Thursday, 31 August 2017

Careers with cats: how can I become a Veterinary Surgeon?

Looking for a career with cats? You might be surprised to find that there are plenty of career paths for those with a love of all things feline. Our latest blog series focuses on cat-based careers - from what its like to be a Veterinary Nurse, to how to become a Cat Care Assistant.

In the second instalment, we meet Sarah Elliot, a Veterinary Surgeon based at the National Cat Centre.

Sarah Elliot, Veterinary Surgeon


What inspired you to become a veterinary surgeon?

I had aspired to become a vet ever since I was old enough to know the job existed. Growing up, I was lucky enough to have plenty of pets in the home and I knew I would love to have a job working with animals when I was older. I came from a particularly cat-friendly household and cats have been a big part of my life ever since. I really enjoyed school and from an early age I decided I wanted to try to do well enough with my exams to give myself the best chance of getting into vet school later on.

How did you become a veterinary surgeon?

At 12, I managed to get a day’s work experience with my local vet. I found out that not only did I need to have top grades in maths, physics, chemistry and biology but I also needed to have plenty of work experience with animals as well. There is a lot of competition for places at university to study veterinary medicine and the more extra-curricular activities I could do to make my application stand out, the better. I got a Saturday job at the local veterinary practice cleaning the surgical instruments and mopping the floor.
I spent my Sundays at my local Blue Cross rescue shelter, where they set me to work feeding and cleaning out the rabbits and guinea pigs; a low-risk role for a teenager versus being around the slightly more unpredictable dogs and cats! In my school holidays I spent a lot of time helping out at the local riding centre. One summer I got a job at a racing yard and I even got the chance to go out on morning exercise rides – exhilarating as well as often terrifying!

In the end I got the GCSE and A-level results I needed and this lead to an offer of a place to study veterinary medicine at The Royal Veterinary College, London.

What is the best thing about being a veterinary surgeon?

Studying for my degree was an absolute pleasure. The course is so varied and hands-on that there was never a dull moment. Going into small animal practice, daily contact with animals has been a huge perk. Being able to put animals back together again is fantastic and memories of my first successfully treated patients will always stay with me. Over time, my career has led me into charity veterinary practice and has allowed me to develop a more focussed interest in feline medicine. I am currently studying towards becoming an advanced practitioner in feline medicine. Ten years later, I am still really enjoying being a vet.
For more information on working for Cats Protection, click here to go to our careers site.

Visit the blog next week to meet Dom and find out what life is like as a Cat Behaviourist. To find out how to become a Cat Care Assistant, click here to meet Avril.

Friday, 25 August 2017

Cat superhero name generator

Most cats are heroes to their owners, whether they're providing great companionship or doing something extraordinary.

To give your cat true hero status, we've put together a visual guide on how you can find out their superhero name. Just follow these easy steps:

1. Find your cat's first name initial

2. Find your cat's surname initial

3. Put them together!

We'd love to hear the results. Let us know what your cat's superpower would be if it had one by tweeting us at @CatsProtection

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Careers with cats: How can I become a Cat Care Assistant?

Dreaming of a career with cats? You might be surprised to find out how many job roles there are out there for those with a fondness of felines.

In celebration of GCSE results day, we’re launching the first in our series that focuses on cat-based careers. This week we meet Avril Fuller, Senior Cat Care Assistant at the National Cat Centre.


What inspired you to become a Cat Care Assistant (CCA)?

There were several reasons I wanted to become a CCA. Firstly, I was looking for a change of career and I was attracted to the idea of working for a charity. I already had a huge love of cats so where better to work than with Cats Protection?

How did you become a CCA?

At the time I had no animal-based qualifications and no experience working in an animal welfare environment. To build up my knowledge and improve my chances of getting a job I volunteered at my closest Cats Protection adoption centre for a year and a half. It was during this time that I gained a lot of experience, taking every learning opportunity I could find. Soon enough an opportunity came up and I was accepted as a full-time CCA.

What is the best thing about your job?

I get to talk about my favourite subject all day, cats! Not only that but I get to be involved in the care and rehabilitation of many cats from all kinds of backgrounds every day. Seeing them grow in confidence and finally go to a loving forever home is one of the greatest joys this job can give.

For more information on working for Cats Protection, click here to go to our careers site.

Visit the blog next week to meet Sarah and find out what she does as a Veterinary Surgeon.

Monday, 21 August 2017

"How can I calm down my kitten?" and other behaviour FAQs

Feeling clueless as to your cat’s behaviour? Behaviourist Nicky Trevorrow took to our national Facebook page recently in order to answer live questions from cat owners.

