Friday, 28 August 2015

Behaviour focus: scratching

In our second behaviour focus post, Cats Protection Behaviour Manager Nicky Trevorrow explains how to discourage your cats from scratching areas of the home.

How can I stop my cat scratching the wallpaper or furniture? They have a scratching post!

Many owners find this behaviour frustrating particularly if their cat has already been given a scratch post. The first thing is to understand why a cat is scratching. Scratching is a normal behaviour for cats and therefore they need an outlet in order to express their natural behaviours. The main two reasons that a cat will scratch is:

  1. For claw maintenance where they remove the outer sheaths of their claws. This tends to be more of a plucking motion with their paws.
  2. As a territorial marker – both a visual mark from the long scratch lines left behind and a scent mark from the scent glands in between their toes. Cats can also increase their scratch marking in times of stress.

So you can see from the reasons above that cats don’t scratch wallpaper or furnishings to be naughty or get revenge on their owners! In fact, textured wallpaper in particular is especially irresistible to cats as it meets their needs. This is why it is important not to tell a cat off for scratching behaviour, however frustrating it may be, as it does not stop the behaviour and will make the cat feel anxious, which could lead to the development of other unwanted behaviours.

Tabby cat with homemade scratch post
Scratching is a normal behaviour for cats. Photo courtesy of jess2284 via flickr / Creative Commons
In order to stop the unwanted scratching, you need to provide the cat with a suitable alternative that meets their needs. A common pitfall is that some adult cats still have a short kitten scratch post that is now too small for them. Ideally a scratch post should be:

  • Tall enough (about 60cm) for the average adult moggy to allow them to stretch up on their toes while scratching
  • Sturdy enough as cats like to lean their body weight against the post while scratching
  • And have vertical thread to facilitate a full range of vertical scratching movements

Place the new post next to the area that the cat is scratching, eg a sofa. To make the sofa seem unappealing, cover the area being scratched with something shiny or sticky that will feel unpleasant under their claws such as black plastic bin liners, a couple of layers of foil or sticky back plastic. Always patch test first to ensure it doesn't cause any damage to your property.

Encourage your cat to use the post by rubbing cat mint leaves on it. Cat mint is the plant that catnip originates from and can be found in most garden centres. Alternatively you try using a quality catnip spray or dried catnip. Playing around the post with a fishing rod toy can help encourage a cat to use a scratch post. Avoid the temptation to lift up the cat’s legs and scratch the post with their paws as cats will generally find this very off putting and avoid the post in future.

While many cats like to scratch vertically, others prefer to scratch horizontal surfaces such as carpets, mats and stairs. Understandably, these cats are unlikely to be interested in vertical posts and need scratching facilities that replicate what they are currently using.

Kittens with horizontal scratch board
Some cats like horizontal scratching posts. Photo courtesy of Jennifer C via flickr / Creative Commons
For cats scratching wallpaper, there are corner posts available that attach onto the walls. There are a variety of different posts commercially available for vertical, horizontal or diagonal scratching, or perhaps you get inventive and make your own!

For more information, check out our free e-learning course called Understanding Feline Origins and our leaflet called Managing your cat’s behaviour.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Introducing a new cat to your dog

Contrary to belief, cats and dogs can get along if introduced appropriately. A gradual introduction can make all the difference and it can be easier if the cat had positive experiences with dogs when it was young and vice versa.

After bringing your new cat home (see advice in our Welcome home leaflet), you can begin to introduce them to your dog by exchanging their scents.

Black kitten meeting a dog
A new cat should be introduced to your dog very gradually. Photo courtesy of Stefano Mortellaro via flickr / Creative Commons

Exchange scents

To start with, keep the cat and dog separated and allow a room for your cat that isn’t accessible to the dog. Use two soft cloths and gently stroke one on your cat and the other on the dog. Leave the cloth with the dog’s scent in the cat’s room; and the cloth with the cat’s scent in the dog’s environment. They can then each sniff and investigate it in their own time. See if the cat approaches the cloth and sniffs and ignores it, or skirts around the room to avoid it (the reaction will be very subtle). Also try dabbing each of the cloths on the furniture around the home.

