Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Don’t let allergies hold you back!

This post was written by our Peterborough Branch

We hear so many people telling us they need to give up their cat because someone is allergic to them so this is a very heart-warming story we wanted to share.

Puss Cat turned up as a stray in a garden in Eye, a village in Peterborough. She was in very poor condition – she had a severe flea allergy which had caused many open sores.

Karen, whose garden Puss Cat was found, was concerned but also very allergic to cats and so contacted us. Puss Cat was scanned for a microchip and we looked through our lost cat records and databases but no owner came forward. Unfortunately we had no space at the time to take her in so she was given a place to sleep in Karen’s garden shed while having treatment from the vets for her sores.

Gradually as she healed Karen became very fond of Puss Cat – though at first just spent time with her in the garden. After a while Puss Cat was given a bed in the corner of the kitchen by the back door. It was separated from the rest of the kitchen by a perspex sheet so that Karen’s allergies did not flare up but so that Puss Cat could feel part of the family. Karen kept a special fleece which she wore only to give Puss Cat some fuss to prevent her fur spreading through the house.

Managing allergies when you have a cat
Puss Cat relaxing on her fleece
At Christmas Karen and her family officially adopted Puss Cat and this lovely story shows that with time and patience even people with allergies can enjoy the love and affection of a cat and the joys that pet ownership brings.

Veterinary note: There are now products on the market, which, if used regularly, can allow people who are allergic to felines to keep a cat. In tests, Petal Cleanse alleviated the symptoms of 90 per cent of allergy sufferers. For more information on Petal Cleanse and many other products endorsed by Allergy UK, visit their website www.allergyuk.org or phone them on 01322 619 898.

There are additional tips for managing allergies in our Cats and people leaflet.

If you don’t own a cat but are thinking of getting one, a visit to someone who has a cat or to a Cats Protection adoption centre may indicate whether you are allergic or not – although some people may react to some cats and not others. If you are suspicious that you are allergic, it may be a good idea to speak with your doctor first. 

Friday, 27 March 2015

Boredom busters for your cat

This post has been written by our Behaviour Manager, Nicky Trevorrow

Spring is upon us, although there’s still a bit of chill in the air. Cats that have been mostly ‘hibernating’ indoors for the winter will be thinking of venturing outside as the weather warms up. In the meantime while the temperatures are still quite low, we've got some boredom busters for your cat to keep them occupied. Preventing boredom can help in avoiding the development of unwanted behaviours such as scratching furniture or tensions between cats in the household. Boredom busters are also great to get your cat some much needed exercise, which helps to keep obesity at bay.

As you've seen from our previous blog post about feeding enrichment puzzles, cats love different ways to make feeding time more interesting. Feeding enrichment can be through either commercially bought items or homemade but all cats are different so it’s a case of experimenting to see what inspires your cat. We recommend ‘showing’ your cat how to use the enrichment, which as well as being fun for you, helps your cat to understand the toy and hopefully prevents them getting bored or frustrated. With a commercially available food ball, we recommend placing it on the easiest setting (the one with the largest holes for the biscuits to fall out) and then batting around on the floor using your fingers. Just a word of caution though, don’t be fooled into doing it for a few hours thinking that the cat hasn’t got the hang of it when in fact they are perfectly happy for you to do all the hard work! Instead try playing with it for a couple of minutes in front of your cat and then step back and let your cat have a go.

Cat batting a feeding enrichment ball
Photo courtesy of Cats Protection Mansfield Adoption Centre
Cat eating from a puzzle toy
Photo courtesy of Cats Protection Mansfield Adoption Centre
For a homemade variation on the food ball, you could try suspending a pot with some holes cut into it to allow the biscuits to fall out. Ice cream tubs, large yogurt pots or instant noodle pots are ideal. It follows the same principles as a food ball but from a different angle. Simply pop in some of your cat's daily food allowance, suspend the pot just above your cat's head height and watch them work to get the food out! Check out this video of one of our gorgeous CP cats enjoying this boredom buster. 

See how it takes much more time to get a single biscuit compared to being fed with an ordinary food bowl? 

Do have a look at our boredom busters videos on the Cats Protection YouTube channel too.

If you fancy seeing your cat on our YouTube channel, please send us your videos of your cats showing off their skills with toys and enrichment items to catvideos@cats.org.uk

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Cat among the teddies

Over 300 teddies donated by a cat lover to Cats Protection, will be sold to raise funds to help unwanted kitties across the UK.

Curious cat, Donald couldn't wait to investigate the pile of stuffed toys - can you spot him among the huge mound of teddies?

Curious cat Donald on a pile of teddies

Monday, 23 March 2015

How to make a cat bed

A guest post from Sonia Scowcroft, Cats Protection’s North West Dual Adoption Centre Manager

Have a wardrobe full of old jumpers that simply don’t fit any more? Why not make a cat bed? Here’s how to transform an old knitted sweater into a favourite cat-nap palace for your feline.