Note: If your cat starts to display any behaviours that are unusual or they develop a change in personality or demeanour, the first person to speak to must always be your vet. Many changes in behaviour are due to illness or pain and so you should arrange an appointment with your vet as soon as possible. 

Other seemingly ‘odd’ behaviours that do not have roots in a medical condition can be explained by understanding the natural behaviour that makes a cat a cat. For these types of behaviour issues we would recommend a referral to a qualified behaviourist from the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors (APBC).

Here are just some of the questions in our Q&A:

Question: How can I calm down a nine-month old kitten? He’s rather dominant towards my older cats, aged eight and 10.

Answer: Kittens are generally very active and have lots of energy for play. I'd suggest giving your kitten multiple interactive play sessions throughout the day. I particularly love fishing rod toys as most kittens and cats really enjoy them – always store them out of your kitten's reach after play! Your older cats would probably benefit from a retreat room away from your kitten that has all their resources in it (eg food, water, litter trays, beds, toys, etc). While many people think that their cat is dominant, the latest science research shows us that actually cats do not form hierarchies. They are naturally independent, territorial animals and more confident individuals can easily come across as if they were 'dominant' but that's not what the cat feels. Check out these articles for more information.

Question: My cat is a very anxious little thing. She is always over-grooming. Is there anything I can do to stop her? I have tried the Feliway plug-in but she is still over-grooming on her front legs and inside of her hind legs.

Answer: Sorry to hear that your cat is over-grooming. There are lots of different underlying causes, many of which are medical. I would suggest that you take your cat to the vet to rule out medical reasons first. Take a video of your cat over-grooming to show the vet, so they can see if your cat is plucking the fur or biting the fur etc. If your vet rules out medical reasons, then we would recommend a referral to a qualified behaviourist, such as the APBC

To learn more about your cat’s behaviour, check out our free online e-learning course, Understanding feline origins -

Question: What's the best way to integrate seven cats into one household?

Answer: Wow, seven cats! It's going to be tricky managing that. It depends very much on their personalities, whether they were socialised to other cats when they were young kittens (and it was hopefully a positive experience), the space in the house including vertical space like shelves, the amount of resources and a very slow, gradual introduction programme. Please bear in mind that even if you did everything perfectly, some cats simply can't cope with being around other cats and may prefer to live by themselves. A qualified behaviourist can help guide you through the process and help identify the social groups within the original households.

Question: One of my cats seems to love the smell of bleach. Whenever I have finished cleaning worktops she rolls all over them. Is there a reason behind this?

Answer: Several owners have noticed this. It's hard to say for sure, but we think that there's something in the chemical that appeals to them and they almost seem to act similar to the way they do around catnip. However, bleach is toxic to cats and therefore they should be prevented from rolling in it. Always ensure that surfaces are thoroughly rinsed after use to remove all traces of bleach.
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 behaviour advice, please visit where you’ll also find The Behaviour Guide which discusses a variety of topics on cat behaviour.

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: vet Dr Sarah Elliott will be taking questions on 24 August; you can get support with pet-related grief on 5 September; or speak to Behaviour Manager Nicky again on 21 September. All Q&As are held on Cats Protection's national Facebook page from 2pm. See you there!

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

10 of the best cat jokes for National Tell a Joke Day

While our pet cats provide plenty of hilarity with their antics, they're also the subject of many a joke. In celebration of National Tell a Joke Day, Twitter users have been sharing their best witticisms and one-liners about our furry friends.

Here's a round-up of our favourites, along with a few jokes of our own.

Why was the cat scared of the tree? Because of its bark!

What is a cat's favourite book?

The Great Catsby!

Have you got a cat joke you'd like to share? Tweet us @CatsProtection and see if you can make us laugh!

This post is not an endorsement of any of the companies or individuals featured.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Top books for cat-lovers

We all know that curling up with a cat and a good book is the best way to spend an afternoon. In honour of Book Lovers' Day, we decided to put together our list of great reads involving our favourite animals – cats, of course.


Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, by TS Eliot

One of the most famous books about felines, Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats was published in 1939 as a collection of whimsical poetry and features iconic characters such as Mungojerrie, Rumpleteazer and Skimbleshanks. It also went on to be the inspiration for the award-winning musical Cats.

A Streetcat named Bob, by James Bowen

For a true success story that will tug at your heartstrings, this book documents the tale of a stray cat called Bob who encounters a street musician called James. After James nurses Bob back to health, he assumes he won’t see the cat again. We won’t spoil the ending, but it’ll make you appreciate your feline friend all the more!

