Monday, 27 May 2019

Tips for having a cat-safe BBQ this summer

With the weather warming up it means BBQ season is right around the corner. While a party in the garden is great fun for us, if you have a cat there are a few things to consider to make sure they have a good time too.

1. Keep the BBQ off-limits 

man standing by BBQ with meat cooking

Of course, open flames are always a risk around animals, so make sure that the BBQ is never left unattended and the grill is kept covered, even while it is cooling down. You could even set up a playpen or other barrier around the BBQ to keep your cat away.

If your cat does go near the BBQ, make sure you do not reinforce the behaviour by feeding them trimmings from the food that’s cooking or about to be cooked. Remember, it’s not just food that can encourage your cat, so avoid giving them strokes and attention when you’re around the BBQ as this may keep them coming back for more. Instead, get someone that isn’t cooking to encourage your cat away with a toy or some fuss.

2. Create a safe space 


white cat lying on its back with paws in the air

You want your cat to be as relaxed as your guests are, but it’s important to remember that they have different needs. While your cat may be happy to spend time in your company, they may not like having a group of strangers in their territory.

Before your guests arrive, set up a quiet area of the house with everything they’ll need (eg food, water, litter tray) so they can get away from the noise. Cats like to hide and get up high when they feel scared, so make sure they have plenty of opportunities to do this to prevent them from becoming stressed. Make sure your guests leave your cat alone while they are in their quiet area, no matter how tempting it is to give them a cuddle!

If your cat has dried food, you could put a puzzle feeder in the quiet room to keep them entertained. The problem solving aspect will help release endorphins, also known as ‘happy hormones’, to keep your cat feeling comfortable. While there are lots of enrichment feeders on the market, some as cheap as £5, you can make one yourself from things you will have lying around the house. Watch our video to find out how.

3. Don’t feed them BBQ food 


brown cat looking over table at plate of meat

For us, the best bit of the BBQ is of course the food, but there are a few things you need to be careful about if you don’t want your evening to end in a trip to the vets.

Foods in the onion family can break down a cat’s red blood cells, which can lead to anaemia, and also cause gastrointestinal upset meaning you could end up with a rather messy litter tray later on! To be on the safe side, keep onions, garlic and chives well out of reach.

Chocolate is also poisonous for cats, due to a chemical called theobromine. While this is in all chocolate it is most concentrated in dark chocolate and can cause an abnormal heart rhythm, tremors, seizure and death. So make sure all chocolate puddings are stored out of harm’s way, up high in an airtight container.

If your cat eats grapes or raisins they can develop kidney failure and the signs to look out for are vomiting and hyperactivity. To be safe, keep an eye on any that you may have lying around.

Unsurprisingly, cats cannot drink alcohol. Alcohol has the same effect on cats as it does on humans but due to the size difference it takes very little for the negative side effects to become apparent, sometimes as little as a teaspoon can cause liver and brain damage. The higher the proof the less the cat needs to ingest to experience the negative side effects. While it may be tempting to relax with a glass of wine as you are waiting for your food to cook it is important to make sure that there is no way your cat can get to your glass. Especially if they are of a naturally curious disposition!

Make sure your guests also know not to feed your cat any scraps from the BBQ and if you do think your cat has eaten something they shouldn’t, contact your vet immediately. You can find more information about items that are poisonous to cats on the Cats Protection website.

4. Keep your cat sun-safe 


grey cat lying in the shade and yawning

Cats can get sunburn just like we can, so if they are joining you in the garden, make sure they have plenty of shady spots to snooze in. You can also talk to your vet about a suitable sunscreen for your cat, particularly if they have white fur as this makes them more susceptible to sun damage.

For more tips on keeping your cat safe in warm weather, visit www.cats.org.uk/cats-and-warm-weather

Friday, 24 May 2019

10 tips to get a cat to like you

For those unable to provide a forever home for a four-pawed friend, cat sitting is an increasingly popular way to get a feline fix. And with most people wanting to get as much quality cat time as possible, one question keeps cropping up: how do you get a cat to like you quickly?

