilty. On top of those feelings you're also having to deal with feelings of anger towards whoever left poison for your cat. So many unanswered questions and little room for any kind of closure.

All these circumstances can make it incredibly difficult to come to terms with what has happened and will have a great impact on the way you grieve for your cat. Grief can be very chaotic and is unique to everyone. If you would like to talk through what happened with someone please do ring our volunteers on the Paws to Listen Grief Support Service on 0800 024 94 94 Mon-Fri 9am-5pm.

Question: I lost my 18-year-old cat just before Easter he'd been with me from eight weeks old from CP. I'd just moved into my house and he was my first major addition. I can't believe how much I'm grieving for him. I miss him every day. I still call for him when I come home in the evening... even though he was deaf as a post by the time he went, well I think he had select hearing actually! But he was such a huge part of my family life I have two other cats and a dog, so the house isn't completely empty, but it is if you get my drift. My cat’s ashes are in my spare room as that's where he liked to sleep sometimes, and to be perfectly honest, I say good night every night, and if a song comes on the radio I like, we dance... he did love to dance on my shoulder. I just wanted to share... I know time is a great healer, but sometimes venting or writing down your memories helps, well it does me. Thanks for listening.

Answer: Grief is very individual and different for everyone. There is no ‘normal’ when it comes to grieving. The bond you had with your boy was strong and your relationship was significant. Just like when we lose anyone who was such a significant part of our lives, it hurts. Loss hurts.

There is no set length of time for grief for some people it eases after a few weeks or months, for others it can take much longer. It sounds like you had an incredibly strong bond with him and you miss him so much still. Allow yourself the time to grieve, he was so very special to you.

Question: I’ve had my elderly cat since he was about 12 weeks old and he has just turned 18. He has lost his hearing and is losing his eyesight slowly too. Arthritis has set in and although he is old and stiff he can still race and jump like a kitten. He had two days last week when he refused to eat but drank a lot and slept in strange, awkward positions. He has lost weight and I can feel every bone in his spine and hardly weighs anything when I pick him up. He has a large lump that is squishy and has grown rapidly since the New Year. He is such an affectionate and loving boy and purrs loudly in my ear at night. I think it will be time to say goodbye to him soon, how can I cope with this?

Answer: It's so hard when we see our pets decline in front of our eyes. What a long time you've been together from when he was just a kitten to 18 years old. Over such a length of time he will have been with you through so much of your life and likely many changes and experiences. This will have made the bond you have with him so very strong, which makes it all the harder to consider his leaving.

In this type of instance, it is likely you will be experiencing anticipatory grief once you've been given a prognosis by your vet. Grieving can start way before they are gone and you may well feel the responses to grief already.

You might find some of our grief leaflets helpful in your preparations for what is to come and do consider calling Paws to Listen as and when you need to.

Question: I recently lost my cat due to cancer which was growing in his mouth. I have had him since I was 12 and I am now in my late twenties. He was my best mate and was there through everything with me. I had to make the awful decision to have him put to sleep he wasn't eating, was drooling loads and just spent most of the time hidden under the bed. The house seems so quiet now.

Answer: Your cat was with you for so much of your life a massive hole will have been left by his loss. He's been through so much with you he's family.

It's a wretched decision to have to make when the time comes and difficult to come to terms with. Through your cat’s life you took care of him, fed him, kept him clean, warm, healthy... you took responsibility for the quality of his life. It is the hardest thing to do to continue that responsibility on into the care of their death. The hardest and bravest thing we can do for our beloved pets.

Please do consider ringing the Paws to Listen Grief Support Service from Cats Protection on 0800 024 94 94 open Mon-Fri 9am-5pm if you would like to tell us about your cat and talk through your feelings around his loss.

Whether you are facing the heartbreak of your cat passing away, want help with difficult issues like euthanasia, a cat who has gone missing or need someone to talk to about your loss: we are here for you.

The Paws to Listen service is a free and confidential phone line, that you can call to talk to one of our trained volunteer listeners. While we are unable to offer counselling, we can provide you with a sympathetic ear at this difficult time. Call us on 0800 024 94 94. The line is open 9am-5pm, Monday to Friday (excluding bank holidays).

As well as the phone line, there are a number of free online guides and leaflets to help owners deal with grief-related issues: www.cats.org.uk/grief

Friday, 23 June 2017

Meet the finalists - Cats Protection's Special Recognition Award

With the annual National Cat Awards just around the corner, we’re announcing the finalists for each of the six categories, including Furr-ever Friends, Hero Cat, Most Caring Cat, Outstanding Rescue Cat, Purina® Better Together and Cats Protection’s Special Recognition Award.