Please Take Me Home: the story of the rescue cat, by Clare Campbell

Another book about the plight of the stray cat, this book focuses on a time when strays in Britain were seen as a nuisance and hunted down as vermin. Over time, thousands of cats were abandoned and left to survive alone. The perfect read for anyone interested in the history of our favourite pet.

Cat Sense, by John Bradshaw

The way our cats behave is often a mystery to us all. This book by renowned anthrozoologist John Bradshaw offers some insight into the way they behave, dispelling myths and explaining the true nature of our feline friends. For more from John Bradshaw, take a look at our Cats Through the Ages series from earlier this year.

Simon’s Cat – off to the vet and other cat-astrophes, by Simon Tofield

Probably a feline’s most dreaded scenario, this book documents a visit to the vet for Simon’s cat as well as a number of other adventures. If you’re already a fan of these beloved characters, this is the ideal read to remind you of the comedy that cats can bring to their owner’s lives.

While there are plenty of books about cats that we could mention, these are just some of our top reads. Do you have a particular favourite? Tweet us and let us know at @catsprotection

Disclaimer: We are not responsible for any of these book’s content, and may not necessarily endorse all viewpoints contained within.

Friday, 4 August 2017

8 things that happened at this year's National Cat Awards

A suitably glamourous setting, plenty of cat-lovers and a star-studded judging panel – Cats Protection’s National Cat Awards 2017 yesterday celebrated the all-important bond between cats and their owners.

To give you a peek at what went on behind the scenes, here’s 8 things that happened at this year’s National Cat Awards:

Outside The Savoy, where the ceremony is held

1. There were the usual tales of heroism and bravery we’ve come to expect from the awards. These included the story of Spike, who helps his owner cope with a debilitating disease, and Tilly, who has a positive impact on her owner’s health and wellbeing.

2. The friendship between children and their cats featured highly this year. Mittens, the winner of Furr-ever friends, was noted for helping a young girl with autism cope with a serious medical condition. Overall Cat of the Year winner, Genie, was chosen for helping 12-year-old owner Evie battle bone cancer.

Evie, with Celebrity Judge Peter Egan

3. Cats Protection celebrated their 90th anniversary. To mark the occasion, Chief Executive Peter Hepburn talked about the impact our volunteers and staff have had in the last nine decades.

4. Guests used selfie props, including cat ears and whiskers, to glam up in the National Cat Awards photobooth!

Guests get stuck in with selfie props

5. John Challis was the first person to be booed at a National Cat Awards ceremony on announcing that he "wasn’t really a cat person." Thankfully, this turned to cheers when he revealed he had become the owner of three cats!

6. The event was streamed live on Facebook throughout the day, with celebrity roving reporting Lucy Pinder interviewing judges, guests, finalists, volunteers and staff. Check these out on our Facebook page.

Winner Evie, with her mum, Peter Hepburn and judges Andrew Collins, Anita Dobson, Jo Hemmings and Paul Copley
7. Broadcaster Andrew Collins summed up the plight of the judges in choosing a winner, remarking on the irony that cats are known to reduce anxiety, but when it came to judging who should win, it increased the judges’ anxiety levels!

8. When asked what Cat of the Year Genie would be rewarded with on her return home, 12-year-old Evie had the perfect response. "Chicken!" she said – the perfect prize for any winning cat.

For more information on this year's National Cat Awards, head to the website.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

International rescue: heroic moggies from around the world - part two

While such acts of feline bravery and empathy tend only to hit the headlines when they are in defence of humans, there are exceptions. In 1996, an incident in New York that saw a mother of a newly-born litter save the lives of her own offspring captivated onlookers and became a global phenomenon.

When a rundown Brooklyn building became engulfed by fire, witnesses watched on in astonishment as a stray cat carried her kittens away from the thick smoke and raging flames and out into the street one-by-one. The new mother kept returning to the burning building until she had rescued all five of her offspring and, according to firefighters tackling the blaze, upon placing the last one on the pavement, blinded by blisters, she nudged each kitten with her nose before collapsing through exhaustion.

The moggy, who was later named Scarlett, left such an impression on the emergency services personnel who witnessed her act of bravery that they took her and her new family to an animal rescue shelter where they were nursed back to health. As the story spread, the centre received 7,000 adoption requests for Scarlett and her kittens and the brave mother would go onto live a long and happy life.

A heart-warming example of motherly love and sacrifice, the story garnered worldwide attention and Scarlett's act was immortalised on the pages of two books. The rescue shelter that helped Scarlett and her litter recover from the incident also recognised her bravery when they named their award for animal heroism the 'Scarlett Award'.

While all of the above acts can, perhaps, be traced back to a cat's natural-born instinct to protect lives,our final example of feline heroism apparently has more to do with intelligence than intuition.

