Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Give an FIV cat a chance!

This post was written by Dee Dolby, Co-ordinator at Fareham & Waterlooville Districts Branch

We were introduced to stray Nathan by an elderly lady who had been feeding him. He was not in a good way: he was full of fleas and worms, had extensive dental problems and had not been neutered.

He was taken into Cats Protection’s care and we ensured he received the parasite and dental treatment he needed.

After the recommended waiting time, during which we tried in vain – and failed – to find an owner, he was neutered and blood-tested which revealed that he was FIV positive. Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) is the feline equivalent of HIV though there are distinct differences between the two infections. FIV is transmitted from cat to cat through infected saliva passed on primarily through bite wounds.

In the care of our fosterer Nathan responded well to good food and a comfortable warm bed, but we were all very concerned for his future as FIV positive cats cannot be allowed to roam and can only live in an indoor situation. With the help of some gentle care and a few cat treats, he was becoming quite a "cuddle-cat" and we were all determined to do our best for him, feeling that he had already been let-down by the human race. 

Give an FIV cat a chance!
Lovely Nathan
We asked the National Cat Centre in Sussex for help and they recommended the Cats Protection adoption centre in north London that successfully rehomes many FIV positive cats, because of its location with many potential adopters living in apartments wanting indoor-only cats and felt confident that they could find him a loving forever home.

Within just a few days of being at the North London Adoption Centre, he was chosen by new owners and has gone to live in a luxury three-bedroomed apartment. We hear that he has settled well and has already trained his new owners to pander to his every wish!

Veterinary note: FIV is a virus in cats that is similar to the human virus, HIV or Human Immunodeficiency Virus. However, FIV does not infect humans, and HIV does not infect cats. Cats primarily pick up the virus through fighting – via bite wounds – or through mating behaviour, but it can also be passed from an infected female cat to her kittens. Cats Protection recommends that FIV-positive cats are kept indoors and only allowed outside in an impenetrable garden or safe run. They should not be allowed direct contact with FIV-negative cats.

Friday, 22 May 2015

‘Why does my cat dribble?’ and other feline behaviour FAQs

It’s that time again – every two weeks a feline expert at Cats Protection takes over our Facebook page to answer your cat care questions. This week it was the turn of behaviour specialist Nicky Trevorrow.

Here are just some of the cat behaviour questions she answered:

Question: How do I stop my two cats waking me up all night long? It can be as many as eight times that I go to the door to let them in or out. I don’t want a catflap, as they would bring live mice in.

Answer: The solution depends on why they are waking you up. Many owners find themselves in this situation and it's really difficult once we've been getting up and reinforcing this behaviour! If it's for food, then it can help to spread the meals out of the day and night (using the same amount of food) and try introducing feeding enrichment. Start off with something really easy such as a cardboard egg box and put dry food in the cups. Most cats should figure out that they need to paw it out. With enrichment, it's best to show to the cat to avoid frustration so 'paw' it out with your fingers to show the cat. Over time you can build up the level of difficulty. Check out our boredom busters videos on our YouTube channel for even more ideas.

Question: How can I get one of my four-year-old neutered cats to stop scratching the wallpaper, furniture and corners of our divan beds? We have proper scratching posts around the house plus we live in an area surrounded by trees so it's not like he is short of items to scratch on!

Answer: You're not alone, this is a common problem. Ideally scratch posts should be tall enough (at least 60cm), sturdy enough for the cat to put their weight against and have vertical thread (as opposed to horizontal rope), but these are hard to find (although you could try making your own scratching post!).

Check out our leaflet for more advice on managing your cats’ behaviour.

These posts need to be next to the areas that your cat is scratching and the beds, walls and furniture next to be covered in something that is unappealing to the cat (eg plastic bin liners, sticky back plastic etc, do a patch test first though). You can encourage the cat to use the post by plugging in a synthetic scent pheromone product like Feliway nearby, rubbing cat mint leaves (containing catnip) on the post or playing with a fishing rod toy near the post.

Cat claw
Cats scratch to keep their claws in good condition and to mark territory. Photo by Jill Allyn Stafford via flickr / Creative Commons
Question: My cat recently became stressed and anxious following a move (we think) and she has a patch on her back which is bloody and scabby. The vets said it could be stress as she's had medication for a virus. How can I help stop my kitty feeling stressed?

Answer: Sorry to hear that your cat is potentially feeling stressed. It's hard to comment without seeing the medical history or speaking with your vet. It's good that she's seen your vet and hopefully they've ruled out all of the various reasons that can cause a bald spot as there are many different possible causes. It's always important to either rule out the medical reasons or get them under control before looking at behavioural reasons.