1. Obtain all the materials you will need to make the bed: jumper, filling (wadding or foam pieces) scissors, safety pin, wool/cotton thread and darning needle

Materials to make a cat bed

2. Securely stitch along the collar

Stitch along the collar of your jumper

3. Fold over the end of the sleeves and secure with a safety pin, then stuff the sleeves with your chosen filling

Stuff the jumper sleeves

4. Tuck the right sleeve into the left sleeve and securely stitch

Tuck the sleeves in and stitch them together

5. Fold the side of the jumper in on itself as per picture

Fold in the sides of the jumper

6. Securely stitch along the bottom of the sleeves

Stitch along the bottom of the jumper's sleeves

7. Your bed is now complete so just add cat!

The finished cat bed
Cat enjoying its new knitted bed

If your cat is one with a propensity to chew wool, then this jumper bed is probably not suitable for them. Also, as with all fabric beds, check it regularly for damage, to ensure there is no risk of entrapment.

This article was first published in the Winter 2014 issue of The Cat, Cat's Protection's official supporter magazine. Subscribe to The Cat at www.cats.org.uk/thecatmag

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Feline behaviour explained – recognising stress in your cat’s face

In the last of a three-part series of visual guides to cat behaviour, we’re sharing some examples of facial expressions that will help you to identify how your cat is feeling and when they may be getting stressed.

This is a general guide so your cat may not be showing all of these signs at the same time.

Here are some identifying facial communications:

Visual guide cat communicating stress

What should I do if my cat is stressed or depressed? 

Long term stress or depression can lead to other health and/or behaviour problems. If your cat appears stressed or depressed:

1. Get them health-checked by your vet.
2. Give your cat plenty of places to hide or get up high.
3. If you have more than one cat, make sure there is one resource (food, water, litter tray) per cat, plus an extra for choice.
4. Ask your vet to refer you to a qualified behaviourist (www.apbc.org.uk).

Should you have any concerns about your cat’s health or behaviour, consult your vet.

Please do print this visual guide for a handy reference or share it with friends who may find it useful!

You'll find the other two guides in our feline behaviour series here and here.

Want to see cat behaviours in action and learn more about what they mean? View our cat behaviour videos.

You can also read more about feline behaviour in our Essential Guide leaflet: Understanding your cat’s behaviour or access our free online e-learning course: Understanding Feline Origins.

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Sunday, 15 March 2015

Don’t forget the moggy mums this Mother’s Day!

This Mother’s Day, we’re reminding cat lovers not to forget mother cats whose kittens have flown the nest. Like many of the human mothers being celebrated on 15 March, the feline mums at Cats Protection have done their fair share of child rearing!

Now we want to help them to relax and enjoy the comfort of a loving home.

One moggy mum in need of a home is one-year-old Zsa Zsa. She and her kittens were taken in by Cats Protection’s Bridgend Adoption Centre in South Wales after being abandoned by their owners when they were evicted from their property.

Zsa Zsa and her young kittens, Ziggy, Zara and Zina, will be available for adoption in a couple of months once the kittens have been reared. Mum Zsa Zsa will be neutered before she is homed to avoid any more unplanned litters.

Zsa Zsa with her kittens
Photo courtesy of Cats Protection Bridgend
Centre Manager Sue Dobbs said: “Zsa Zsa is a beautiful girl and she’s doing a great job of raising her kittens despite what’s happened to her in the past. We’re really looking forward to seeing her go to a permanent home once she’s raised her kittens. I’d like to urge anyone thinking about getting a new cat to give a moggy mum a chance.”

Black cat Zsa Zsa with her kitten Zara
Photo courtesy of Cats Protection Bridgend
If you live in the South Wales area and are interested in adopting a cat please contact Cats Protection’s Bridgend Adoption Centre on 01656 724 396.

To find cats in need of homes in your area please visit www.cats.org.uk and use the Find-a-cat tool.

Friday, 13 March 2015

‘Do indoor cats still need boosters?’ and other vaccination FAQs

Looking for some vaccination advice or information on infectious diseases in cats?

Cats Protection vet Vanessa Howie held a live Q&A on our Facebook page yesterday and was taking questions on the topic of vaccinations and infectious disease.

Cats Protection vet Vanessa Howie

Here are some of the questions that she answered:

Question: I've got a cat from a rescue home. He's had all his jabs and on the paperwork it says he should have a booster next January. I'm keeping him as an indoor cat so would the booster be necessary?