Wheelchair-bound Gary Rosheisen, from Columbus, Ohio, brought Tommy into his home for companionship and in the hope that he would help lower his blood pressure. However, due to his lack of mobility and proneness to seizures, he also spied an opportunity to train his new moggy to raise the alarm if he was ever unable to do it himself.

Still unsure whether his repeated prompts for Tommy to hit the living room telephone's emergency services speed dial button would produce results when it really mattered, in 2005 Gary was finally faced with the scenario for which they had trained. In severe pain after falling out of his wheelchair, and unable to reach the medical-alert necklace he usually wears, he was reliant on Tommy to swing into action.

When paramedics reached Gary's house to come to his assistance, they were puzzled as to whom had raised the alarm. There had been no voice on the other end of the emergency call and when they made it into the property, they simply found a ginger cat lying next to the phone on the living room floor, with Gary incapacitated in another room. Despite no one seeing the act, the only rational explanation was that Tommy had sensed the danger, recalled his training and pressed the correct speed dial button.

After his rescue, Gary hailed his furry friend as his hero - a label that, it seems, could be used to describe many other cats around the world.

Tomorrow at our very own National Cat Awards, we look forward to getting to know more about this year's amazing cast of home-grown heroes.

To find out more about the National Cat Awards, go to our website.

You can read the first part in our heroic moggies series here.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Coping with pet-related grief FAQs

Losing a cat is never easy – whether they are missing, had to be rehomed, nearing the end of their life or have recently passed away. To support cat owners at a difficult time, Counsellor and Pet Loss Specialist Julia Dando took to the Cats Protection Facebook page to talk to them about their grief.

Grief support Q&A Cats Protection

Here is a round-up of just some of the queries:

Question: My cat got hit by a car and killed and left by the side of the road back in January and I’m still struggling to cope. I don’t want to get up in the morning and I can’t sleep properly. Everything is a daily struggle, even bathing and shopping. I miss him so much. I keep thinking, was he wondering where I was when he was dying? I’d like to offer another cat a home but I feel like he’d think I was replacing him.

Answer: Losing a beloved friend can be a hard thing to go through. When the death is traumatic, such as a road traffic accident, this can have a significant impact upon how you will experience grief. Especially when there are unanswered questions leaving you feeling guilty and confused about what happened and what he went through in his last moments.

Grief affects people very differently and for some, the responses to grief can last a long time. It sounds like part of you wants to move forward in the grieving process and would like to give another cat a home - but there is part of you still heavily grieving the loss and questioning whether you would in some way be disloyal to your lost cat.

Allow yourself the time to grieve - there is no time limit. When you feel ready you might take on another cat. You will know when that time is right.

Question: Our beautiful Lily was run over and killed last week. She was only 15 months old. We are heartbroken as we have lost cats before but never in this way. I feel a little resentful that we have much older cats who have lived a long and happy life and we have been cheated out of the love and laughter Lily bought into our lives.

Answer: I'm so sorry to hear of Lily’s sudden death. When our cats are taken so suddenly and in such traumatic circumstances , the impact upon how you grieve will be significant.
Anger and resentment are common responses to grief, especially when taken at such a young age - these things all add to the responses you might normally experience in your own unique way to grieve. It wouldn't be uncommon to feel cheated and to almost feel like bargaining, the older cats for her young life. You might find the leaflets on our website helpful as you navigate through your grieving process.

cat asleep

Question: I euthanased my cat just over two weeks ago and I’m struggling to come to terms with my decision. I noticed he hadn’t been eating and was moving around slowly– this went on for about one week. When I took him to the vets, they said he had Pancreatitis. Treatment was expensive and there was no guarantee of recovery and I didn’t want him in pain. I feel I have let him down and can’t stop thinking of the what ifs, buts and maybes. I feel I’ve acted too hastily.

Answer: I’m so sorry to hear about what you've been going through over the last few weeks. Often even with all the information, this decision we have to make as pet owners will never feel right.

You are experiencing something called responsibility grief - it is a type of grief that often comes when these difficult decisions have had to be made. It is important to remember why you made this decision - you had noticed how much discomfort your boy was in and took him to the vets and you didn't want to see him in pain.

If you would like to talk things through with one of our trained volunteers, please do phone the support line.

Question: Are children allowed to call and chat? We recently lost our cat and my oldest daughter has taken it so hard. I feel at a loss on the best words to comfort her.
Answer: it's usually better for a parent to support a child through bereavement but we can support you in supporting her. You are welcome to call the support line and one of our volunteers can help you to think about how you can support your daughter while dealing with your own grief. You might find this leaflet useful from our website:

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: