Monday, 30 July 2018

6 signs that your cats are best friends

If you share your home with more than one cat, you may have wondered if they really like each other or if they simply tolerate having the other one around.

Cats are usually solitary creatures, preferring to be the only moggy in their mansion, but sometimes they can form a special bond with a fellow furry friend.

 How do you tell if your cats are friends? Here are six signs to look out for…
  1. They head-butt each other. Don’t worry, not in an aggressive way! By rubbing their heads and cheeks against those of their friends, cats leave behind a scent that helps remind them that this moggy shares their group scent and can be trusted. They do this with their human friends too, as well as the occasional item of furniture or toy to make sure their environment smells familiar.

    Two white cats head-butting

  2. They groom each other. Feline friends will often help to keep each other clean by licking their pal’s fur. Let’s face it, you’d have to be pretty close to get that personal with your best mate! 

  3. They snooze together. Only true feline friends will be happy to share their precious sleeping space with another. They could simply touch paws, or have a full spooning session, just make sure they each have their own beds to retreat to for if they’d prefer to stretch out and be alone.

    Two tabby cats sleeping

  4. They touch noses. Instead of a cheery wave and a ‘hello’, moggy mates greet each other by raising their tail in the air and touching noses. Cat owners who’ve experienced a cold cat nose to the face will know that they sometimes greet humans in this way too.

  5. They hang out together. Whether playing with their toys, relaxing in the garden, or staring at you while you eat your dinner, cats with a close bond usually like to engage in their favourite activities together. Unlike us though, they prefer to eat and drink alone, so make sure their bowls are kept separate. 

    Black and tabby cat friends

  6. They have a rough and tumble. Don’t be alarmed if your cats engage in a bit of kitty wrestling with each other. So long as they have their claws in and they’re getting to take turns chasing each other, then it’s just a friendly play-flight that helps them burn off some energy.
Even if your kitties are best pals, they will still like some time alone every so often. Make sure they each have their own food bowl, scratch post and litter tray, plus one spare, and that they have plenty of places to hide and get away from their feline companion if they choose to.

Still not sure whether your cats are friends or foes? Take a look at our animation to find out more:



For more information about cat behaviour, visit www.cats.org.uk/behaviour  

Friday, 27 July 2018

Kitten Academy: Learning through play

Follow the progress of kittens Apple and Apricot over the next few weeks in our Kitten Academy series.

Playtime is definitely high on the agenda for kittens Apple and Apricot as they turn five weeks old.

Apple comes running as soon as she hears her shiny ball rattling, sometimes speeding straight into her mum, sister or other objects in the pen as she makes her pursuit. Apricot is also getting more curious about her toys, but prefers to play it cool and casually wander over for a sniff and half-hearted swipe of her paw when she feels like it.

black kitten
Apple is a bundle of fur end energy

Play is important for kittens as it allows them to exhibit their natural hunting behaviour and develop their eye-paw coordination. It also helps them to burn off lots of energy, keep their brains active and it causes the release of feel-good hormones called endorphins.


grey kitten
Little Apricot is getting more playful
To make sure playtime is kept fun and interesting, the kittens are given a selection of different toys to play with. The best ones encourage them to stalk, chase, pounce and ‘kill’, such as fishing rod toys, balls and puzzle feeders.

Sometimes, Apple and Apricot mistake fingers and toes for fun toys to play with, but it’s important to discourage this by keeping your digits as still as possible and distracting them with more appropriate toys. Having a kitten nibbling on your fingers may seem harmless now, but if they learn that this behaviour is acceptable, they will continue to do it when they’re fully-grown adult cats – and that would be much more painful!


black kitten
Apple has found the perfect box to hide in
As well as pouncing on their toys, Apple and Apricot also like pouncing on each other for a play-fight. This helps them to learn important social skills, including something called ‘bite inhibition’. Kittens often don’t realise how sharp their teeth are, but by playfully biting their siblings, they soon learn when they’re biting too hard! Apple usually has the upper-paw in play-fights due to her size, but will back off when she hears Apricot squeak. Her little sister will usually then get her own back by sneaking up on Apple and pouncing on her tail. Meanwhile, mum Annie watches on, enjoying a break and bit of a fuss while her kittens amuse themselves.


black cat
Annie enjoys a break from her energetic kittens
When they’re not having a rough and tumble, the kittens are becoming much more comfortable with being stroked and picked up. While being handled, they’re also being introduced to gentle health checks, such as examination of sensitive areas like the ears, feet and tail, to help make future vet visits less stressful.

Come back next week to find out Apple and Apricot are getting on when they turn six weeks old!

For more information about caring for kittens, visit the Cats Protection website.

Thursday, 26 July 2018

That’s not my cat!

Writer, broadcaster and formerly jaded awards-goer Andrew Collins reflects on judging Cats Protection’s National Cat Awards.

If my professional life in the London media bubble can be measured out in anything, it’s probably smoked salmon parcels with dill and horseradish. Such is the hard-knock life of the habitual awards-goer. In the 90s, when I was on the staff of grown-up rock monthly Q, our publisher’s in-house annual prizegiving was a rowdy affair. As well as Q, Heat, Empire, Grazia, Classic Cars and Trout Fisherman, they also published animal magazines. And whenever the cover of Your Cat* or Your Horse was flashed up on the big screen, the Q table would should out: “That’s not my cat!” or “That’s not my horse!”