Much like us two-legged folk, cats can be extroverts and introverts. Some lap up the attention and are quick to totter over to their new human friends, while cautious kitties will take their time to get to know you. But don’t worry, we’re here to help you make a great first impression.


Top 10 tips to befriend a cat 


1. Back off 

Your first temptation when you see those big adorable eyes might be to run over and say hello, but this could startle your new friend. If they run away, just leave them be. Felines need time to get accustomed to your scent, sound, and presence before they realise you’re not a threat. Rest assured, curiosity will take over and you’ll soon hear the pitter-patter of paws coming over to you.

2. Don’t lean over me

Great! The curious kitty is getting closer to being your forever friend. Now it’s time to get down to their level, or if you cannot do that, simply avoid leaning over them. Allow them to make the first move which will normally happen through a gentle rub against you — cats rely heavily on scent, so this is the perfect way for them to get to know you.

3. Keep calm 

If you talk in a soft, slow tone, cats are much more likely to warm to you with ease. Keep a calm demeanour by avoiding loud noises, sudden bursts of movement and make sure you announce yourself before walking into a room. Unexpectedly disturbing their catnap could frighten them and set you back when building a feline friendship.

4. Slow blinking 

As primates, we prefer to look at other living beings in the eye. Unfortunately, this can cause kitties to be uncomfortable. So when befriending a cat, try half-closing your eyes and blinking slowly, then peacefully turning away.

5. Be their new playmate 

A great way to bond is playtime. You’re unlikely to meet a cat that doesn’t enjoy chasing something — whether it’s a homemade toy or pet shop fishing rod— and this activity also helps build their physical and mental health.


6. Avoid that fluffy tummy 

Don’t assume a cat is asking for a tummy tickle when they lie on their backs. While exposing their belly and neck makes them vulnerable and is essentially a sign of trust, most cats do not appreciate tummy tickles from people they are unfamiliar with. In fact, this affectionate act is likely to be met with aggression.

7. Shhh! 

Whether they’re clawing your cashmere jumper or naughtily pawing at the fishbowl, never raise your voice to a cat. Shouting will not teach them positive behaviour; you’ll simply scare them and lose any trust you’ve built. What’s more, you could risk them retaliating.

8. Keep your hands to yourself 

As natural hunters, cats can easily confuse your hands for prey to paw, claw, and play with. To avoid injury and make sure your feline friend does not see you as a toy to attack, never use your bare hands to play.

9. Save them a space 

Cats love to elegantly walk around and mind their own business. Feel free to admire their beauty from a distance, but do not follow them. This can make them feel threatened, especially if you end up accidentally cornering them. Of course you’re only looking for a cuddle, but a cat’s affection cannot be rushed.

10. No one likes a tease 

Tricking or teasing a cat with toys like lasers may cause a cute reaction, but can lead to a lack of trust and build behavioural issues. Receiving an unexpected fright could even result in an injury, which is no way to make friends with any kind of animal.



Ready to befriend a cat using these top 10 tips? 


It’s time to put these tips to the test. You can befriend thousands of felines around the world by cat sitting with TrustedHousesitters. The caring community is always looking for pet lovers like you to stay with cats, near and far away, so who knows where you’ll find your next feline friend?

If you’re lucky enough to have a cat of your own and would like to travel with true peace of mind, TrustedHousesitters can also help you find a caring pet sitter. Reviewed, referenced and verified, they’ll befriend and care for your cat in your own home, and keep them purring until your return.

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Kittens build new lives after construction site rescue

A team of builders got more than they bargained for when they found a litter of five newborn kittens and their mother curled up in a dirty sheet.

Keen to get them to a place of safety, the crew – based on a building site in Belfast – scooped up the little family and knocked on the door of the nearest house.

tiny black kitten sleeping on fleece blanket

The lady living there, herself the owner of a large dog who was overly-excited by the furry bundle, then took them to a veterinary surgery.