While there are common stressors for cats, each cat is of course an individual so it's important to find out the underlying trigger/s for your cat. Basic stress relief measures include having enough essential resources (litter trays, hiding places, water bowls etc) and ensuring that they are spaced out all over the home. Check out our free e-learning course for more information on where to place resources (it's near the bottom of the course called 'putting it into practice').

Also look at the entry and exit points for your cat. Many people have a cat flap that allows any cat to enter. So if neighbourhood cats are entering your house (and you may not be aware as they are very sneaky!), then this can greatly stress out a resident cat. Getting an exclusive entry cat flap such as a microchip or magnet operated one can help to keep out intruders.

However, your best bet is getting a qualified behaviourist in to meet your cat and find out the underlying issue to get tailored advice. We recommend the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors.

Bald patch in cat's fur
This cat's bald patch could be caused by stress. Photo by Terri Acton via facebook
Question: My cat dribbles and purrs when she’s being cuddled and she drools when being held or when she lays on me. Is this normal?

Answer: Yes many cats seem to dribble. Some cats may be more likely to do it depending on the physiology of their mouth and tongue, and emotionally, some cats seem to have a dribble when they are feeling happy and content. It’s nothing to worry about if she's always done it. If your cat has only recently started dribbling though, then get her checked out by the vets in case there's a medical problem. Thankfully many owners think ordinary dribbling is a little bit cute!

Question: I have two cats aged two years (they’re sisters). One is quite aggressive and is always nipping, biting and putting her claws out. She's very temperamental when stroking her and she constantly miaows very loudly. Is this normal?

Answer: Sorry to hear about your cat. Do get her checked by a vet first but if she doesn’t have any medical reasons that would cause her to be aggressive while being picked up or stroked, here are a few behavioural tips with interacting with cats.

Cats can get quite stimulated or excited when they are playing or in ‘hunting mode’, and it is generally not advisable to touch any cat in this state. Even when touching a calm, relaxed cat, there are many places on the body that are quite vulnerable or sensitive and as a general rule, many cats don’t like to be touched in some places. The vulnerable or sensitive areas include:

1. Belly (which for some cats can include their sides and chest too)
2. Paws
3. Under legs (i.e. armpits)
4. Legs (trousers-back legs)
5. Stroking the fur against the normal direction
6. Bottom half of back (particularly if stiff or painful)
7. Base of tail
8. Genital area

All cats are individuals so some cats may seem to tolerate or in some cases, even appear to like be touched in some of these areas. However, as a general rule, cats don’t tend to be like being touched in these areas.

It is a common misconception that cats that roll on to their backs and expose their belly want it to be touched. This behaviour is often seen after a period of separation and is used as a greeting. What cats are communicating when this do this is that they feel relaxed in the person’s presence, enough to expose such a vulnerable area. The best way to address this behaviour is to verbally acknowledge the cat’s greeting, which is all the cat needs. For a cat that is resting on the floor with their belly exposed, if someone really wanted to stroke the cat, I would recommend only stroking the head, or you may be able to stroke their neck and back too. In general cats like quite brief, low intensity interactions that are quite frequent.

Cat showing its belly
 A cat lying on its back does not want its tummy rubbed. Photo by Joanna Potratz via flickr / Creative Commons
When cats in the same social group greet each other, it tends to be a brief head rub. Unfortunately, humans are the opposite! Our interactions are generally less frequent, but high intensity and prolonged. This is often another source of confusion.

It would be worth ruling out medical reasons with a health check from your vet and then we'd recommend a referral to a member of the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors (APBC).

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 here.

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: Vet Vanessa Howie will be answering veterinary questions on 4 June; Neutering Manager Jane Clements will there on 15 June; and behaviour expert Nicky Trevorrow will host the Q&A on 2 July. Every live Q&A is on our national Facebook page from 2-3pm. See you there!

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Alice in Wonderland

This post has been written by cat lover Jill Barnes
I live in Croydon and have three cats and a Westie dog. In the early evening of 27 March at around 6.30pm, our eldest cat of 12 years, a longhaired dark tabby female, went missing. She did not come in that night and we were concerned. Her name is Alice.

She has always lived here and is well known in the immediate area. It was as if she had completely vanished into thin air. Despite a monumental effort to find her – putting up posters, contacting vets, rescue centres, microchip databases, newsagents’ windows, door-to-door enquiries, garages and sheds opened, more than once – there was no sign of her. She is a splendid looking cat with a big bushy tail, long black stockings and a feisty personality. She is also the matriarch of this family and keeps an eye on everyone. She watches us out and she watches us back. She is definitely top cat! We were distraught at her loss and were determined not to give up hope. I always believed she would be found. The key was her microchip.

