Monday, 28 September 2015

‘Why don’t my cats get along?’ and other multi-cat household FAQs

As part of last week’s feline friend or foe campaign, behaviour expert Nicky Trevorrow hosted a very special live Q&A on our national Facebook page. Do you have more than one cat? Are you wondering if they’re friends or foes? Or are you looking for tips to help them get along better?

Here are just some of the multi-cat household questions Nicky answered:

Question: I have four cats. Two of them get on quite well, and one of them only gets on with two of them. But none of them really gel as a family, they tolerate each other! Is there anything I can do to help them get along?

Answer: As long as they tolerate each other rather than showing signs that they are stressed like cats blocking resources from other cats (eg one cat feels like they can't use a litter tray while another is around), then that's fine. Have a look at their use of space. Draw a house plan and mark on where each of the four cats is spending time. Then give separate resources per cat in the different areas that you've identified as their territories.

For readers who want to understand their cats’ social groups, try doing an ‘interaction diagram’ for your cats. These are often used by behaviourists to explore feline relationships in more depth. Start by observing the cats and noting their behaviours in a table.


Interaction diagram; first appeared in The Cat magazine, Autumn 2015
This interaction diagram shows that Sooty and Tigger are in the same social group and Charlie is a separate social group. The thicker arrow from Sooty towards Tigger shows that he likes Tigger more!

Once the number of social groups has been identified, the best way of helping to keep the peace is by providing plenty of essential feline resources; litter trays, food bowls, water bowls, hiding places etc. In an ideal world, one resource per cat plus one extra gives the cats choice. As a minimum though, provide enough resources per social group. If you have one cat living upstairs and another downstairs, then split the resources between the respective areas. It will reduce any competition between the cats as well as reduce the stress of one cat coming downstairs through another cat’s territory in order to access food.

Cats sleeping together
Photo by frankieleon via flickr / Creative Commons
Question: I have two 11-year-old female cats and have just adopted two one-year-old males. After five weeks I still cannot leave them together in the same room because of hissing and growling from both camps (no actual fighting though). Do you think they'll ever get on with each other? And at what stage do you give up?

Answer: It sounds like you may need to re-start a slow introduction programme. Keep the cats separate for the time being and start the scent swapping stage again. You’ll need to get a clean cloth and rub it on their cheeks where the scent glands are and then leave the cloth in the middle of the floor with the other cats to investigate. But also ensure that all cats are healthy as stress can manifest itself in lots of different medical conditions. For more information, check out my recent blog post on integrating cats and Cats Protection’s leaflet Cats living together.

As for how long to leave it for, this is a really difficult question to answer as it varies between groups, the resources and space available, the severity of the conflict for the cats, etc. After five weeks of trying already, it may be best to get a qualified behaviourist in to meet your cats and advise. We'd recommend a referral to a member of the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors (APBC) www.apbc.org.uk

Tabby cats cuddling
Photo by Andrew Butitta via flickr / Creative Commons
Question: I’ve had my cat Sabrina for over a year and recently got a male ginger cat called Alfie. Both are lovely cats but they ‘argue’ all the time. Sabrina is very jealous of the attention I give Alfie and vice versa. Alfie eats Sabrina’s food if left unattended so we have to put it up high. Any tips on how to get them to be friends?

Answer: It's really good that you're putting Sabrina's food up high and I would suggest that you continue this. Many owners think that their cats are jealous, but interestingly cats don't have 'jealousy' in their emotional repertoire. Instead cats are territorial and want enough resources for themselves. This even includes you as they want fussing and attention from you. What I'd recommend is giving both cats separate interactive play sessions with a fishing rod toy (store away after use for safety) so they each get quality time with you. Share out the play sessions with anyone else living in or visiting the house.

Provide both cats with lots of resources, ideally one per cat plus one extra. If you're still struggling to keep the peace, then we'd recommend a referral to a member of the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors (APBC) – see link above. Best of luck!


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 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 answer veterinary questions on 8 October; neutering expert Jane Clements will host the Q&A on 19 October; while Behaviour Manager Nicky Trevorrow returns on 5 November. All our Q&As are held on Cats Protection's national Facebook page from 2-3pm. See you there!

Friday, 25 September 2015

Behaviour focus: introducing cats

In this week’s behaviour focus post, Cats Protection Behaviour Manager Nicky Trevorrow explains why two cats may not get along and how to gradually introduce them to one another.

I’ve got a new cat. I introduced them to my other cat really slowly but they still don’t get on. What can I do? 

Congratulations on your new cat! During the excitement of having a new cat, it can be very tempting to power through the introduction process, and this is the biggest reason that Cats Protection has cats returned to the charity – as they didn’t get on well with the resident cat and vice versa.

So what can be done for two cats that aren’t getting along? It varies between situations and the individuals involved. Firstly, are both cats healthy? If either cat has an underlying medical condition, this needs to be addressed first. If the new cat is still quite new to the house and the intensity of the tension is quite low, then it may be best to re-introduce the cats to each other. Some may just need to go back a step; others need to go back to the beginning.

Every cat will vary but adjusting to new surroundings can take at least a week, so they should have no contact with the resident cat at all in that time, as well as during the scent swapping phase (see below).

Integration

When adding a new cat to a household that has other cats, it’s worth bearing in mind that they are naturally solitary creatures and do not require the companionship of other cats. They can also be very territorial which means that careful considerations need to be made when introducing a new cat. However, if there is no competition for food or sleeping places, cats will usually tolerate each other and some can become good friends. It will take patience and understanding, and always work at the cats’ pace.

Cats sleeping intertwined
Intertwined sleeping can be a sign of cats in the same social group; photo by Jackie May

Important resources for cats

Step 1: If you have an existing resident cat, ensure that all his routines remain the same where possible. Place the new cat into a room that the resident cat uses the least.

In each space, provide each cat with the following essential resources:

  • food and water (cats like to drink away from where they eat, so place the food and water bowls in separate areas)
  • somewhere to hide (it is very important for cats to have somewhere to hide particularly while they are adapting to a new environment, such as a cardboard box on its side or under the bed)
  • somewhere to get up high to view surrounds in safety (on top of a wardrobe, shelves, window sills, stools)
  • somewhere to sleep (igloo beds, cardboard box, blankets in elevated places)
  • toys (be aware that the cats may not want to play while they are settling in)
  • a scratch post (try placing near to where the cat sleeps as cats often like to stretch and scratch after they wake up)
  • litter tray (place this away from food and water)

You can install a pheromone diffuser, such as Feliway, to make the environment more reassuring for the cats. Feliway is a synthetic pheromone diffuser that reproduces certain reassuring properties of cats’ facial pheromones, which convey a message of wellbeing and a feeling of security. It mimics the scent left behind when a cat rubs its face against furniture or its owner’s legs. Plug the diffuser in about a week before your new cat arrives and leave it on all the time until it runs out. It is worthwhile having one diffuser in the room the new cat will be in and one in the area of the house that the other cats will be in.

Introducing cats to cats    

Step 2: Before introducing the cats physically, mix and spread their scents by stroking each cat with a separate soft cloth and leaving the cloth in the other cat’s environment to sniff when the cat is ready to investigate.

Step 3: Keep swapping scents until the cats are showing no reaction to the smell and both cats have settled in. Then you can progress to allowing them to see each other, but not touch or meet one another. Try placing a glass or mesh door between the cats, and allow each cat to approach or hide as they choose. Do not progress to a face-to-face introduction until the cats either ignore each other or show positive feline social behaviour (such as blinking at each other, tail up greeting behaviour, attempting to rub heads on each other through the barrier and sleeping near each other by the barrier).

Littermate kittens
Cats are more likely to get along if they are related, such as litter mates, although this is not a guarantee; photo by Martin Dewhurst
Step 4: When your cat has settled in (which can take some cats weeks) make introductions at feeding time; cats form social bonds best around this time. It helps to:

  • ensure easy escape routes are available for both cats
  • start in a fairly large room where they can choose to stay at a distance from each other
  • supervise the cats when they are together
  • work at a pace that the cats are comfortable with and go back a step if necessary
  • only introduce for short periods of time 
  • gradually start to fuss or play with the cats for a short time, so their attention is on you, before putting the food down
  • if this is tolerated, then gradually increase the time they spend together

It can take anything from a day to many weeks for cats to tolerate each other. Do not chase or shout at the cats as this will only lead to them associating each other with bad things.

Step 5: As they become more comfortable in each other’s company, try giving them tit-bits to encourage them to come closer. Finally, try feeding them in the same room with their bowls far apart. Over time you can move the bowls closer together. However, do not aim to feed the cats next to each other; lowering their head to eat or drink can make a cat feel vulnerable, so place food and water bowls slightly away from the wall, so the cat has space to sit with its back to the wall and the bowl in front of them, so that they can survey the room while eating or drinking.

Step 6: Once both cats are relaxed while feeding, start including short periods of time where the cats are not distracted by playing or fussing. Supervised time spent together can be extended. The aim is for the cats to associate each other with pleasant happenings.


Thursday, 24 September 2015

The cat who got the ice cream

This post has been written by Gabby Choo, whose workplace Digitas nominated Cats Protection’s Central London Branch its charity of the month

Every month at work we choose a different charity to sponsor so of course I put forward Cats Protection. On Fridays we run our own bar, so I banded my work buddies together and got them all to help out selling drinks (when secretly they probably just wanted to relax) with all the profits going to the charity. We also put donation boxes around the building, but I really wanted to spread to word to get people to open up their hearts and their pockets, so rather than sticking up some flyers or sending an email I decided the best way to get people thinking about cats would be to bring some cats into work.

Obviously I couldn't bring in real cats so I did the next best thing, I printed out life size kitties and hid them around the office, sitting on printers, looking over doors and hiding in toilets. All these cats got people awwwwing and smiling, I discovered that we have a lot of secret cat lovers at work.

Lifesize cat hiding above door frame
A sneaky cat hiding in the office!
The word was out and people were donating but I thought that we could do more. I was bored of the bake sales we get over and over from month to month and I wanted to do something a bit different. That’s when I decided to make the one-of-a-kind Kitty Kat Cone Cart. Since the sun was shining and summer was upon us what better way to tempt people than ice cream and lollies, delivered right to their desk? I managed to borrow a portable freezer and put it on wheels, so it would just about fit between the desks. With the help of a friend we designed our own bespoke cart. Then a trip to the supermarket to buy vast amounts of ice cream, lollies and toppings – maybe the checkout girl thought I had been through a really bad break up. One rushed taxi back to the office before it all melted and I was ready to go.

Selling ice creams for Cats Protection
One scoop or two?
Kitty Kat Cone Cart for Cats Protection
The Kitty Kat Cone Cart
I cajoled some colleagues to help me out running the cart complete with ice cream van music and we took it for a spin. It proved immensely popular! We sold out before we’d made it around the whole building and kept getting requests for it to run again.

