Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Two elderly friends, perfectly matched

In the summer of 2014 Cats Protection’s Fareham & Waterlooville Districts Branch took in an elderly cat called Butch after his original owner died and no-one in the family could take him in.

He was adopted by Doug, who at 85 years old said he’d like an older cat too. He renamed the cat Thomas and wrote to the branch to tell them how Thomas was settling in. His letter reads:

After hearing about a 15-year-old tabby needing a place where 'he can spend his remaining years in the comfort of a loving home with an armchair to relax in', I was taken to meet Butch. To my delight and everyone's surprise he jumped at once onto my knees and, with a confident rumbling purr, made my acquaintance. That was mid-August. Butch, who I renamed Thomas, came to live with me on 16 September after my summer holiday. Now it’s a few days into October and in that short time Thomas has happily begun to make his home with me and what a delight that has been.


Elderly cat and owner
Thomas enjoying owner Doug's company
He is quite a character, very affectionate and so happy when I make a fuss of him and yes, he is a lap cat! On the other hand he is absolutely sure of what he wants and tells me with a loud miaow. My favourite (and new) relaxer armchair is now his and his alone! He is a very sensible cat with good manners, always grooming himself and I didn't need to show him where his litter tray was, he found it for himself. He empties his plate, eating happily, though he prefers a value brand over anything else except fresh chicken which is perfection as far as Thomas is concerned as his little nose and strident voice testify when on a Sunday I prepare a roast chicken lunch! Oh my goodness, as soon as the smell from the oven gets going, he is awake from his slumbers in the armchair and all a-quiver by my feet scarcely able to contain his impatience. Fifteen he may be but Thomas is a total delight, I am so glad he has come to live with me.  

Elderly cat Thomas
Thomas has settled into his new home well

From 1 April – 4 May 2015 is National Pet Month so we’re celebrating the wonderful bond between pets and their owners. Feel free to share your story about your relationship with your beloved cat below!

Friday, 24 April 2015

‘Do you need to protect indoor cats against fleas and worms?’ and other veterinary questions

Do your cats have problems with parasites? Yesterday’s live Q&A on Facebook was with Cats Protection vet, Vanessa Howie and she was answering questions about fleas and worms.

The below is a selection of her answers:

Question: Do you need to treat indoor cats for fleas and worms?

Answer: Treatment for both fleas and worms should be based on your cat's lifestyle and risk of contracting them. Chat to your vet about how regularly you should treat your cat. If you have contact with other cats or you have a dog in the house you may find you need to treat your indoor cat for fleas. You may find our leaflet called Fleas and other parasites useful.

Question: What's the best way to deal with ticks?

Answer: There are certain products on the market that you can buy to kill ticks. I would recommend that you talk to your vet about the most effective and safe ones for your cat. You could also get a tick hook which may be useful to remove the ticks that you find on your cat. Ask your vet for a demonstration if you’re not sure how to do it – it's really important to ensure all of the tick's mouthparts are removed to prevent further problems. Our leaflet Fleas and other parasites (link above) provides more information on ticks.

Grooming cat
Fleas can be ingested during grooming. Photo by Trish Hamme via flickr / Creative Commons
Question: We treat our cats regularly with flea and tick prevention products but still recently ended up with a flea infestation. Are there any effective treatments you recommend?

Answer: It's really important that you treat the environment as well as your cat when treating your cat for fleas. The pupae of the flea are really hardy and can hang around in your house for a long period of time. I'd recommend using a good environmental spray available from your vets and ensure that you treat all other cats and dogs in your household. With any flea treatment you will need to ensure that you treat your cat as regularly as the product recommends as any break in cover can be enough to allow the fleas to cause an infestation. If you are still experiencing problems, talk to your vet about maybe changing flea treatment product.

Have a read of our Fleas and other parasites leaflet (linked to earlier) which has some good information on the flea life cycle and treatment options.

Question: Is there a flea treatment I can get in tablet form? I have a feral cat so ones that need contact application aren't an option.

Answer: Yes there are tablet flea treatments available – I'd recommend you chat to your vet about the best one for your cat.

Curious feral cat
Photo by Beverley Goodwin via flickr / Creative Commons
Question: I recently treated my five-year-old female cat for tapeworm after seeing them on her fur. How long do I have to wait until I treat her again?

Answer: It depends to a degree on the treatment that you used initially. I'd chat to your vet about your cat's lifestyle risk of getting worms and therefore how often she should routinely be treated for worms.

