Thursday, 25 May 2017

‘Why does my cat fight with neighbourhood cats?’ and other behaviour FAQs

Don’t understand why your cat behaves the way they do? Behaviourist Nicky Trevorrow took to our national Facebook page to answer live questions from curious cat owners.

Note: If your cat starts to display any behaviours that are unusual or they develop a change in personality or demeanour, the first port of call must always be your vet. Many changes in behaviour are due to illness or pain and so you should arrange an appointment with your vet as soon as possible.

Other seemingly ‘odd’ behaviours that do not have roots in a medical condition can be explained by understanding the natural behaviour that makes a cat a cat. For these types of behaviour issues we would recommend a referral to a qualified behaviourist from the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors (APBC).


Question: My cat is nine years old but over the last year has become a bit of a fighter with neighbourhood cats, especially if those cats are strays or newcomers to the area. He's coming home with scratches and scars and has cost us a few vets’ bills to treat infections and abscesses. Can you help answer why he's developed this territorial attitude and ways we can help him feel calmer when dealing with cats outdoors?

Answer: You are not alone with this problem! This is a very common situation as cats are a solitary species and often become territorial when other cats move into the neighbourhood and start to occupy the area that was once exclusively theirs. Sharing territory is a stressful situation for many cats. Generally speaking cats will only fight as a last resort and would rather avoid confrontation. To help avoid confrontation ensure he has plenty of opportunities to avoid others and deal with stress in the ways that cats like best: provide him with lots of places to hide and places to climb up high, both indoors and in your garden. Hopefully these measures should help to reduce his stress levels and reduce the number of scuffles in the process!

It is worth noting that a cat who is ill or in pain is less able to cope with stress – often a contributing factor when a cat appears to be behaving aggressively – do get him vet checked to make sure there are no medical reasons behind the behaviour.

Grey cat looking out window
Cats that are feeling threatened by other cats may spend time being vigilant at windows and cat flaps. Credit: istock.com/sjingel

Question: My cat constantly meows at night times. He is also scared of me and attacks people quite a lot. Please help, it's like he has cat ADHD.

Answer: Thanks for your question and I am sorry to hear about your cat. It sounds like there's a lot going on there.

There are many different medical reasons for these types of behaviours and so I would recommend a trip to the vets as soon as you can.

In the meantime, make sure that all members of the household wear sufficient protective clothing and get medical attention for any bites or scratches.

Give your cat lots of places to hide, get up high and escape routes to help them feel safer and also have a read of this leaflet: Managing your cat’s behaviour.


Question: Is there any way to get mats out of fur? My cat is 19 and grumpy when I try and brush her.

Answer: Sorry to hear this, it's really common! If her mats are quite severe, then I would suggest taking her to the vets in order for them to remove them safely. Mats which have become large or are close to the skin are very difficult to remove yourself without damaging the skin underneath.

Your vet will also want to give your cat a thorough check up as many elderly cats are unable to groom themselves properly due to the pain associated with conditions such as osteoarthritis. Once any issues have been addressed medically and the initial mats have been removed, you will be able to start your maintenance programme which will help any further mats from accumulating.

Build up really gradually. Start with a very soft baby brush and just give her treats (as long as there's no medical reason why she can't have treats – discuss with your vet) for approaching and sniffing the baby brush. Don't attempt grooming for the time being unless absolutely necessary. You may wish to get a qualified behaviourist in to help you through a gradual process of getting her used to brushes again as they can tailor a programme especially for her – see the link above for the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors.

Brushing a ginger cat
If you are struggling to groom your cat, ask your vet for advice. Credit: istock.com/Aksenovko

Question: My cat shuffles her bottom on the carpet. She is regularly wormed and has no signs of infection. Is this normal?

Answer: I’m afraid this isn't normal. There are a few medical issues such as impacted anal glands or bite abscesses which can cause discomfort around the rear end so a trip to the vets is advised. 