Vets contacted Cats Protection’s Belfast Adoption Centre where the cat and kittens are now being cared for.

“The mum had clearly gone into the building site to find a quiet, safe place to have her babies,” said Bel Livingstone, manager of Cats Protection’s Belfast Adoption Centre.

black cat and black kittens on fleece blanket

“Sadly one of the kittens was born with deformities and didn’t survive. The vet checked over the others and gave them the all clear, and they are presently cosy in our maternity unit and are all doing well.”

Staff and volunteers at the centre have fallen in love with the four remaining kittens – and are also full of admiration for their mother, who has been named Persephone after the Greek god of spring.

The kittens have been named after characters from Game of Thrones, the HBO drama which was largely filmed in Belfast and across Northern Island: Arya, Bran, Meera and Sansa.

black kittens on fleece blanket

Cats Protection’s Belfast Adoption Centre works hard to find loving homes for every feline that comes into its care, but one of the charity’s main aims is to encourage the neutering of cats and kittens to ensure there will be fewer unwanted felines in the future.

"Neutering offers many benefits to cats and owners alike,” explains Bel. “A neutered cat is less likely to spray, less likely to roam and also less likely to fight. Neutering also helps guard against disease as fighting cats are more at risk of life-threatening diseases that can be transmitted through biting and saliva.”

For more information about neutering, and to find out how Cats Protection can help towards the cost of getting your cat neutered, visit www.cats.org.uk/neutering 

To find cats and kittens looking for homes in your area, visit www.cats.org.uk/adopt-a-cat

Thursday, 16 May 2019

Should I clean my cat’s teeth?

Brushing your teeth is a key part of the morning routine, but many cat owners probably wouldn’t consider giving their moggy’s teeth a clean too.

Just as we suffer from dental problems, cats can also get a build-up of plaque on their teeth and develop dental diseases that can cause them a lot of pain and even lead to other conditions, such as kidney disease. Therefore, it’s important to make sure their teeth are as clean and healthy as possible.

Spotting the signs of tooth pain 


tabby cat yawning and showing teeth

Cats are particularly good at hiding pain, so it can be difficult to tell if they are suffering with dental problems. Here are some of the signs to look out for:

  • not eating as much as normal 
  • favouring soft wet food over dry biscuits 
  • only eating on one side of their mouth 
  • bad breath (worse than normal!)
  • an increase in dribbling (maybe accompanied by blood in the saliva)  
  • difficulty grooming themselves 
  • a change in their behaviour (eg hiding more, not interacting with you as much) 

If you spot any of these signs, take your cat to the vet as soon as possible to get their teeth checked.


How to brush your cat’s teeth 


tabby and white cat meowing showing teeth

Approaching your cat’s teeth with a brush might seem like a daunting task but it will often be the best way to keep their teeth healthy. Not all cats will tolerate it, but most will be able to get used to it if you introduce the process gradually. Follow our simple steps to find out how.

1. Ask your vet to recommend a toothbrush and toothpaste 

Don’t be tempted to use a brush or toothpaste meant for humans – a human toothbrush will be too large for your cat’s mouth and they are unlikely to enjoy the minty flavour of human toothpaste, which may also contain ingredients that are harmful to cats. Your vet should be able to recommend a soft rubber finger brush and some meat or fish flavoured toothpaste you can use. If you have more than one cat, make sure they each have their own toothbrush to avoid transferring bacteria between them.

2. Wait until your cat is six months old 

Cats younger than six months are likely to still be teething, so will find teeth brushing painful.

3. Get them used to having their mouth touched 

Before you approach them with the toothbrush, make sure your cat is comfortable with you touching their face and mouth with your fingers. Follow the steps in our training guide, focusing on their mouth and taking the process nice and slowly. You can start this process when they are a young kitten in preparation for introducing them to the toothbrush when they are six months old.

4. Leave the toothbrush and toothpaste out 

To encourage your cat to not see the toothbrush and toothpaste as scary objects, leave them out somewhere where your cat can approach them of their own accord and have a sniff. You can also let them lick a bit of the toothpaste off of your finger so they get used to the taste.