Cats can be treated monthly through to once a year depending on their lifestyle and whether or not they are efficient hunters. Check out our leaflet about Fleas and other parasites (scroll up for the link) for more information.

Question: Our most recent rescue cat has scabby skin by his tail. I treat him for fleas regularly and have never seen any fleas on him. Is the skin reaction a flea bite allergy? What can I do for him? He doesn't seem bothered by it.

Answer: From your description it sounds like it may be a flea allergy, although there are other causes of scabby skin and skin allergies. I would recommend that you get him checked over by your vet. Cats with flea allergies are allergic to flea saliva and it only takes a single flea to bite and cause a reaction. Have a read of our Itchy cats and skin disorders leaflet, you may find it helpful.


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.

Fancy asking one of our feline experts a cat care question? Don’t miss the next live Facebook Q&A sessions: Our Neutering Manager Jane Clements will be online on 7 May; Behaviour Manager Nicky Trevorrow will be chatting all things feline behaviour on 21 May; while vet Vanessa Howie will be back on 4 June. Each Q&A takes place on our Facebook page at 2pm for one hour. See you there!

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Turn your cat into a video star!

Would you like to see your cat on the official Cats Protection YouTube channel?

We’re on the lookout for cute and funny cat videos to add to our channel, so if you fancy seeing your cat in the starring role, send your videos to us at catvideos@cats.org.uk and we’ll upload our favourites.

Here’s our current playlist for some inspiration!



Make sure you never miss the latest cat videos by subscribing to our channel – https://www.youtube.com/user/catsprotectionuk

Friday, 17 April 2015

Lion cupcakes recipe

In celebration of African Cat Week, here’s a simple recipe explaining how to make your own light and delicate lion-themed fairy cakes - why not bake them to raise funds for your local Cats Protection branch or adoption centre?

Makes 24 cupcakes – adapted from original recipe in Cupcakes by Susanna Tee.

Ingredients
225g margarine
225g caster sugar
4 eggs
225g self-raising flour

For the topping
175g butter, softened
350g icing sugar
Yellow food colouring
48 chocolate cereal hoops for the ears
48 sugar coated chocolate beans (such as Smarties) for the eyes
24 jelly sweets for the noses
Strawberry laces for the mane, cut into 1cm length

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius/350 degrees Fahrenheit/gas mark 4. Put 24 paper cupcake cases in a muffin tray and put aside.

2. Put the margarine, sugar, eggs and sifted flour in a large bowl and beat together with a whisk until smooth.

3. Spoon the mixture into the paper cupcake cases.

Lion cupcake mix ready to go in the cases
Photo by Amelia Wells via flickr / Creative Commons
4. Bake the cupcakes in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes or until well risen and golden brown.

5. Transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool.

6. Make a buttercream by putting the butter in a mixing bowl and beating until fluffy. Stir in the icing sugar and beat together until smooth. Add yellow food colouring until desired shade is achieved and mix well.

7. When the cupcakes have cooled, spread the buttercream on top of each one.

8. Decorate by adding strawberry laces around the edges of each cupcake to make the mane. Add two chocolate cereal hoops to each cupcake for the ears; two chocolate beans for the eyes and one jelly sweet for the nose.

Decorated lion cupcakes

Enjoy - but please note these cupcakes are for humans, not for cats!

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Why I’m helping Cats Protection help big cats

This post has been written by Emma Flattery who is participating in our Zambezi River challenge and lion conservation project in October 2016

As a veterinary surgeon I have had the pleasure of treating all sorts of animals, from the more common pets such as cats, dogs and rabbits, farm animals such as cows, sheep and horses, and more exotic creatures such as alpacas and chinchillas. Whenever anyone asks me what my favourite animal is though, I have to say it’s a cat. I had one cat growing up (Kim, because my parents didn't know if he was a boy or a girl when they found him – this seems to be a common problem with cats!), then before I moved from New Zealand to London I had two cats, Peep and Bella. I didn't think it was fair to them to bring them halfway across the world though (as they were elderly ladies by this point) so they stayed with family in New Zealand. I sadly had to put my beloved Peep to sleep last year while I was visiting New Zealand, as she developed a saddle thrombus. I still can’t fathom why it happened in that small window of time when I was back in New Zealand – one of those mysterious things that we can never explain I think, but it meant the world to me to be there to comfort her through that awful experience.

