Thursday, 28 August 2014

‘Why does my cat meow?’ and other cat behaviour FAQs

Last year we hosted an online Q&A session with Cats Protection’s Behaviour Manager Nicky Trevorrow. It was so popular that we decided to bring them back! Earlier this week we hosted a live Q&A session on our Facebook page with Nicky answering a range of cat behaviour questions. Here are just a sample of some of the questions and answers from the session:

Question: My cat meows loudly, over and over, usually of an evening or first thing in the morning. She sometimes just sits at the bottom of the stairs wailing or sits looking at me on the sofa meowing. I try food, letting her out, fuss, playing; but she just sits there and meows! She's 11ish, has thyroid issues and early signs of kidney issues. I love her to bits; is she just being a weirdo or am I missing something?

Answer: It's good that she's already been to the vets for her other ailments. Have you mentioned to your vet that she's excessively miaowing? If possible it would be great if you can get a video of it (even if it's just the sound) to show the vet as this can help with diagnosis. Have you noticed any other signs such as walking into a room and looking like she doesn't know why she's there, or staring at the walls? There are quite a few medical possibilities (hyperthyroidism being one of them) and dementia is another possibility. If the vet rules out medical problems, then look into getting a referral. To find a qualified behaviourist near you, check out

Meowing cat
Photo by nannuu via flickr / Creative Commons
Question: Why does my cat use the beds in my home as his toilet?

Answer: It may be that your cat has a medical problem. This is much more common than people realise! Once you've checked your cat's health at the vets, try
  • cleaning litter trays twice a day
  • put litter trays in quiet, private locations
  • 3cm of soft sand-sized litter, non-scented
  • a large litter tray, covered as well as open ones for choice
  • don't use odorisers or litter tray liners
To find a qualified behaviourist near you, check out

Check out our leaflet about Managing your cat’s behaviour for more advice.

Question: When you’re petting your cats and they are purring, why do they suddenly attack and start biting for no reason? Is it over excitement?

Answer: The first step would be to check that your cat doesn't have a medical problem, such as pain (remember that cats are extremely good at hiding pain!). With petting and biting – to be stroked by a human is not a natural behaviour for a cat to accept (they learn interactions with people during the kitten socialisation period) and some cats are more naturally reactive than others. This can also be directly related to the amount of human interaction the cat has had during the key sensitive period of two to seven weeks of age. The more interaction (positive) carried out during that time, the more likely the kitten will be well adjusted to everyday life and human interactions. Try a very brief rub on the head and then end the interaction before it's too much.

Question: I’m introducing a male dog into the home and I have two female cats. Do you have any tips? Thanks

Answer: Firstly check out our Welcome home leaflet. The key is to always give the cats plenty of control over their environment (don't lock them in cat baskets) and not to block escape routes. Any introduction needs to be extremely gradual. Most people progress through it too quickly. With dogs, it's important that the dog knows a 'down/stay' command and is controlled on a lead and distracted with a toy or feeding enrichment. Hope it goes well.

Photo by elisfanclub via flickr / Creative Commons
Question: Any tips on getting a cat to respond to their name? We have two kittens which are about five months old.

Answer: Yes! So many people train cats without even realising it. Many will come back to the sound of a food packet or the name of their favourite treat! To try training your kittens, sit a couple of metres away from one of them with a tasty treat (try some cooked chicken as long as there's no medical reason why they can't have it) and show them the chicken while saying their name. They will start come towards you for the chicken. Gradually change the timing, so that you first call their name and then after present the chicken. Over time they should associate their name with being given food. Once this is working well, remember to reinforce this behaviour every so often once they are going outside.

If you missed this session, don’t worry there are more to come!

  • 11 September, 2pm – Neutering Q&A with Neutering Manager Jane Clements
  • 23 September, 2pm – Veterinary Q&A with Director of Veterinary Services Maggie Roberts
  • 17 October, 2pm - Cat behaviour Q&A with Behaviour Manager Nicky Trevorrow
  • 31 October, 2pm – Neutering Q&A with Neutering Manager Jane Clements
  • 17 November, 2pm – Veterinary Q&A with Director of Veterinary Services Maggie Roberts

Please note that we can only give general advice and therefore, for specific guidance and help with your cat, we would highly recommend that you consult your own vet who will be able to examine the cat and have access to its medical history. Find more information on cat care and behaviour by reading our Essential Guides and you can also check out our free online e-learning course.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Missing cat reunited with owner after 17 months

On Good Friday 2013, Jayne and Martin Everill’s much-loved ginger boy Tigger wandered off through the cat-flap for a late-night prowl. Sadly, he didn’t return to his home in Erdington. The couple were distraught. They registered him as missing on Animal Search UK, put posters up around the local area, spoke with the local veterinary practices and did all the things we do when the worst happens and our pet goes missing.