Paul Copley, Anita Dobson, Jo Hemmings and Andrew Collins presenting the 2017 National Cat of the Year award. Credit: Charlotte Fielding Photography

Frankly, it was a coping mechanism. Industry awards ceremonies – and many of you will have endured them – can be an endurance test, as they go on forever. Which is why, two years ago, I jumped at the chance when I was invited to judge the National Cat Awards. All previous cynicism was washed instantly away. The very idea of an award for cats seemed pure – Purina®, even – honest, decent, selfless and without ulterior motive. Cats Protection was a charity I’d supported for years. Now in its 91st year, it does exactly what it says on the just-opened tin: protects our feline friends without prejudice, seven days a week, 24 hours a day, rescuing, rehoming and rehabilitating cats, who in turn bestow their unique brand of independent love upon us by ignoring us. Our own cat, Gerry, who adopted us for his retirement, has yet to acknowledge the existence of the clockwork mouse I brought home for him after last year’s ceremony. It’s his highest compliment.

In my first year I judged a specific category – Most Caring Cat – but last year and this one, I’m on the panel that democratically decides the overall winner (unless the result has been meddled with by the Russian blues). It’s a gruelling task, as the shortlisted cats and their humans all deserve to win, but every pageant needs its king or queen. It’s a tingly sort of day. If you tell people what you’re doing, they immediately assume there will be cats. On the contrary, the ballroom at London’s famous Savoy hotel will be cat-free. All the contestants are on film. It’s the humans who get a free lunch and the chance to mix with like-minded souls of all ages, backgrounds and situations, with we “celebrity” judges dotted around (I use speech marks only around my own “celebrity”). There is only one subject of conversation and I think you can guess what it is.


Andrew Collins (right) with Evie Henderson and her mum Tina (centre), owners of 2017 National Cat of the Year Genie, Cats Protection's ex-CEO Peter Hepburn and the rest of the celebrity judging panel. Credit: Charlotte Fielding Photography
People get understandably emotional when the cats’ stories are shown on the screen, or when humans are honoured for their tireless work, and the Savoy becomes a rather grand ‘safe place’ for those with something in their eye. Last year, the volunteers of Deeside Cats Protection were on my table, and when they won the Star Team Award for their selfless work rescuing 25 cats after Storm Frank hit the village of Ballater, their coordinator, Liz Robinson, was in bits. Anyway, she held up well once on the stage, as did all the winners. There is, to coin a phrase, a lot of love in the room.

That I have been singled out as someone eligible to choose which cat is better than another cat is almost random. I’m just a cat lover like you are. The same goes for regular judges Anita Dobson, Rick Wakeman and Downton star Paul Copley, and returning MC Alan Dedicoat.

Your Cat is still going, albeit published by a different company than the one I used to work for. But when each winner is announced and shown onscreen this year, I’d like to think that at least one person will shout out, “That is my cat!” Worth sneaking the salmon parcel home in a napkin, I’d say.

The star-studded National Cat Awards ceremony, sponsored by Purina®, will take place at the Savoy Hotel in London on Thursday 2 August. To find out more and meet the nominees, visit www.cats.org.uk/nca

*Editor’s note: Other cat magazines are available.

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

How to train your cat to respond to their name

You may have spent hours or even days choosing the purrfect name for your moggy, drawing up a list of options and trying them all out to see which one suits them best. But to your cat, that name you have so lovingly chosen will simply be a sound they hear you make when they’ve wandered off to explore.

If your cat already comes running when you say their name, it’s likely that they have simply learnt to associate that sound with something good. For example, if you usually call them just before putting down a bowl of tasty cat food, they will associate the sound with dinnertime and be more likely to come bounding through the cat flap when they hear it again.

Cats Protection cat
 
However, if you want your cat to respond to their name in all circumstances, such as to get them to come home when they’ve gone missing, or move away from something that is potentially hazardous, then there are a few steps you can follow. Before you start, make sure your cat is feeling relaxed – you should never try to train a nervous or scared cat!
  1. In a calm, quiet area with no distractions, stand up with your cat freely in front of you and have a small pot of their food by your side – remember when using food for training, adjust their regular food intake accordingly to avoid overfeeding.
  2. Say your cat’s name and, if they look at you, say ‘yes’ in a positive, happy voice and quickly give them a bit of food (ideally within two seconds of them looking at you).
  3. If they break their gaze, repeat step two again to further reinforce that positive association with their name.
  4. If your first training session has been successful, repeat steps one to three in a series of short sessions (ideally no more than three minutes long) over the next few days. Try not to use your cat’s name outside of these training sessions as it could confuse them.
    Cats Protection cat
  5. Once your cat has got the hang of it, repeat the training sessions but stand further away from them or do it sitting down instead. This will help them to learn to respond to their name in other contexts too. Make sure these changes are gradual as they could get distracted by a sudden change.
  6. When your cat is reliably responding to you in every training session, you can then start varying the reward you give them. Try offering a toy, access to the garden, or a stroke (if they enjoy this) instead to reduce the reliance on tasty treats.
  7. Finally, you can start adjusting how often you give them a reward, reducing it to every other time and then every third time they successfully respond to their name. Just make sure you don’t suddenly stop the rewards altogether, as they will stop responding too!
This may sound simple, but not all cats will respond straight away, and some won’t get it at all. If your cat is struggling then remember it’s not their fault. It may be that they do not understand what you are trying to communicate or are not interested in the reward you’re offering, so try to make it easier and more exciting for them. It’s important to be patient and resist the urge to say their name louder, as this could scare them.

If you find that you or your cat are getting frustrated, simply take a break and try again another time.

Have you managed to successfully train your cat to respond to their name? Let us know in the comments below or on Facebook or Twitter!

