Thursday, 27 November 2014

‘Why does my cat have diarrhoea?’ and other veterinary questions

Last week Cats Protection vet Vanessa Howie took over our Facebook page for an hour, answering live questions from our followers.

Here are just a few of the questions she answered:

Question: My cat has had diarrhoea for about a week now. He's eating and drinking normally and doesn't show any signs of other illness as he seems fine! What's best to do now?

Answer: Diarrhoea can be caused by a number of things, both infectious and non-infectious. Common causes include worms and dietary problems. Stress can also be a major cause of diarrhoea. You don't mention how old your cat is or whether he has had diarrhoea before. I would recommend that you get him checked by your vet as he has had diarrhoea for a week. In the mean time getting him on a bland diet such as plain boiled chicken or white fish and making sure he has been wormed will help. This leaflet may be useful – Digestive disorders – vomiting and diarrhoea

black cat eating food
Photo by Alan Wu via flickr / Creative Commons
Question: My female cat has just been spayed and now she eats everything in sight, including my other two cats’ food if they leave anything. I am worried about her putting on weight. Is this normal and is there a way to help prevent it?

Answer: Neutering doesn't generally cause a cat to have an increased appetite; however it may cause the metabolism to slow down a little due to the change in hormone levels. This change in metabolism can contribute to weight gain and I would recommend reducing the about of food your cat gets if she does start to increase weight. An increased appetite can be caused by other things such as worms and I would advise that you talk to your vet about your cat’s increased appetite if it continues. Microchip feeders can help limit how much food your cat can eat if your cats are microchipped.

Question: Are there ways of making life a little more comfortable for very elderly cats, particularly when health problems begin to develop and can these be dealt with as they occur?

Answer: Our Elderly cats leaflet provides lots of information on this subject. There are many health problems which can be easily diagnosed in elderly cats and then managed with medication. I would advise that as your cats get older that they have more regular check-ups at your vets, for example every six months to check their health.

Old tabby cat relaxing
Photo by Diana Parkhouse via flickr / Creative Commons
Question: My kitten keeps biting my older cat’s ears. How do I teach her to stop?

Answer: It sounds like your kitten is showing normal kitten behaviour, probably trying to get your older cat to play with her. Usually you'd expect the older cat to let the kitten know when this behaviour is not acceptable or when they have had enough, for example the older cat may bat the kitten with its paw. You can try to divert the kitten's attention to other play such as using fishing rod toys and this may help to steer the kitten away from biting ears. Try not to react yourself when the kitten does this though as it may reinforce the behaviour, particularly if it appears to the kitten that she is getting rewarded for her actions. You may find the following leaflets helpful to read – Understanding your cat’s behaviour and Cats living together.

Question: My three-year-old cat has allergic reactions to flea bites – her skin scabs and she loses her fur. She is treated with Advocate and wormed monthly, but she still has loss of fur in small patches on her back end and scabs round her head and neck even though the last reaction was months ago. The vet gives her steroid injections and it clears slightly but they haven't really given us answers. She is healthy otherwise, on a diet of dry food and plain water. Can you offer any advice?

Answer: Allergic skin disease can be very difficult to manage. Cats can be allergic to a number of things including, fleas, food and other allergens such as house dust mites. It's important to get your cat on regular monthly flea treatment and your vet can advise which is the best one to use. Food trials to rule out a food allergy are usually a good starting point. Treatment is usually about managing the condition rather than curing it. Adding an omega 3 & 6 supplement may help to improve the skin and reduce the amount of steroid needed to keep on top of the allergy. Our Itchy cats and skin disorders leaflet may be of help too. Do speak to your vet about getting a plan in place for your cat's long term management.

You can find more information about cat care and behaviour in our Essential Guides and do check out our free online e-learning course
Please note we are unable to make diagnoses over the internet – if you are concerned about your cat’s health please consult your local vet.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Feeding enrichment puzzles for your cat

Like their ancestors, the African Wildcat, domestic cats are programmed to hunt. Each part of the hunting activity – the stalk, pounce, play and kill – releases feel-good hormones called endorphins. Cats need to have frequent successful ‘kills’ to avoid frustration and are most likely to hunt at dawn and dusk.

Cats in the wild spend a lot of their time on frequent hunting expeditions, catching up to 12 small rodents per day. In comparison, our pet cats are given bowls of food, so a meal doesn’t take long to eat or make use of their great senses.

That’s why it’s a good idea to create interest at meal times by hiding food around the house for your cat to search out. Short games for a few minutes frequently throughout the day are also a good idea to mimic the cat's natural hunting activity.  Ensure that you spend a few minutes showing your cat how to use new feeding enrichment items so that they get the hang of it.