Answer: Vaccination is routinely used in cats to offer protection against two of the cat flu viruses (feline herpes virus and feline calicivirus) and feline parvovirus. Feline leukaemia virus is also commonly included. If you want to continue offering your cat full protection then a booster vaccination is required in line with the vaccine manufacturers’ license for the vaccine. However as your cat is going to be an indoor cat he is likely to be at lower risk of coming into contact with these viruses. Please speak to your vet about your cat’s individual needs and remember if you choose not to continue with vaccinations it's extremely important to carry on with the annual check-up for your cat at your vets. You may also find our vaccination leaflet useful.

Question: Are annual boosters safe or should vets be taking blood to check whether booster required? I have read that in the USA routine vaccinations are less common having been linked to causing other conditions in cats such as tumours?

Answer: Blood samples taken prior to booster vaccinations look for the level of antibodies produced by the body in response to exposure to the virus in the vaccine. Antibodies will wane over time if the body is not challenged by the virus again and when they reach a low enough level will no longer be protective. Monitoring antibody levels allows you to know whether or not these need boosting with another vaccine or not. Unfortunately blood sampling and testing is costly and not always readily available at usual external labs, along with the added stress to the cat of obtaining the blood sample. Drug companies have carried out many trials to get licenses for their vaccines looking at antibody levels and have established the ideal time for when routine boosters are needed. There is certainly some change happening in this area in recent years and not all viruses may need annual boosters in the future.

With regard to tumours, many studies have been carried out in the USA looking at the incidence of injection-site sarcomas and it is believed that the they occur at a frequency of 1 in 10,000 cases, much less commonly than cat flu.

Please talk to your vet about your concerns and they can discuss your cat's individual vaccination needs. Check out our vaccination leaflet and you may find the following useful to read: http://www.thecatgroup.org.uk/policy_statements/vacc.html

Question: I have four indoor cats, are the boosters still necessary?

Answer: Please see my reply to the first question above. I would recommend that you talk to your vet about your cats' individual vaccination needs. And it is worth considering that although indoor cats may appear to be at less risk, they are not getting natural exposure to bacteria and viruses which act as natural booster reminders to their immune system. If vaccinations are not kept up to date, immunity may wane and indoor cats will not have protection if they do become exposed. Here's a link to our vaccination leaflet: Infectious disease and vaccinations.

If you missed our Q&A do keep an eye out on our Facebook page for future Q&As.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Feline behaviour explained – why does my cat…?

In the second of a three-part series of visual guides to cat behaviour, we’re examining common cat body behaviours.

It is the very nature and behaviour of cats that makes them one of the UK’s most popular pets today. Their independence, playfulness and curiosity are among the traits that make many cat-lovers melt. By understanding a cat’s behaviour we can learn how to best provide for them, meet their needs, maximise their welfare and ensure long-lasting friendships for happy cats and owners.

Here are a few common behaviours and their meanings:

Cat behaviour guide
Should you have any concerns about your cat’s health or behaviour, consult your vet.

Please do print this visual guide for a handy reference or share it with friends who may find it useful!

You'll find the first guide in our feline behaviour series here.

To find out more about feline behaviour, read our Essential Guide leaflet: Understanding your cat’s behaviour or access our free online e-learning course: Understanding Feline Origins.

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Monday, 9 March 2015

‘Why does my cat hunt even after eating?’ and other behaviour FAQs

Recently Cats Protection’s behaviour expert Nicky Trevorrow took over our Facebook page and answered live feline behaviour questions from our supporters.

Did you miss it? Not to worry – check the end of this post for dates of further upcoming Facebook Q&As.

Here are just some of the questions that Nicky answered:

Question: My 16-year-old cat went blind about a year ago and since then she poos outside of the litter tray. What can I do to help her use the tray?

Answer: Sorry to hear that your cat has gone blind and is now toileting outside the litter tray. The first thing to do is to take your cat to the vet for a health check, especially to check her joints to see if she's stiff and to rule out other medical problems that could cause this behaviour. Once your vet has ruled out medical reasons, try providing your cat with a litter tray with one of the sides cut out. Ensure you sand off the edge of the tray so there are no sharp edges. Even if the vet finds that she isn't stiff, it may help her to get in and out of the tray more easily.

For more advice, a qualified behaviourist could help with a variety of ways to improve the environment for your cat. You may also find our leaflets about elderly cats and cats with disabilities helpful.

Cat playing with toy mouse
Photo by Rosa Pomar via flickr / Creative Commons
Question: When my cat carries her toy mouse around the house, why does she shout? We had another cat that also did this, but she didn't want to be seen and if she caught us watching her she immediately dropped the mouse. Why would she do this?

Answer: Often cats show this behaviour which is similar to when they are carrying prey. Many cats do a particular 'I've caught something' miaow!