From stories of great bravery, to heart-warming tales of companionship between cats and humans, the National Cat Awards highlight the incredible impact cats have on their owners’ lives.

Cats Protection’s Special Recognition Award celebrates some of the amazing stories involving cats that have been rehomed by Cats Protection.

Meet the finalists, Lunar, Felix and Sadie Ellenore, in our video playlist below.

Come back next week for our next set of finalists for the Purina® Better Together category.

Winners will be announced at a ceremony on Thursday 3 August at London’s Savoy Hotel, where celebrity judges will also announce the National Cat of the Year 2017.

To find out more about the National Cat Awards, visit our website.

National Cat Awards 2017

Monday, 19 June 2017

How to read your cat’s body language

The latest video in the Simon’s Cat Logic series sees illustrator Simon Tofield team up with Cats Protection’s Behaviour Manager Nicky Trevorrow to reveal how to understand your cat’s body language.

Nicky Trevorrow explains cat body language

“I’ve created this big fat loveable cat who of course can’t talk,” explains Simon, “so if I want to show any emotion or how he’s feeling, I have to do it through body language.”

He goes on to show how he expresses emotion when drawing an ‘angry’ cat.

Nicky says: “Cat body language is an area that’s absolutely fascinating. However, cats are really subtle as a species – much more so than species like ourselves and dogs – and it means it can be quite difficult to really ‘read’ how they’re feeling.

“What’s important is to look at facial expression and body language, particularly in the context, so we can understand what’s going on.”

Nicky goes on to explain how to understand when a cat is saying ‘hello’ and how cats use their tails, ears and eyes to express a variety of emotions. Watch the video to find out:

We’d love to see your own cat drawings – share them on Twitter using the hashtag #SimonsCatLogic

You can learn more about understanding cats’ body language by viewing our behaviour infographics or visiting our behaviour hub.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Feline fathers

This post has been written by Behaviour Manager, Nicky Trevorrow

At a time when many of us are celebrating Father’s Day, curious cat lovers may be wondering about feline fathers. Do male cats make doting fathers or are they absent? Certainly it is not something you commonly hear about. This blog post aims to shed light on this little known topic.

Cat and kitten walking in garden
Photo by istock.com/virgonira
The first thing to note about cats is that they are one of the few domesticated animals that have retained a large degree of control over breeding and mate choice. As such, this means that we often do not know who the father is. Generally, it is only pedigree cats whereby a female or queen is taken to a male stud cat and therefore both parents can be identified. Of course, even pedigree cats can have accidental litters!

One study in Southampton which looked at paternity in kittens discovered some interesting results. One of the households with a litter of kittens in the study had a male and female cat which were both unneutered. However, when the paternity test results came in, none of the kittens were fathered by the male cat living in the house. In fact, the kittens were all fathered by a feral tom cat from a farm a few miles away – and this feral cat had actually fathered many of the kittens in the study! Clearly this virulent male cat needed to be neutered in order to prevent the many unwanted litters. Kittens can get pregnant as young as four months of age, which is why Cats Protection recommends neutering at four months.

Black cat with litter of kittens
Chaka and her kittens were in the care of our Bridgend Adoption Centre. Photo by Sue Dobbs
A little known fact is that kittens in a single litter can have different fathers. There could even be as many fathers as there are kittens! The ability to produce a litter of kittens fathered by more than one tom cat is called superfecundation. If we consider that the trait for boldness, or how friendly or outgoing the cat is, comes from the father, this helps to explain the differences seen in a single litter not only in the variety of coat colour or length, but also the personality of the kittens. Studies have shown that friendly fathers tend to have genetically friendly kittens, whereas fearful fathers tend to produce more fearful kittens. Of course, there are many other factors which also play a role in the overall sociability and personality of the kittens, including the amount of positive experiences with people and objects during the kitten socialisation period of two to seven weeks of age.

Overall, cats are not known for their fatherly skills as male cats do not tend to be involved in raising offspring, especially in the wild. Anecdotally, there are rare cases reported where domestic male cats have shown paternal care towards the young. Generally, rearing the kittens is primarily carried out by the queen so we don’t expect many kittens to be giving gifts today!

To find out more about cats' needs and behaviour, go to: www.cats.org.uk/cat-care/cat-behaviour-hub

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Beautiful Bella’s pregnancy woes

This post has been written by Emily, a fosterer for our Cherwell Branch whose family owns a cattery

Six-month-old Bella was brought into us pregnant. We had taken her to the vets to have her examined firstly to confirm by a vet that she was pregnant and also to make sure everything was OK. The vets estimated that she was pregnant with three kittens.