Tabby cat Alice has been reunited with her owners thanks to her microchip
Alice has been reunited with her owners thanks to her microchip
Four weeks later, a veterinary nurse from Mead Vets in Dartford (20-odd miles away) rang me to say she thought they had our cat. Indeed they did! Unhurt, bewildered and thin, it was a miracle she had not come to any harm. How she got to Dartford we will never know and can only guess.

Here is my supposition of events:

Alice gets into a delivery van near our house to have a snooze. Suddenly the doors are closed, the driver jumps in and starts the engine. Radio blaring, he travels to Dartford. On arrival the doors are opened and out shoots Alice.

For three weeks she travels alone – maybe stealing food via cat flaps – catching the odd mouse, being shooed away from houses, sheltering in local woods (our poor pampered Alice!) wondering "where is this place?". Until one day she ventures down from the woods into the large garden of a kind lady who owns five cats. Alice mucks in with them and the lady treats her with food and cuddles, realising this must be a domestic pet that has lost her way. Lady keeps hold of her for five days thinking she doesn't really want six cats! She then scoops her up and takes her to the  local vet surgery where her microchip is scanned and read with resounding results!

My husband went up to Dartford to collect her that same afternoon, 25 April. Four weeks after Alice went missing she is back home and although she took a little time to recover, she was eating normally within three days and loving being in her own soft bed again. She is once more ruling the roost!

The moral of this story is that yes, that kind lady does exist and her decision to take Alice to the vets to be scanned has allowed her to be back home where she belongs. So many thanks to her.

All my pets are microchipped and Alice’s story goes to prove how important this is. All cats rehomed by Cats Protection are microchipped too, which is such a necessary part of owning animals, so they can be traced and returned, just like our Alice. Without it we would never have seen her again.

This post has been written by a guest blogger. The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect the views of Cats Protection.

Monday, 18 May 2015

How to make a scratching post

Cats scratch for two reasons; to keep their claws in good condition and as a communication signal. A scratching post provides exercise for your cat and allows them to maintain their claws.

Our Mansfield Adoption Centre was donated these great homemade scratching posts which has inspired this blog post.

Homemade scratching post

You need something heavy which can be used as the base (the post photographed uses a compact grade laminate tile). The base should be strong enough so that your cat can lean against it without it wobbling.

You also need a tall, sturdy log or cylindrical wood offcut to use as the post. Make sure the wood is safe for cats and hasn’t had any treatments or varnish. The post should be at least 60cm tall so that the cat can fully stretch.

Securely screw the post into the base. Cover the post with a scratching material – carpet samples or offcuts should be just fine. Make sure you position the carpet so the thread is vertical, allowing the cat to scratch downwards. Attach using cable ties.

Cats like to stretch and scratch after they wake up so try placing the scratching post near to where they sleep!

If you like this, why not check out our blog posts on how to make a cat tent from a t-shirt or how to make cat-shaped healthy biscuits?

Friday, 15 May 2015

Why should I neuter my cat?

Neutering is the only effective way of reducing the number of unwanted cats and kittens in the UK. Please don’t add to the plight of the thousands of unwanted cats already out there!

Getting your cat neutered is good for them – and for you too!

To enlarge, click on the image

A neutered cat is happier and healthier…

  • They’re less likely to get serious diseases through mating
  • Your cat will fight less, meaning fewer injuries and therefore lower vet bills
  • Neutering will stop your female cat getting some cancers

Neutering could make YOUR life easier too!

  • Your neutered male is less likely to roam, so there’s less chance he’ll be hit by a car
  • He’s also less likely to spray smelly urine in your house and garden
  • Got a female cat? No more being woken up by her wailing when she’s in heat!

Kittens are hard work!

  • They are very cute but hard work. Their care takes time, effort and money – think of the food bills and the ‘accidents’ you’ll have to clean up!

Did you know? 

  • Cats can breed from four months of age
  • Cats will mate with their brothers, sisters and parents
  • Cats don’t need ‘just one litter’ before being spayed
  • One unneutered female cat can be responsible for 20,000 descendants in just five years

Want to know more? 

  • Neuter your cat at four months of age or younger
  • Visit www.cats.org.uk/neutering or speak to your vet for advice
  • Call our Neutering helpline on 03000 12 12 12 to find out if you’re eligible for a voucher. It’s kinder to neuter

You can embed this visual guide to neutering on your own website or blog by copying the code below.

