Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Have you found a stray cat or a feral cat?

One of the top questions that we receive on our social media pages and via our National Information Line is what to do if you have found a feral cat or a stray cat. But what’s the difference between the two and how can you tell which is which?

A stray cat is a socialised domestic cat who doesn’t (or doesn’t appear to) have an owner. Although they may look a little disorientated they may be friendly and will likely be alone. If you have found a stray cat and need advice on what to do, visit www.cats.org.uk/straycat

A feral cat is the same species of cat as our pet cats but is not socialised to people or the domestic environment. This means they will be fearful of humans and behave like a wild animal. A feral lives alone – or in a group called a colony – and will be found in towns, cities and rural areas. If you’ve found a feral cat, find out what to do at www.cats.org.uk/feralcat

The following visual guide will help you quickly spot the difference between a stray and a feral.

To enlarge, click on the image
If you have found an injured cat, the quickest course of action is to take the cat to a vet for any emergency treatment necessary. Carefully cover them in a blanket before picking them up. This keeps the cat safe as well as shielding you from claws!

The RSPCA has an agreement with the British Veterinary Association (BVA) to provide initial emergency assessment and care of sick and injured animals. To allow funds to be released from the RSPCA for emergency care, you must phone the RSCPA before you arrive at the vets with the cat.

If taking the cat to a vet surgery this isn't possible, contain the cat if you can and contact the RSPCA (England & Wales) on 0300 1234 999, SSPCA (Scotland) on 03000 999 999 or USPCA (Northern Ireland) – find contact details at http://uspca.co.uk

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Monday, 22 May 2017

Fresh start for senior Dotty

This post has been written by our Gosport Town Branch

Sixteen-year-old Dotty came into the care of the branch in November 2016 having lived with one owner since a kitten and kept as an indoor cat. New rules by the landlord meant that Dotty wasn't allowed to stay in her home and she was reluctantly handed over to Cats Protection.

Sadly Dotty's health wasn't the best, she hadn't seen a vet since she'd been spayed as a young cat, and once in Cats Protection’s care had numerous trips to the vet including extensive dental surgery and a geriatric profile which revealed early stage kidney failure for which a renal diet was recommended.

Despite the branch's best efforts Dotty was a hard-to-home cat and potential adopters were put off on hearing all her problems. A different tack was taken in presenting a letter as a plea for Dotty on her adoption blurb and being upfront that she needed a special diet but had a lot to offer.  

Dotty enjoying her new garden

Happily Dotty was adopted in March 2017 and we've received an enthusiastic update a few days ago from Tricia, her new owner.

Such a positive outcome for a 'harder-to-home' cat seems too good not to share.

Dotty lounging in her new garden

It seems it didn't take Dotty long at all to get settled with Tricia who sent this heart-warming update in May 2017.

"Just a quick note to let you know that Dotty has settled in well, in fact she was settled in within the first 10 minutes of arriving at my house! I've never had a cat make themselves at home so quick. She has slept on my bed since the first night.

“I'm sure somewhere in her history she has had access to a garden and a cat flap, she didn't need any training to use mine and was not nervous at all on her first venture into the big open world. She loves the garden and often supervises me when I'm working out there.

Dotty basking in the sunshine

“She is very good company, loves to play and enjoys a fuss. You wouldn't believe she is 16! She is a very special cat and everyone adores her. Thank you so much for introducing me to her."

Everyone at the Gosport Town Branch is thrilled that Dotty has the perfect home and that Tricia saw beyond the number of birthdays that Dotty has had.

Friday, 19 May 2017

Cats through the ages: Ancestry

Ever wondered where the humble domestic moggy comes from?

Dr John Bradshaw, Foundation Director of the Anthrozoology Institute at the University of Bristol, explains feline history in our new video series on the brief history of the cat.

Cats through the ages: Ancestry

Travel with us from evolution and domestication to their role in Egyptian and Roman civilisations through to the modern day.