You can easily and cheaply make your own enrichment feeders for your cat, here are some ideas:

Egg box feeders

Start with a cardboard egg box that's open and place a portion of your cat’s daily allowance of dry food (if they have dry food) in the egg box for them to paw out.

Enrichment egg box

You can build up to more complex enrichment very gradually. For example, you could slowly start to close the lid of the egg box so your cat has to open it to find the food; or you could loosely scrunch up small pieces of newspaper and wrap the biscuits up.

Egg box with dry cat food

Then let your cat enjoy the food!

Egg box puzzle feeder

Toilet roll puzzles

Use sticky tape to attach cardboard toilet roll tubes together, adjacent in a line. Take further rolls and place them on top to make a second row in a brick-like pattern. Again, tape these to any adjacent rolls. Continue to tape rows of tubes in a descending numbers, to make a pyramid shape or rows of toilet rolls inside a box, as pictured.

Remember to use tape on both sides of the pyramid and you could add a cardboard base to make it extra stable.

Cat with toilet roll pyramid

You can teach a cat how to use the toilet roll puzzle by 'pawing' at it with your fingers.

Food must be taken out of the cat’s daily amount of weighed biscuits to avoid obesity. Read more about feeding in our leaflet Feeding and obesity.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

A new concept – Gildersome Homing Centre

On 12 November 2014, Peter Hepburn, CEO of Cats Protection, hosted an Association of Dogs and Cats Homes (ADCH) meeting and gave a talk about our Homing Centre at Gildersome, Leeds.

The ADCH has a membership of all of the large and many smaller rescue charities. The ADCH aims to share good practice and raise standards in rescue and rehoming work. 

Cats Protection Gildersome Homing Centre entrance

Cats Protection’s new Homing Centre at Gildersome is a totally new concept in rescue.

The model is as follows:
  • The Homing Centre has just 12 pens
  •  Fosterers initially care for cats in their own homes and when the cats are ready to find new owners they move to the centre
  • Volunteers get them ready by vet checking, neutering, chipping, etc
  • We do all we can to home our cats. We homed 430 in our first year at Gildersome
  • Our new site is on good communications routes and we give it lots of publicity
  • We have volunteers to feed cats seven days a week, morning and evening, with three staff posts to manage the centre, including volunteers
  • We subsidise the net cost (building, staff and running costs, less adoption fee) from two local shops and fundraised income, especially legacies
  •  Our nearby shops not only raise funds but also promote the cat work at the centre

It’s very different to our typical centre which has between 35 and 200 pens, and some of our centres are old, legacy sites which can be hidden away (and so require lots of publicity so people know we’re there). We subsidise the net loss (building, staff and running costs, less the adoption fee) from fundraised income, especially legacies.

The development and opening of a small, low net cost homing centre with strong volunteer involvement was seen to be a likely way to increase homing while minimising the extra net cost to the charity. Against these aims the centre has delivered very well!

Black cats at Cats Protection Gildersome Homing Centre

In its first 12 months, from opening at the end of October 2013 to October 2014 Gildersome Homing Centre homed 421 cats and kittens from 12 homing pens.

To read Peter Hepburn’s full speaking notes – click here.

Friday, 14 November 2014

Simon’s Cat visit Cats Protection

Earlier this week we were very excited to receive a visit from Simon Tofield, creator of Simon’s Cat, at the National Cat Centre in Sussex.

Following a successful crowdfunding project, Simon’s Cat raised funding to create an 11 minute colour film, Off to the Vet. Simon and his colleagues visited us to do some research for the film and to chat to Cats Protection vets about a typical check-up.

Off to the Vet will tell the story of how Simon's cat instinctively knows a trip to the vet is imminent and the lengths he'll go to avoid it. For long-suffering Simon, it is a day he dreads as he is forced to try all kinds of tricks to get his cat to co-operate. Simon tries to minimise stress, but fails miserably. That said it's equally stressful for Simon as it is for the cat.

Simon spent some time talking to our Veterinary Officer Emily Billings, who discussed what happens at a general check-up at the vets and how she makes a cat more comfortable during the procedure. There was a very noisy cat in the pen alongside her which you may hear miaowing in the video!

Simon Tofield interviewing Emily Billings
Simon talking to Emily
Emily showed what she’d do in a typical check-up with Yoda, a beautiful white cat currently in our care. She explained that she’d assess a cat from a distance before checking them over from nose to tail looking for any signs of disease; checking their eyes, ears and teeth and then listening to their heart and lungs with a stethoscope.

