Wednesday, 22 March 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, nearing the end of their life or they have 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: My cat was put to sleep at the weekend, she had kidney disease. I feel so guilty for not noticing the signs sooner – she was a sickly cat normally and I just thought she would get back to normal, but on her last few days I realised she was in pain. I wonder if I had taken her to the vet sooner, whether she would still be here. Could she have had the disease a while or can it appear suddenly and quickly?

Answer: This is such a difficult thing to go through. I can't comment upon the specifics of her disease but perhaps you can follow that up with your veterinary surgery. I can hear how you're feeling guilty around the decision you've made and are having doubts about whether it was the right time and whether you could have done more. These are very natural thoughts and feelings to have after such a difficult thing to go through. Often our cats are very good at covering their symptoms – and it can be especially difficult to see anything different when she is a sickly cat generally. It sounds like you did something as soon as you noticed that she was in pain and took her to the vet. These feelings of doubt and guilt are very painful to bear – if it helps you to enquire further with your vet to the specific of the case then I suggest you do so, although you are likely to find that the pain lessens over time. If you would like to talk through your experience more please do ring the Paws to Listen Grief Support Line and speak with one of our trained volunteers. The number is 0800 024 94 94 and the line is open from 9am-5pm Mon-Fri. Best wishes.

Grief support

Question: My daughter, who is in her twenties, discovered that her cat had been run over a week ago. She is in such a state as he was only 10 months old, he had a tag on saying he was microchipped and another with her phone number on. He died and she is distraught that whoever did it did not stop. He’s now buried in my garden. How can I help her?

Answer: I’m very sorry for your and your daughter's loss. Such a difficult time for everyone, especially when it's a traumatic death such as a road traffic accident. Anger is a very natural response to grief, especially in such circumstances. Your daughter will benefit from having someone to listen – that is often the biggest help for anyone. Let her talk about her anger – hear her anger – be with her in her anger, without trying to fix it for her. If you've buried your daughter's cat in your garden it may be comforting for your daughter to spend some time there. If your daughter (or you) would like to talk through feelings about what has happened please do encourage her to ring our Paws to Listen Grief Support Line on 0800 024 94 94.

Question: Our cat has been missing since October 2015. He was nine and so, so loved. He had an amazing connection with my mum and she's really struggling as we can't move on until we find him. We've searched everywhere, tried all suggestions and even called our local Cats Protection for advice. There's a lot of evidence to suggest that someone stole him from us and moved away. I'm at a loss of what to do as I can't help my mum :(

Answer: Circumstances around ambiguous loss (when you don't know what happened) can be especially difficult to deal with. As you say, there is little closure and often we're left with feelings of guilt and anger and great anxiety about what happened to our beloved pet. Sadly, it is often the case that we never find out what happened and this can be very painful to deal with. It sounds like your mum has your support and this will be very helpful to her. Continue to allow her to talk about him, and about her feelings. You already are helping your mum by being there with her through her pain and distress.

Question: My beloved cat, who was 17, was put to sleep last October due to cancer. Our vet was lovely but I feel it was so quick and I can't feel his spirit or any sign that he understands why I did what I did. I cry a lot and it's affecting me more as the time goes by. The loss has been immense. How do I reconcile myself with what happened? I feel I gave him the best life so why do I feel so sad that I didn't let him suffer?

Answer: Grief is unique and is therefore different for everyone. The bond that you had with your cat sounds like it was very strong and when a bond is that strong, it is such a significant loss when they leave us. It sounds like you have a spiritual belief and I'm wondering whether you've been able to memorialise him? Sometimes, it can be helpful to have a bit of a ceremony – whatever you feel comfortable with – a sort of ceremonial goodbye but also a recognition that the connection between you will always remain. Feeling guilty about making the most difficult decisions for our pets is very natural, though this does usually change over time. There is no time limit on grief – especially when your bond was so strong. If you are worried about your prolonged feelings about your cat, you could approach your GP to see if there is more going on for you – sometimes grief can become complicated and it can help to have professional support through your GP or a counsellor.

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:

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

‘Why is my cat vomiting?’ and other veterinary FAQs

In our latest Facebook Q&A, vet Dr Sarah Elliott answered live questions from cat owners. Here are just some of the topics discussed:

Question: My 19-year-old cat is throwing up almost everything she eats. What should I do?

Answer: It is a good idea to mention any vomiting to your vet as there can be a different underlying cause depending on whether this is true vomiting or regurgitation. If your cat’s diet has changed recently then this may be the cause. Any diet change should be made very gradually over the course of one week to reduce the risk of a stomach upset. There are lots of diets available that are specially formulated for sensitive stomachs.

Question: Which types of food are recommended for an 18/19-year-old female? She's mildly arthritic but otherwise in good health, with all her teeth!