Subscribe so you don’t miss the next video in the series by clicking here.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Coping with pet-related grief FAQs

Cats Protection understands just how much your cat means to you and what you may be going through if your pet is missing, had to be rehomed, is nearing the end of their life or has recently passed away.

To support cat owners at this difficult time, Counsellor and Pet Loss Specialist Julia Dando took to our Facebook page to talk to them about their grief.

Coping with the loss of your cat

Here are just some of the queries she helped with:

Question: My cat was put to sleep on Saturday due to lymphoma of the gut at almost 12 years old. I’m struggling in general with grief and don't know what to do. I have to be at work this week, but need time to get over him. My other cat doesn't seem to be missing her son, but how do I tell?

Answer: I’m so very sorry to hear of your loss. It can be a really difficult thing to deal with, especially when the world expects you to ‘just get on with things’. It's sad that we most often don't get the same consideration when our pet dies than when another family member dies. It can be difficult to focus on work at a time when you are grieving such a loss.

With regards to your other cat and whether she is missing him too – it can be difficult to tell, especially with cats. Sometimes you'll see a change in behaviour, sometimes you won't. Most often cats do adjust quickly to changes like this and sometimes surviving cats in a household might even become less inhibited and more affection-seeking from you without their companion around. Keeping an eye on her and noting any great changes in her behaviour will help you to determine how she is doing generally. We have a leaflet about this topic, which you may find useful: Grief in surviving pets.


Question: As a result of kidney disease we had to say goodbye to our boy just before Christmas my husband sobbed... he and the cat had a lovely bond. We were talking about him the other day and my hubby started to cry. He's really cut up over his buddy, he thinks he's soft but I've told him that it's OK to cry.

Answer: So sorry to hear about your cat. It does sound like your husband had a very special bond with him. Crying and sadness is a very common response to grief and certainly men can find it harder to feel like it’s OK to show their emotions – it’s a societal thing. It sounds like you're being really supportive and being a great listener for your husband.


Question: My little one went eight weeks ago to cardiac arrest. He was being looked after at a pet hospital at the time and was 'comfortable and happy' so it was really sudden. Now I am really struggling and feel so guilty – I wasn't with him when he went and wasn't offered the chance to say goodbye. I feel part of me has gone. My daughter reckons it's time to get over him but I don't know how to. He was only four. It's just so unfair.

Answer: Such a sudden and unexpected loss – I'm sorry for your loss. Circumstances such as these can have a really significant effect on how you grieve the loss of your little one. Not being there can leave you with feelings of guilt and overwhelming sadness that can last for a significant time. Grief has no time limit – it is unique to everyone and it can be really hard when the people around you are experiencing the grief in the same way that you are. Give yourself time. You know, these little cats are our family, there’s such a strong bond between you and that means their loss with be significant too. Loss hurts – it’s meant to – it's how you know he was special to you. Not being able to say goodbye can leave you stuck in your grief so maybe find a way to say goodbye to him – in his favourite place or with his favourite toy. Do consider phoning the Paws to Listen Grief Support Line on 0800 024 9494 and speak with one of our trained listeners. The line is open from 9am-5pm Mon-Fri.

Paws to listen logo

Whether you are facing the heartbreak of your cat passing away, want help with difficult issues like euthanasia, a cat who has gone missing or need someone to talk to about your loss: we are here for you.

The Paws to Listen service is a free and confidential phone line, that you can call to talk to one of our trained volunteer listeners. While we are unable to offer counselling, we can provide you with a sympathetic ear at this difficult time. Call us on 0800 024 94 94. The line is open 9am-5pm, Monday to Friday (excluding bank holidays).

As well as the phone line, there are a number of free online guides and leaflets to help owners deal with grief-related issues: www.cats.org.uk/grief

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Ninety years of dedication to cats

Today, 16 May 2017, is Cats Protection’s 90th anniversary.