Simon Tofield with Nicky Trevorrow and Emily Billings
Simon with Nicky, Emily and Yoda the cat
Simon also spoke to Nicky Trevorrow, our Behaviour Manager, who explained how to minimise the stress associated with a visit to the vet – right from the home, throughout the journey and in the waiting room.

Simon Tofield chats to Nicky Trevorrow
Simon chats to Nicky
Nicky Trevorrow filmed for Simon's Cat video
Nicky gets ready for her close-up!
Simon Tofield with white cat Yoda
Simon cuddles up with Yoda
Watch this space for the announcement of Simon’s Cat’s video about the day. The Off to the Vet film will be released in 2015, watch the teaser below.

Cats Protection isn’t able to provide veterinary services for the public. However, you might want to consider a home visit for your cat if your own veterinary practice offers it, or look for a cat-friendly clinic, accredited by International Cat Care. For more information, check out the Cats Protection veterinary guide called You and your vet.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Cat fosterers needed in London

A guest post from volunteer Louise Wright

As you’re reading this, hundreds of cat fosterers around the country have a little furry lodger enjoying the care and comfort of their home. Without these volunteers Cats Protection just wouldn’t be able to help the number of cats and kittens that they currently do. If you’ve ever thought about it, but don’t really know what’s involved, this time of year is an ideal time to try it out.

Around Christmas we always have cats that need to go into a home environment and as most people have some time off, it’s a good opportunity to see what it’s like. Not that you have to be home all day to foster cats. It’s extremely flexible and we have people with a variety of lifestyles helping us out. As foster cats aren’t allowed to go outside, you can live in an upstairs flat or a four-bedroom house and anything in between. If you’ve always wanted a cat, but haven’t got one because you’ve got nowhere to let them out, then fostering could be the perfect way to get your cat fix.

Dana and Craig have been fostering for 10 years now and regularly take in litters of kittens. “We have enjoyed all the foster cats we have had over the years, but kittens are a special pleasure. Watching them develop from birth, pick up sounds and then to see ‘in focus’ – and to watch their wobbly first steps turn into dashing about and pouncing on their toys (and each other) provides hours of fun. Of course there's also the business of teaching them about the world - all part of the reward of feeling you have given them a good start in life.”

Volunteer with tiny foster kittens
Volunteer Craig with foster kittens
All our cat fosterers make a huge difference to the work we do and at the moment we urgently need cat fosterers in the north and south London area. With a new Mitcham Homing Centre due to open in the spring, Volunteer Team Leader Stephanie Osborne said: “This new centre will help us cope with the huge demand in the London area. We’ve taken in 620 cats in north London alone this year, up 30 per cent from 2013. That would’ve been impossible without the invaluable help of our volunteer fosterers.”

If you live in the London area and would like to find out more about fostering cats please email Steph at or call 020 7272 6048.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Why should you neuter your cat and other neutering FAQs

Every so often we run live Q&A sessions with Cats Protection experts on our Facebook page. Most recently, Neutering Manager Jane Clements answered questions about feline neutering.

Supporting and encouraging the neutering of cats is one of the charity’s objectives and helps reduce the number of unwanted cats and kittens. To find out more about our neutering work and the procedure itself, visit

Here is a selection of questions that Jane answered:

Question: Why is it a good idea to neuter a cat?

Answer: Cats can lead happy, healthier lives when neutered, as neutering prevents the onset of some cancers and sexually transmitted diseases, as well as diseases caught through cat fights. Cats are less likely to fight and roam if neutered. To find out more read our Neutering leaflet.

Question: What's the earliest age a female cat can be neutered? Also can a cat be neutered if I think she's pregnant already (not my cat!).

We recommend kittens should be neutered at four months old. Cats can be spayed when pregnant, depending on time of gestation and your vet would be able to give you specific advice about this. However, cats are property in the eyes of the law, so it is important to make sure the cat does not have an owner before you take it on and get it neutered.

White kitten
Photo courtesy of CP Library
Question: What's the difference between the terms neutering and spaying?

Answer: Neutering is the term used for both male and female cats; spaying refers to neutering a female.

Question: Can you get any help towards the cost if you have a low income?

Answer: Yes, please call our helpline on 03000 12 12 12 (option 3) between 9.30am-1pm Monday-Friday and look on our website for any local neutering campaigns in your area.

Question: Is there any way to check if our adopted cat has been neutered?

Your vet may be able to detect a scar from the neutering procedure if it has already been done. I would also consider whether she is displaying any signs of coming into season? If not, then she probably is neutered. Your vet will be the best person to give advice on this.

Anyone seeking financial help with neutering should call our neutering line on 03000 12 12 12 (option 3), Monday-Friday, 9.30am-1pm for advice on what is available to them.

Keep your eyes peeled for the next Q&A on 17 November 2014.