A year passed and although they never gave up hope, in February they adopted a black-and-white cat called Susie. But even that didn’t dim the memory of Tigger. None of Jayne’s colleagues at work could mention him as she would break down in tears.

Earlier this month, Cats Protection volunteer Sheila Pennell noticed an ‘extra cat’ taking a regular stroll through her back garden. As the days went by, he became a regular fixture on the garden bench. While waiting for a microchip scanner from another branch, Sheila’s husband Tony made a flyer about the cat and posted them around the neighbourhood. They also put a paper collar on him to see if the owners came forward.  Sheila then contacted Animal Search UK – and found a similar looking cat missing in the area! She sent them a message about the ginger cat in her garden.

The Gull family drove straight round – but unfortunately within minutes realised he was not their missing cat Ginge. Nevertheless, they fussed and played with the puss.

Disappointed it wasn’t Ginge, Sheila used a microchip scanner to find out whether the cat had a registered owner. The reader beeped and displayed a microchip number. They called the microchip register and they provided an owner’s name, address and contact numbers. The operator said the cat was called Tigger and had been missing since March 2013 – 17 months!

When Tony phoned owner Jayne to say her cat was found she sobbed: “I’ve never given up hope and prayed every night for his safe return.” And there were more tears 15 minutes later when she rang the doorbell – cat carrier at the ready.

Tigger reunited with his owner
L-R: Keri Gull, Tigger with owner Jayne Everill, Machaella Gull and Antonia Gull
Jayne booked a vet appointment for Tigger to get him checked over. The vet treated him for a flea infestation, confirmed he’d lost weight and the condition of his coat reflected that he not received adequate care and nutrition.. But he’s now wormed, booked in for vaccinations and is settling back into family life again. . Jayne’s husband Martin says: “It’s like seeing a ghost – I have to blink and look again. I can’t believe Tigger’s finally home at last.”

Jayne Everill's tearful reunion with cat Tigger
Jayne Everill's tearful reunion with Tigger
Microchipping offers cats a safe and permanent method of identification and increases the chances of a lost feline being safely reunited with his owner. To find out more, read Cats Protection’s Essential Guide leaflet on Microchipping:

If your cat goes missing, thoroughly search your house and garden and ask neighbours to check their sheds, garages and outhouses. When searching call out your cat's name and use strong food smells to lure it out. Contact local animal rescue organisations and the local council, put up lost cat posters in your area (use a photo if you have one and include a telephone number). Don’t give up hope, many cats return months after going missing!

Please note that Cats Protection recommends keeping your cat indoors at night to protect it from road hazards.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Nervous Dotty is looking for a new home

There are all sorts of reasons why cats and kittens end up in the care of Cats Protection. Whether it’s because a cat is found as a stray or an owner’s circumstances change such as a relationship break up or an elderly owner goes into a care home. If a cat is given up by their owner it’s a heart-breaking time and often a difficult decision that is not taken lightly.

Dotty, who is currently in the National Cat Adoption Centre (NCAC), hasn’t had much luck. Her owners gave her up because she didn’t get on with their other cat. And before that, Dotty lived with an abusive owner who threw her out of a window. All this and she’s only around one year old.

Tabby cat Dotty

Understandably, although Dotty is friendly she’s quite nervous of people. Our carers at the adoption centre are doing a brilliant job of looking after her, but she really needs a home. We know she’ll make a lovely pet for a patient owner who can give her the time she needs to come out from her shell. If you’re interested in finding out more about Dotty, read her adoption profile on the NCAC website.

There are always cats like Dotty in our care looking for a loving new home. You can find cats available for adoption in your local area using our Find-a-Cat search on our website.

Monday, 18 August 2014

A day in the life of a kitten fosterer

A post from Cats Protection volunteer guest blogger and foster kitten carer, Sue Emlyn-Jones.

My name is Sue Emlyn-Jones and I have the privilege of being a kitten fosterer for the Bridgend Adoption Centre in Bryncethin and a member of the Friends group (a group of volunteers who organise fundraising events and activities to raise money for the centre).

I began fostering for the centre about six years ago, having been animal-mad my whole life, with the usual cat and dog household interspersed over the years with pet lambs, rabbits, guinea pigs, tropical fish, ponies, a couple of broken down race-horses, two foals and the odd calf or two! Anything lost or injured would find its way to me so I think this is what I was meant to do.