Starting life as the Cats Protection League in 1927, our charity arose from very humble beginnings. During the 1920s cats were not seen as the companion animals they are today. Rather than pets most were thought of as nothing more than pests. Concern was expressed at the general ignorance of many people regarding the needs of the domestic cat, so much so that on 16 May 1927 a group of like-minded people gathered at Caxton Hall in London to form the Cats Protection League, an educational society to raise the status of cats.

Cats Protection young volunteer in 1960s

Cats Protection historic ambulance

The charity’s founder was Miss Jessey Wade, a tireless campaigner for animal welfare and a founder or original member of other societies among others such as The Humanitarian League, The Pit Ponies’ Protection Society, The Performing and Captive Animals’ Defence League, The League for the Prohibition of Cruel Sports (now League against Cruel Sports). She was also friends with renowned Suffragists, Eve Gore Booth and Esther Roper. She would go on to be the charity’s Chairman, Vice President and editor of The Cat magazine. She formed the charity when she was 60 and eventually retired at the age of 80, but still being involved until her death in 1952 aged 92.

Cats Protection outdoor pens in 1960s

Cats Protection vintage 1960s advice leaflets

Cats Protection vintage fundraising stall

In 90 years Cats Protection has:

  • rehomed over 1.5m cats and kittens*
  • neutered nearly 3m cats*
  • helped over 3m cats*
  • championed the rights of cats 
  • helped people of all ages to understand cats and their needs

The dedication and commitment of our volunteers and staff has never waned; it has survived war and recession; defying the odds and helping as many cats as possible. Our aim remains the same as it did in 1927, no matter what the challenges we will provide better and brighter futures for the thousands of cats that come through Cats Protection’s care.   

What an achievement this is, for us all – our volunteers, staff and all of our supporters – without whom we wouldn’t be here today. Here’s to the next 90 years!

Find out more about our recent work by watching our video of 2016 achievements here.

*conservative estimates, taken from the figures listed in available Annual Reports since 1927 
Cats Protection 90th anniversary logo

Monday, 15 May 2017

What Cats Protection achieved in 2016

2016 was another fantastic year for Cats Protection: our volunteers, our supporters and our staff have achieved some amazing things.


Our vision is a world where every cat is treated with kindness and an understanding of its needs.

To achieve that vision we’re continuing to work towards changing people’s attitudes towards cats and helping them to better understand cats’ needs. We focused on growing our profile throughout the UK while promoting awareness of cat welfare. Our national campaigns and collaborations with other charities and high profile organisations are helping to bring about change, making the world a better place for cats.

We help to reduce overpopulation of cats and in 2016 our community neutering team played a key role in developing relationships in targeted areas and educating people about the benefits of neutering – for cats and their owners.

Finding new homes for cats in need is a key part of our work too and in 2016 we improved and developed our adoption centres and grew our volunteer-run branch network so that we can rehome even more cats in the future.



Here are some of our key achievements

  • We helped nearly 190,000 cats and kittens – that’s around 500 cats every single day!
  • We found loving new homes for 43,000 cats and kittens 
  • We reunited 3,000 cats and kittens with their relieved owners 
  • We neutered 152,000 cats and kittens, to prevent unwanted litters
  • We reached an audience of over 41,700 adults and children with talks helping them to better understand cats
  • Our thousands of volunteers dedicated a whopping 5 million hours to the charity 

You can read our full Annual Review 2016 at www.cats.org.uk/annual-review16

Everything we’ve achieved – and every single cat we’ve helped in 2016 – is thanks to our devoted supporters, volunteers and staff. Thank you to each and every one of you for your commitment to cats and to the charity!

Friday, 12 May 2017

Adopting a kitten

To accompany the Simon’s Cat Logic YouTube series, where creator Simon Tofield and Cats Protection’s Behaviour Manager Nicky Trevorrow team up to talk about cat behaviour, we’re happy to launch a new Simon’s Cat series called ‘Simon’s Cat Care with Nicky', which focuses on welfare issues and gives practical tips on how best to care for cats.