5. Introduce the brush 

Repeat the steps in our training guide, this time using the toothbrush instead of your fingers. Start by touching your cat with the brush in an area they are comfortable being touched, and then gradually move it towards their mouth.

6. Start brushing 

If, after a few days or weeks, your cat is comfortable with having their mouth touched, you can start applying the toothpaste to their teeth with the brush. Apply the bristles to the teeth at a 45-degree angle, reaching both the tooth surface and just beneath the gum margin.

7. Stick to a routine 

Try to brush your cat’s teeth at the same time every day as cats like routine. Find a time when you are both calm and comfortable and always be gentle with the brush. Make sure you stop if your cat becomes stressed or tries to run away.

Other tips for keeping your cat’s teeth healthy 


tabby cat yawning and showing teeth

If your cat is not happy to have their teeth brushed or you’re worried about the safety of your fingers, there are a few other things you can do to reduce the risk of your cat having dental problems.

1. Book a regular dental check

Get your veterinary surgeon to do a full assessment of your cat’s teeth once or twice a year so they can spot any problems before they become serious. These dental checks can be done at the same time as annual health checks.

2. Don’t give them too many treats 

Much like many human treats, cat treats can be high in sugar which isn’t good for their teeth. Keep the number of treats you give them to a minimum, making sure their main source of food is a good-quality complete cat food in wet or dry form.

3. Feed them a special dental diet 

If your cat is prone to dental problems, your vet will be able to recommend a specific diet to feed them that will help to keep their teeth healthy.

For more advice on keeping your cat’s teeth clean, visit www.cats.org.uk/dental-care

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Philip Bloom isn’t ashamed to be a cat dad

British filmmaker Philip Bloom wants to see an end to the misconceptions about moggy-loving men and explains why cats can be man’s best friend… 

Do some people make a quick judgement about me when they learn I have cats? Some do for sure. I have had the odd comment on photos and videos of my cats asking if I was gay, some tell me to get a life, but most people either don’t state their opinion or find it lovely that I do love cats so much.

man cuddling tortie and white cat with one eye
Philip Bloom with his cat Harriet
It’s not like it is just cats, I love animals full stop. It’s just since cats came into my life with my first girlfriend 26 years ago I loved everything about them. They were beautiful, funny, calming, wonderful companions and some are happy to be left alone all day, unlike dogs. At the time I worked in TV news so my life was very unpredictable but it was comforting to know they would be OK if I had a long day at work or if I went away I knew they could be looked after easily.

man with grey cat sitting in his chest
Philip loves all animals, but particularly cats!
Over the years my love of cats has grown and grown. A big part of that was my beloved girl Noodle who came into my life in early 2000. Through almost two decades she was by my side, my constant companion. She always came to me when I called her, even though I rarely needed to as the moment I sat down she was on me. The moment I went to bed she tucked herself into my armpit. She was there through so many important years of my life and during the times when I was suffering from depression I am certain she helped me get through it. I always talked to her about things that were bothering me and she was a great listener although not a great talker, she just meowed a lot!

grey oriental cat being held with light bokeh in background
Philip's cat Lollipop
When she passed away in October last year it hit me hard. She had a long, amazing life and I was lucky to have had her for that time but it didn’t make it easier. She absolutely adored her brothers Bert and Percy. Percy seemed very upset for a number of months, going from room to room howling loudly for her, it was really upsetting. Only recently has he stopped doing it. It is at times like this that I wish they could understand me so I could try and make him feel better.

man holding three tortie and white kittens
Philip helps stray cats in Greece with his video work
In the past three years I have also started helping a rescue charity on the lovely Greek island of Skiathos. They do amazing work helping the cat population and for the most part the strays on the island are pretty healthy, which is rare in Greece. I started helping initially by taking photos for them for their cat calendars. When they were hit by a big financial crisis I decided to put my skills as a documentary filmmaker to good use and go over there to make a film about the work they do to try and help raise awareness and hopefully lead to some successful fundraising.