Emma's late pet cat, Peep
Emma's late cat, Peep
Bella is still going strong in after radioactive iodine treatment for hyperthyroidism and is actually much happier now that her nemesis and merciless bully has gone! I now have a new lovely cat in my life – my boyfriend’s deaf white cat, Roger.

As well as being a big fan of domestic cats, I find all the big species of cats fascinating and beautiful. Participating in the Zambia Big Cat Challenge means that I can help raise money for domestic cats as well as African lions. In addition to raising money, this sort of challenge raises awareness of the trials that the African wildlife faces with poachers and decreasing habitat. I think the biggest challenge that I will face in Africa will be facing this reality, although the heat and mosquitoes will also be difficult to deal with!

Emma Flattery cycling to prepare for Cats Protection's Zambezi challenge
Emma cycling in Tenerife
I am a keen cyclist and have several big events lined up this year that I thought I might as well use to promote my cause and get extra interest for sponsorship. Adding a couple of half marathons into the mix ensures that I should be fit enough by the time the Zambezi challenge comes around (although I am sure that canoeing will take different muscles than running and cycling does!).

Emma Flattery is running to raise funds for Cats Protection
Emma is also a keen runner!
I’m lucky enough to work at a great company, MedicAnimal, which is an online veterinary pharmacy and pet supplies retailer. We have a close relationship with Cats Protection and so my company is behind me in this challenge 100 per cent. With regards to the work that Cats Protection does, I can’t stress enough the importance of the education and support that they provide in terms of informing the public about the importance of neutering and spaying cats to help with the massive cat overpopulation we have. They also work tirelessly to rehome cats that have been abandoned or cannot stay with their family for whatever reason.

If you want to follow me in my cycling and running leading up to the Zambezi challenge, you can read my blog here or you can find me on athlete community website Strava. My latest escapade was a 220km training ride to Bognor Regis and back from London…

Please also donate for Cats Protection on my JustGiving page and help me go over and above my £3,900 target! https://www.justgiving.com/EmmaFlattery

If you’d like to sign up for the Zambezi River challenge and Big Cat project, go to Cats Protection's international challenge events page.


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, 13 April 2015

The history of domestic cats

In honour of African Cat Week (Monday 13 - Sunday 19 April), we’re starting by looking at the history of the domestic cat, their ancestry, how this makes them the cats they are today and how to ensure their specific needs are met.

African wildcats

Today’s domestic cat shares a common ancestry with the African Wildcat – a species still found today in the savannah in the Middle East and Africa. It is a solitary, territorial species that mainly hunts small rodents. Their environment has relatively sparse concentration of rodent prey, so individuals are well-dispersed to avoid competition for the small amounts of available food. They maintain a territory to ensure other cats are kept away from this important resource. Hunting is not hunger driven – they will hunt before they are hungry to ensure sufficient food is caught each day.

As a solitary species, African wildcats don't need to communicate visually with other cats and instead use scent messages left by rubbing, spraying urine and scratching.



Domestic cats

Many of the biological needs and behaviours seen in African wildcats can still be seen in our pet cats today. Like their ancestors, domestic cats have an inherent desire to maintain an independent territory and are generally happy to live without other cats for company. Many cats living together only tolerate the presence of others to gain access to valued resources such as food, water, toileting area and outdoor access, so there need to be ample resources to avoid stress and conflict.

Domestic cats are still highly motivated to hunt and prefer meals to be little and often. They have limited visual social signals and facial expressions so can be difficult to 'read'. Just like the African wildcat, scent communication is still an important way of relaying information to both themselves and other cats.

You can learn more about domestic cat origins by accessing our free Understanding Feline Origins programme at http://learnonline.cats.org.uk/ufo and read more about feline behaviour in our three-part series of visual guides which starts here.


Want to participate in a big cat conservation project? We’re running an international challenge event which involves a three-day big cat volunteer scheme and canoeing the Zambezi River – and the best part is, you can raise funds for the little cats at your local Cats Protection branch or adoption centre at the same time! Download an information pack here.

Friday, 10 April 2015

‘How can I help a timid cat trust their new owner?’ and other behaviour FAQs

Once more behaviour expert Nicky Trevorrow took the reins of our Facebook page and answered live feline behaviour questions from our supporters. Here are just some of the questions that she answered for our supporters:

Question: Please could you offer some advice about how to help a timid cat to trust their new owners?