If you have any problems training your cat, take a look at our advice on the Cats Protection website or contact a qualified behaviourist.

See also:
How to train your cat to use the litter tray, cat flap and cat carrier
How to train your cat to use a scratch post
How to train your cat to toilet outside
How to train your cat to be comfortable with handling
How to train your cat to sit on command
How to train your cat to lie down on command

Tuesday, 24 July 2018

Stowaway moggies found on flights from Saudi Arabia and Bangladesh

When a flight from Saudi Arabia landed at Heathrow Airport in April, the airport staff were shocked to discover a terrified cat in the hold.

The poor tabby-and-white moggy was clearly distressed after travelling over 3,000 miles from the Middle East and proved difficult to trap inside the aircraft.


Saudi stowaway cat Cats Protection
Saudi stowed away on flight SV113 from Saudi Arabia
Once he was eventually caught, Victoria Howell, Animal Health Officer at Heathrow Animal Reception Centre, contacted Cats Protection for help in caring for him and tracing his owner.

As there was no record of any cats on flight SV113, it is thought the moggy, who has now been named Saudi, must have been a stowaway who sneaked on board at King Abdulaziz International Airport near Jeddah.

He is not microchipped and so Cats Protection is appealing for anyone with information about his owner to come forward.

If you have any information about Saudi, please contact Cats Protection’s National Information Line by emailing info@cats.org.uk or calling 03000 12 12 12.

The second stowaway cat arrived just a few weeks later and was discovered in a suitcase full of mangoes, pineapple and rice.


Stowaway cat Mango
Mango was found in a suitcase having travelled from Bangladesh
The suitcase owner, who had arrived from Bangladesh, recognised the friendly kitten as belonging to his maid and said it must have been on two flights before arriving at Heathrow.

“It’s extraordinary how both these cats survived their long journeys with little ventilation – especially the kitten,” said Beverley Russell, Cats Protection’s Operations Support Manager. “We can only assume he ate some of the food in the suitcase so he’s been given the name Mango. Both cats are now in quarantine and we’ll be looking for new owners once they’re out - unless we can trace the owner of the Middle Eastern cat.”

If you would like to make a contribution to the cost of the cats’ quarantine fees, you can text QUAR56 with the amount to 70070 (example QUAR56 £5 to 70070) or visit: www.justgiving.com/catsprotectionquarantineappeal

Friday, 20 July 2018

Kitten Academy: Discovering new sights, sounds and smells

Follow the progress of kittens Apple and Apricot over the next few weeks in our Kitten Academy series.

Four-week-old Apple and her sister Apricot are starting to get much more energetic as they grow up! Apple, in particular, loves to chase her toys around at top speed and then instantly fall asleep when she gets worn out. She has also started to explore more of her pen, using the cat flap to have a run around in the larger area at the back.

Cats Protection kittens Apple
Apple loves to play with rattling toys
Apricot has been showing interest in her toys too, but still prefers to spend time curled up with her sister or mum Annie. Both of them are still a little unsure of humans, but by going at their own pace they can be encouraged to come forward of their own accord to have a sniff.

Cats Protection kittens Apricot
Apricot having a stretch after waking up from her snooze
To prepare them for life in a proper home, it’s important to get kittens used to experiences that involve each of their senses.

Smell

Smell is an important sense for cats, as they use it to assess their environment and work out what is safe. Therefore, introducing them to a variety of different scents early on is important. For example, placing a clean cloth that carries the scent of a healthy, friendly, vaccinated dog in their pen should help them better adapt to living with a canine in the future.

Hearing

Cats have a particularly acute sense of hearing, and so the bigger the variety of sounds they hear when they’re young, the better. Kittens in Cats Protection’s care are regularly played a CD of common household noises, such as that of washing machines and vacuum cleaners, to prepare them for life in a busy home. They also get to listen to the radio too, so they’re well accustomed to a bit of Ed Sheeran and Little Mix!

Cats Protection kittens Apple and Apricot
Apricot and Apple curled up together for a nap
Taste

At four weeks old, the kittens can begin weaning, so they are provided with a varied menu of cat foods to get them used to different flavours. Apple and Apricot have already begun munching on some cat biscuits, sometimes sitting in the bowl for better access!

Touch

As their pens only have hard plastic and concrete flooring, the kittens are provided with carpet samples, towels and blankets to get them used to different textures beneath their paws. A scratch post or scratch mat also helps them to exhibit their natural scratching behaviour and learn not to destroy the soft furnishings.

Cats Protection kittens Apricot
Apricot likes to stick with mum Annie
Sight

The kittens are given lots of different objects in a variety of shapes and sizes to explore, including a selection of safe toys they can ‘hunt’. Apple and Apricot are particularly interested in batting around a shiny ball that rattles, and chewing on a cardboard box.

Come back next week for more kitten adventures!

For more information about caring for kittens, visit the Cats Protection website.

Thursday, 19 July 2018

Five adorable kittens rescued from Swansea radio station skip

Staff at The Wave and Swansea Sound radio stations in Wales had an eventful day at work when they helped to rescue five cute kittens from a skip outside their headquarters.

They had noticed a moggy hanging around the area for a few weeks, thinking she was an owned cat who was out exploring. However, they soon realised she wasn’t alone.

Early in the morning on 2 July, breakfast show presenter Claire Scott noticed the cat, who she had named Brambles, emerging from an overflowing skip at the back of the office with a couple of tiny kittens in tow.

Brambles had five kittens in the skip
The Wave team called Cats Protection’s Swansea & Distract Branch for help, and they arrived on 5 July to collect the family and take them to the vet.