Hope it gets sorted out soon.


Question: Is there a particular reason my cat is shoving her face in mine when we snuggle? She doesn’t give me face rubs, but sleeps with her face pressed against mine. Or is she just being generally sweet and loving?

Answer: If there is no medical reason for your cat to be head-pressing, then I think it is safe to say that your cat expressing how well bonded the two of you are! It is incredibly cute and one of the many reasons why cats are so awesome!

Woman cuddling black-and-white cat
Cats can become very bonded with their owner. Credit: istock.com/Olezzo

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 behaviour advice, please visit www.cats.org.uk/cat-care/cat-behaviour-hub where you’ll also find The Behaviour Guide which discusses a variety of topics on cat behaviour.

Consult your vet if you have a specific concern about your cat.

Would you like to ask one of Cats Protection's feline experts a question? Don't miss the next live Facebook Q&A sessions: vet Dr Sarah Elliott will be taking questions on 1 June; you can get support with pet-related grief on 13 June; or speak to Behaviour Manager Nicky again on 29 June. All Q&As are held on Cats Protection's national Facebook page from 2pm. See you there!

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Have you found a stray cat or a feral cat?

One of the top questions that we receive on our social media pages and via our National Information Line is what to do if you have found a feral cat or a stray cat. But what’s the difference between the two and how can you tell which is which?

A stray cat is a socialised domestic cat who doesn’t (or doesn’t appear to) have an owner. Although they may look a little disorientated they may be friendly and will likely be alone. If you have found a stray cat and need advice on what to do, visit www.cats.org.uk/straycat

A feral cat is the same species of cat as our pet cats but is not socialised to people or the domestic environment. This means they will be fearful of humans and behave like a wild animal. A feral lives alone – or in a group called a colony – and will be found in towns, cities and rural areas. If you’ve found a feral cat, find out what to do at www.cats.org.uk/feralcat

The following visual guide will help you quickly spot the difference between a stray and a feral.

To enlarge, click on the image
If you have found an injured cat, the quickest course of action is to take the cat to a vet for any emergency treatment necessary. Carefully cover them in a blanket before picking them up. This keeps the cat safe as well as shielding you from claws!

The RSPCA has an agreement with the British Veterinary Association (BVA) to provide initial emergency assessment and care of sick and injured animals. To allow funds to be released from the RSPCA for emergency care, you must phone the RSCPA before you arrive at the vets with the cat.

If taking the cat to a vet surgery this isn't possible, contain the cat if you can and contact the RSPCA (England & Wales) on 0300 1234 999, SSPCA (Scotland) on 03000 999 999 or USPCA (Northern Ireland) – find contact details at http://uspca.co.uk

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Monday, 22 May 2017

Fresh start for senior Dotty

This post has been written by our Gosport Town Branch

Sixteen-year-old Dotty came into the care of the branch in November 2016 having lived with one owner since a kitten and kept as an indoor cat. New rules by the landlord meant that Dotty wasn't allowed to stay in her home and she was reluctantly handed over to Cats Protection.

Sadly Dotty's health wasn't the best, she hadn't seen a vet since she'd been spayed as a young cat, and once in Cats Protection’s care had numerous trips to the vet including extensive dental surgery and a geriatric profile which revealed early stage kidney failure for which a renal diet was recommended.

Despite the branch's best efforts Dotty was a hard-to-home cat and potential adopters were put off on hearing all her problems. A different tack was taken in presenting a letter as a plea for Dotty on her adoption blurb and being upfront that she needed a special diet but had a lot to offer.  

Dotty enjoying her new garden

Happily Dotty was adopted in March 2017 and we've received an enthusiastic update a few days ago from Tricia, her new owner.

Such a positive outcome for a 'harder-to-home' cat seems too good not to share.

Dotty lounging in her new garden

It seems it didn't take Dotty long at all to get settled with Tricia who sent this heart-warming update in May 2017.