Enjoying ice cream at Digitas
A colleague enjoying his ice cream
In the end for me Cats Protection month was a month that I made a lot of friends, made a lot of ice-creams and by the end of it, when I saw how much we’d raised – just over £500! – I felt like the cat who’d got the (ice) cream too.

Barbara Read, Co-ordinator & Welfare Officer at our Central London Branch says: “Thank you so much for nominating us as Digitas’ charity of the month and for all you did to fundraise for us through this innovative initiative. We really appreciate your hard work and the effort you put in. All the money will go towards helping our cats.”

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, 21 September 2015

Are your cats friend or foe?

Do your cats curl up together with their bodies all intertwined? Or do they ‘time share’ a favourite armchair or room in your home?

You may think that your cats seem perfectly happy together, and perhaps they are, however it is often the case that many cats are not as sociable with one another as first thought, especially given how subtle their body language can be.

A new survey by Cats Protection has shown that almost half of owners with two or more cats are confusing signs of their much-loved moggies at war for signs of feline friendship. Baffled owners incorrectly thought that cats flattening their ears back, grooming a particular area of their bodies and taking turns to sit in certain areas of the home meant that their kitties were living in harmony. Meanwhile two in five cat owners think that positive behaviours, such as walking around with an upright tail, touching noses, rubbing against each other and fighting with their claws tucked in, are actually signs of negativity.

“The behaviour of cats is subtle and it’s easy to misread the signs because cats have descended from the African wildcat, a solitary hunter, which didn’t develop the complex facial measures to show a wide variety of expressions” says Nicky Trevorrow, Cats Protection’s Behaviour Manager. “There are signs that cats like each other but also there are signs they are only tolerating each other or not getting on at all. These signs include spraying, house soiling, over grooming or becoming withdrawn.”

This handy visual animation gives tips on how to spot whether your felines are friend or foe - watch the video here:



This year, we’ve seen an 18 per cent increase in the number of cats coming to our adoption centres to be rehomed because they do not get along with other cats. This is really just the tip of the iceberg because we have an addition 250 volunteer-run branches who also take in unwanted cats.

Tortie cat Pebbles
Pebbles is looking for a new home
Thirteen-year-old Pebbles, for example, was handed in to our Dereham Adoption Centre because she did not settle with other pets in the household. She was initially adopted by a local lady but came back into our care after a few days after her owner felt she wasn’t happy living with the other cats in the house, shown primarily through aggression. A shy lady, she prefers her own space and would love a one to one situation or mature, quiet family to join.

To adopt Pebbles contact the Dereham Adoption Centre on 01362 687 919.

Sooty the black-and-white cat
Can you offer Sooty a home?
Our Gosport Branch took three-year-old Sooty into care because he wasn't getting on with the cat and dog in his home. Since being the only cat with his indoor fosterer, Sooty has been very friendly and cuddly. His fosterer Nicky says: “Sooty can't seem to get enough of a fuss!”

To adopt Sooty contact the Gosport Branch on 02392 582 601.

Beautiful cat Phoebe
Phoebe needs an understanding owner
Seven-year-old Phoebe came from a home with other pets but she really didn’t get on with them. The stress was making her ill so we was handed over to our Nottingham Adoption Centre. She’s now looking for a loving, understanding home where she will be given time and patience, with no other pets and no children.

To adopt Phoebe contact the Nottingham Adoption Centre on 0115 938 6557.

We recommend introducing unfamiliar cats to each other very slowly, so that they have enough time to peacefully integrate with each other. A rushed introduction can often result in cats cohabiting under stress which can lead to behavioural problems and a potentially lifelong conflict between the cats. Read more about introducing cats to other pets in our Welcome home leaflet.

Friday, 18 September 2015

Behaviour focus: night time waking

In this week’s behaviour focus post, Cats Protection Behaviour Manager Nicky Trevorrow discusses why a cat may wake and disturb you through the night.

Why does my cat keep waking me up in the night? 

Most cat owners are familiar with their cat trying to wake them up in the early hours of the morning and while the stories may vary, they are often along the same lines. Some cats will miaow at their owners, others will paw at their face and some even knock ornaments off the side. The Simon’s Cat video called Cat Man Do captures this perfectly! The cats are often trying to get us out of bed as they want something, from food or being let outside to attention. We think that the cats are training us, but when you really look at it, what do we all do? We get up at 5.30am to feed the cat or give them a fuss! Without realising it, most of us are reinforcing our cat’s behaviour. As it’s a successful tactic, we have trained the cat that this works so they will try it again in another 24 hours’ time! It’s very hard but the trick is to ignore their behaviour and feign sleep with the aid of ear plugs. Be warned that some cats may try alternative and more demanding ways to try and wake you!

Black cat hiding in duvet
Cats are naturally more active through the night; photo by kitty27 via flickr / Creative Commons
If you look at the behaviour of cats in the wild, the African wildcat, which shares ancestry with our pet cat, is generally crepuscular – meaning that it is most active during dawn and dusk. This explains why our cats are naturally more active during this time. Of course, over time cats have adapted slightly to fit in with our waking patterns, but most will be easily woken by the light at the first signs of dawn. It is no coincidence that many prey species are also nocturnal or crepuscular.

So what can you do about it? Well the first thing to do is to rule out medical reasons. There are a variety of different medical conditions that can cause cats to wake up in the night, and sometimes to cry excessively, feel restless or disorientated. This is one of the reasons why is important to not tell your cat off when they are waking you up at night as they could be trying to tell you that they are unwell.