We have a nine-year-old lurcher-cross called Megan and a CP cat that we adopted last year called Seren who is 13 years old, has a mild heart murmur and suffers from kidney disease. She is on a special diet for her kidneys, but has settled right in, and can wrap us around her paw with no problem at all!

I am extremely fortunate that my husband, Stephen, is very supportive of all I do with foster kittens and becomes a frequent visitor to the kitten room once they are fully active and playing.

No two days are ever really the same, but I would like to give you a snapshot of what is involved in looking after tiny kittens that are in desperate need of help. So far this year I have had 29 kittens to love and care for, each one a precious little bundle that creeps into your heart…

Sue Emlyn-Jones feeding kittens

In the summer of 2012, a phone call came around lunchtime: “Hello Auntie Sue…”  A short conversation later, I was hurrying to the centre – two tiny tortoiseshell kittens had been found under a hedge – no sign of mum – could I take them in? Could I? Of course!

They were believed to be only a couple of days old, but were quite a good size and weren’t suffering from illness or injury. They were booked in and promptly given the names of Olympia and Torch (as it was just before the London Olympics!). They had been warmed up after coming in from the outdoors, treated for fleas and given a small amount of kitten milk by one of the cat carers.

A few minutes later we were homeward bound with a few tiny squeaks from the carrier next to me. Once home the usual routine followed – I always weigh the kittens, sex them and note markings down. They were fed, stimulated to pass motions, (sorry guys, you have to be a proper mum and do what a mum would do!) winded, and finally settled into a clean warm bed over a heated pad. Time, amount of feed, all details about the feeding and motions are noted in my kitten book, which are later fed into a computer database.

Room temperature is also extremely important, as tiny kittens will feel the cold when removed from their siblings at feed time, so must be kept snuggled up and warm at all times.

I also have a baby monitor which I have found really useful, as I can keep a close eye on the kittens without disturbing them and can pick up on any potential problems extremely quickly.

About an hour later, the kittens are fed again; they were hungry but were taking a long time to feed as their sucking reflex was not strong. Care has to be taken or the possibility of inhaled milk into the lungs is a distinct concern – as this can develop very quickly into pneumonia and become fatal within hours.

Sometimes if tiny kittens are very poorly, they will only take a drip or two of milk every 15 minutes until they are strong enough to suck a little. Gradually the amount they feed will increase until they are fed half hourly then hourly and a week or so later they will be feeding two hourly throughout the day and night. By the time they are about four weeks old they will be having feeds every three to four hours and have had a gradual introduction to weaning – after a few weeks they will be eating sufficient meat and biscuits to be able to leave their bottles behind.

Hygiene is paramount: everything used for the kittens must be sterilised and all bedding must be washed separately and treated with special disinfectants. The room, cages and carriers are all steam cleaned to prevent any contamination. The kittens must be kept in a room to themselves and ensure any pets in the household do not come into contact with them – any illnesses can otherwise easily be passed from one to another and obviously with tiny kittens that have had minimal feeding by their mum will not have received much in the way of antibodies to protect them. They are highly vulnerable to any potential infection.

Five week old kittens Olympia and Torch

I won’t say that kitten fostering is easy, far from it, and it is always a rollercoaster emotionally, as they are so tiny and vulnerable. Kittens can go from being happy and healthy to being extremely unwell and in some cases near death, within an hour, so vigilance and patience are the watchwords always, but the rewards are immense. Seeing a tragically ill kitten develop into a healthy free spirit is worth every second of sleep deprivation and anxiety.

If you have the time, love and compassion, please think about fostering. You don’t have to take on a tiny kitten to bottle feed, there are many older kits that just need time to help them transition from bottle to meat, or anxious cats that just need a little love to help them settle into a new home. Believe me – you will never regret it!

If you would like to learn about volunteering with Cats Protection and find opportunities in your area, visit our Find an opportunity volunteering pages.

Monday, 11 August 2014

And the winners are…

On 7 August the Savoy Hotel in London played host to our National Cat Awards 2014 to honour outstanding cats deserving of recognition and praise.

National Cat of the Year and Most Incredible Story winner

Twenty-year-old Nelson, a one eyed cat rescued from the sea as a kitten, was crowned ‘National Cat of the Year’ and the winner of the Most Incredible Story category.

Callously thrown into the sea in a sack, he was one of only two of his littermates to survive when a fisherman plucked them from the waves. He had a harsh few years living rough on the docks and lost an eye when a gang of youths threw rocks at him. But in 2009 his life turned around when he was adopted by a loving family. Despite being diagnosed with an inoperable heart tumour in January 2014, Nelson has fought back and amazed vets with his zest for life.