Brambles was soon tempted into a cat carrier with some food, but the kittens proved a little trickier to find. Luckily, The Wave team were on hand to help out.

"They needed some mug to get into the skip and empty it,” said Rhydderch Wilson from The Wave’s Creative Hub. "I spent a very sweaty, dirty hour in the skip, carefully emptying the rubbish out, knowing there were several delicate life forms in there.

Lots of rubbish had to be removed from the skip

"So I lift up a huge great cardboard box and underneath found three kittens huddled together with a fourth attempting a daring escape. I grabbed the fleeing kitten and popped it into a little basket along with her three chums.

"We were confident we had found all of the kittens, however Anne from Cats Protection suggested we needed to keep digging, just in case. Ten minutes later we found a surprise fifth kitten!”

All of the kittens, one of which is now named Skippy, were then taken to the vet and reunited with their mum. The family are now in the care of the Swansea & District Branch and will neutered before being found loving new homes.

The kittens will be neutered, microchipped, vaccinated and rehomed
That’s not the whole story though. Before Cats Protection arrived, radio presenter Badger had a shock when he found a surprising passenger in his car.

"It was a hot day and I left the doors open on the car to try and cool it down a bit before I went home,” said Badger.

“I jumped in the car, drove about a mile down the road and when I stopped at the traffic lights, I looked in my rear view mirror to see Brambles looking back at me.

"I turned around and returned to the station, pulled into the car park, opened the rear door to let Brambles out. Anyone looking out of the window would have thought I had chauffeur-driven a cat into The Wave car park!"

Monday, 16 July 2018

Fergal the world-famous feline who finally found affection

Fergal, the cat reported to Cats Protection’s Chiltern Branch as a ‘mean and ugly’ stray, has been rehomed after becoming a social media superstar.

The tabby-and-white cat had become known locally for his swollen face and tendency to fight, and was found in a sorry state on the streets of Chesham where it’s thought he had been for a number of years.
Fergal cat Cats Protection
Fergal's battered appearance caused him to be overlooked by adopters
The Chiltern Branch collected him and took him to the vets, where he was treated for weeping abscesses on his face, had broken teeth removed, was neutered and diagnosed as FIV positive.

Once back in the charity’s care he became the focus of the @ChilternCPCat Twitter feed, and his battered appearance and hard-luck story soon won him many loyal fans. He racked up a sizeable 3,095 followers and messages from Argentina, Finland, India and the USA filled the account’s inbox.

Fergal cat Cats Protection
Fergal with his blanket that was donated all the way from New York
Monetary donations totalling £1,247 covered the poor puss’s vet bills, with the remainder used to help other cats in the branch’s care. Food, treats, toys, blankets, brushes and more also arrived from donors around the globe.

Heather Carpenter from New York sent a homemade blanket and toy mouse across the pond. She said: “I sent the blanket because I think every cat needs to know he or she is loved. Even knowing I couldn't adopt him, I fell in love with Fergal right away and wanted him to know that he is loved. Even when you're terrified and lonely, knowing someone somewhere loves you makes all the difference.”

Slowly, Fergal began to grow more confident and began accepting fuss and cuddles, but despite his fame, he was overlooked by many potential adopters who were deterred by his unconventional appearance. However, one man who was not put off, Chris Elliot, eventually took Fergal into his home.

Fergal cat Cats Protection
Fergal was pleased to meet his new owner Chris
“He reminded me so much of myself!” said Chris. “I had been down and broken and, very fortunately, been able to pull myself up and out. Now I could see the chance and opportunity to help such a gorgeous and adorable animal to recover and enjoy a peaceful and happy future and a healthy and loving life with me. When I met him I could see that he had a sad-looking face but also an extremely friendly nature.”

Fergal cat Cats Protection
Fergal happy and relaxed in his new home. Credit: Chris Elliot
Chris wasn’t aware of Fergal’s Twitter fame when he decided to adopt him, but was touched to hear about the love he has been shown online. He said: “It’s unusual having a celebrity cat but lovely to know so many people across the world love him as much as I do – we still have so many gifts and toys to rediscover and enjoy now that he is a bit more settled and is starting to play.

“Fergal took some time to settle but now we are great friends. I have begun to know some of his sweet quirks including his love of breakfast al fresco in his new ‘catio’, and his dislike of sharing my attention with the computer – he is truly adorable, and I’m thrilled to have him in my life.”

To find your own feline friend like Fergal, visit www.cats.org.uk/find-a-cat to see the cats looking for homes in your area.

Friday, 13 July 2018

Kitten Academy: Getting the kittens used to different people

Follow the progress of kittens Apple and Apricot over the next few weeks in our Kitten Academy series.

Apple and Apricot are now three weeks old and already looking much bigger and fluffier than they did just a week ago. Apple, in particular, is very fuzzy and still twice the size of her sister Apricot, who is now looking more grey than black as her fur grows.

Black kitten Apple
Fuzzy Apple likes to play

They are still keen to spend a lot of time with their mum Annie, but she enjoys a break every now and then, happily coming out of the pen for lap time and a fuss.

While she is purring away having strokes and head rubs, each kitten can be very briefly picked up and handled before being returned to their sibling inside the pen. When the mum is so affectionate, like Annie is, it helps to be able to work as a team of two socialisers for this, so that she can get plenty of attention too!