Simon's Cat Care with Nicky Trevorrow

The first video is called ‘Adopting Kittens’ and Nicky explains some of the things to consider before getting a kitten.

“If you’re thinking of adopting a kitten, an animal shelter should be your first port of call,” she says. “They have lots of kittens and cats all looking for loving homes.”

“By adopting a kitten from an animal shelter, you can help alleviate the pressure on animal shelters and also give a kitten a second chance of a good life.”

Kittens require a lot of attention and play. Find out just what is involved in looking after a kitten by watching the video:



Get involved in the conversation online by sharing your kitten and adoption stories using hashtag #SimonsCatCare

You can learn more about kitten care by reading our post on how to look after a kitten.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Low maintenance gardening for cat lovers

This guest post has been written by gardener Graham Clarke

For many of us the thought of taking it a bit easier in the garden is, perhaps, just what the doctor ordered. This is more likely to apply if you’re elderly or unwell but, equally, time-poor professionals or those with young families – or demanding cats – to look after, need also to look at ways of reducing both the time spent and the hard graft in the garden.

So, how do you go about creating a low-maintenance garden? Here are my top 10 of things to do to make your gardening just a bit easier – and your cat will appreciate some of them, too.

1. Keep it informal 

Go for an ‘informal’ look where beds and borders are filled with a mixture of plants. Formal gardens, where there are straight lines to the lawn edges, rows of bedding plants in summer and not a weed in sight, are great – but these types of ‘perfect’ gardens are incredibly time consuming.

Informal gardens are where shrubs and border plants flow into each other. There are curvy lines that do not need to be tended quite so often. And your cat will appreciate the better cover that these sorts of borders offer.

Informal planting
Informal planting and hard landscaping (no lawn). Photo by Graham Clarke

2. Hard landscaping 

Now, I’m not advocating that you concrete the garden over… heaven forbid. But where it is appropriate to do so and where it will make life easier for you, it is alright to put in some hard landscaping such as stone for patios, paths and driveways, low brick or stone walls, containers, and water – as in ponds, streams, fountains, and so on. These can all be chosen for their decorative as well as functional qualities, so the garden need never become a concrete desert.

3. Raised beds and low walls 

These give a garden interest and a new dimension. They can also make gardening a little easier because you do not have to stoop or bend down to weed, plant, deadhead or prune.

In my experience, cats love low retaining walls. It gives them a little height from where they can survey the scene and in a sunny spot they definitely prefer basking on a raised bed than on the garden floor.

Raised garden beds
Planting scheme with raised beds. Photo by Graham Clarke

4. Choose easy plants

Annual bedding is time-consuming to plant, water, feed and maintain generally, so go instead for evergreen trees and shrubs which have a good, trouble-free reputation. Between them plant a selection of cat-safe bulbs and hardy perennials. These plants look after themselves and only need the old leaves and stems removed at the end of the year, and maybe thinning out every three or four years.

Choose shrubs that do not need cutting back every year; try, for example, winter-flowering witch-hazels and mahonias, the catkin-bearing garrya, summer-flowering hebes and the palm-like New Zealand flax (phormium).

5. Roses all the way

Roses have a reputation for being high-maintenance, but if you opt for the disease-resistant types, all you’ll need to do with them is prune once a year and give them a couple of feeds during the season. There are dozens of varieties that are sold as being resistant to blackspot, mildew and rust, or that are tolerant of bad weather.

6. Container sense

Pots, tubs, window boxes, hanging baskets… they are all a feature of our gardens – especially in summer when they can make a stunning sight. But they are time-consuming to look after.

So in a low-maintenance garden we need to limit the number of containers we tend and possibly to grow the plants that need less care: drought-tolerant plants such as pelargoniums and succulents, for example.

7. Lawn alternatives

For those who want a green pathway in their garden, but grass is considered to be too protracted, why not plant chamomile? It may be found under either of its accepted Latin names: Anthemis nobilis or Chamaemelum nobile. A lush, pale green creeping herb, it is aromatic, releasing a pleasant fragrance when crushed underfoot.