If there are no underlying medical causes, then finding out your cat’s motivation to wake up in the night can help. Ignoring the behaviour isn’t enough; we need to provide them with a suitable outlet for their behaviour. If the cat is waking you to be fed, then splitting your cat’s daily amount of food into several small meals throughout the day and another before bed can help to keep their blood sugar levels more stable and stave off hunger. Some cats may benefit from having an automatic cat feeder to open during the night or early morning.

Tabby cat lying on bed
Many owners are familiar with their cat trying to wake them up in the morning! Photo by zoeff via flickr / Creative Commons
By introducing your cat to feeding enrichment, you can also keep them occupied and prevent being woken due to boredom. Feeding enrichment is providing food to cats in fun and interesting ways, rather than in a food bowl. It requires a bit more thought and is therefore mentally stimulating. Always start with something simple for them to get the hang of it such as a cardboard egg box with a few dry biscuits in. For all feeding enrichment, it’s worth showing the cat how to use it to help prevent them from getting frustrated. You could try hiding a few dry biscuits round the house for your cat to hunt out at night with their fantastic sense of smell and their sensitive whiskers. There are also cat toys available specifically for night time that glow in the dark, such as small, soft cat balls for them to bat.

Our boredom busters YouTube playlist offers some additional free, easy ways to keep your cat occupied:



Provide your cat with several play sessions throughout the day to use up their excess energy so they may be more sleepy come nightfall. Interactive toys such as fishing rod toys with feathers on the end are irresistible to most cats. Ensure these are stored away once the play session is over for health and safety reasons.

If you are struggling with getting some decent sleep, then you may wish to get a referral from your vet to a qualified behaviourist to identify the particular underlying reason for your cat’s night time activity. We recommend a member of the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors (www.apbc.org.uk) for further help.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Your cat’s perfect loo

Just like humans, cats like somewhere clean and comfortable to go to the toilet. This visual guide explains litter tray best practice. Learn how to give your cat the perfect litter tray experience!

To enlarge, click on the image
Location is everything: cats prefer to pass their waste where they feel safe and then bury it. They should be able to access their litter tray without having to pass other cats or things that make them anxious like a noisy washing machine. Place trays in quiet locations, away from high traffic areas and their bed, food and water bowls.

It is a good idea to provide one litter tray per cat, plus one extra if possible. Offer a choice of styles such as covered and uncovered but ensure they’re big enough.

Cats don’t like using dirty or soiled trays so make sure the litter tray is cleaned at least once a day.

Cats learn to associate toileting with the material used when they were a kitten and generally still prefer to use a fine grain litter. If they were only exposed to one type as a kitten, they are less likely to want to use a different litter consistency as an adult.

Scoop out any solid waste daily and replace the litter completely each week.

Even if your cat toilets outside, it’s a good idea to keep a litter tray indoors for those moments when they’re caught short!

Being creatures of habit, once a cat has a preferred toileting site, he will continue to use it unless something causes him to become averse to it. A lack of privacy and problems with access or cleanliness will cause him to look for another place.

If your cat stops using their litter tray, first get them checked out by a vet. When given the all clear, try a sand-sized litter, clean trays out twice a day and remove any odorisers and litter tray liners.

For more information, read our recent post on litter trays written by feline behaviourist Nicky Trevorrow.

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Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Diary of a teenage fosterer #6

This post has been written by Tristan Goodway-Sims who is supporting his mum with fostering for a Duke of Edinburgh award

In my previous blog post, Honey and her kittens were returned to CP's Bridgend Adoption Centre and I am happy to report that mum and kittens were all adopted by their forever homes.

We immediately collected a queen called Lana and her three tiny kittens, Logan, Libby and Lottie. The next five weeks were very challenging but rewarding. Poor Lana required supplementary feeding as she wasn't in the best condition while still providing milk for her three kittens. Every time I passed her I would stop to stroke and feed her. It was heartbreaking to see her being underweight and her coat so dull but she was a devoted mum to her kittens.

Black kitten Lily with dog Megan
Lottie (who has been renamed Lily) with dog pal Megan after adoption and successful integration into the home
Lana was so friendly we all became very attached to her and it was fantastic to see her put on weight. Her coat became glossy black and the energy and sparkle in her eye gradually returned. Lana’s kittens were undersized for their age and a lot slower than our other foster litters to reach their milestones, so needed extra time and patience. This meant we became even more attached to Lana and her kittens and it was hard taking them back to the adoption centre! Well… to be honest we didn't return all of them. After 2 years of fostering and managing reluctantly to return all the Mum’s and kittens this time we couldn't part with the smallest and decided to adopt her. As an all-black kitten we knew she wouldn't be snapped up as the centre was at the time over run with black and black and white kittens.

We then fostered Daenerys and her three kittens followed by Yoko and her four kittens – there are always foster cats needing our help!

Kittens playing
Yoko's kittens
This blog post is actually goodbye for now from me as it’s the end of my six months volunteering for Cats Protection’s Bridgend Adoption Centre. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Cats Protection for allowing me to foster mums and their newborn litters (under my mum’s supervision) and the staff at Meow! for giving me the chance to chart my journey in a blog.