Question: Is there a way to discourage nipping of toes when a cat gets excited? We recently homed a tabby from the Cats Protection Haslemere Adoption Centre and he has a habit of nipping feet when he gets excited!

Answer: I'd recommend wearing thick indoor slipper boots to keep yourself protected and stop you reacting (any noise could encourage the cat more) and then use a fishing rod toy to redirect the cat's excited behaviour towards something suitable. Ensure that fishing rod toys are stored out of his reach when not in use.

Question: Why does my well-fed cat kill and eat mice?

Answer: Many owners wonder the same thing! It's because the cat is still hardwired with natural instincts of their wild ancestors and because the cat's hunting drive is separate to their hunger drive. This is why they still feel the need to hunt even if they are not hungry and the whole process gives them an endorphin (happy hormone) rush.

Try interactive play with your cat that simulates the type of prey they are going for as an alternative outlet for this behaviour. Also check out our free e-learning online course which has lots of gems about why cats do the things they do! http://www.cats.org.uk/cat-care/e-learning-ufo-care/

Sleeping tabby cat
Photo by Ella Mullins via flickr / Creative Commons
Question: My cats are struggling to let me sleep. They wake me up several times a night by licking my face nudging me or even laying on my head. How can I stop them?

Answer: Unfortunately this is only going to get worse as the daylight hours increase! Cats are crepuscular which means that they are most active during dawn and dusk (when prey is also most active) so cats naturally feel wide awake and ready to start the day in the early hours.

Try giving your cat several small meals throughout the day in feeding enrichment toys such as a toilet roll pyramid (instructions in this feeding enrichment blog post). Do also check out our boredom busters video playlist below for lots of creative ways to keep cats entertained!

Question: How can I get my eight-year-old female and nine-month-old male (a new addition to the house) to get on better? Twice a day they tear around the house hissing and bopping each other. They never get close to one another.

Answer: Sorry to hear that your cats are not getting along. It may be that you need to take it back to the beginning and try a gradual integration programme. Check out our leaflet - Cats living together for some advice. If you are still having problems then get a referral to a qualified behaviourist to assess your cats' relationship.

Please note that we are unable to give specific advice on your cat's health or any change in behaviour observed. For medical problems consult your vet who will have access to your cat’s medical history and will be able to examine them.

You’ll find more information about cat care and behaviour in our selection of Essential Guide leaflets and do check out our free online e-learning course too which explains the ancestry of cats.

Fancy asking one of our feline experts a cat care question? Don’t miss the next live Facebook Q&As: Our Field Vet Officer Vanessa Howie will answer your veterinary questions on 12 March; and Behaviour Manager Nicky Trevorrow will be back answering questions on feline behaviour on 9 April. Each Q&A takes place on our Facebook page at 2pm for one hour.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Plucky pensioner set to abseil 160ft

A brave pensioner plans to abseil 160ft down the Sea Walls of the Avon Gorge on Sunday to raise money for his local branch of Cats Protection.

70-year-old George Russell, a cat lover and keen volunteer, will be taking part in the abseil on behalf of the Swindon Branch on 8 March.

"I've been a volunteer with my local branch of Cats Protection for over 20 years," George says. "I want to do something extra special to help raise funds for all the cats that need it.

"I have never done an abseil before and it sounded like a challenge. I know that some of my colleagues at Cats Protection are going to be facing their fear of heights when they take part, but I don’t feel scared as I know I’ll be in safe hands. I am really looking forward to it and hope I can raise as much as possible for the charity."

Cats Protection volunteer George Russell
Volunteer George with his wife Rose
Rebecca Worth, Regional Fundraising Manager for Cats Protection and the event organiser, says: "We are very excited about the abseil and hope that it will help raise vital funds to help the huge number of cats that come in to us. We are delighted that George is taking part and hope his enthusiasm will encourage other people to sign up for the challenge."

To sponsor George, please visit his JustGiving Page: www.justgiving.com/George-Russell4

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Feline behaviour explained – cat body language

In the first of a three-part series of visual guides about cat behaviour, we’re examining common cat body language and postures.

Learning to understand your cat by reading their body language is a fascinating part of owning a cat and it can improve the relationship between you. Cats can be very subtle in their body language and can be difficult to ‘read’ as they have not evolved the many visual communication signals that are seen in social species, like dogs. Spend time watching your cat – see how they move and interacts with their environment, their facial expressions, body postures and vocalisations in different situations – and you can start to build a picture of how your cat is feeling. Here are a few common body postures to give you clues about your cat’s mood:

Cat body language guide

Should you have any concerns about your cat’s health or behaviour, consult your vet.

Please do print this visual guide for a handy reference or share it with friends who may find it useful!

To find out more about feline behaviour, read our Essential Guide leaflet: Understanding your cat’s behaviour or access our free online e-learning course: Understanding Feline Origins.

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