Keep mixing the scents in this way over several days until your pets are showing no reaction to the smell and both animals have settled.

You can advance to allowing them to see each other, but not able to physically touch. If possible, place a glass or mesh door between the cat and dog and allow each one to approach or hide as they choose. Only once they show positive signs towards each other can you progress to a controlled face-to-face introduction.

Face-to-face introductions

  • Ensure your dog is trained to show non-threatening behaviour around the cat, such as ‘down’ and ‘stay’. You should be in control of your dog at all times
  • Keep your dog on the lead and keep them calm 
  • Your dog may think the cat is more important if you are focused on them, so try to ignore the cat
  • Keep your dog’s attention, using treats and praise to reward good behaviour
  • Give your cat treats so they associate the dog with something positive
Cats and dogs can get along if introduced appropriately. Photo courtesy of Marc Dalmulder via flickr / Creative Commons

Do not

  • Don’t make your cat feel cornered, they should have somewhere they can escape to and hide. A high ledge will help your cat to feel safe. Keep any external doors and windows closed but allow the cat to leave the room if they wish
  • If your cat does run away, do not let your dog chase them
  • Do not restrain the cat or force them to approach the dog

Repeat short introductions like these until the cat is not scared of the dog; and your dog shows little or no interest in the cat. You can progress to keeping the dog on a long line and eventually, when they are unconcerned with each other’s presence, you can take your dog off the lead (but ensure your cat can escape onto high ledges or furniture if they want to).

Never leave your dog and cat together unsupervised.

You may also find this video helpful:

Saturday, 22 August 2015

How to keep your cat cool in the summer

Now the warmer weather has arrived your cat may be looking a little hot and bothered.

A recent survey from the British Veterinary Association (BVA) showed that nearly half of vets questioned treated animals for conditions related to hot weather, such as heat stroke, last summer. It’s therefore vitally important that you take extra care to keep your cat healthy and happy in the sunshine.

Cats are clever and will limit their activity to keep cool, but here are some ways you can help to prevent your cat from overheating and to keep them hydrated.

To enlarge, click on the images
Consult your vet for advice if your cat is elderly, a kitten or in poor health. You should immediately get advice from a vet if you are concerned that your cat is suffering from a heat-related condition.

Friday, 21 August 2015

Behaviour focus: drinking water

In the first of our new weekly behaviour focus posts, Cats Protection Behaviour Manager Nicky Trevorrow explains what to do if your cat isn't drinking from their water bowl.

Why do my cats drink out of the toilet/pond/other inappropriate place rather than from their fresh, clean bowls of water? Why doesn't my cat seem to drink? 

Many owners wonder why their cats either do not appear to drink from their water bowl or show more of a preference for another water source such as a pond. Cats do have very efficient kidneys having evolved from a desert dwelling species, however they still need to always have a supply of fresh water available to them. One of the most common reasons for cats to not drink out of their water bowl is due to its location. Many people tend to put their cat’s food bowl next to their water bowl. We humans eat and drink at the same time, so surely it would make sense for cats to do the same, right? It is easy to forget that cats are a completely different species with some very different needs. Once we understand these needs, it all starts to fall into place. What is news to most people is that cats would actually prefer to drink away from their food bowl. This goes back to African wildcat behaviour, with which our pet cats have shared ancestry. African wildcats also eat and drink in different locations to avoid contaminating their water source with the gut contents of their prey. So it’s all about hygiene, unsurprisingly for such a clean animal. With that in mind, ensure that water bowls and food bowls are placed away from each other and away from the litter tray.

You could also consider moving the bowl away from the wall. A cat is in quite a vulnerable position when they have their head down to drink, so they may prefer to have the wall behind them and the room in front so they can see if anything is going to approach them. If you move the water bowl away from the wall and the cat chooses to continue to face the wall, then that’s fine. It is all about giving the cat choice! You may even find if you have two cats that one may choose to face the wall, while the other is delighted to be able to now face the room. Cats are all individuals which is part of their appeal! Place both food and water bowls in more private but accessible locations, eg away from the cat flap, glass patio doors and high traffic areas like hallways.