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Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Diary of a teenage fosterer #2

This post has been written by Tristan Goodway-Sims who is undertaking a volunteer placement for a Duke of Edinburgh award

Hi everyone. In my last blog post we were off to collect Honey (white and tortie coloured) and her four kittens Harissa (female, tabby) Hazelnut (female, black) Halloumi (male, black) and Herbie (male, black) and here they all are, settled in their pen in our dining room. Just like last year when my mum was fostering, we are now eating our meals on trays in the lounge.

Foster cat Honey with her kittens
Honey with her kittens
Cats Protection has given me a lot of the supplies needed to look after Honey and her kittens including; weighing scales, special animal-safe cage disinfectant, cat litter, dry and wet food, cloths, disposable gloves, bowls and special food in case they get an upset stomach.  We supply the washing powder, bin bags and kitchen paper.  

I have quickly settled into a routine. Under my mum’s supervision I clean out the pen completely each morning, wiping everything down with disinfectant and put in clean bedding, a clean litter tray and water. I then feed Honey her wet food. Luckily I have never needed much sleep so I’m up at 6am whether I have school or not. However before fostering you could find me slumped on the sofa in my PJs staring at the TV until the last possible moment before school.  Not anymore! As soon as Honey hears me fumbling for my cereal bowl in the kitchen she begins to call. She is a very friendly and affectionate cat and loves human company. We have been told she is four years old but looks and acts much younger.

Mum then takes over while I am at school including serving Honey her dry food. I am not home long after school before I have to serve Honey her wet evening meal. Later in the evening I give the pen a good tidy up and clean the litter tray before putting in fresh water and dry food. Every evening I also make sure I handle the kittens and spend some time with Honey. Mum goes to bed at about 11pm so she has a last look in for me before the whole thing starts again in the morning.

Every day, Cats Protection paperwork must be filled in for Honey and her kittens, detailing drinking and eating, weeing and pooing, (who knew poo consistency could be graded 1-6?!), behaviour and general comments. There is also a weighing sheet and socialisation sheets showing what the kittens should be exposed to at certain ages.

Teenage fosterer Tristan's kittens
Tristan's foster kittens
The first week or so the kittens (aged two weeks) were very sleepy and unstable on their feet. Their eyes had just opened. Honey spent her time feeding the kittens, eating and dozing. I made sure I kept the room quite quiet and peaceful but Honey was still exposed to normal noises like the radio and vacuum cleaner and seemed very relaxed about it all.

Week two was a challenge – it was kitten worming week as they were three weeks old! Last year my elder sister was brilliant at giving our foster kittens their worming paste. She is at university this year so mum and I had to attempt it between us. We obviously don’t have the same knack as my sister, as on the first night, mum got more down her jumper than in the kittens!

Veterinary note: It’s important that during the ‘socialisation period’ kittens are gently exposed to a variety of positive experiences – different sights, sounds, textures and smells – in order to understand what is normal and safe.

Monday, 11 May 2015

Petplan & ADCH Animal Charity Awards – an invaluable event

On 22 April Petplan and the Association of Dogs and Cats Homes (ADCH) joined forces for the third year to host their Animal Charity Awards.

The event celebrates outstanding animal charities and not-for-profit organisations across the UK who go that extra mile to help rescue and rehome animals in need. Cats Protection received an impressive 163 nominations across the three categories – Animal Charity Employee of the Year, Animal Charity Team of the Year and Animal Charity Volunteer of the Year; and Warrington Adoption Centre’s Cat Care Assistant Claire Frangleton was even selected as a finalist (you can watch videos about all the finalists here).

Animal Charity Employee of the Year finalist Claire Frangleton
Animal Charity Employee of the Year finalist Claire Frangleton
Petplan & ADCH Awards finalists
All finalists head to the stage
Liz Robinson, Co-ordinator at our Deeside Branch found the event hugely useful:

"I volunteer for Cats Protection and I’m the Co-ordinator of the Deeside Branch undertaking Trap-Neuter-Returns (TNR) and promoting welfare in the north east of Scotland. We cover a huge rural area.

"Earlier this year our Regional Development Manager, Donna Webster, and I were very humbled to be chosen to attend this year's Petplan & ADCH Animal Charity Awards in Bournemouth. I have never been to something like it before so I wasn't really sure what to expect. Would it be beneficial to me and the branch? How would Cats Protection play a part? Answers to those questions and more were instantly answered as soon as we walked through the door.