"Just a quick note to let you know that Dotty has settled in well, in fact she was settled in within the first 10 minutes of arriving at my house! I've never had a cat make themselves at home so quick. She has slept on my bed since the first night.

“I'm sure somewhere in her history she has had access to a garden and a cat flap, she didn't need any training to use mine and was not nervous at all on her first venture into the big open world. She loves the garden and often supervises me when I'm working out there.

Dotty basking in the sunshine

“She is very good company, loves to play and enjoys a fuss. You wouldn't believe she is 16! She is a very special cat and everyone adores her. Thank you so much for introducing me to her."

Everyone at the Gosport Town Branch is thrilled that Dotty has the perfect home and that Tricia saw beyond the number of birthdays that Dotty has had.

Friday, 19 May 2017

Cats through the ages: Ancestry

Ever wondered where the humble domestic moggy comes from?

Dr John Bradshaw, Foundation Director of the Anthrozoology Institute at the University of Bristol, explains feline history in our new video series on the brief history of the cat.

Cats through the ages: Ancestry

Travel with us from evolution and domestication to their role in Egyptian and Roman civilisations through to the modern day.



Subscribe so you don’t miss the next video in the series by clicking here.

Wednesday, 17 May 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.

Coping with the loss of your cat

Here are just some of the queries she helped with:

Question: My cat was put to sleep on Saturday due to lymphoma of the gut at almost 12 years old. I’m struggling in general with grief and don't know what to do. I have to be at work this week, but need time to get over him. My other cat doesn't seem to be missing her son, but how do I tell?

Answer: I’m so very sorry to hear of your loss. It can be a really difficult thing to deal with, especially when the world expects you to ‘just get on with things’. It's sad that we most often don't get the same consideration when our pet dies than when another family member dies. It can be difficult to focus on work at a time when you are grieving such a loss.

With regards to your other cat and whether she is missing him too – it can be difficult to tell, especially with cats. Sometimes you'll see a change in behaviour, sometimes you won't. Most often cats do adjust quickly to changes like this and sometimes surviving cats in a household might even become less inhibited and more affection-seeking from you without their companion around. Keeping an eye on her and noting any great changes in her behaviour will help you to determine how she is doing generally. We have a leaflet about this topic, which you may find useful: Grief in surviving pets.


Question: As a result of kidney disease we had to say goodbye to our boy just before Christmas my husband sobbed... he and the cat had a lovely bond. We were talking about him the other day and my hubby started to cry. He's really cut up over his buddy, he thinks he's soft but I've told him that it's OK to cry.

Answer: So sorry to hear about your cat. It does sound like your husband had a very special bond with him. Crying and sadness is a very common response to grief and certainly men can find it harder to feel like it’s OK to show their emotions – it’s a societal thing. It sounds like you're being really supportive and being a great listener for your husband.


Question: My little one went eight weeks ago to cardiac arrest. He was being looked after at a pet hospital at the time and was 'comfortable and happy' so it was really sudden. Now I am really struggling and feel so guilty – I wasn't with him when he went and wasn't offered the chance to say goodbye. I feel part of me has gone. My daughter reckons it's time to get over him but I don't know how to. He was only four. It's just so unfair.

Answer: Such a sudden and unexpected loss – I'm sorry for your loss. Circumstances such as these can have a really significant effect on how you grieve the loss of your little one. Not being there can leave you with feelings of guilt and overwhelming sadness that can last for a significant time. Grief has no time limit – it is unique to everyone and it can be really hard when the people around you are experiencing the grief in the same way that you are. Give yourself time. You know, these little cats are our family, there’s such a strong bond between you and that means their loss with be significant too. Loss hurts – it’s meant to – it's how you know he was special to you. Not being able to say goodbye can leave you stuck in your grief so maybe find a way to say goodbye to him – in his favourite place or with his favourite toy. Do consider phoning the Paws to Listen Grief Support Line on 0800 024 9494 and speak with one of our trained listeners. The line is open from 9am-5pm Mon-Fri.