Answer: The main thing is to do this gradually and on the cat's own terms. We are often asked how long it will take for a cat to become more relaxed, however it would be hard to say as every cat is an individual. Depending on how timid your cat is would affect the starting point.

In general, sitting on the floor, reading a book and completely ignoring the cat (no eye contact, not talking to them etc) is great to show the cat that you are not a threat and come in peace! You can also try a bit of bribery (as long as there's no medical reason you can't) such as a bit of cooked chicken or a prawn to help your cat make positive associations with your company and getting small tidbits. Ensure any treats you give your cat are taken from their daily food allowance. With time, patience and empathy you'll get there. For further reading check out our leaflet Managing your cat’s behaviour.

Pyramid feeding toy for cats
Photo: CP Mansfield Adoption Centre
Question: Why does my cat go completely crazy with excitement every time he uses his litter tray? And why does he jump on me for attention at 3am?

Answer: It depends how the cat is responding and what the circumstances are. If the cat is making frequent small trips and vocalising then it may be that your cat could have a medical problem and needs to go to the vets for a health check.

If your cat miaows afterwards, it could be for attention or to get you to clean the litter tray.

As for 3am antics, cats are naturally crepuscular (awake at dawn and dusk) so will be more active at these times. If they are awake, they see no reason why not to have some fuss, attention or food at that time! Try giving your cat several interactive play sessions during the day and provide some feeding enrichment at night to keep them occupied. You could try a toilet roll pyramid where you tape the rolls together and place a portion of the cat's dry food in the tubes. Do 'show' your cat how to use the enrichment to prevent frustration. We offer some more ideas in this blog post about feeding enrichment and you could also check out our free course on cat behaviour.

Question: My two-year-old cat often has the tip of her tongue poking out. Is this just an oddity or should I be concerned?

Answer: If your cat has always done this, then I wouldn't be concerned. However, if your cat has only recently started doing it, then it may be worth having a health check with the vet to check your cat's mouth.

Question: My cat loves to scratch the carpet when he wants us to open the door for him. Can that be changed?

Answer: This is a common situation! It can be changed with some patience and determination. It's important not to tell him off for scratching the carpet as this won't change anything. Instead the trick is to cover and protect the carpet and teach him another behaviour to open the door. Check out Karen Pryor's book on clicker training for cats for tips on how to train cats in a positive way. Or you could try leaving the doors open (if they are internal doors).

Cat looking out window
Photo by emdot via flickr / Creative Commons
Question: I have a new cat who is three and is showing some stressed behaviour as she can't go outside. How long do you have to keep a cat inside for? I have had her for three weeks since her previous owner moved two miles away. Any help gratefully received.

Answer: There's no exact science as to how long to keep a cat indoors for. At Cats Protection, we often recommend three-four weeks but it can depend on the situation. The main thing is to ensure that your cat has everything that she needs in the house (resources such litter trays, food bowls, water bowls, hiding places and sleeping areas) and that she is microchipped with your details (if you now have legal ownership of this cat).

If the previous owner has recently moved house then the cat is unlikely to return to the previous owner. When a previous owner hasn't moved house, it's possible for cats to sometimes travel a couple of miles to the previous home.

Getting your cat used to her name (or the sound of her food) and coming back to you can be really helpful when you start letting her outside. For more information, have a read of our leaflet Indoor and outdoor cats.


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 sessions: Our Field Vet Officer Vanessa Howie will answer your veterinary questions on 23 April; Neutering Manager Jane Clements will host a Q&A on 7 May; and Behaviour Manager Nicky Trevorrow will be taking questions on feline behaviour on 21 May. Each Q&A takes place on our Facebook page at 2pm for one hour. See you there!

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Diary of a teenage fosterer #1

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

Hi, I’m Tristan, aged 16 and I have just started fostering kittens with my mum for Cats Protection’s Bridgend Adoption Centre as the six month volunteer element of my Silver Duke of Edinburgh award.

Tristan Goodway-Sims with his cat Chewy
Tristan with CP cat Chewy
A lot of people have asked me why I have chosen to volunteer with CP as it’s not something you might associate with a teenage boy. But believe me, I am a typical teenage boy.  You can’t see the floor of my bedroom for mess, I love listening to music, eating junk food and playing on my Xbox.  But I suppose I am a bit unusual in that even as a toddler I loved watching animal documentaries, particularly anything to do with big cats, monkeys and apes. I shocked my teacher in infant school when she asked everyone what they wanted to be when they grew up and I said a Primatologist! I am now researching animal based degrees including Zoology as I go into sixth form in September.

