Friday, 19 July 2019

Why do cats have rough tongues?

It’s Stick Your Tongue Out Day! On a day when we celebrate the freedom of being able to stick your tongue out at will, we thought it would be fun to take a closer look at cats’ tongues. Not the edible chocolate variety but the tongues that belong to our pet cats.

longhaired tabby cat with tongue sticking out

What are they and what do they do? A tongue is a muscular organ with multiple uses. It is very important and has a range of serious jobs to do. For cats, tongues play a vital role not just when eating and drinking but are also an essential part of their personal grooming kits.

A multi-use tool for cats 

Depending on how close you get to your cat you may have noticed that their tongue is not soft and delicate, as you might expect, but is actually rather harsh and scratchy and can feel like sandpaper being dragged across your skin if you are lucky enough to be subjected to a quick groom.

tabby cat with mouth open and tongue showing

The reason a cat’s tongue is so rough is due to all the backwards facing spines (or papillae) that run along it. These papillae have all sorts of fantastic uses. They are great for stripping meat from bones, allowing them to extract the maximum nutrition from their prey in the most quick and efficient way. They are also responsible for the ingenious way that cats drink. Rather than putting their whole mouth into water, cats put their tongue in the water and lift it up and down very quickly. The papillae on their tongues pull water up from the surface, creating a column that the cat then closes their mouth around.

The purrfect kitty hairbrush 

The slightly less obvious use for a rough tongue is that it makes for the perfect hairbrush. When a cat uses their tongue to lick their fur they are, in effect, brushing themself. The backwards facing positioning of the spines on the tongue act like a comb as they pass through the fur, detangling and cleaning away loose fur and dirt as they go. A very effective way of self-cleansing!

grey and white cat with tongue sticking out

Being self-sufficient and able to keep clean without help is very important when traditionally, as a non-social species, cats would not have lived within a social group and so could not rely on a pack member to do the honours.

So the next time your cat yawns or starts to groom in front of you, take a close look at their tongue and marvel at this most ingenious and useful tool which nature has designed.

For more information about cats and grooming, visit

Tuesday, 16 July 2019

Smuggled kitten found in passenger’s hand luggage

A female kitten called Zara was discovered at Heathrow airport in the hand luggage of a passenger who had flown in from Tel Aviv, Israel.

tabby and white kitten sat on scratch post in pen
Zara is being held in quarantine until she is given a clean bill of health
The passenger was in transit on the way to the United States and didn't want to pay the kitten’s quarantine fees so Zara was detained under the Rabies Order 1974.

She is currently being held at a facility in Hampshire to ensure she doesn't pose a threat to other animals and humans. Cats Protection will then find the tabby-and-white kitten a new home once she has received a clean bill of health.

Ross Hayes, Deputy Manager of the Heathrow Animal Reception Centre (HARC), said: “The centre was alerted to the arrival of Zara, an illegally imported four-week-old kitten that was found within a passenger’s hand luggage.

tabby and white kitten sat on blanket
Zara when she was in the care of the HARC
“The owner didn't hold the animal’s correct paperwork so she was transferred into quarantine. We carried out the necessary health and welfare checks on Zara and I’m sure she will make a wonderful pet when she’s ready to be rehomed.”

Beverley Russell, Cats Protection’s Operations Support Manager, said: “Zara seems to be no worse for wear despite her adventure. She must have been very quiet on the plane as she wasn’t discovered until she arrived at Heathrow."

If you would like to donate some money towards the cost of Zara's quarantine fees, please call 0800 917 2287.

To find cats and kittens looking for home in your area, visit 

Friday, 12 July 2019

Why do some cats have different coloured eyes?

There’s no doubt that cats’ eyes are beautiful and many moggies will happily show them off by staring at you as you eat your dinner. But did you know that some cats have more striking eyes than others?

white cat with complete heterochromia causing one yellow iris and one blue iris

Although it’s quite rare, a condition called heterochromia can result in cats having two different coloured eyes. These odd-eyed cats typically have one iris (the coloured part of the eye) that’s blue while the other is either green, brown or yellow. Heterochromia can also affect dogs and even humans too.