Cats generally prefer to drink from a wide, shallow bowl. Photo courtesy of macinate via flickr / Creative Commons
Now that the location has been examined, let’s look at the bowl and its contents. While most cats will happily drink out of all different kinds of bowls, some cats may feel put off by plastic bowls. It is thought that perhaps the plastic can taint the taste of the water. If this is the case for your cat, then try a ceramic bowl. Cats generally prefer to have a wide, shallow bowl so that their whiskers do not touch the sides. This is especially true if your cat is diabetic as they can have extra sensitive whiskers.

Some cats find the chlorine found in tap water off-putting and prefer to drink filtered water, bottled water or rain water. Try putting a large plant drip tray outside to collect rain water. Remember to clean the tray regularly.

Why not try putting these changes into place and see if your cat starts to drink more? It’s a good idea to monitor your cat’s drinking habits and if they change, it can be a sign of a medical problem. Always consult your vet if you notice a change in habits.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

How to remove a tick from your cat

Ticks are most commonly found on moorland and in long grass, or woodland and they can carry Lyme disease – although more prevalent in the USA – which can affect humans and animals.

If left untreated, ticks can cause infection, sore patches and abscesses. If your cat comes home with a tick (the first sign is a small dot attached to your cat’s skin but as it feeds it gets larger and can be mistaken for a wart or lump) it’s important to remove it as soon as possible.

Here are some top tips to deal with pesky ticks:

To enlarge, click on the image

You can take your cat to the vet to have the tick removed, or if your vet has shown you how, you can use a tick hook to remove it yourself. Ensure the mouthparts are not left behind as they can lead to infection or an abscess.

Dispose of the tick by folding it in a strip of sticky tape and putting it in an outside bin and then thoroughly wash your hands.

Do not burn, apply alcohol or petroleum jelly to the attached tick or crush the tick as it can spread disease.

For more information on ticks and other parasites read our leaflet Fleas and other parasites.

Consult your vet for further advice, or if you notice any change in your cat’s health or behaviour.

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Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Help cats like Maxwell in our Big Dinner Appeal

Thin and in terrible condition, Maxwell was found roaming a Scottish hillside by Cats Protection volunteers. He was starving but every time we gave him food, poor Maxwell was terribly sick. Finally, a debilitating disease called colitis was diagnosed.

We started Maxwell on a very strict diet of special hypoallergenic food. It’s made a huge difference – he’s no longer sick or in pain. And thanks to our supporters, we will be able to fund Maxwell’s special diet until he is rehomed. Now this lovely boy can look forward to years of health and happiness!

Maxwell in Cats Protection's care
Donations will allow us to fund Maxwell’s special diet until he is rehomed
Maxwell is just one of thousands of cats we feed every day.

Can you support our Big Dinner Appeal to help us feed each cat the specific food they need, whether that’s special milk for kittens, extra food for malnourished cats or special diets for poorly cats like Maxwell?

You can find out more or donate to our Big Dinner Appeal at www.cats.org.uk/bigdinner

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

‘How do I teach my cat to use the cat flap?’ and other behaviour FAQs

Last week feline behaviour specialist Nicky Trevorrow returned to our national Facebook page to answer questions on cat behaviour. Here are some of the queries she answered:

Question: How do I get my Billy to come in through the cat flap? We've had it a month and he goes out fine but won’t come in through it!

Answer: This requires a lot of patience and some bribery with treats! Check first of all that there's easy access to the cat flap from the outside (eg do you need to add in a little step to make it easier?) and also whether there is a bit of cover nearby – using potted plants works well. Also check the environment that he is coming into and whether any changes are needed to make it more appealing. Then repeat the cat flap training of pinning the cat flap door opening inwards into the house, gradually lowering it so that Billy learns to push it open himself. Best of luck!