Answer: There are many diets specially formulated for elderly cats – talk to your vet about which ones they recommend. Some even have joint supplements already added. As cats can be prone to troublesome kidneys, many vets may recommend a wet diet for elderly cats to help support their water intake. There’s more information on senior cats in our Elderly cats leaflet.

Question: My cat has three legs and is perfectly healthy (the vet said so) but always has soft runny poo. I feed her Sheba as she's so fussy she won't eat anything else but I worry about her as she is 12-and-a-half years old! What can I do? She won't eat senior food!

Answer: Cats can be fussy eaters! I'd recommend taking a tiny amount of her food out of the bowl and replacing with the new food you want her to eat. Then gradually decrease the old food and increase the new over a couple of weeks and hopefully she'll come to accept the change a bit easier. They can be stubborn but it is all about being even more stubborn in return!

Question: I recently took my Maine Coon cat to the vet for his vaccinations. The vet weighed him and said that he is overweight so advised he goes on a diet. We've cut back his food to the amount he suggested, but he always seems hungry. I just want a second opinion as I don't want to under-feed him.

Answer: Encourage your cat to play as much as possible. Microchip feeders can help limit how much food your cat can eat if your cats are microchipped. Feeding puzzles can be used when feeding your cat meals instead of using a food bowl. Food puzzles are available to order and Cats Protection has some great cheap options for home-made puzzles. Have a look at our Feline Crafty video guides for ideas:

Question: My cat is a 14-year-old neutered male with arthritis. He has joint supplements and anti-inflammatories each day but his back legs are deteriorating. He still seems to enjoy life. Is there anything else I could give him that might help?

Answer: It sound like he is in good hands with you! I don't think many people realise that arthritis affects many older cats. It is worth staying in regular contact with your vet as they may be able to rejig the medication if needs be.

Try to make his environment as easy on the joints as it can be – his litter tray should have low sides so he can easily get in and out, and his food and water bowls may need to be closer or add a few more so he doesn't have to go too far. You could add ramps to help him reach his favourite perches and sleeping spots. Also have a look at our arthritis info.

Question: My female cat has slowly been developing a brown fang over the past few years – she has had to have her teeth cleaned twice – I’m just worried that she's going to lose it! Is there anything I could do to prevent further teeth decay?

Answer: If the enamel or dentine is becoming discoloured, there may be a problem on the inside of the tooth. I would get your vet to take a look as the first priority. You may find our Teeth and oral health leaflet useful too.

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 cat care advice, please see or 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 about your cat? Don't miss the next live Facebook Q&A sessions: talk to a pet bereavement specialist on 16 March; or chat with Behaviourist Nicky Trevorrow on 6 April. All Q&As are held on Cats Protection's national Facebook page from 2pm. See you there!

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Do you have what it takes to do an endurance challenge?

Have you always fancied pushing yourself to the limit? Now is your chance to take part in an Ultra Challenge and support your favourite charity at the same time.

Cats Protection has spaces for walkers and joggers in all of the official Ultra Challenges – you can choose to walk, jog or run either 25km, 50km or 100km in the following scenic events:

Daniel Merton and Lesley Belton are both taking part in the Thames Bridges Trek, which is part of the Thames Path Challenge. They’ll join 2,000 people walking 25km through London over 16 historic bridges with incredible views of the city.

By coincidence, they’re both raising money for the Horsham & District Branch or Cats Protection. Lesley is a volunteer for the branch too!

Lesley Belton is fundraising for Cats Protection

“I’m an Olympic level couch potato and also happen to be the Branch & Membership Secretary for Horsham & District Cats Protection. With this great power comes great responsibility and I will do anything for cats,” she says.

“I’m a whole lot of crazy, so I’ll be completing the Thames Bridges Trek on 7 September,” Lesley adds. “I say completing but the furthest I normally walk is to and from the coffee shop so this will be quite the challenge.

“I’m raising money for a great cause. £150 is the average amount it costs us to care for each cat in our pens so I want to help raise this amount for at least one cat.

Lesley Belton manning a raffle

“My husband owns a narrowboat and at weekends I train by walking along the tow path as he pilots the boat along the canal shouting encouragement… a bit like the scene from the Rocky film but with water!”

Meanwhile, Cats Protection supporter Daniel is hoping to improve his fitness following an injury in late 2015.

He explains: “I broke my ankle quite severely in an accident and I spent a lot of time at home in pain, unable to do much with just the cats for company. Missy was always by my side or on my lap to keep me going. We already had a close bond but this bought us even closer together.”

Daniel Merton with his cat, Missy

Daniel’s training every day, spending an hour of his lunch break at work going for a walk, going to the gym once or twice a week and doing a long distance walk at the weekend. He’s hoping to raise £500, which his employer has promised to match, making a total target of £1,000.