What causes heterochromia in cats?

All kittens are born with eyes that appear blue due to a lack of pigment within the iris. Within their first few weeks/months of life a pigment called melanin is distributed throughout the iris, causing the eyes to change colour. Usually this happens in both eyes, but if the cat has heterochromia, melanin is only distributed in one iris, leaving the other blue.

white cat with complete heterochromia causing one yellow iris and one blue iris

It isn’t clear what causes some cats to develop heterochromia and others not. It appears to be a developmental condition and while there could be a genetic link, nobody really knows what causes this strange and beautiful phenomenon. While some breeds of cat seem more likely to develop heterochromia than others, it can happen to any cat.

Do odd-eyed cats have poor eyesight?

Luckily, heterochromia doesn’t have any impact on a cat’s ability to see, and it doesn’t seem to affect their hearing either. Although white cats with one or two blue eyes are more likely to be deaf, non-white cats with one blue eye do not appear to have a higher risk of deafness than normal.

white cat with complete heterochromia causing one yellow iris and one blue iris

There’s only cause for concern if your cat’s eyes change colour when they are over 12 weeks old or if they suddenly change colour at any age. There are various disease processes that can cause an eye to change colour and, if this happens, then you should speak to your vet as soon as possible.

Can cats have a single eye with two different colours?

When cats have two different coloured eyes this is known as complete heterochromia, but there is also a condition known as sectoral heterochromia. This is when a single iris contains two or more colours, eg half is blue and half is green, and is a result of an inconsistent distribution of pigment within the iris.

Does your cat have two different coloured eyes? Share your photos with us on Facebook or Twitter

For more amazing facts about cats’ eyes, read our blog post.

Thursday, 11 July 2019

How many cats are there in the UK?

It will come as no surprise to moggy-lovers that cats are the most popular pets in the UK, just overtaking dogs to the top spot.

In fact, there are believed to be an incredible 11.1 million pet cats in the country, compared to 8.9 million pet dogs, with 25% of the adult population owning at least one kitty.

However, while we can pretty accurately identify the number of owned cats, there are many unowned stray and feral cats roaming the UK’s streets and countryside too, and they’re much harder to count. 

Counting the cat population 

tortoiseshell cat with cone around its head

To try to get a more accurate figure of the UK’s unowned cat population, Cats Protection launched the Cat Watch project in 2016.

We’ve been working closely with local communities to encourage them to report unowned cats, either via our Cat Watch app, Cat Watch Facebook groups or in person to our Cat Watch teams, so that we can ensure they are well cared for. We do this by working with cat caretakers in communities to get the cats neutered to prevent more unwanted cats being born, and either finding them new homes or supporting residents with the help they need to look after them.

The project began in Bulwell, Nottingham, an area identified as having a large unowned cat population, and has since expanded into Everton, Beeston in Nottingham and Houghton Regis in Bedfordshire with the hope that eventually it could be UK-wide.

Helping cats in Bulwell and Everton

a group of Cats Protection volunteers with cat baskets
Some of the Bulwell Cat Watch team
In Bulwell, the hard work of our Cat Watch team and the cooperation of local residents has meant that, to the best of our knowledge, no new kittens were born on Bulwell’s streets in 2018 – fantastic news for the community and its cats.

In Everton, the Cat Watch team received almost 1,000 reports of cats in the first 12 months of the project and were then able to get 262 cats neutered and find 88 of them new forever homes, with work ongoing to help even more stray and feral moggies in the area.

The team has also managed to change the attitudes of Everton’s local residents towards cats, as a survey has revealed a positive increase in their feelings towards neutering as a way to improve cat welfare and reduce antisocial cat behaviour.

More than half of residents felt that Cat Watch had had a positive impact on cats and on the Everton community, with many indicating that it had also increased their sense of wellbeing, confidence and connectedness within their community.