Cat walking in cat flap
Cat flap training requires patience! Photo courtesy of Stephen Hanafin via flickr / Creative Commons
Question: Hi Nicky! We have just adopted a kitten, but our 18-month-old female cat is not too happy. Hissing and growling. We kept them apart for five days and introduced them yesterday. Our older cat swiped at the kitten. What would you suggest? We rubbed blankets on each of them and shared them. Thank you!

Answer: Sorry to hear that your cats are not getting along. It's a really common problem. It sounds like you need to take it back to the scent swapping stage. Rub a clean cloth on the cheeks of one cat and then leave it in the middle of the room in the kitten's separate territory and vice versa. Carefully observe whether the cat chooses to sniff the cloth and ignore it (good sign) or avoid the cloth, skirting round the edges of the room. Keep going with the scent swapping until both the cat and the kitten are not reacting to the scent. The scent swapping stage should be the longest part of the whole introduction process.

Check out our leaflets for more information: Cats living together and Welcome home. Also check out our free e-learning cat behaviour course as the 'solitary' section has some videos at the end that talk about introducing cats together. Best of luck!

Question: Hi Nicky, is there any way to stop cats from scratching sofas?! We've got various scratching posts but our cat always seems to prefer the sofa instead!

Answer: 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. Place the post next to your sofa and cover your sofa in something unappealing to your cat such as a few layers of foil (patch test on your sofa first). Make your post more interesting by rubbing cat mint leaves on it. Never tell your cat off for scratching behaviour as it won't stop them scratching and they could even develop other problems.

Have a read of our leaflet for more advice: Managing your cat’s behaviour. Lots of people will feel your pain here!

Cat relaxing on sofa
Scratching is a normal cat behaviour. Photo courtesy of Tom Page via flickr / Creative Commons
Question: I have a six-year-old male cat who is neutered but sprays. How can I stop this behaviour? It is a multi-cat household with six cats but it’s just the one cat that spraying.

Answer: Sorry to hear that your cat is spraying. Cats sometimes spray short bursts of urine on vertical objects outside to mark territory and leave information for themselves or other cats to ‘read’. If your cat starts to spray inside the home, then it is almost certainly a sign that all is not right in their world.

But it's important to differentiate between inappropriate urination (a puddle on the floor) versus spraying (backing up to a vertical surface and spraying a small amount of urine). Each has different motivations.

The first thing to do is to rule out medical reasons. Cats can spray for all kinds of reasons, however one thing you could start looking at now would be how the cats interact with each other, which is really valuable info for a behaviourist. Write a table with the cats’ names down the left column, and then in the headers above, write the following behaviours; sleeping together, touching, washing each other, rubbing against each other, avoiding each other etc (you can include other behaviours specific to your cats). Then fill in the table with the name of the cat that they show that behaviour with, for example Fluffy washes Tigger. This can help identify the social groups which can be really hard to determine.

To identify the underlying behavioural cause, we recommend that you find a qualified behaviourist near you, check out www.apbc.org.uk and read our leaflet for more advice: Managing your cat’s behaviour (linked to above).

Question: Our cat continuously wants for food and miaows incessantly until you feed him. He also tries to bite your feet or will swipe for you. He's a sweet soft cat the rest of the time, but how can we get him to calm down? It worries us when children are around. Thank you.

Answer: It could be that your cat has a medical problem that is causing him to be hungry all the time. Mention all the changes in your cat to the vet to help with history taking. If the vet says that there isn't a medical problem, then discuss which diet is best for your cat.

There are satiety diets available that can help to make cats feel full without putting on weight. Feeding little and often can help to keep your cat's sugar levels more stable and is closer to how they would eat in the wild. Provide your cat with feeding enrichment (feeding cats in other ways that a food bowl that require them to use their brains!) and always show the cat how to use it so he doesn't get frustrated. Start with a cardboard egg box with dry food in the cups and then move onto a toilet roll pyramid. Check out our boredom busters videos for more ideas (featuring our gorgeous, clever CP 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 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: CP vet Vanessa Howie will take veterinary questions on 3 September; neutering expert Jane Clements will host the Q&A on 10 September; while Nicky returns to answer behavioural queries on 24 September. All our live Q&As are held on Cats Protection's national Facebook page from 2-3pm. See you there!