man kissing black kitten on the head
Philip with his cat Jimmy
Since the first film last January I have made three more additional films and last month I went back again to do a follow-up film. When I was there last summer for the second set of films I became really attached to a number of strays and found it really hard seeing the lives some of them have to look forward to. If I could rescue them all I would!

man with two brown cats sitting on his chest
Philip believes men shouldn't be judged for loving moggies 
Having cats sadly does seem to affect how people perceive you. For men it seems that many perceive you as less masculine, whether this is more from women than men I cannot be sure. I have heard remarks from both but I honestly don’t care what people think. Will this be amplified since the arrival of Harriet, Jimmy and Lollipop late last year, bringing my total of cats to five? Yes, it is more than likely.

man cuddling black cat
Jimmy and Philip having a cuddle
While I love all of them I wouldn’t recommend getting as many as me. It is a lot of cats for a man living alone, two or three is a great number as you can really give them all the attention they crave. It’s quite time-consuming making sure all five get equal cuddles! That being said I wouldn’t change things for the world, each one brings me so much joy and I know I have given them a better chance at a happy and long life. Showing animals love is a positive thing and if we can be kind to animals then perhaps that will help us be kind to each other.

man with three cats on his chest
Philip is proud to be a cat dad
Cats are amazing and I cannot imagine ever being without them in my life. They make everything that little bit better and when I go away with work or on holidays, not having them around does make me sad. At least I have a remote camera so I can still interact with them. Does this make me a crazy cat man? Nah, it makes me a truly loving cat dad and I would never be ashamed of that.

Are you a proud cat dad? Share a photo of you and your cat using #CatMenDo and find out more about our campaign at www.cats.org.uk/cat-men-do

6 reasons why all men should own a cat

You are probably familiar with the phrase ‘dogs are a man’s best friend’ but we think it’s time to bust the stereotype and start a cat man revolution.

New research by Cats Protection shows that men who like dogs are still seen as more masculine than those who like cats, but we want to put an end to this misconception.

white cat and man with beard at desk
Credit: iStock
The findings came from a survey that asked 2,000 men to assign attributes to a man in two photos – one with a cat and one with a dog. The man with the dog was more likely to be seen as masculine whereas the man with the cat was more likely to be seen as sensitive.

However, as any pet owner will know, owning either animal requires the same compassionate qualities and so there should be no judgement for men who wish to welcome a moggy into their lives.
If you’re considering becoming a cat dad but still need some convincing, here are some reasons why moggies make the best pets...

1. Cats provide endless entertainment 


grey and white cat sticking tongue out

Every cat has their own unique purrsonality complete with quirky traits that will amuse and baffle you in equal measure.

Whether they like to snooze in strange places, go crazy for catnip or bring you odd items they’ve found on their expeditions, you’ll always be kept on your toes.

2. Cats can fit around your busy lifestyle… 


brown and white tabby cat upside down on bed

Most cats are ok with being left along for a little while, so you don’t need to worry about leaving them when you go to work or visit your friends for the day.

If you have a cat flap then they can come and go as they please, or if your cat is happy to stay indoors then they will be there waiting for you when you get home.

3. …or be a pawsome excuse to stay home 

tabby cat and man drinking coffee on sofa

If you’d rather have a night in on the sofa with a takeaway, many moggy pals will happily keep you company while you watch your favourite TV show or do some gaming. They won’t mind if you hog the remote or binge watch an entire series, as long as you give them a chin rub every now and then.

There’s also no danger of them letting slip any Game of Thrones spoilers before you’ve had a chance to watch the next episode, unlike some other friends you might know!

4. Cats can help you get a date


man with glasses holding tabby kitten

Owning a cat shows that you are caring and responsible, both attractive qualities to a potential partner. Try including a photo with your kitty on your dating profile and you’re sure to get plenty of swipes in the right direction!