The adventures of Six Dinners Sid 

grey and white cat lying on its side on a blanket

Within the Everton area, the Cat Watch team discovered one rather large cat who had acquired quite a following.

The grey-and-white moggy had been reported to them by local resident Jane, and after asking around to see if anyone knew where he came from, it was soon discovered that he had quite a few different carers and feeders! Jane and the team even managed to track his daily route around the neighbourhood, which involved several stops at different houses for food and cosy naps.

All of this roaming meant that he’d also acquired several different names from his many families; Terry, Smokie, Bear BB, Romeo, Cheeky Monkey, Mr Grey and Six Dinners Sid.

grey and white cat asleep with its tongue sticking out

Shortly after his antics had been revealed, Sid became ill. His many carers all rallied together to get him the best possible treatment, but sadly his kidney disease was too advanced.

During this time, Jane took him into her home to give him all of the love and attention he needed, and when the time came for him to go, his entire family of carers gathered around him to say goodbye.

Jane said: “He was a huge cat with a large heart (and tummy!) and we all followed his adventures with relish. He was audacious, charismatic, greedy and fussy, demanding only the best fresh food, and could be grumpy if he didn’t get his own way. He was a true gentleman and ambassador for every community cat making their way out there.”

A new home for Tatty

grey and white cat sitting on someone's lap

Shortly after Sid had sadly passed away, Tatty the cat appeared in another Everton resident’s garden looking a little worse for wear.

He was reported to the Cat Watch team to see if his owner could be found, but he wasn’t microchipped and no one came forward to claim him.

The team them took him to the vet for a health check and neutering, where he was found to be badly matted, covered in ticks, have a small growth on his eyelid and need some dental work to make him comfortable again. He also tested positive for FIV, but as he was so friendly the vets were confident he could be rehomed to an indoor environment.

grey and white cat lying on someone's lap

The Cat Watch team knew that Jane, Six Dinners Sid’s primary carer, was looking to adopt a new cat after saying goodbye to Sid, and so introduced her to Tatty. It was love at first sight, and it didn’t take Tatty, now renamed Bailey, very long to settle in to his new home.

Jane said: “Bailey’s a right cuddle monster. He’s enjoying being pampered and spoilt! He is so funny and so like Sid/Mr Grey when it comes to food! He knows where the food is kept and sat at the door until I opened it! He loves chicken and the smell of a roast, he sat watching us eat ours making snorting noises.”

To find out more about Cats Protection’s Cat Watch project, visit

Tuesday, 9 July 2019

Donations needed for injured kitten rescued from a car engine

A kitten found hiding in a car engine is on the long road to recovery after having a leg amputated and ear tips removed.

black cat with bald legs and burnt ears
Inky was left badly burned after his ordeal
Named Inky by vets, the black 10-week-old kitten had suffered a complicated break to his right foreleg and his ears had also been singed.

Inky is now being cared for by staff and volunteers at Cats Protection’s Belfast Adoption Centre which is appealing for donations from the public to help pay for Inky’s operation and aftercare, expected to cost at least £800.

black cat with bald legs and burnt ears
Inky has had to have the tips of his ears removed
The centre’s Deputy Manager, Andrew Doherty said: “It’s not known how poor Inky broke his leg so badly, but we think he probably burned his ears when he was hiding inside the hot car engine.

“His leg was so badly damaged that, sadly, the only option was for vets to remove it. It’ll take Inky a few weeks to recover from the operation, but so far he’s taken it in his stride.

black cat wearing cone collar with burnt ears
Inky recovering from his surgery 
“He’s a very friendly and relaxed kitten and is enjoying all the fuss and attention from volunteers and staff at the centre.