Monday, 17 August 2015

Playing with dogs to help cats

This post has been written by Doggie Chess

Despite what cartoons might show, dogs and cats can be friends. So what if we told you that you could play chess with dogs… to help cats? You might say we were barking mad. Well, watch this video and see for yourself!

Yoko Ono's Doggie Chess
Dogs for Cats! We are delighted to join with Yoko Ono, renowned artist, musician and animal rights activist, in introducing ‘Doggie Chess’, a fun chess game for your iPhone and iPad. What’s more, a percentage of each purchase price goes to Cats Protection! To download to your iPad and iPhone today visit http://tinyurl.com/yokochess
Posted by Cats Protection on Friday, 31 July 2015


The game is inspired by Yoko's 1966 art piece, “Play It By Trust”, which was a radical reinvention of chess. In it, players face-off with identical sets of white pieces on an all-white board and are tasked with remembering which are their pieces and which are their opponent’s.

Doggie Chess still shot

We have two sets of lovable 3D doggies, modelled on pets available for adoption from local shelters, “squaring-off” in an exercise of critical thinking, to help cats.

A percentage of each Doggie Chess purchase made in the UK will go towards supporting the important work of Cats Protection. This is a natural extension of Yoko Ono's activist work and a fun and playful way to help make a difference.

Yoko Ono's Doggie Chess app

What more reason do you need to download Yoko Chess today and buy Doggie Chess, to help cats?

But that's not all - keep your eyes on the horizon because in the coming months Yoko Chess will be adding an all-cat version as well!


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

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Diary of a teenage fosterer #5

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

It’s time for me to say a reluctant goodbye to Honey, Harissa, Hazelnut, Halloumi and Herbie. Mum Honey’s kittens are now eight weeks old and looking back at photos we have taken it is amazing to see how much they have grown since they came to us six weeks ago. The time seems to have rushed by!

My six months volunteering with CP is part of my Silver Duke of Edinburgh Award and I have been missing from fostering duties for two long weekends, as I have undertaken a practice and final assessed three day/two night expedition so my mum was on cat duty. Walking an average of 10km a day, sleeping four sweaty, snoring boys to a tent and eating cold noodles for breakfast made cleaning up cat poo seem like paradise. So here I am sitting at home with my blistered feet typing this with kittens jumping all over me.

Tristan leaving for a Duke of Edinburgh expedition
Tristan leaving for his Duke of Edinburgh three-day expedition 
Honey’s kittens developed so much in their final two weeks with us. They became far more confident at climbing and tried this at every opportunity, jungle gyming up our curtains and from shelf to shelf.  They were far more reckless trying to jump across huge gaps and managing to reach the window sill which they were excited to find allowed them to see our whole close where there was a lot for them to look at. Between us mum and I followed CP’s socialisation chart and ensured that Honey and her kittens were exposed to lots of things including; household noises like the vacuum cleaner, washing machine, TV etc as well as handling, playing, being brushed, visitors, different types of cat litter, cat carriers, car journeys, the list is long!

At eight weeks we reluctantly packed up Honey, her kittens and all the completed paperwork and returned them to the dedicated team at Cats Protection’s Bridgend Adoption Centre where Honey was spayed, the kittens vaccinated and everyone put up for adoption. We always type and laminate a notice for our foster cats’ and kittens’ adoption pens as this helps both CP staff and potential adopters identify which kitten is which and understand the different characters of both the mum and kittens and hopefully secures an effective match with adopters.

Foster cat Lana with her kittens
Lana and her kittens waiting for their new home
Another mum cat and litter were waiting for us when we returned Honey and her kittens so in my next and final blog I will be introducing Lana and her kittens, Logan, Libby and Lottie and looking back over 2015’s kitten season fostering for CP.

Read Tristan’s previous post in the series here.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Is the cat blep the latest pet craze?

Feline 'blepping' seems to be the latest internet trend at the moment – it’s when the tip of the tongue is left poking out unconsciously – you may have even noticed your own cat in a world of their own, apparently unaware that their tongue is sticking out ever-so-slightly!