If you do manage to bag a date, you’ll have plenty of cute cat photos and stories to share as an ice breaker, and after browsing this blog you’ll be able to wow them with some fascinating feline facts too!

5. Cats can help you chill out 


grey and white cat sleeping under duvet

When life gets busy and stressful, having a moggy at home will encourage you to take some time for yourself.

Everyone knows that when a cat sits on your lap, you’re not allowed to get up so there’s nothing you can do but relax. Plus, there’s nothing more calming than a cat’s gentle purr.

 6. You’ll be joining a cat-loving community 


man stroking ginger cat sitting on wall
Credit: iStock
Around of quarter of UK adults own a cat, so you’ll be joining a community of millions of people that you’ll have at least one thing in common with…a love of cats!

To start a conversation with fellow cat dads, follow our #CatMenDo campaign and spread the word about man’s new best friend!

Visit www.cats.org.uk/cat-men-do to find out more.

Monday, 13 May 2019

Can I feed my cat a vegetarian diet?

With more and more people exploring the benefits of vegetarian and plant-based diets, thoughts are naturally turning to whether it might be possible to extend this type of diet to pets.

While humans can exist perfectly well on a plant based diet, the same cannot be said for our feline companions. Due to their origins as desert dwelling hunters, and after many thousands of years existing on a diet of small mammals, cats’ anatomy and metabolism has evolved to digest a purely carnivorous diet.

Why are cats carnivores?

light ginger cat eating from a food bowl

A diet consisting mostly of small prey is higher in fat and protein, and so cat’s digestive systems have developed to process such diets: their gastrointestinal system is comparatively shorter than species which have to digest fibrous plant material.

Cats also do not possess the enzymes needed to produce many essential nutrients themselves and are subsequently a lot less flexible when it comes to the diet they are fed. They need meat in their diet to provide the necessary proteins, vitamins and essential fatty acids.

A plant-based diet is unlikely to be high in fat and may not be as high in protein (and certainly will constitute very different proteins). It is likely to be higher in carbohydrates and for these carbohydrates to be broken down a specific enzyme called amylase is required. In the saliva, the pancreas and the gut, cats have far less amylase than other species (such as humans and dogs). Therefore these diets will be much harder for a cat to digest and extract nutrients from.

Twenty two different amino acids form the building blocks of all proteins within the body. Essential amino acids are those which an animal cannot synthesise themselves, they have to source them from their diet. There are 11 essential amino acids in cats and one of the most important is called taurine. This amino acid is found exclusively in meat and fish.

What would a veggie diet do to my cat? 


assorted vegetables on black background

One of the issues with trying to feed a vegetarian or vegan diet to cats is that while humans are able to synthesise taurine from sources other than animal proteins, cats cannot. Without a good supply of taurine and other essential nutrients only found in animal proteins, a cat’s health will start to deteriorate as various parts of the body struggle to function. A taurine deficiency will have serious consequences.

The first area to be affected is the eye – photoreceptor cells in the retina, the area at the back of the eye, require taurine to work correctly, so blindness may be one of the early symptoms of taurine deficiency. The muscle of the heart depends on taurine also, so over time a lack of taurine in the diet will reduce the ability of the heart to pump blood which in time can lead to significant heart disease and in many cases death. Taurine deficiency can also lead to developmental problems in kittens, suppression of the immune system and can also increase the risk of blood clots developing.

What should I feed my cat? 


tabby cat sitting on dining table

As taurine deficiency can be so life threatening it is always important to feed a complete, meat or fish-based cat food. All cat food manufacturers registered with the Pet Food Manufacturers Association will ensure that adequate taurine is present in their complete diets.

Vegan and vegetarian cat owners need not despair at the realisation that cats need to be fed a meat-based diet. By feeding your cat in this way you should not feel you are falling short in your personal beliefs and your quest to do no harm to animals or the environment. On the contrary, by feeding your cat meat, you are providing them with what they have evolved to need to stay healthy and happy, which as pet owners, is our ultimate goal.

For more advice about feeding your cat, visit www.cats.org.uk/diet