Daniel Merton training for his trekking challenge

“I love cats and am the proud owner of four. Our home would feel empty without a cat around. If I could have more I would, but have chosen to help cats in need instead.

“If you are looking for a way to get fit and need something to achieve as well as raise money for cats then this is for you.”

If you’d like to sponsor Daniel, you can do so here; and you can sponsor Lesley here. We’ll be there cheering them on at the finish line!

Fancy joining them? Whether you’re a walking enthusiast or a marathon runner looking to up the distance, these Ultimate Challenges are for you. Check them out at

Monday, 13 March 2017

Why cats love running water

In the latest video in the Simon’s Cat Logic series, animator Simon Tofield and Cats Protection’s Behaviour Manager Nicky Trevorrow have teamed up to explore cats’ relationship with water.

“My cats are always curled up in my sink, fast asleep,” says Simon. “Another thing they do is lick from the tap when they’re thirsty, even if there’s a water bowl below, they’ll always go for the dripping water!”

Nicky explains why cats are fascinated by running water.

“In the home environment, some cats prefer a running tap, for example or maybe a drinking fountain,” she says. “This makes sense from an African wildcat perspective, where they would naturally drink from fresh running streams rather than a stagnant pool.”

Cat drinking water from tap
Photo by Lisa Zins via flickr / Creative Commons
Cats also prefer to have their food bowl and their water bowl separated from each other. In an evolutionary sense this allows them to avoid water that may be contaminated with waste from prey.

If you want to learn more about your cat’s behaviour and why they act the way they do, visit our online behaviour hub.

Does your cat love running water? Let us know on Twitter @catsprotection and use the hashtag #SimonsCatLogic.

Friday, 3 March 2017

‘Why does my cat miaow at me?’ 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. Here are just some of the topics discussed:

Question: I have a five-year-old female cat who constantly miaows at me. She’s eating and drinking ok, it’s just that every time I look at her she stares and miaows! She's neutered.

Answer: It would be worth taking her to the vet and making sure that she doesn't have a medical problem, even if she seems healthy. The increased vocalisation could be a sign of a medical problem. Keep a note of any other changes in her behaviour to tell the vet. If there's nothing medically wrong with her, then she could just be a chatty cat.

Some owners and their cats can build up a mutual understanding whereby the cat does certain miaows for different things. If you're concerned, you could get a referral to a qualified behaviourist. Ensure that she has all the resources (like a litter tray, scratch post, food and water bowls) she needs in the house and has plenty of fuss and play sessions with you. You could try introducing feeding enrichment to her (giving her food from her daily allowance in items that aren't from a bowl as it's more mentally stimulating). Start with something very simple like a cardboard egg box (see our post about feeding enrichment). Always show your cat how to use it first for a couple of minutes and then let her have a go!

Miaowing cat

Question: How do you stop an eight-month-old cat ripping at the wallpaper? She has a scratching post and lots of toys but prefers clawing at the wallpaper. We only decorated recently!

Answer: Sorry to hear about the scratching behaviour. I hate to say it, but cats absolutely love textured wallpaper in particular! Sorry to hear that you've only just redecorated too. If you redecorate again, then perhaps going for paint (a cat-safe one) would be better. Scratching is a normal behaviour for cats and therefore they need an outlet in order to express this natural behaviour. The main two reasons that a cat will scratch is:

1) For claw maintenance where they remove the outer sheaths of their claws. This tends to be more of a plucking motion with their paws.

2) As a territorial marker – both a visual mark from the long scratch lines left behind and a scent mark from the scent glands in between their toes.

Cats can also increase their scratch marking in times of stress. For stressed cats, it is important to rule out the underlying cause of the stress. The first port of call is a health-check by the vet to rule out any underlying medical problems. A referral to a qualified behaviourist can help to identify the cause of any anxiety.

All cats should be provided with scratching facilities.

Ideally a scratch post should:

  • be tall enough (at least 60cm) for the average adult cat to allow them to stretch up on their toes while scratching
  • be sturdy enough as cats like to lean their body weight against the post while scratching
  • have vertical thread to facilitate a full range of vertical scratching movements

Find out more here.

Best of luck!

Question: One of my cats has recently started licking my face but only does it at about 4am! If he can't get my face he starts licking my hands. He does it for ages every night, not just for a few minutes. I had him nearly a year before he started doing it. It's only when I'm in bed. Any ideas why he is doing this?

Answer: As strange as it sounds, there are actually medical reasons that can cause cats to start licking things or people that they didn't used to, so it would be worth ruling this out with your vet first. It would be worth chatting it through with a behaviourist too to see if there is anything that coincides with the onset of the behaviour. I can fully appreciate how it feels to be woken up at 4am! It's not fun. Cats are naturally more active during this time. Ensure your cat has plenty of play sessions throughout the day. Hope he stops soon.