Black cat Annie
Annie enjoying some lap time
For cats, the tolerance of and desire to be around people is a learned behaviour, not a natural instinct, so it’s important to gradually get them used to being handled early on. At six weeks old their fear response begins to set in, and so if they have not had any human contact before this age it becomes very difficult to get them used to people. Then after they reach the end of their socialisation period at eight weeks old, it becomes almost impossible!

Grey kitten Apricot
Tiny Apricot loves her mum
It’s not just important to get them used to one or two people though. Ideally, they should be handled by a minimum of four different people, including men, women, children and older people. A kitten that has only ever been handled by women may grow up to be fearful of men, so Cats Protection is always in need of volunteer socialisers of all ages and genders to ensure the kittens in their care are well-socialised.

Between brief handling sessions, curious Apple loves to play with her shiny rattling ball, batting it with her paws and chasing it around the pen until she wears herself out. Meanwhile, Apricot is still very much a mummy’s girl, preferring to spend her time snoozing with Annie. She clearly lets you know when she’s had enough of being handled, as she starts to mew for mum! Annie is still doing an excellent job of doting on her little ones, regularly licking them to give them a wash and lying there very patiently as they try to catch her tail.

Come back next week when the kittens are four weeks old to find out how their socialisation is going!

For more information about caring for kittens, visit the Cats Protection website.

Thursday, 12 July 2018

Kitten watch: The kittens are settled in their forever homes

Back in February we began our kitten watch series, following the progress of an adorable litter of kittens being cared for at Cats Protection’s Bridgend Adoption Centre.

In May they were finally old enough to go to their forever homes and we have now had an update from some of their new owners on how three of the kittens are getting on. Their lovely mum Daisy was also adopted by a loving new family, and we have an update on her too!

Emma and Eira

Emma and Eira tabby and white kittens

Sisters Emma and Eira were adopted together and have now been renamed Lilly and Lollipop. Their new owner said: “They are just the most delightful little kittens ever. They settled in so well from day one and they have grown so much and are full of character and mischief. Emma was much smaller than Eira but she now weighs more as they were at the vets recently for their jabs. I don’t know how, as Eira does not like Emma getting anything and tries to steal her food and love/attention.

“They are both very vocal, in particular Emma as she likes a good old meow when she needs/wants something and I call them our little tractors as they purr so much, in particular, Eira. They follow me around the house and play together so beautifully.

“Thank you so much for these two beautiful little girls, you guys and Daisy did so well. Myself and my children, who are aged eight and nine, are just so in love with them and they get treated like royalty so they are very happy...as are we! Thank you for all the wonderful work you all do over at Cats Protection, you truly are gems."

Dewi

Dewi tabby and white kitten

The only boy of the litter, Dewi, has now been renamed Ozzy. His owner said: “He is a fantastic kitten. He is very playful and happy and enjoys sitting in the garden with us. He has started to become more confident and welcomes us when coming home and he always takes an interest at dinner times."

Daisy

Daisy tabby and white cat

Three-year-old Daisy came into the Bridgend centre after her owners moved away and left her behind. She was already heavily pregnant when she arrived and did a wonderful job of giving birth to and raising her litter. She has now been neutered, so she doesn’t have to worry about going through the ordeal of having kittens again, and is enjoying the chance to relax in her new forever home.

Her new owner said: "Daisy is settling in very slowly, loving the attention and is very affectionate but her nervousness was apparent on bringing her home. She needs a lot of reassurance when we are standing up and she is on the floor, she clearly doesn’t trust feet. On the whole she is a delight and very clean but it will take a long time to undo any traumas she has had."

It’s lovely to hear that the kittens and Daisy are happy and healthy in their forever homes.

If you’d like to learn more about how Cats Protection prepare kittens for their forever homes, take a look at our new Kitten Academy blog series following the progress of adorable kittens Apple and Apricot!

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

One million steps to raise money for cats and kittens

Cat lover Paul Willis has pledged to walk an incredible one million steps in just three months to raise money for Cats Protection’s Scunthorpe Branch.

Starting in July, he will walk around 11,000 steps a day (equal to around five miles) and by September hopes to have walked 460 miles in total – that’s almost the equivalent of walking from London to Aberdeen!

Paul decided to take up this challenge after adopting his adorable cat Pebbles from our Scunthorpe Branch in February 2018.

Paul Willis and Pebbles the cat

“After I separated from my wife last summer and moved into my own place it was always my intention to have cat once I'd settled in,” explained Paul. “I much prefer cats to dogs as companions as they match my character more – independent, self-sufficient and low maintenance!

“I searched online for rehoming centres and discovered Scunthorpe Cats Protection. I went on their webpage and when I saw Pebbles I was immediately struck by her black and white markings and piercing green eyes.

“She has settled in really well and certainly lets me know exactly what she wants! We have been sharing a home now for nearly four months and she is great company. She is always sat waiting for me when I get home in the evening, wanting a stroke and some food.

“The idea for raising money for Cats Protection came from a previous walk I did last summer for Cancer Research. I walked 10,000 steps per day during June last year and raised about £150. This year I wanted to do something similar to challenge myself, as I'm not generally one for exercise!”

All of the money Paul raises will make a real difference to the lives of more cats like Pebbles. Cats Protection helps around 200,000 cats and kittens every year through rehoming, neutering and educating the public about cats’ needs.

If you would like to sponsor Paul and raise much-needed fund to care for unwanted cats and kittens, visit his JustGiving page.

To find ideas and support for hosting your own fundraising challenge for Cats Protection, visit our website.   

Monday, 9 July 2018

How to train your cat to use the litter tray, cat flap and cat carrier

While training your cat to do tricks can provide them with valuable mental stimulation and impress your friends, it’s best to start by teaching them some essential life skills before you tackle the tricky stuff. Here’s some advice on how to get your cat used to the litter tray, cat flap and the dreaded cat carrier!