I have learnt so much in the last very busy six months. I have tremendous admiration for the mother cats who have had such upheaval while pregnant and nursing yet are good natured towards us humans and devoted mums to their kittens.  All the kittens have taught me they each have their own individual distinct personalities and understanding that is the key to looking after them and matching them to their appropriate forever homes*. I quickly discovered that playing with and cuddling kittens makes up only a part of fostering. Cleaning, form filling, record keeping; nursing/medical is a significant part. If you don’t like the smell and sight of cat/kitten vomit or diarrhoea then kitten fostering is not for you! Similarly the mum cats and kittens need and depend on routine particularly when the kittens are weaning. I have to be in regularly throughout the day from first thing in the morning until last thing at night or organise appropriate cover (thanks mum). Tiny kittens with stomachs the size of thimbles can’t wait for me to get back from being out with friends to be fed.

Kitten fosterer giving eye drops
Tristan giving eye drops to a poorly kitten
I was thinking about the best bit of being a fosterer and the hardest thing. But then I realised one of our foster cat Honey sums this up perfectly in the following story…

Mum and I went to the Bridgend Adoption Centre to pick up supplies. Honey and her kittens had returned to CP weeks earlier. The kittens had all been adopted and Honey had been spayed but was still at the centre. We were walking to the supply cupboard along the rehoming corridors and it was very quiet when we heard this clear knocking sound. It went on and on and we started to look round but couldn’t see anything. The knocking was getting louder and more insistent so we followed the noise intrigued. Round the corner we found the source of the knocking. It was Honey in one of the pens, on her back legs knocking furiously at the glass with her front paws. We were amazed that she seemed to recognise us, remember us and was trying to get our attention. We were allowed to open the pen and give her a cuddle and we were as pleased to see her as she was us. My mum started crying. And that’s the best and worst part of fostering right there… getting to know and care for these fabulous cats and kittens but having to give them up. But we know it’s for the best reason – so they can have a permanent happy new home.

Read Tristan’s previous post in the series here.

*Veterinary note: Kittens learn what is normal and safe during a very sensitive period of development between two and eight weeks of age – the ‘socialisation period.’ Having a variety of positive experiences during this time period – for example with different sights, sounds, textures and smells – will mean they are more likely to be able to adapt in the future.

Friday, 11 September 2015

Behaviour focus: spraying

In this week’s behaviour focus post, Cats Protection Behaviour Manager Nicky Trevorrow explains why cats spray.

Why is my cat spraying round the house?

Last time I discussed why a cat might urinate or defecate on home furnishings rather than in their litter tray. Spraying is another very common behavioural problem. Most people are surprised to learn that all cats can spray, regardless of whether they are male or female, neutered or unneutered.

Urine spraying is a natural behaviour for cats and is different from normal toileting. When a cat goes to the toilet, they will generally urinate from a squatting position and usually produce a large puddle of urine in a private or secluded area. In contrast, cats will spray urine in order to leave a specific ‘scent message’ and will usually use this scent in areas of their territory in which they feel threatened. It is thought that the scent deposited acts as a ‘reminder’ for the cat to be wary and for this reason the scent must be renewed every time the smell begins to fade, in order for it to remain an effective signal. In an unneutered cat, the spraying of urine not only signals the cat’s presence but also their reproductive status. Cats also leave scent signals by rubbing and scratching and this scent communication system allows a cat to leave signals to them and other cats that last over time.

While many are aware of unneutered toms spraying, female cats can also spray when they are in season. Getting your cat neutered can help to reduce, if not eliminate, spraying for sexual reasons. Cats Protection recommends neutering kittens before they reach sexual maturity. To find a vet in your area that will neuter by four months, check out our Kitten Neutering Database.

There can be other medical reasons that can cause spraying, other than not being neutered, so do get your cat health checked by a vet to rule these out.
Spraying cat
There are many motives for spraying; photo from CP's feline behaviour visual guide - why does my cat...?
Behaviourally, the reasons that can cause cats to spray list can be endless. The most common reason is stress. Cats always seem so relaxed, especially as they spend a lot of time sleeping, so what could possibly stress them out?

The most common stress factor in cats is in fact, other cats! It could be cats in the local neighbourhood or other cats within the household, or both. Cats are extremely good at hiding stress unfortunately so it can be pretty tricky to pick up on. The other problem is that cats won’t show obvious signs of aggressive behaviour towards other cats. It comes down to their very sensible nature of not wanting to get injured! Therefore cats will time share a favourite armchair or spend most of their time in separate parts of the house to one another. Such avoidance techniques keep them safe. It can be very revealing for owners to draw a simple house plan of their property and map out the different areas that their various cats spend their time. I’d recommend using different coloured pencils to easily differentiate between the cats.

One way to reduce competition in the house is to ensure that each cat has a set of their own resources, plus one extra set as a spare. Ideally, place a set of resources in each cat’s separate zone (as previously identified by the house plan). As frustrating as spraying is, please resist the temptation to tell your cat off, water spray the cat, or do anything else that your cat may find aversive or scary. It will only make the problem worse.

Cat sleeping in armchair
Cats may time share a favourite armchair to avoid each other. Photo courtesy of Connie Ma via flickr / Creative Commons
Once a cat has sprayed, if the area is not cleaned appropriately, their sensitive nose will draw them back to spray the same area again in an attempt to top up the faded scent. Many household cleaning products contain ammonia which is also found in cat urine, so using these can make the problem worse. A cheap and efficient cleaning method is to wash sprayed or soiled sites thoroughly with a warm, 10 per cent solution of biological washing powder and then rinse with clean water and allow the area to dry. If the surface is suitable, surgical spirit can be applied after cleaning to remove all lingering traces of urine. It is worth doing a small patch test first to ensure this cleaning regime will not cause any damage. Carpet is extremely absorbent and the urine often soaks into the underlay and the flooring underneath. If the area is badly soiled over a long period it may be necessary to cut out the section of carpet and underlay and treat the concrete or floorboards underneath before replacing.