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 cat care advice, please see or 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 about your cat? Don't miss the next live Facebook Q&A sessions: chat with vet Dr Sarah Elliot on 9 March or Behaviourist Nicky Trevorrow on 6 April. We're also hosting a Q&A about pet grief on 16 March. All Q&As are held on Cats Protection's national Facebook page from 2pm. See you there!

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Freya finds her way home

This post has been written by our Barnstaple & District Branch

We were told of a stray kitten in Mortehoe which had been around for about a month. The lovely gent who reported the kitten said she was very skinny so he had started to feed her with bit of fish and chicken.

The kitten then slowly started to come into the house and cuddle up on a chair. As we are only able to take a cat in when we have a space, the man continued to feed her until one of our fosterers was able to collect her and look for an owner.

When we collected the kitten we called into Market Vets in Barnstaple who checked for – and found – a microchip! They discovered that the kitten, called Freya, was only six months old and had gone missing in October from nearby Ilfracombe.

Freya’s owners don't drive so we agreed to take her round to them to be reunited.

Freya is reunited with her relieved owners

The couple were so over the moon to get her back after so long, they said it was the best ever Christmas present. They thought they would never see her again.

It just goes to show that microchips do work!

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

10 reasons why your cat is the ultimate Valentine's date

It's that time of year again. The time when you devote yourself to that special someone in your life. The time when you show them how much they mean to you. The time when you lavish each other with attention and gifts. The time when you share a romantic candlelit dinner at that fancy-restaurant-you-liked-the-look-of-last-year-but-needed-a-good-excuse-to-visit.

The time when it dawns on you that your special someone has forgotten it's Valentine's Day… again. The time when you pretend it's OK for them to ‘make it up to you next year’. (You can see where we're heading with this, can't you?!)

For those of us who wake up every 15 February with a tinge of disappointment, we think we've found the solution.

Allow us to present 10 reasons why your cat is your best bet for a Valentine's Day date:

1. Let's start with the most obvious. They love you. They might not always show it but, deep down, you know they do. Every rub up against your leg, every slow blink is another sign that they enjoy spending time with you.

2. They're all about giving. Moggies just love bringing you gifts. Even if you may not always enjoy receiving them you can be sure they'll be out there hunting for the perfect prezzie that will have you screaming with delight and running around the house.

3. They're a cheap date. A fresh bowl of water, some food and five minutes chasing their favourite toy around the living room and cats are usually pretty content with life and ready for some serious relaxation time. Which leads us to...
Kitten curling up with heart cushion
Curl up with your cat this Valentine's Day. Photo: / Voren1
4. They know how to take it easy. Is your idea of the ultimate Valentine's Day evening curling up on the sofa with some snacks*? Well, so is theirs! That's one more thing you've got in common with your cat, compared to a perpetually-disappointing other half.

5. They're great listeners. Sometimes all you need after a hard day's work is someone to sit with you as you get everything off your chest. With a range of hearing well beyond our own, cats can pick up sounds that even dogs can't detect, so you can be sure they will hear you out. Just don't be put off if they’re laying down with their eyes closed while you’re happily nattering away!

6. They don't judge. You can tell a moggy your deepest secrets and they will not bat an eyelid. Is this due to some sort of human-feline empathy built up over centuries of co-habitation? No, it's because they haven't a clue what you're saying. But you can always pretend they do. After all, you’ve been doing that with your partner for years.

7. They are certified de-stressers. Many of us find it hard to relax. Even when we've finished our work for the day, phones, tablets and TV screens throw more unwanted information at us. Stroking a cat's soft fur and listening to their therapeutic purring has been proven to lower our anxiety levels and put us at ease. In this day and age, that's a gift to truly cherish.

8. February in the UK can be cold. Really cold. But if you have a feline in your family, there's often no need to grab your hot water bottle on your way up to bed. If you play your cards right after your relaxing Valentine's evening, your moggy will curl up next to your feet and keep you toasty until the morning. With some kitties, it's all part of the service.

9. You can call them the cutest things. Fluffykins. Honeybun. Snugglebug. You can use any number of pet names on your moggy and they won't roll their eyes at you. Although it does make you wonder what they'd like to call us!

10. And finally, cats know how to show appreciation. If you make spend time with them, your cat may reward you with a head butt, which means you’re their friend. Unlike your other half, who still hasn't thanked you for the present you gave them last year!

However you spend 14 February – whether it's in the company of felines, humans or both – there's never a bad time to show your cat how much you love them. How about preparing them a tasty treat? Just one of the kitty presents we show you how to make in our Feline Crafty YouTube series.

Happy Valentine's Day!

*Veterinary note: If you give your cat any treats, ensure they are taken from their daily food allowance.