Toilet training

cat and litter tray

You may wonder how best to house-train a cat, but the reality is that usually there is no need. If they are provided with an appropriate litter tray as a kitten, they will naturally follow their mother’s lead in using the tray as they grow up. Therefore, whether you are buying a kitten or rescuing one, ensure that they have had access to an appropriate litter tray for the first eight weeks of their life.

Often the litter substrate a cat uses as a kitten is the type they will prefer throughout their life. Make sure you ask the rescue centre or breeder which type your new cat prefers and use that to begin with. If you do decide that you want to change to a different litter, do this gradually over time so the cat can get used to it. If your cat is not using the litter tray, try changing the substrate to fine play sand or soil as these more closely mimic what cats would naturally like to toilet in.

Other toileting tips for your cat:
  • the ideal litter tray needs to be big enough for the cat to turn around in and contain litter approximately 3cm in depth so they can bury their waste
  • place the litter tray in a private, quiet location. Cats will be far less likely to use a litter tray in a busy area or, for example, one placed directly in front of a noisy washing machine!
  • cats are very clean creatures, so their litter tray needs to be cleaned out at least once a day
  • if there is more than one cat in the household, ensure that there is at least one litter tray per cat
Don’t get in a flap

cat and cat flap

Another important life skill for your cat to learn is using a cat flap, if you have one installed in your home. Here are some simple steps you can follow to help them learn how to come and go as they please.
  1. Prop open the cat flap and let your cat explore around it. It will help if you have something super exciting for them on the other side of the flap, such as a person they really like or a tasty treat.
  2. Give your cat space to access the cat flap on their own and once they have gone through it a couple of times, lower the height of the flap slightly.
  3. As they get more confident, gradually lower the flap some more.
  4. Repeat until the flap is no longer propped open at all and your cat is happy to go in and out with no incentive.
If your cat is particularly nervous, it may take some more time. Be patient and do not get frustrated. If they do not like going through small spaces or things going over their head, start them off with something easier. For example, place a large box that is open at both ends in an open doorway and reward your cat for exploring and walking through it. Once they are confident walking through this larger space, they may be ready to tackle something a little smaller like a cat flap. Sessions with the cat flap need only be a few minutes long and your cat will normally pick it up in a few days.

Getting carried away

cat and cat carrier

To prevent future vet visits from becoming a wrestling match between you and your moggy, it’s a good idea to get them used to the cat carrier as early as possible. You never know when you may need to use it, so follow these steps for stress-free cat travel.
  1. Leave the carrier out in a quiet place that your cat is likely to visit and put one of your cat’s blankets inside so that it smells familiar. If your cat is particularly tentative around the carrier, try to make it as open and uncovered as possible. Don’t put pressure on your cat to go in straightaway.
  2. After they have explored the carrier a number of times, try putting a tasty treat in the entrance to it. If the cat is scared, you may want to put the treat outside the front of the carrier and then leave them to find it on their own.
  3. Once your cat is comfortable taking a small treat from the carrier, start feeding small parts of their meal inside the carrier, building up the time they voluntarily spend inside it.
  4. Next, start gradually closing the door of the carrier while your cat is voluntarily inside. Only shut it for a few seconds at a time initially and then build this up over time. Do this until you can close the door on the cat carrier and your cat remains calm inside. If your cat panics and rushes out you have gone too fast and will need to go back a step.
  5. If your cat continues to be nervous of the carrier or suspicious of humans near the carrier, gradually start draping a blanket over the entrance so they have to brush past it to get the food. Continue this until the blanket covers all of the entrance but your cat can still creep in. This will help to get them used to being enclosed in a more gradual way.
  6. When your cat is confident being enclosed in the carrier and picked up then you just need to get the carrier out every now and again with a tasty treat or favourite toy in it to maintain the positive association.
This whole process will only take a few minutes of your time over the course of a couple of days. At each stage reward your cat with food or praise for remaining calm.

Remember, any form of training should be relaxed for both you and your cat so if you are getting frustrated that your feline isn’t grasping it quick enough, simply take a break and try again later.

If you have any problems training your cat, take a look at our advice on the Cats Protection website or contact a qualified behaviourist.

See also:
How to train your cat to respond to their name
How to train your cat to use a scratch post
How to train your cat to toilet outside
How to train your cat to be comfortable with handling
How to train your cat to sit on command
How to train your cat to lie down on command

Saturday, 7 July 2018

Why is chocolate poisonous for cats?

A bar of chocolate may be a tasty treat for us humans, but you should never share it with your cat.

Chocolate contains a chemical compound called theobromine which is toxic for cats and dogs. It acts as a stimulant to increase their heart rate and a diuretic to increase the loss of their bodily fluids, both of which can prove fatal.

Credit: iStock.com/cunfek
In fact, theobromine is actually toxic for us too, but because our bodies can process it more effectively, we would need to eat around 70 grams to reach a lethal dose. That equates to eating around 35 kilograms of milk chocolate in one go, which isn’t easy for us to do!

Cats and dogs are not as good at processing theobromine, so it stays in their bloodstream for much longer and can accumulate to dangerous levels more easily. Therefore, eating just a couple of grams of chocolate can be fatal for a cat.

Dark chocolate with a higher percentage of cocoa content will contain more theobromine than milk or white chocolate, but all are dangerous. If your moggy has scoffed any of your chocolate stash you should take them to a vet straight away.