Pregnant cat Bella
Bella was heavily pregnant at just six months old
On the morning of 19 April we went out to her pen to check, feed and clean her and we found her with two gorgeous little kittens – one tabby and white, one black and white – suckling on her. Sadly laid by her were three cold, apparently not breathing kittens.

Four tiny kittens
Bella's tiny kittens
Suddenly two of the still kittens started to move so we got a vet straight away! The vets could not have been more wonderful. They gave the kittens a shot of glucose and got them straight onto a heat pad and rubbed their teeny chests. They asked us to bring Bella and her two first kittens in to see if she would accept the two latest kittens (two torties – our first ever tortie kittens!) as they would have a much better chance of survival being with their mother. Sadly the final fifth kitten could not be saved.

Bella was an angel, she is now feeding all the kittens who are growing very well and they are certainly keeping her on her toes. They get out of their ‘bed’ daily and wait for her to collect them. Although at six months old she is far too young to have had kittens, she is coping as best she can.

Little tortie kitten Floss
Little kitten Floss. Copyright Ryan Onody 2017
Tabby kitten
Another gorgeous kitten. Copyright Ryan Onody 2017
She does not yet have a home... but I know she will find one very quickly. She is a very affectionate, loving cat who just needs a kind and caring family. Bella will be ready for a home in early July and will be spayed, microchipped, fully vaccinated and flea/wormed.

Veterinary note: Cats are often neutered too late in life when they have already produced at least one litter of kittens. The kittens can unfortunately contribute to the number of unwanted cats in the UK, which is why Cats Protection recommends that pet cats are neutered at four months of age or younger. Find out more by reading our neutering FAQs.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

‘Why does my cat roam?’ and other veterinary FAQs

In our recent live Facebook Q&A, vet Dr Sarah Elliott answered cat owners’ veterinary questions. If you missed it, here’s a roundup of some of the topics discussed:

Question: My 18-month-old cat (he’s neutered) often goes on long, four or five day expeditions. Is this normal for a young male cat or should I be worried?

Answer: This could be normal – at 18 months he's reached what is known as 'social maturity' and at this point cats start wanting to maintain a territory. Territory size can vary from cat to cat, ranging from just the house where they live to miles of space outside of the house. Cats will spend a large portion of their time patrolling their territory, and as your cat is young, he'll be trying to establish himself. Please make sure that he is microchipped and wearing a safety quick-release collar so that he can be identified. It’s great that he is neutered. For his own safety, it might be worth keeping him in at night.

Cat walking along garden fence
Photo: istock.com/scottbeard 
Question: My female neutered kitty of six years old has a bald patch on her lower belly where the milk ducts are. She is treated with a flea product prescribed by the vet, worm tablets and is slightly overweight. What is causing this bald patch?

Answer: It may be worth getting this checked by the vet. It may be that the fur has naturally thinned here due to contact with her bed or floor, and this could be exacerbated by her being a little overweight. This is also a common area for cats to overgroom, causing the fur to thin. Overgrooming can occur as a response to an itch or allergy, stress or pain in this area. For these reasons, it would be worth getting her checked over, and the vet can also give you some tips on how to get her trimmed down as being in good shape will really benefit her health.

Question: Our cat scratches her ears a lot (around four or five times a day) but she doesn’t seem to have mites and she isn’t anxious. Could there be another reason why she is doing it? We got her from Cats Protection three months ago and she has always done it.

Answer: The scratching sounds a little excessive, and it might be wise to have a vet take a look down the ear canal with an otoscope. The ear canals can look clean on the outside, but cats may have ear mites that are not visible outwardly, deeper infections, ear polyps or even foreign bodies down there, so it is worth ruling anything more sinister out with your vet first. .  Cats can also get sunburnt or bitten by insects on the tips of the ears, especially at this time of year which can cause some irritation.

Question: My newly adopted long-haired cat, aged 10 years old, is really well settled but his coat is matted so I cannot groom him properly. He is shedding everywhere. What is the best thing to do without upsetting him?

Answer: It's lovely to hear you have recently adopted a cat in need. If his coat is very matted, then it may be too painful for him to be groomed. The best thing to do may be to take him to your local vets, where they might be able to shave away the mats with safety clippers. Again, this may be too painful for him if he is very matted, so the vet may need to give him a little sedation to facilitate the process. Once the mats are gone, you can start daily pain-free grooming and hopefully prevent him from getting matted again. I hope that helps and best of luck!

Ginger cat being groomed
Photo: istock.com/Aksenovko
Question: My cat is 10 years old and she is on thyroid medication for a condition. She howls every night and paces around. She seems to sleep ok during the day and urinates a lot in her litter tray. Could the howling be a side effect of her medication?