CP cat Wilfred here was caught blepping by our Taunton & Wellington Branch!

Wilfred cat blepping
Wilfred's little tongue poking out!
Is there anything cuter?!

So why do cats leave their tongues poking out?

Cats Protection’s Behaviour Manager Nicky Trevorrow says: “Many cats seem to poke out the tip of their tongue particularly if they get distracted during grooming. Other cats will rest or sleep with the tip of their tongue out.”

Nicky adds: “It can also be a sign of medical problem, particularly if your cat has recently started doing this, is sticking their tongue out continuously, or it’s combined with other signs such as drooling or difficulty eating, like only eating on one side of the mouth.

“Cats are extremely subtle in their behaviour when they are not well so it can be very hard to tell if something is wrong. Cats’ mouths can be quite difficult to examine at home, so it is worth taking your cat to the vets for a health check to thoroughly examine your cat’s mouth.”

If your cat starts to do something that is out of character, the first thing you should always do is book them in for a heath check with your vet to rule out any medical problems that could cause this behaviour.

Tweet your photos to us at @catsprotection with the hashtag #blep and we’ll pin our favourites onto our ‘Blep’ Pinterest board.

Follow Cats Protection's board Blep on Pinterest.

We also asked our supporters to share some of their favourite #blep moments on Twitter...



Monday, 10 August 2015

‘What care does my elderly cat need?’ and other older cat FAQs

If you’re looking for some older cat advice you've come to the right place. Here’s a round-up of Cats Protection vet Vanessa Howie's recent live Q&A hosted on Facebook.

Question: Can you offer any general advice for looking after older cats? We just recently adopted a 10 year old. She's settled very well and within 24 hours she’s sleeping soundly on the windowsill.

Answer: I would recommend regular health checks at your vets. Some vets will actually run geriatric nurse clinics, where they will carry out a health check, weigh, take a blood pressure reading and clip your cats nails if needed. Check out our Elderly cats leaflet for more information.

Question: My older cat who's 12 has start getting little black-like beauty spots on his bottom lip; see the photo of him below. Is it because he's getting old?

Answer: Ginger cats can often develop black pigment spots on their pink skin around their eyes and on their lips as they get older. This is usually normal and nothing to worry about. However if you're worried it's always a good idea to get him checked out by your vet.

Elderly ginger cat with pigment spots
Elderly ginger cats can develop black pigment spots on their lips. Photo by Angel Lord via Facebook
Question: My 19-year-old cat has got so thin; I can feel all her ribs and vertebra under her fur. She only ever weighed 4lb at her heaviest so now she's as light as a feather. She had a check over at the vets when she went for her booster and the vet said she seemed fine for her age. She's eating and drinking fine but she's lost her hearing and seems like she doesn't know if she's coming or going most of the time – entering a room then leaving over and over. Is it normal for her to become so thin due to her age? She looks so frail and every day I'm nervous to come downstairs in case she's gone to Rainbow Bridge.

Answer: Nineteen is a great age. If your vet has ruled out all medical problems it is likely that old age is causing her to become more frail. Cats can suffer from senility similar to people and it sounds like this may be happening. You'll find more information about this in our Elderly cats leaflet (see link above).

Question: My cat seems to be limping on one of her paws and her front paws seem to shake when sits up. She's 15; do you think there’s anything wrong?

Answer: I would recommend that you get your cat's leg checked out by the vet. As cats get older they can suffer from arthritis, check out our Arthritis leaflet for further information.

Old tabby cat
Cats can suffer from senility similar to people. Photo by Diana Parkhouse via flickr / Creative Commons
Question: One of my 17-year-old cat's eyes seems to have changed in colour from a bright green to a darker, duller shade. It doesn't seem to be bothering her. Does this indicate that she is losing her sight in that eye?

Answer: As cats get older the iris in their eye does tend to change colour and they may develop flecks of pigment. I would however recommend that you get your cat's eye checked by the vet as there are other causes for colour change, particularly if only one eye is affected.

Question: What kind of exercise would be appropriate for a 13-year-old cat who is still active but has a touch of arthritis? I don't want to overexert her.