The non-flowering ‘Treneague’ is preferable as a grass substitute – as the flowers tend to spoil the close carpeted effect. Just use shears to clip back the straggly stems from time to time.

8. Hedges or fences? 

The one thing all gardens have is a boundary – the bit that separates it from a neighbour’s garden, public road or right of way. The most maintenance-free boundary is a brick or stone wall. Once it’s up you don’t have to do anything to it – if it is rendered or painted, of course, you will probably have to maintain in some way every few years.

A wooden fence is reasonably low-maintenance, but it will need replacing after several years. You may need to paint or treat the wood.

Cat enjoying a garden
Cats will appreciate some of these gardening ideas. Photo by istock.com/AZFotoNL

9. Wise watering

Install an automatic watering system, available in kits from the garden centre. They can be directed to the plants that need watering most, such as container plants and vegetables like tomatoes, celery and runner beans.

10. Ground cover

Plants which spread over the ground can look very appealing when in flower or even just when in leaf. But, more importantly, they deny weeds light, moisture and the important soil nutrients. This means that, with careful choice of cat-safe plants, you’ll have nice foliage to look at rather than weeds to remove. Five of the best are:

  • Bergenia – elephant’s ears: reaching some 12in (30cm) high, the leaves are thick, leathery, shiny and evergreen. ‘Abendglut’ is one of the best
  • Erica and Calluna (heather): they mostly need an acid soil. Go for ‘King George’ – deep rose-pink flowers – ‘Springwood White’ – white flowers – and ‘Vivelli’ – almost blood-red flowers, with dark green foliage that becomes bronzy in winter
  • Geranium – cranesbill: the ‘true’ geraniums – not the summer bedding pelargoniums – are excellent for dry soils, and for edging pathways and growing on slopes
  • Lamium – dead nettle: there are many different shades, and some with vibrant gold tints. Look for ‘Beedham’s White’, with bright yellow leaves and white flowers
  • Osteospermum – this daisy plant from South Africa must have a sunny spot. It will grow in practically any soil, doesn’t mind being dry, and rewards with fabulous flowers for most of the summer

Adopt even one of the above measures and you’ll save time in the garden. Adopt all 10, and you can go away for long holidays without worrying about the garden at all. Then it’ll just be your cat you need to worry about!

This post originally appeared in the Autumn 2010 issue of The Cat magazine.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Learning to love

This post has been written by our Taunton & Wellington Branch

We have written before about the need for children to learn that cats and kittens deserve respect and understanding and there is no doubt that this is a two-way matter!

Adopters with young family members have told us that the introduction of a cat or kitten into the family home has often resulted in a child who was previously unsure or nervous around animals soon gaining the confidence to trust and understand the new arrival as well as becoming confident with other animals as well. With adult supervision, young children can learn how to approach and handle cats correctly in a safe and feline-friendly manner and this can be a positive experience for both parties.

Ginger kitten Bear

Little kitten Bear was found dumped outside a house looking very scared and hungry. The householders could not take him in as they have an indoor FIV+ cat (adopted from us) so he came into the care of the branch. We estimated that he was about seven weeks old. From the outset he was an extremely friendly little chap who had obviously been in a home, but we never had any reports of a lost kitten of his description. We were delighted that he went to a home with a child as he was ideally suited.

These photos of Bear with his new chum Belle says it all. Hopefully both will go on to enjoy and share life’s experiences in a positive way.

Belle and Bear in the garden

Bear’s new owner Colleen says: “Bear has settled in so well, he is a lovely addition to our family and we love having him. He is brilliant with Belle and she has learned what he likes!

"Belle feeds Bear every day and they love to play in the garden together!

Belle feeding cat Bear

“They continue to be best friends and it is heart-warming to see them grow together. Bear really has completed our family.”