“Inky isn’t yet available for rehoming, but anyone interested in offering him a new home can keep any eye out for him on our website

"He’ll be able to do most things cats do on his remaining three legs, but as he won’t be able to scale fences or escape from potential dangers as well as four-legged cats can, he’ll be looking for an indoor home.”

black cat with bald legs and burnt ears
Inky will soon be ready to find an indoor home
If you’d like to help the centre pay for Inky’s treatment, you can donate to the JustGiving appeal.

Andrew said: “We’d be extremely grateful if anyone who would like to help Inky could donate to our appeal – every penny will make a huge difference and help us pay for his operation and continued aftercare.” Any funds raised above those needed for Inky will go towards the care of other cats at the centre.

To find cats and kittens looking for homes in your area, visit

Friday, 5 July 2019

Kittens with peculiar paws found in an abandoned car

Two young kittens with an extremely rare suspected genetic condition have been found in a burnt out car.

one tabby kitten and one black and white kitten both with Syndactylism
Bert (left) and Ernie (right) have Syndactylism
Bert and Ernie, who are now in the care of Cats Protection’s Gildersome Homing Centre, both have Syndactylism, where two or more toes are fused together.

The condition is different to the more frequently seen polydactyly - where a cat can have extra toes on their paws.

tabby kitten with Syndactylism
Bert has some of his toes fused together 
A normal cat has four toes on each foot and on the front feet they also have a dewclaw - which is a little higher up on the leg.

“Although very rare, complex Syndactylism – the form which tends to be seen in cats - appears to cause minimal to no discomfort so treatment is generally not recommended,” said Jennifer MacVicar, Cats Protection’s Central Veterinary Officer.

black and white kitten with Syndactylism
Ernie is being monitored to make sure his toes aren't causing any discomfort
“The condition is unlikely to cause problems but Bert and Ernie will need to be monitored as they grow for any sign of lameness. Syndactylism is potentially inherited and could be passed on to their offspring so, like all the cats in our care, Bert and Ernie will be neutered when they reach four months.”

The kittens were believed to be under two weeks old when they were found in Wakefield in mid-May.
There was no sign of their mother when they were discovered so the charity believes it’s possible she may have rejected them.

one tabby kitten and one black and white kitten both with Syndactylism
Bert and Ernie will be rehomed when they are eight weeks old
“We weren’t sure Bert and Ernie were going to make it but they’re growing into two lively boys,” said Rob Wilkinson, Cats Protection’s Gildersome Centre Manager. “All the staff have taken it in turns to hand rear and they’re now being looked after in a volunteer’s home. They both seem perfectly happy and mobile.”

Bert and Ernie will be monitored by the charity’s vets until they are ready to find a new home.

If you would like to donate towards the care of Bert and Ernie, you can find out how at 

To find cats looking for homes in your area, visit

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

6 cats who forgot how to cat

Sometimes our cats can do the strangest things, providing us with hours of entertainment and making us question whether they do in fact know how to be a cat.

We asked our fantastic followers to share their best examples of moments their moggies forgot how to cat and here are some of our favourites…

Watching TV

Maisie loves to cat-ch up on her favourite shows on the moggy-vision. Just don't try to steal the remote control!

Eating veggies 

Mrs Kitty seems to have a taste for yummy veg as she loves to nibble on broccoli! @aerialnuwa says that she sets a good example for her son, who coincidentally also loves broccoli!

Rolling around

Neera loves to wave her paws in the air like she just doesn’t care whether she’s a cat or a dog! It also means she can show off that lovely fluffy tummy!

Getting wet 

Poe clearly didn’t get the memo that most cats aren’t keen on getting their paws wet. He just loves to explore the wonders of the bathroom sink!


Sometime the lure of a piece of string is just too much to handle, and Maikki’s reaction seems to be to do her best cat statue impression.

Playing fetch 

Why should dogs have all the fun when it comes to a game of fetch? Herbie proves that cats are just as good at retrieving their favourite toys – hunting is one of their specialist skills after all!

Do you have a cat who forgets how to cat? Send us your photos and videos on Facebook or Twitter

For more information on what makes a cat a cat, visit the Cats Protection website.