Answer: I would recommend being guided by your cat. Even though she has a touch of arthritis it's still important that she gets some exercise. Playing with her with toys such fishing rods can help to keep her stimulated. Ball and puzzle feeders are also fun (here are instructions explaining how to make your own cat puzzle toys). When she's had enough respect her and leave her to have a snooze!

White elderly cat
Older cats still need exercise. Photo: CP Library
Question: Is it better to feed your elderly cat on demand or at set times? I would love some guidance!

Answer: It really depends on your cat whether on demand or set time feeding is better and how they have been fed over their life. If you do choose on demand feeding ensure that you only feed the quantity recommended for the day. As older cats slow down their calorie requirements may reduce and they can gain weight if overfed. Using a senior cat diet is preferred. Our Feeding and obesity leaflet may be helpful, do give it a read.


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: Cat behaviour specialist Nicky Trevorrow will be taking questions on 14 August; vet Vanessa Howie returns on 3 September; and neutering expert Jane Clements will host on 10 September. All our live Q&As are held on Cats Protection's national Facebook page from 2-3pm. See you there!

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

How to look after a kitten

There’s no denying it: kittens are very cute and lots of fun.

But it’s important to remember that adopting a kitten is a lifetime commitment – which could be 15-20 years or perhaps even longer! Kittens are very mischievous, full of energy and often time consuming so there are a few important things to consider first.

Food

Kittens should have access to fresh water and given commercial kitten food to ensure their nutritional needs are met – check and replace food at least four times every day. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and don’t feed them more than the total daily recommended amount. Speak to your vet about the best diet and feeding regime for your kitten.

White kitten in food bowl
Kittens should be given commercial kitten food; photo courtesy of CP Bridgend

Sleep

Cats like a variety of warm cosy places so they can rotate their sleeping place and they like places up high as it makes them feel safe. It’s important not to disturb your kitten while they’re sleeping as good quality sleep and rest is needed for their growth and development.

Socialisation

The socialisation period happens between two and eight weeks of age and allows your kitten to learn what is safe and normal. Everything they see, hear, touch, smell and taste will affect how this development occurs to help them quickly understand what is normal about their world and what they should avoid.

If a kitten has been raised with its mother it is recommended that they stay with her until they are at least eight weeks of age. So if you adopt a kitten from a reputable animal charity like Cats Protection, it will be at least eight weeks old and will have already been exposed to a number of experiences through the socialisation period. For more information see Cats Protection’s Essential Guide: Pregnant cats and care of young kittens.

Kittens with their mum
Kittens should stay with their mothers until eight weeks of age; photo courtesy of CP Bridgend

Play

Kittens should be taught at a young age what is appropriate play. Some people can make the mistake of playing with kittens with their fingers or feet but this can encourage kittens to direct play or predatory behaviours towards the owner. This can be painful for you as they get older! So don’t encourage your kitten to play with your fingers, toes or hair.

Object play can help kittens to develop their balance and eye-paw co-ordination. Games which are distant from the body, for example, using ‘fishing rod’ type toys and ping pong balls are a great idea. We have examples of enrichment toys you can make here: Feeding enrichment puzzles for your cat.

Grooming

Grooming will help to keep your kitten’s coat and skin healthy so it’s important to gently groom them regularly so they can get used to the feeling of being brushed. There are a variety of kitten brushes and grooming tools available.

Kitten with ball
Object play can help kittens to develop their balance and eye-paw co-ordination; photo courtesy of CP Bridgend

Litter training

Most cats are quick to learn how to use a litter tray once they are shown where it is. The litter tray location is important – it should be in a quiet place where they won’t be disturbed, away from their bed, food and water bowls. Ideally you should have one litter tray per cat plus once extra. You can find out more in our Caring for your cat leaflet (link at the end of the post).

Veterinary care and neutering

You will need to register your kitten with a vet and take them for a health check as soon as you can. Kittens should have their first vaccinations from eight or nine weeks of age and have a second vaccination from 12 weeks of age to protect them against some serious infectious diseases. They’ll also need protection from parasites such as fleas and worms.