In addition to our rescue cat Lucky, who is now 18 (two years older than me!), Toby (a CP cat who died from a heart condition) rabbits and gerbils, when I was eight I went along to a fun day at Bridgend Adoption Centre. I was shocked to see all the pens full of cats and kittens needing homes and to learn about the long waiting list for cats needing to come in and occupy a pen. Mum allowed us to adopt two little kittens and I chose to name one Chewy after my favourite jaguar on Big Cat Diary on TV. When my sister went away on holiday I had responsibility (under mum’s supervision) for both kittens and the rest is history.

Last year my mum responded to an appeal to help foster mother cats with litters. It was a scheme to that moves newborn kittens and their mums into family homes where they could be fully socialised into a family environment before being returned to CP centres at eight weeks old when they’re ready for adoption. As the first eight weeks of a kitten’s life is crucial to its development, CP explained that in a family home the kittens (and mums) would need lots of positive experiences including handling and attention from people of different ages and genders and to be familiar with home noises including the hoover, TV etc. Fostering these labour intensive mums and kittens also frees up pens and volunteers and staff in the CP centres so they can help other cats.

We had to have a new fosterer visit from Cats Protection first and we prepared a room for the mum and kittens so they would be separate from other household pets. We also had to show proof that our own pets were fully vaccinated.

Fostered cat and litter of kittens
Fostered cat and kittens
After being accepted as a ‘mum with kittens’ fosterer, last summer our house welcomed three separate sets of mums and kittens: Fluffy and her four kittens; Queenie and her four kittens and Lucky with her six kittens.

Socialising a foster kitten
Socialising a foster kitten
I really enjoyed helping out last year so approached the Bridgend Adoption Centre to see if I could take a greater role this year for my Duke of Edinburgh award. As I am under 18, my mum still has ultimate responsibility, but under her watchful eye I am about to begin six months of fostering and we are off to pick up a young cat called Honey and her four kittens. 

Keep an eye on this blog for updates about how I get on.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

How to make a cat tent

Cats like to have plenty of places around the home to hide. It helps to make them feel safe and secure, especially if something makes them feel anxious or scared, such as fireworks or unfamiliar visitors.

A cardboard box is a great hiding place – and you can make it feel even more snuggly by easily transforming a box into a tent for your cat!

All you need is a cardboard box, a cushion or cat bedding and an old t-shirt. Cut two holes in the side of the box so that your cat can get in and out easily without feeling trapped – ask an adult to help if you’re using scissors. Put the cushion or bedding in the bottom of the box to make it cosy.

Pull the t-shirt over the box so that the neck lines up with the hole on one side of the box and the bottom of the t-shirt is over the hole on the other side (leave this side of the box open).
You can tuck the sleeves in against the box to make the sides look neater.

The box tent is quick to make and your cat will love it!

Cat enjoying their homemade tent
Photo by Tracy Wynn
Do not disturb your cat while they are in their tent as it may frighten them.


This originally appeared in the Spring 2015 issue of The Cat magazine.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

How to make healthy cat-shaped biscuits

It’s Easter and although that normally means chocolate Easter eggs a-plenty, how about this year you try some healthy indulgence?

Gluten-free, sugar-free, vegan cookies

These cat-shaped biscuits are gluten-free, sugar-free and egg-free and yet packed with energy and goodness – children and adults alike will love them. Even better, they have very few ingredients, so are simple to make with children over the Easter holidays!

The recipe and photos were provided by Cat (great name!) over at www.catfoodisgoodforyou.com

Makes 12 small cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (150g) mashed fruit/squash (this recipe uses half a plantain)
  • 3/4 cup (100g) almonds
  • 1 cup (150g) dates
  • Half a medium avocado (or coconut oil or butter, 2 tbs)
  • 1-2 tbs cocoa powder (depending on how chocolatey you want it to taste!)
  • Half tsp cinnamon

Method

1. Pre-heat oven to gas mark 3/325 F/170 C
2. Blend all the ingredients in a food processor

Healthy cat shaped cookie ingredients

Cat shaped biscuit mixture

3. Form mixture into balls and mould into a cat-shaped cookie cutter
4. Arrange the biscuits on a baking sheet/parchment paper
5. Bake for 10 minutes and leave to cool

Delicious and sin-free!

Gluten free vegan cat shaped biscuits

Please note these biscuits are for humans, not for cats!