Some the symptoms of chocolate poisoning in cats you should look out for are:
  • vomiting
  • diarrhoea
  • excessive urination
  • irregular heartbeat
  • seizures
The severity of these symptoms will depend on your cat’s weight and how much chocolate they have eaten, but if you’re worried it’s best not to wait for the signs to appear before taking them to the vet.

Luckily, your cat is unlikely to want to try your chocolate anyway, as they lack the ability to taste sweetness like most other mammals can. However, you should still always keep it out of their reach just in case they get curious.

Your cat may not be able to enjoy a chocolate treat, but you can! Find out how to make some purrfect chocolate paw print cupcakes in our video below:



To find out more about what you should and shouldn’t feed your cat, take a look at our handy guide.

For more advice about your cat’s diet, visit the Cats Protection website.

Friday, 6 July 2018

Kitten Academy: Preparing kittens for life in their forever homes

Follow the progress of kittens Apple and Apricot over the next few weeks in our Kitten Academy series.

The first two months of a kitten’s life are crucial for preparing them for the big wide world. Known as the ‘socialisation period’, this is when their brains and senses are still developing and they learn what is normal and safe.

When kittens are born in Cats Protection’s care, or come into our care when they are very young, our volunteers and staff follow a structured socialisation programme to prepare them for a variety of experiences they may encounter in later life.

Over the next few weeks we’ll follow the progress of Apple and Apricot, two female kittens at one of our adoption centres, as they embark on this programme and get ready for finding their forever homes.

black cat Annie
Lovely mum Annie
Their lovely mum Annie came into our care as a pregnant stray in May. At just two years old she’s only recently been a kitten herself, but did a wonderful job of giving birth to her litter. Straight away it was easy to tell both kittens apart as Apple is more than twice the size of her sister Apricot, as you can see in the video below! However, they are both healthy and being well cared for by their attentive mum and the centre’s hard-working volunteers and staff.


During their first weeks of life they spent much of their time cuddled up to Annie to keep warm and feed on her nutritious milk, but when they reached two weeks old and their eyes and ears started to open, they were ready to start Kitten Academy.

The most important part of any socialisation session is to ensure the kittens stay safe and healthy, so anyone handling them must wear personal protective equipment including disposable gloves, an apron and shoe covers to prevent the spread of infectious disease.



Once kitted out, it’s good for the socialiser to spend some time with the kittens’ mum first, even before she gives birth. This helps her get used to having them around so she is more comfortable with them approaching her litter. Annie loves a fuss and often comes straight up to the entrance of the pen for a head rub, sometimes pushing her head in the way of her kittens to make sure she gets some attention first! When mum has had a chin rub or two, the kittens can then get in on the action with some very gentle strokes.


black cat Annie
Annie loves having a fuss
As cats are solitary animals and do not have an inbuilt need to be with people, it’s important for them to get used to being around humans before they reach eight weeks old. Regular short sessions of gradually introducing and repeating human contact within the safety of the kittens’ pen helps them to see it as a positive experience. Without this contact, they are likely to grow up to fear humans and become feral cats that cannot be rehomed as pets.

While it’s certainly fun and rewarding to be kitten socialiser, you also need a lot of patience as it’s important to go at the kitten’s own pace, paying attention to their behaviour and recognising the signs to slow down. Apple and Apricot were curious about being touched during their first socialisation sessions, but in just a week they have become much more comfortable with someone other than their mum giving them some attention.


Most of their time though is spent snuggled up with Annie and each other, as kitten need lots of sleep to grow big and strong. Apricot is particularly keen to spend her time snoozing, as you can see in the video above, but then she does have a lot more growing to do compared to her sister! They don’t like being separated from their mum for very long, and will let her know when they want her back by making cute little mewing noises. Annie is such a good mum that she will usually come straight away to let them feed, give them a wash or have a cuddle.

Come back next week to find out how these sweet sisters are getting on when they turn three weeks old!

For more information about caring for kittens, visit the Cats Protection website.

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Cats Protection Christmas animation star Kozal loves a summer snooze

You may remember the tear-jerking animated film we released for Christmas 2017, in which a lovely ginger cat finally found a forever home after being overlooked time and time again.

If you haven’t watched it yet, grab some tissues and click play below!



The film was actually based on a true story, that of 16-year-old Kozal who spent seven long months at Cats Protection’s National Cat Adoption Centre in Sussex.

He was finally adopted just before Christmas by cat-lover Jill Cash and her husband who saw his picture in their local newspaper, and they have now sent us an update on how their mature moggy is getting on.

Kozal ginger cat cats protection

“Both Kozal and I are enjoying this glorious weather,” said Jill. “He loves a spot of early morning sun worshipping, after a hearty breakfast that is – he certainly has his priorities right. He is an early riser, especially on these light mornings.

“As soon as he is awake, either on my bed or in his favourite armchair, he heads for the wide windowsill upstairs and watches the world waking up. His latest fixation is with one of our local foxes who has worked out that the neighbours don't close their bin lid.”

Kozal ginger cat cats protection

Jill explains that Kozal has become even more laid back in his new home, but while he may be a golden oldie, he still likes to play with his catnip toys every now and then.

“He is a bit grumpy at times but that doesn't make me regret homing him. He can be really cute when he sits on your lap and purrs his heart out of an evening.”
 
Kozal ginger cat cats protection


Kozal is just one of the many mature moggies Cats Protection cares for every year. Sadly, these adorable older cats can take over twice as long to find their forever home as their younger counterparts, but they can be just as loving and playful.