This blog post is not designed to solve your cat’s spraying problem, but just give you some background information about this issue. Therefore it is worth getting a referral to a qualified behaviourist such as a member of the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors to help identify the cause and give you a tailored plan for your individual cat to help resolve or manage the problem.

For more information on feline behaviour, check out our CP leaflet called Managing your cat’s behaviour.

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Tortie Tashie finds a home

Long-stay cat Tashie was brought in to our Wrexham & District Adoption Centre after falling pregnant with her second litter. She spent nearly six months in our care waiting for that special person to come along and offer her a loving home.

Her story really highlights the importance of neutering – her litter takes up extra resources and Tashie has been left with Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV), a disease affecting the immune system that she’ll have for the rest of her life.

The adoption centre were delighted when Tashie was selected to appear in Cats Protection’s Autumn Raffle tickets and even more delighted when she was chosen by a new owner!

This photo captured the moment she was handed over by Cat Care Assistant Laura Woodcock to new owner Mrs Winn and her daughter.

Tashie being collected by her new owners

Mrs Winn is an experienced cat owner who wasn’t fazed by Tashie’s FIV-positive condition, so was able to offer a very loving indoor home.

Tashie’s fosterer Dorothy looked after a very heavily pregnant Tashie and the two kittens she gave birth to two days after coming into her care. She says: “It was a pleasure to foster Tashie, she was an excellent mum who was devoted to her kittens. I am so pleased that she is going to a loving home.”


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.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

‘Is drooling a sign of dental problems?’ and other oral health FAQs

In our most recent Facebook Q&A, Cats Protection vet Vanessa Howie took questions about teeth and oral health – here are some of her responses.

Question: Is drooling a sign of being content or dental problems? My cat often drools but doesn't seem to be in any pain or discomfort.

Answer: Drooling can indeed be a sign of contentedness. Some cats will drool in excess when stroked or when they are kneading and purring. If this is a new behaviour for your cat though, I would recommend a vet examination. Drooling can also be a sign of nausea and discomfort in the mouth or throat.

Cat with his tongue poking out
Photo courtesy of Robert W. Howington via flickr / Creative Commons
Question: What age do cats’ baby teeth stop coming through? My five-year-old has perfectly healthy gums but lost a fang due to biting my dog’s hard bone a few years ago when pregnant which hasn't grown back. A few months ago she was chomping so I looked in her mouth and noticed a loose tooth at the back. As I touched it, it fell out but there was another tooth there in its place. Is this normal?

Answer: Kittens usually have 26 baby teeth which are replaced by 30 adult teeth by six months of age. It may be that your cat had a retained milk tooth but please do get your vet to check her mouth if you're worried.

Question: How do you begin to clean your cat’s teeth if they are nearly two years old?

Answer: It can be tricky starting when cats are older. There are some enzyme toothpastes you can try which you can get your cat to lick from your finger to start with. Then try rubbing on their teeth with your finger and progress from there to a finger brush or toothpaste. Patience is the key! However trying one of the dental prescription diets may be an alternative.

Cat yawning
Photo courtesy of UnknownNet Photography via flickr / Creative Commons
Question: My rescue cat who is approximately 11 has her yearly booster jabs and health check due shortly. They always mention having her teeth cleaned but I'm not sure if it is really necessary? She doesn't show any signs of a problem and although the money isn't an issue, I worry that a general anaesthetic always carries a certain amount of risk and would never put her through something that wasn't really necessary. Should I wait until she is older or showing signs of a problem?

Answer: Dental health care in cats is similar to people, it's always better to prevent a problem arising. The mouth is home to many bacteria and as tartar on the teeth builds up, the number of bacteria increases. If the gums become more inflamed there is a risk that these bacteria can enter the bloodstream and cause damage to the major organs such as the heart and kidneys. Minimising tartar and preventing gum disease is the key. I would be guided by your vet and carry out dental when they advise rather than leaving it too long and your cat requires a longer anaesthetic and tooth extractions.

Question: My cat has reddish gums; the vet has checked and said it’s nothing to be concerned about as he is eating fine, but I would like to know if there is anything I could do to improve his gums?

Answer: Mild gingivitis is common in cats. Improving the health of your cat’s mouth can be difficult, due to many cats’ dislike of teeth cleaning. Try cleaning your cat's teeth with cat-specific toothpaste, feeding dental prescription diets or dental supplements for food or drinking water. You may find our leaflet helpful: Teeth and oral health.


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 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 Behaviour Manager Nicky Trevorrow will answer behavioural queries on 24 September; vet Vanessa Howie will be back to take veterinary questions on 8 October; and neutering expert Jane Clements will host the Q&A on 19 October. All our Q&As are held on Cats Protection's national Facebook page from 2-3pm. See you there!

Monday, 7 September 2015

Dispelling some common myths about gifts in wills

Myth – charities would be fine without gifts in wills…


Shocked cat
via Buzzfeed
NO – not at all. Gifts in wills are absolutely vital to charities and many would struggle to do the work they do without them. Here at Cats Protection for every two cats we help, one of them is cared for thanks to the kindness of people who remember our work in their wills. Without these amazing people we would only be able to achieve half the life-saving work we do every day.