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

‘Is it ok to give my cat milk?’ and other veterinary FAQs

In our latest Facebook Q&A, vet Dr Sarah Elliott answered live questions from cat owners. Here are just some of the topics discussed:

Question: Is it ok to give my cats ordinary milk? They prefer it to water.

Answer: Many cats are lactose-intolerant and while a little milk may not hurt, it may cause diarrhoea. Also milk contains a few extra calories which they may not need. It is better to feed a complete balanced diet and offer water, to avoid extra weight gain or any diarrhoea.

Cat drinking from bowl of water
Cats should be given fresh water. Photo by macinate via flick.com / Creative Commons
Question: Why does my cat keep losing the fur on his back legs? It’s not fleas or mange.

Answer: Stress may play a factor, but it is far more common for cats to loss hair because of over-grooming due to an itch. They often itch and over-groom in secret which can make it seem like the hair is just falling out on its own. Fleas are by far the most common cause of itching and many cats have an allergy to fleas which makes things even worse, and in these cases you may never actually see the fleas that set off the itching. It's important to get your cat on regular monthly flea treatment and your vet can advise on an effective eradication plan.

Sometimes, other allergies may be underlying the hair loss and food trials to rule out a food allergy may be recommended by your vet. Treatment is usually about managing the condition rather than curing it. Adding an omega 3 and 6 supplement may help to improve the skin. And always remember to make flea control your first priority! Our Itchy cats and skin disorders leaflet may be of help.


Question: How can a find a good cattery in my area please?

Answer: International Cat Care used to inspect catteries, back when they were known as the Feline Advisory Bureau. Unfortunately they no longer carry out inspections but they do keep a list of catteries, which can be found here.


Question: My cat was being sick so we've changed her diet, however now she has really bad dandruff. Is dandruff on cats a bad sign?

Answer: Adding an omega 3 and 6 supplement may help to improve the skin – chat to your vet about what is available, as you will want one that is compatible with her new diet. She might need a bit of help with grooming, so brushing daily will help in shifting dead hair and skin. Most cats have a degree of dandruff – but when they are grooming themselves regularly we might not always notice it.


Question: At what age should I get my kitten spayed? And when is it ok to use Frontline flea treatment?

Answer: Cats should be spayed (uterus and ovaries removed) before they are four months old, to prevent any unwanted litters. You can find vets who are signed up to the Kitten Neutering Database here: www.kind.cats.org.uk

Frontline spray can be used on kittens from as young as two days old, and I'd recommend getting this from your vet when using it in a kitten younger that’s seven to eight weeks old, as the dosing instructions are different to using it on an adult cat. Kittens over seven weeks old can have other types of spot on flea treatment, some of which include a wormer. We'd normally start worming kittens from seven weeks old. Have a read of our leaflet, Fleas and other parasites.

White kitten
Kittens should be neutered by four months of age
Question: My cat has a skin tag on the back of her neck. It has grown a lot in the past two weeks. Should I be worried about it?

Answer: It may be best to have the lump investigated by your vet, as waiting until the lump gets bigger may mean it starts to cause discomfort. If the lump does turn out to require removal, it will become more difficult to do so the bigger it becomes. Your vet may suggest taking a small sample from the lump to send away for analysis before deciding whether it is benign and safe to leave or malignant and should be removed. This is usually a relatively painless procedure for the cat and involves putting a needle into the lump to obtain a sample of cells. Hopefully it will turn out to be nothing to worry about.


Veterinary note: Please note that we are unable to give specific advice on your cat's health or any change in behaviour observed. For more advice, please visit www.cats.org.uk/cat-care/care-leaflets

Consult your vet if you have a specific concern about your cat.

Would you like to ask one of Cats Protection's feline experts a question? Don't miss the next live Facebook Q&A sessions: chat with Behaviourist Nicky Trevorrow on 18 May; or vet Dr Sarah Elliott on 1 June. All Q&As are held on Cats Protection's national Facebook page from 2pm. See you there!