Nelson was selected as the National Cat of the Year by a panel of celebrity judges; and he was chosen as the winner of the Most Incredible Story category by actor Paul Copley.

Hero Cat winner

The Hero Cat award was scooped by Cleo from Chessington in Surrey who stayed by her owner’s side in a time of need. When the normally placid and laid-back Cleo started running up and down the stairs and behaving strangely, owner Pauline Jenkins knew something was wrong. So when her husband Richard complained of chest pains she quickly dialled 999. Paramedics arrived and confirmed Richard had suffered a heart attack and needed emergency treatment. Despite being wary of strangers, loyal Cleo only left Richard’s side when he was taken to hospital and upon his return stayed with him around the clock until he was back on his feet.

Most Caring Cat winner

Elias from Hillesden, Buckinghamshire is the winner of our Most Caring Cat award. For army veteran Jack Dignam-Thomas, Elias is more than a pet. He is a vital link to the world when he becomes consumed by the painful effects of post-traumatic stress disorder. When his symptoms start, Jack can spend long periods of time withdrawing into himself and it is then that three-year-old Elias steps in. By jumping up and demanding fuss and attention, Elias can bring Jack round and help him engage once more in everyday life.

Outstanding Rescue Cat winner

Three-legged Legz is truly the Cat Ambassador of London. Since being adopted by Charlotte Despard pub landlords Amber Knight and Chris Sparks he has taken a liking to pub life and has become part of the furniture. He has an uncanny knack for winning round non-cat lovers and has inspired many Kentish Town locals to adopt rescue cats of their own and even one to start volunteering for a cat charity. People travel from far and wide to meet chirpy five-year-old Legz and bring him toys and catnip gifts, with Amber and Chris saying he has helped to bring communities together.

PURINA Better Together winner

Mr Chips, winner of our Purina Better Together award, has had his share of hard luck. Found as a stray with a badly broken leg, he was left with a permanent disability. But that hasn’t stopped him living life to the full and when new owner Ian Turner was diagnosed with a complex medical condition, Mr Chips proved to be an incredible support. In the past three years, Ian has undergone a dozen operations, affecting both his physical and mental health, and leaving him at times feeling suicidal. Throughout it all has been eight-year-old Mr Chips, who Ian says has kept him going through times of despair.

Special Recognition Award winner

This story doesn’t fit into the defined categories but stood out to us as a heart breaking example of the special bond we can share with our pets. Holly in St Annes, Lancashire is everything to Keith Smith, for the most tragic of reasons. In 2012, Keith lost four of his grandchildren – Reece, Holly, Ella and Jordan - in a house fire in Freckleton. Not long after this, his son also sadly passed away. Since then, heartbroken Keith has drawn much comfort from his pet cat Holly.

Friday, 8 August 2014

Highlights of the National Cat Awards 2014

Yesterday was our National Cat Awards 2014, celebrating the wonderful contribution our feline friends make to our lives! We had an incredible, emotional day – find out all about it, below...
Thanks to all those who helped make the day happen - and of course congratulations to all the feline winners!

Monday, 4 August 2014

Cat memes: Top 10 things cat owners can identify with

Everyone loves a cat meme - so let's use them to take a look at the benefits of owning a cat!

1. Who needs an alarm clock when you have a 5am wakeup call every day?

Morning wake up call from your cat
Original photo by hkase via flickr / Creative Commons

2. You’re often greeted by unexpected ‘presents’ when you get home

Present from your cat
Original photo by riebart via flickr / Creative Commons

3. On a cold day you’ve always got a furry hot water bottle to snuggle up to

A cat is a furry hot water bottle
Original photo by jmettraux via flickr / Creative Commons

4. Dinner time (or any meal time for that matter) is a bit of a battle

Cat wants your dinner
Original photo by kluepfel via flickr / Creative Commons

5. Well, a lot of a battle if we’re being honest

Cat eats your dinner
Original photo by htakashi via flickr / Creative Commons

6. You’ll often find a furry ball hidden in your bed sheets

Cat in bedsheets
Original photo by johnharo via flickr / Creative Commons

7. Need the loo? They’ll follow you. And watch

Cat in bathroom
Original photo by teagrrl via flickr / Creative Commons

8. Cats can sleep anywhere, and we mean anywhere

Cat sleeping in vending machine slot
Original photo by 55431287@N03 via flickr / Creative Commons

9. Trying to do some work, study or read a book? You’ve got a little helper for that

Cat sitting on laptop
Original photo by geebee2007 via flickr / Creative Commons

10. You’ve got unconditional love for life

Cat cuddles
Original photo by sheila_sund via flickr / Creative Commons