Myth – surely only rich and famous people can afford to leave a legacy to charity…



via GIPHY

Again this is simply not true; in fact the majority of the kind gifts that UK charities receive from legacies are from people just like you. At Cats Protection we are incredibly grateful for every gift we receive, no matter what the size. Even the smallest gifts help us to provide cats with food, a warm bed, veterinary attention and most importantly of all, find them a loving home.

Myth – I can only leave a sum of money in my will



via GIPHY

Leaving a sum of money, also known as a pecuniary gift, is only one of several types of gift you can make in your will. For example, some people prefer to leave a percentage of their residuary estate instead. This means that they can ensure that their family and friends are taken care of and then leave a percentage of what’s left of their estate to a charity they care about. If you’d like to find out more about some of the different types of gifts please see our legacy Q&A.

Myth – only people without children remember charities in their wills



via GIPHY

Of course it is incredibly important that you make sure that your family and friends are taken care of in your will and Cats Protection completely understands this. However, many people decide that once they have made provision for their family they would also like to leave a gift to the charities that have been important to them in their lifetime.

Myth – wouldn’t a donation now be better than a gift in my will?



via GIPHY

We are incredibly grateful for every donation we receive as we are only able to continue our vital work caring for abandoned and unwanted cats and kittens with the ongoing generosity of our supporters. The benefit of a gift in your will is that it costs you nothing during your lifetime and won’t affect you now, but will one day make a vital difference to the lives of countless cats and kittens allowing you to continue supporting our work long into the future.

Myth – I already have a will and it’ll be too difficult and expensive to change it now



via GIPHY

It really doesn’t have to be! In fact if you would like to add a gift to Cats Protection to your existing will you can do so very easily with one of our codicil forms. Simply download the form here. We do recommend that if you’re doing anything involving your will you seek professional legal advice – to make sure that it is all done correctly!

Myth – I don’t need to think about my cat’s future when making my will


Scowling cat
via Buzzfeed
Here at Cats Protection, if you have a cat, we encourage you to think about what might happen to them in the event that you were to pass away. We offer a free service called our Cat Guardians service whereby, once you’ve registered, we promise to take in any cats you have at the time of your death and care for them for as long as it takes to find them a loving new home. There’s lots more information on our Cat Guardians pages.

It may be that you have already discussed this with a friend or family member but have you considered what might happen if circumstances change and they are no longer able to care for your cat after your death? Some people register with Cat Guardians, as a ‘plan B’ in case this happens.

Fact – I can find out more about remembering Cats Protection in my will today



via GIPHY

Yes you can! There’s lots more information on our website about gifts in wills; on these pages you can also download our free information booklet or, if you prefer, you can request a copy to be sent to you in the post.

Gifts in wills are vital for Cats Protection, without them we would only be able to help half the cats and kittens that desperately need us now and in the future.

Friday, 4 September 2015

Behaviour focus: litter trays

In this week’s behaviour focus post, Cats Protection Behaviour Manager Nicky Trevorrow discusses why cats may not use their litter tray.

Why does my cat poo/wee on the furnishings in my house rather than in their litter tray? It’s clean!

This is the most common behaviour problem that causes owners seek help. Understandably, it’s frustrating for the owners as it is not nice to clean up. Interestingly though, many owners put up with this behaviour for months or even years sometimes. The most important thing to know is that professional help is available and the sooner you seek advice from a qualified professional, the better!

The first port of call is always to take the cat to the vets for a full health check. It’s important to mention all behaviour changes in the cat, even if you think it is not relevant to the toileting issue. For example, has your cat been slow to get up after a period of lying down, or not been jumping onto the windowsill recently? For all behavioural issues, it is vital to rule out medical problems that could be the underlying cause.

Once the vet has ruled out medical reasons, then there are a number of litter tray factors to look at. Check out the following check list:

  • Litter type – the cat is likely to favour the litter type they used when they were a very young kitten. In the absence of knowing what litter type they used when growing up, most cats prefer a soft, sand-sized litter. This is the type of material that cats have evolved to use out in the wild, which explains why our pet cats are so keen to use children’s sand pits! For cats that are defecating next to a litter tray, but urinating in the litter tray, it could be due to the litter type being too hard on their paws. Without being too graphic, cats place more pressure on their back legs and paws when defecating compared to urinating so a soft litter is preferable
  • Litter depth – the average cat likes the litter to be about 3cm deep
  • Litter cleanliness – cats have a reputation for being fastidiously clean. Some owners even refer to their cat’s ‘princess-like’ behaviour as the cat would like the litter tray emptied after it’s been used once. However cats are not being ‘precious’ as they expect the same level of cleanliness as you would with your toilet. It varies between litter type and cat, but as a general rule, try to remove waste twice a day and clean the tray out fully once a week
  • Litter tray type – does the cat have enough space to turn around and dig? Some problems can be caused by providing adult cats with small kitten trays. There are a number of different types of tray on the market or you may wish to provide a homemade tray to meet specific needs. Every cat is different, and it’s a case of finding the right tray for the cat. Many cats are happy with the standard, open, rectangular litter tray. Others prefer the privacy of a covered litter tray. If using a covered litter tray, remove the cat flap door as it can put cats off using it due to keeping the smell contained or tapping the cat when it tries to enter or exit the tray
  • Privacy – try placing an open litter tray in a cardboard box (open at the top) with two holes cut in the sides for entry and exit holes. This will make the cat feel more secure, doesn't trap the smell inside and is easy to see when it needs cleaning out
  • Location, location, location – place the litter tray in a private, but accessible location. As clean, sensible animals, they prefer their litter tray to be away from all their other resources especially food and water. It is common for owners to place their litter trays close to the cat flap or a glass back door, however this can be quite a vulnerable position from the cat’s perspective. It could be easily overlooked by a cat from outside and is quite a high traffic area. Instead look for a quiet corner of the house. Older cats will benefit from having litter trays placed both upstairs and downstairs for easy access
  • Number of trays – as a general rule, provide cats with one litter tray per cat plus one extra for choice to reduce any competition
Even if your cat has outside access, always provide litter trays inside. Some cats can feel safer using a tray in the house – there could be neighbourhood cats that intimidate your cat. Understandably, many cats don’t like to go out when it’s bad weather, or if the toileting site is frozen over in winter and it’s difficult to dig.