Neutering (spaying for females and castration for males) is the most humane way to stop unwanted pregnancies and minimise the unwanted cat population. It can be carried out at four months of ages or younger – use our kitten vet search to find a vet that will carry out this procedure near you. You can find out more about neutering and the benefits to you by checking our neutering visual guide: Why should I neuter my cat?

Cats Protection also recommends microchipping as the safest and simplest means of permanently identifying your cat. You should get your kitten microchipped before letting them outside for the first time.

Speak to your vet to discuss all your kitten’s needs and get specific advice.

Three kittens in cat basket
Kittens should be neutered from four months of age or younger; photo courtesy of CP Bridgend

Expense

Ensure you are prepared for the costs associated with owning a cat, including the ongoing costs like food, cat litter and veterinary care.

If you have made the decision to adopt a cat or kitten, please get in touch with your local Cats Protection branch or adoption centre. You can find contact details by entering your postcode at www.cats.org.uk/find-us

Our branches and centres are at their busiest with kittens needing loving homes during the ‘kitten season’, which is roughly between April and October.


For more detailed information on how to look after a kitten, please read our Caring for your kitten leaflet and Caring for your cat leaflet.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

‘How much does it cost to get my cat neutered?’ and other neutering FAQs

Do you want to know more about neutering? Cats Protection Neutering Manager, Jane Clements, hosted our latest Facebook Q&A session and here are just some of the questions she answered:

Question: How much will it cost to get my three-year-old tom ‘done’ and also microchipped?

Answer: The costs of neutering and microchipping are variable depending on geography and vet prices in your area. Typically neutering a male can vary from £40-£80. I would recommend phoning the vets in your area and asking them what their prices are.

Question: We have a 16-week-old female cat. When is the best age to have her neutered?

Answer: She can be neutered at 16 weeks old. You can find a list of vet practices who will neuter from four months old here www.cats.org.uk/kitten-neutering

Do you have a question about cat neutering?

Question: Is it illegal to get someone else's cat 'done'? There's a stray in the area – an 'intact' male but there's a rumour he has an owner. My neighbour and I would like to get him the snip but don't want to get sued or something! He mainly lives outside and he fights a lot, would getting him neutered risk his health in any way? I don't want to make things worse for him!

Answer: It is important to do all you can to ensure a cat doesn't have an owner before you get him neutered. Often cats believed to be strays do actually belong to someone local. You could ask around the local area, put posters up or post a picture online (see if your local CP branch has a Facebook page) and see if anyone comes forwards. If nobody comes forward you can take him to a vet where he will be scanned to ensure he isn't microchipped before neutering surgery happens. Once you have taken all reasonable attempts to find an owner, you could book him in for neutering.

Neutering has many health benefits for cats, see our Essential Guide: Neutering – family plan for felines leaflet. The vet would also undertake a health-check before any neutering surgery was carried out.

Question: How can I persuade someone to get their cat neutered when they're completely ignorant?!

Answer: Please see our Neutering – family plan for felines leaflet (link above). This leaflet is also downloadable in different languages. If you would like one posted to you, you can call our National Helpline on 03000 12 12 12.

You could also have a look at our neutering visual guide called Why should I neuter my cat? which discusses many reasons why neutering a cat is good for their health, welfare and their owners too!

To enlarge, click on the image

Question: My little lady will be neutered in October. I would just like to know how long she will be in pain for following the procedure as I'm dreading it! What can I do to make her more comfortable? Will she stay at the vets overnight?

Answer: When your cat is admitted to have her operation, your vet will go through all of these things with you. Painkillers are usually given before the operation and post operatively. Depending on the timing of her operation, she will probably not need to stay in overnight, but your vet can advise on all of these specifics. Try not to worry, neutering is a routine procedure and your vet will do all that can be done to make sure she is comfortable.


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 6 August; behaviour expert Nicky Trevorrow will host the Q&A on 14 August; and Neutering Manager Jane Clements will there on 10 September. Every live Q&A is on our national Facebook page from 2-3pm. See you there!