Paws to listen logo

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

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Ninety years of dedication to cats

Today, 16 May 2017, is Cats Protection’s 90th anniversary.

Starting life as the Cats Protection League in 1927, our charity arose from very humble beginnings. During the 1920s cats were not seen as the companion animals they are today. Rather than pets most were thought of as nothing more than pests. Concern was expressed at the general ignorance of many people regarding the needs of the domestic cat, so much so that on 16 May 1927 a group of like-minded people gathered at Caxton Hall in London to form the Cats Protection League, an educational society to raise the status of cats.

Cats Protection young volunteer in 1960s

Cats Protection historic ambulance

The charity’s founder was Miss Jessey Wade, a tireless campaigner for animal welfare and a founder or original member of other societies among others such as The Humanitarian League, The Pit Ponies’ Protection Society, The Performing and Captive Animals’ Defence League, The League for the Prohibition of Cruel Sports (now League against Cruel Sports). She was also friends with renowned Suffragists, Eve Gore Booth and Esther Roper. She would go on to be the charity’s Chairman, Vice President and editor of The Cat magazine. She formed the charity when she was 60 and eventually retired at the age of 80, but still being involved until her death in 1952 aged 92.

Cats Protection outdoor pens in 1960s

Cats Protection vintage 1960s advice leaflets

Cats Protection vintage fundraising stall

In 90 years Cats Protection has:

  • rehomed over 1.5m cats and kittens*
  • neutered nearly 3m cats*
  • helped over 3m cats*
  • championed the rights of cats 
  • helped people of all ages to understand cats and their needs

The dedication and commitment of our volunteers and staff has never waned; it has survived war and recession; defying the odds and helping as many cats as possible. Our aim remains the same as it did in 1927, no matter what the challenges we will provide better and brighter futures for the thousands of cats that come through Cats Protection’s care.   

What an achievement this is, for us all – our volunteers, staff and all of our supporters – without whom we wouldn’t be here today. Here’s to the next 90 years!

Find out more about our recent work by watching our video of 2016 achievements here.

*conservative estimates, taken from the figures listed in available Annual Reports since 1927 
Cats Protection 90th anniversary logo

Monday, 15 May 2017

What Cats Protection achieved in 2016

2016 was another fantastic year for Cats Protection: our volunteers, our supporters and our staff have achieved some amazing things.


Our vision is a world where every cat is treated with kindness and an understanding of its needs.

To achieve that vision we’re continuing to work towards changing people’s attitudes towards cats and helping them to better understand cats’ needs. We focused on growing our profile throughout the UK while promoting awareness of cat welfare. Our national campaigns and collaborations with other charities and high profile organisations are helping to bring about change, making the world a better place for cats.

We help to reduce overpopulation of cats and in 2016 our community neutering team played a key role in developing relationships in targeted areas and educating people about the benefits of neutering – for cats and their owners.

Finding new homes for cats in need is a key part of our work too and in 2016 we improved and developed our adoption centres and grew our volunteer-run branch network so that we can rehome even more cats in the future.



Here are some of our key achievements

  • We helped nearly 190,000 cats and kittens – that’s around 500 cats every single day!
  • We found loving new homes for 43,000 cats and kittens 
  • We reunited 3,000 cats and kittens with their relieved owners 
  • We neutered 152,000 cats and kittens, to prevent unwanted litters
  • We reached an audience of over 41,700 adults and children with talks helping them to better understand cats
  • Our thousands of volunteers dedicated a whopping 5 million hours to the charity 

You can read our full Annual Review 2016 at www.cats.org.uk/annual-review16

Everything we’ve achieved – and every single cat we’ve helped in 2016 – is thanks to our devoted supporters, volunteers and staff. Thank you to each and every one of you for your commitment to cats and to the charity!