This video explains more about house soiling behaviour:



If you have all these measures in place and the problem persists, it is worth getting a referral to a qualified behaviourist such as a member of the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors to help identify the causes.

For more information, check out our CP leaflet called Managing your cat’s behaviour.

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Introducing a new dog to your cat

So you've just got a new dog and you want to introduce them to your cat. When introducing any new pets to each other, it’s much better to control the situation rather than leave the animals to sort it out for themselves.

First impressions are important and a negative start could lead to lifelong conflict. If a kitten and puppy have had plenty of positive experiences with each other then they’re more likely to get along with each other. Unfortunately this may not have been possible or, if you've adopted one or both of your pets, you may not know much about their history and so how they’ll behave when they meet.

Regardless of their past experiences, it’s really important your new dog and cat are introduced really gradually and in a controlled manner. Remember your home is your cat’s home and they should feel safe in this environment.

Puppy and grey kitten sitting together
First impressions between a dog and cat are important. Photo courtesy of nguyen hoangnam via flickr / Creative Commons
Here’s how to safely introduce your new dog and your cat:

Prepare the home

Have a good look at the existing layout of your home, exit and entry points and placement of your cat’s resources (food bowls, water bowls, beds, scratching posts etc) before the dog arrives. Consider whether any changes will need to be made to accommodate the dog, with minimum disruption to your cat.

Ensure there are plenty of high hiding places around the home so that your cat will be able to get out of reach from the dog. The top of wardrobes and shelving are ideal. You may also wish to install cat flaps to internal doors or use baby gates to allow your cat to retreat to a dog-free room.

Prepare a sleeping area for your dog away from any of your cat’s resources.

Move the cat’s food and litter trays out of reach from your dog, as unfortunately your new dog may show an interest in each the contents of both!

Swap their scents

Try to bring home bedding that your dog has been using before bringing them home and letting the cat sniff it to get used to the smell. If you’re adopting your dog, you could ask the rescue centre whether you can also bring home their bedding.

When you bring the new dog home, keep the dog and cat separated. Give your new dog a room to sniff and explore which isn’t accessible to the cat. Gently stroke a soft cloth on your dog and leave it in the cat’s environment for them to sniff. Also stroke a second cloth on your cat and allow your dog to smell it.

After a few days, dab the scent of each animal onto furniture around the home.

Allow your dog to settle for a few days and continue swapping scents in this way until both animals are showing no reaction to the smell.

If possible, also spend some time teaching your dog basic obedience commands (such as ‘sit’, ‘stay’ and ‘down’) in preparation for meeting your cat.

Your new dog should follow basic obedience commands before meeting your cat. Photo courtesy of jeffreyw via flickr / Creative Commons

Prepare your pets for an introduction

Before allowing your dog and cat to gradually meet, ensure both are well fed as they’re more likely to be relaxed.

If possible, take your dog for a long, relaxed walk. Avoid any games of fetch and dissuade them from chasing as this will encourage their chase instinct. Don’t over-excite your dog and try to keep them very calm.

Gradually introduce them

Stage a very gradual introduction between your cat and dog by using a glass barrier between them so that they can see each other but cannot physically meet. Keep the dog on a lead and reward them with treats for good behaviour. Don’t force either animal to approach the glass but instead let them investigate in their own time and hide if they choose. Keep these sessions very short.

Progress to using a mesh barrier and repeat the exercise.

When both are showing positive signs towards each other you can try a face-to-face introduction without the barriers.

Face-to-face introductions

  • Keep your dog on a lead and have treats ready for them
  • Get your dog to sit or lay down and reward them for doing so
  • Only reward calm behaviour
  • Allow your cat to enter the room but don’t encourage your dog to look at them. Continue to reward your dog for following commands and showing calm behaviour
  • Try to keep the dog’s attention on you

Do not

  • Don't encourage your dog to look at the cat
  • Try to ignore the cat, as too much focus on them will make the dog think the cat is more important
  • Ensure the cat doesn’t feel trapped and can run away or hide if they wish to
  • If your cat runs out of the room, do not let your dog try to chase them

Keep sessions short and repeat them. When both pets seem comfortable, gradually use a looser lead so that the dog can approach the cat. If they are both relaxed, allow them to sniff each other and then calmly call your dog away, praise them and reward with a treat.

Eventually, when they no longer seem bothered with each other’s presence, you can take your dog off the lead. Make sure that your cat can escape onto high ledges or furniture if they want to.

Don’t progress too fast; it’s really important you’re cautious and all the introductions are gradual. No matter how well the meetings go, never leave your dog and cat together unattended. In some cases dogs and cats may not tolerate each other and in this situations you may need to keep them apart or in some circumstances consider rehoming one of the animals.