Answer: I'm sorry to hear your cat has been unwell with her thyroid condition. Yowling and pacing could be a sign that her medication needs adjusting, so I would certainly mention this to your vet. Cats can also develop a form of dementia as they age, which can present as restlessness and increased vocalisation. Any change in her thirst or urination could be a sign of an early kidney problem, and it is unlikely that what you describe is a side effect of her medication. It would certainly be worth taking her along to a vet appointment and having a discussion about all the things you have highlighted.

Veterinary note: Please note that we are unable to give specific advice on your cat's health or any change in behaviour observed. For more advice, please visit www.cats.org.uk/cat-care/care-leaflets
Consult your vet if you have a specific concern about your cat.

Would you like to ask one of Cats Protection's experts a question? Don't miss the next live Facebook Q&A sessions: speak to Behaviourist Nicky Trevorrow on 29 June; or vet Dr Sarah Elliott on 13 July. All Q&As are held on Cats Protection's national Facebook page from 2pm. See you there!

Monday, 12 June 2017

A happy ending for FIV+ cat Edmund

This post has been written by Chiltern Branch

We’d like to share the story of Edmund, our beautiful FIV+ cat who is now living the life of Riley with his loving family.

Edmund's story is one that will be so familiar to every branch of Cats Protection. He was found as a stray – not microchipped, not neutered and with horrible wounds from fighting. We weren't surprised when his FIV test came back as positive.

Edmund's fight wounds
Edmund's war wounds
Edmund was an absolute sweetheart, very affectionate and gentle, and with loving care and attention from his foster mum Emma, his wounds soon healed and his coat took on a glossy sheen. We got him neutered, microchipped, vaccinated and had his general health checked over by our local vet. Fortunately, he was in good health.

FIV cat Edmund with his fosterer Emma
Edmund and his fosterer, Emma
As all CP branches will also know, ginger and white cats are highly sought after, and we very quickly had an enquiry from a lovely couple in Aylesbury, Ellie and Robbie, who live in a flat and so needed to adopt an indoor-only cat. This was perfect for Edmund, as keeping him indoors will protect him from catching infections that his FIV makes him more vulnerable to, and will stop him passing the virus on to any other cats.

We carried out a homing visit and knew that his potential adopters and their flat would be perfect for Edmund. He had so many windows to look out of and lots of sofas, chairs and throws to lounge about on. Ellie also worked nearby, so would be able to pop home in her lunch hour to check on him.
Edmund settled in straight away and we had this update from his new owner Ellie on the day after he arrived at his new home in March:

“Edmund is such a confident and loving cat. It took him a matter of minutes to settle in! He's already claimed his spot on the sofa and given us so many cuddles. He adores Robbie and doesn't leave him alone, as you can see in the pictures. Ed will go to great lengths to make sure he is the centre of attention, no matter what you're trying to do!

Edmund and his new owner
Edmund with his new owner, Robbie
“Ed's currently curled up on my lap purring very loudly and looks quite disgruntled that I'm writing this email rather than paying him attention...”

And last month, we had this update:

“Well, we thought he was confident on day one but he now definitely rules the roost! He makes us laugh every day and we're always greeted with enthusiastic meows and cuddles. He loves it when we have people round because he has an abundance of laps to sit on and humans to pay him attention! We strongly believe that he's made of liquid because he just melts into your lap and snores very loudly.

“He knows what time our alarm goes off in the morning and pre-emptively comes to wake us up with a cuddle!

“He loves his scratching mat and uses it to sleep on and hide his toys in too. It also took him some time to learn how to play but he now has a selection of his favourite toys which keep him entertained while we're out. Thank you to the little girl who donated the catnip mice! However he now thinks shoelaces are something to kill so putting on boots is always a challenge...

Edmund enjoying his scratching post
Edmund asleep on his scratch post
“The vet says he is an ideal weight now and his fur looks beautifully shiny and white.

“He is very happy staying indoors and doesn't even look out of the windows. The only time he goes near the front door is when visitors leave and he calls for a few minutes at the door after them!

“Edmund is so popular with all of our friends and family. We travelled to Wales at the weekend to visit Robbie's grandma and everyone fought to look after the cat while we were away! My mum comes round for a cuddle very often as her cat is totally indifferent but Edmund rather adores her. And of course we love him. We feel so lucky to have such a friendly, characterful and intelligent cat in our lives."

Veterinary note: FIV is a virus in cats that is similar to the human virus, HIV or Human Immunodeficiency Virus. However, FIV does not infect humans, and HIV does not infect cats. FIV is thought to infect around four per cent of cats in the UK. For more information read our leaflet: Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) and Feline Leukaemia Virus (FeLV).