"The conference was welcoming and very informative from start to finish. It really showed how all animal charities work together, caring and protecting our beloved animals who can't talk for themselves. It was also very useful for networking with other charity volunteers and staff.

"If anyone is given the chance to attend future Petplan & ADCH Animal Charity Awards – or any other animal charity events that come up – I would highly recommend you go. It's well worth it; I can't rate it highly enough."

Friday, 8 May 2015

‘How can I care for my cat after surgery?’ and other neutering FAQs

Do you want to know more about neutering? Yesterday Cats Protection’s Neutering Manager Jane Clements hosted a live Q&A on our Facebook page. Here are some of the questions she answered:

Question: I'm getting my cats spayed early next month and I'm worried they will pull at the stitching as they are always licking themselves. What’s the after-care process? 

Answer: Your vet will advise you regarding post-operative care and it would be worth mentioning to your vet that your cats do normally lick regularly. There are post-operative Elizabethan collars available which will your vet may give you if this is felt necessary.

Cat in Elizabethan collar
Photo by andersknudsen via flickr / Creative Commons
Question: Are there any complications related to female cats being spayed? 

Answer: As with any surgical procedure, there are always some potential risks, which the vet will go through with you. However, neutering is a routine procedure and anaesthetics today are very safe; therefore problems and post-operative complications would be very rare.
You can read more about the operation in our Neutering leaflet.

Question: I've inherited three females and one male cat from an elderly aunt who has sadly passed away. I’d let to get them all neutered but I'm on benefits, are you able to help? 

Answer: We may be able to offer financial assistance with neutering. Please give our neutering helpline a call on 03000 12 12 12 (option 2), Monday-Friday, 9.30am-1pm to find out what support is available for your individual circumstances.

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.

Would you like the opportunity to ask a feline expert a cat care question? Don’t miss the next live Facebook Q&A sessions: Cat behaviour specialist Nicky Trevorrow will be available on 21 May; vet Vanessa Howie will be answering veterinary questions on 4 June; and Neutering Manager Jane Clements will be back on 15 June. Each live Q&A takes place on our Facebook page from 2-3pm. See you there!

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Cats Protection’s Big Cat Project

In October 2016 Cats Protection is running a very exciting event – a Zambezi River challenge and lion conservation project. Participants will be helping the project save the African lion population which has fallen by 80 to 90 per cent since 1975.

The lions are essential for Africa’s ecosystem:

  • Lions play an important role in the food chain, helping to regulate numbers of the more dominant herbivore species, such as zebra and buffalo. Without lions to control them, these species out-compete other animals, causing their extinction and reducing biodiversity 
  • Tourism is a major boost to the African economy and lions continue to be the biggest attraction. Many of Africa’s most needy communities rely on the money brought in by tourists and would suffer if lions were no longer part of the safari experience for visitors 

The project takes a multi-disciplinary, long-term and responsible development approach to lion conservation and works closely with local communities, policy makers, conservation managers and business leaders to implement sustainable conservation of lions while meeting the challenges of local people living alongside a natural predator. A key part of the conservation of lions is the reintroduction of lions into the wild.

Part of the project’s research involves understanding the relationships between individual lions in the pride. It’s essential that there are socially cohesive and stable prides for lions in the release stages of the program and so the research focuses on their social interactions such as greeting, play and social licking.

Lions licking each other
Photo courtesy of ALERT
Participants in the lion conservation project will spend three days helping on a range of tasks, which may include a snare sweep – which is important to protect the animals from illegal poaching – meat preparation, cub feeding and enclosure cleaning. There will also be plenty of opportunities to learn more about the lions such as how to interpret their behaviour, studying aggression levels at feeding times, observing social interactions between pride members and learning about body condition and health.

On one of the days there will be a visit to the Dambwa Forest enclosure, home to the oldest lions at the conservation project. You will be shown the pre-release training site where the lions spend their evenings practising their hunting. If you’re lucky you may spot some of the lions stalking and hunting the prey in the enclosure.

This video shows the lion rehabilitation into the wild volunteering program which is run in partnership with the African and Environmental Research Trust (ALERT), alongside African Impact. Volunteers on this project are actively involved in lion research, care and conservation as well as various community initiatives in surrounding areas and live just a stone’s throw away from the mighty Victoria Falls.

The money raised in sponsorship by participants in the challenge event will go towards helping Cats Protection care for thousands of cats and kittens every year through a large network of volunteer branches and adoption centres.

Interested in taking part? Find out more about how to sign up at http://www.cats.org.uk/get-involved/events/internation-challenge-events