If you can offer a senior kitizen a home, contact your local Cats Protection to ask about their long-stay cats and find your new feline friend: www.cats.org.uk/find-us  

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Why do cats knead?

Although you may refer to it as 'pawing', ‘making biscuits’ or ‘playing the piano’, the behaviour commonly known as kneading is when cats repetitively push each forepaw into a soft surface, often the owner that they happen to be standing on at the time.


via GIPHY

Kneading is actually a behaviour cats learn at kittens, but it sometimes stays with them through to adulthood. As a kitten, kneading serves a practical purpose. Nursing kittens knead around the teat of their mother in order to better stimulate the flow of milk. Therefore, they get a reward for this behaviour in the form of nutritious milk.

Are they milking me?

As Robert De Niro famously quipped in classic comedy Meet the Parents: “I have nipples. Can you milk me?” Could your cat be trying to stimulate milk from you as it kneads your body? Not likely. The actual answer is that no one truly knows why this behaviour is carried into adulthood by some cats.

Kneading as a kitten makes sense because it has a purpose but kneading as an adult cat does not appear to have a purpose. The key focus there being on the word appear. Although we cannot see a purpose, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t one. Cats will seldom exhibit a behaviour for no reason.


via GIPHY

Feline good

The most widely shared theory is that when practicing this behaviour, cats experience similar feelings of contentment that they had while kneading as a kitten. Although we don’t know if they are actually getting the feel good factor from kneading, it would be safe to assume that if there was no reward for the behaviour then the cat would stop doing it. It could be that kneading causes the release of chemical signals in the brain that contribute to the flow of happy and relaxing hormones. If the cat can create their own natural high, it would make sense to keep kneading.

A need to knead

Rather than kneading by choice because it feels good, it’s also possible that it is a more ingrained automatic response. Kittens naturally know to knead their mother to stimulate milk, so it could be that the same sensation on their paws that caused them to knead in kittenhood could also be experienced later on. It may be hard-wired into their brain to start kneading when they feel certain textures under their paws.


via GIPHY

Wild ways

Finding out more about the kneading behaviours of wildcats may provide further insight into this curious behaviour. Would cats in their natural habitat be prone to kneading, or is it only pet moggies with a comfy blanket or human lap that do it?

Our domestic cats have evolved most recently from African wildcats and there is a lesser supported theory that kneading is inherited from their need to pat down areas of long grass to make it comfortable to sleep on. However, as African wildcats are both predator and prey in their natural habitat, they usually prefer to sleep in raised areas to lookout for predators rather than in grass on the ground. Our pet cats share a similar preference for high-up places as well, often to sleep or if they’re spooked by something, so make sure your own feline friend has access to a bed off the ground.

Paws for thought

The enigma of why our adult cats knead will continue to be debated and investigated. What we do know for certain is that this cute kitten behaviour gives owners and their moggies plenty to purr about and there’s no harm in that is there? Well, maybe if they’ve got sharp claws!

For more information about cat behaviour, visit the Cats Protection website.

Monday, 2 July 2018

Frostbitten kitten who lost his toes is now exploring his new home

When the Beast from the East and Storm Emma struck the UK at the end of February, humans and moggies alike tried to keep warm as the snow fell. Unfortunately, one poor family of cats struggled more than most in the cold conditions.

During a particularly heavy frost in March, Cats Protection’s South Wirral Branch received a phone call from a woman whose long-haired tabby Savannah had given birth.

She had found the mum and her newborn kittens outside in the cold and quickly brought them in to get them warm. Sadly, it was too late for four of the five kittens who had not survived the freezing conditions, but one tiny tabby was still clinging to life.


Cats Protection tabby mum and kitten
Savannah and her only surviving kitten
The branch’s rehoming volunteer drove to the house straight away and took the mum and her surviving kitten to the emergency vet for treatment.

It was soon discovered that the kitten had suffered from severe frostbite, which had affected the tip of his tail and all of his paws. Each paw has at least one toe missing, and one had even lost them all.

Given a 50/50 chance of survival, there was great doubt that even if this little kitten did pull through, he would never be able to walk again.


Cats Protection tabby mum and kitten
Savannah took good care of her little one
However, as the weeks passed, he slowly managed to gain enough strength to take some very wobbly steps. The volunteers named him Ali, after the boxer Mohammed Ali, because he was proving to be a little fighter, and soon started to see a cheeky personality shine through.

By the time he was six weeks old, he was walking like a normal kitten with only a slight limp on his back foot, the one missing all of its toes.


Cats Protection tabby kitten
Despite not having many claws, Alan is doing well
Many people came forward to donate towards his care and offer him a home but in the end it was Ali’s vet Matthew who adopted him, charmed by the poor kitten’s spirit and determination. He is now in excellent hands for any future vet care he may need and has been renamed Alan, after actor Alan Rickman.

“We couldn’t be happier with our little bundle of fluff,” said Matthew’s girlfriend Meg. “When we first saw Alan, Matt was worried whether he would survive. Alan has defied all odds and certainly is a miracle. He’s growing in confidence and developing his character each day – turning out to be a very cheeky chap! We are looking forward to many happy years with him.”


Cats Protection tabby kitten
Alan's lack of toes doesn't stop him having fun
Alan’s mum Savannah has also now found a new home after being neutered. She is settling in well now she has come in from the cold and can look forward to a relaxing life without the stress of having any more kittens.

Cats Protection’s South Wirral Branch would like to thank everyone who donated towards Alan’s care and helped him get back on his paws.

To find out how you can support Cats Protection's work to help cats and kittens, visit www.cats.org.uk/support-us