What the Romans did for puss Meet the cats of Rome and York
Cats in cyberspace The moggies are taking over!
“She’s certifiable but I love her” Ê7`LÕÀÊÊ iÀÊV>ÌÃ
UÊ >ÀiÊvÀÊ>ÊL`ÊV>ÌÊ UÊ/>ViÊviiÊLÕÞ}
Plus Óää½ÃÊ i>`iÊviiÃ]
Ì iÊ>}VÊvÊ¼ >VLi>À`½ÊE «Õ`iÀÊ>Ê«iÌ À>ÊvÊ«ÀâiÃ
…to the Winter 2009 issue of The Cat
Amy Rutter Editorial Assistant Tom Briggs Assistant Editor
Contacts For editorial submissions to the magazine The Editor, The Cat magazine, National Cat Centre, Chelwood Gate, Haywards Heath RH17 7TT Email: email@example.com Web: www.thecat.org.uk We reserve the right to edit material for clarity or space. Cats Protection is not responsible for the opinions, advice and factual content of contributed items. The views expressed do not necessarily conform to those of the Trustees. To book advertising Terry Lock Media Sales, 3 Forest Way, Ashtead, Surrey KT21 1JN Phone: 01372 276 233 Fax: 08707 051 901 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Advertisements are accepted in good faith and we endeavour to check their accuracy. However, the charity gives no guarantees or endorsements of the products or services advertised. Cats Protection cannot accept responsibility for any correspondence between the parties, nor can they be expected to arbitrate should any dispute arise. To change your details, become a Special Friend, subscribe, make a donation or become a member of Cats Protection: Supporter Services, Cats Protection, National Cat Centre, Chelwood Gate, Haywards Heath RH17 7TT Email: email@example.com Phone: 0800 917 2287 For all other enquiries: Cats Protection, National Cat Centre (NCC), Chelwood Gate, Haywards Heath RH17 7TT Phone: 03000 12 12 12 (Calls charged at national rate) Fax: 08707 708 265 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Web: www.cats.org.uk
PS Don’t forget there’s still time to get your cat-themed Christmas presents from our CP catalogue. This is available by post and online, see pages 40-41 for further details.
Published quarterly by Cats Protection. Printed by Gemini Press Ltd. Printed on paper sourced from carefully-managed and renewed forests. Please recycle this magazine when you have finished with it
Francesca Watson Editor
Ryan O’Hara Senior Designer
Rasoul Hudda Senior Designer
From left to right
he evenings are drawing in, the temperature’s WINTER 2009 What the dropping and the answer Romans did is to sit down with a hot for puss Meet the cat s of Rome and cup of tea and your favourite York cat magazine. It’s another full Cats in and entertaining issue and cyberspace The moggies are taking ove guaranteed to brighten up even r! the dullest day. “She’s certifiab but I love her” le In this edition we travel to the Ê7`L ÕÀÊÊ iÀÊV> ÌÃ delightful city of York where How to Tom Briggs reveals its hidden UÊ >ÀiÊvÀÊ> ÊL UÊ/>ViÊvii `ÊV>ÌÊ ÊLÕÞ} feline delights, pages 18-20 and we also venture further Plus Óää½ÃÊ i> Ì iÊ>}VÊvÊ¼ `iÊviiÃ] afield and visit the Torre >VLi>À`½ÊE «Õ`iÀÊ>Ê«i Ì À>ÊvÊ«ÀâiÃ Argentina cat sanctuary in Rome, pages 32-34. Amy Rutter gets her virtual boogie board out and surfs the web in search of all things feline… you’d be surprised what’s out there! On pages 36-38 Natasha Mitchell, a vet who specialises in ophthalmology, shows you how to adapt if your beloved feline friend goes blind while Vicky Halls advises on how to deal with feline bullying on pages 28-29. We have a news review of the cats that made the headlines in 2009 on pages 44-45, while four recent adoption centre residents test out cat carriers on page 27 in Tried and tested, and we have numerous treats to give away throughout the magazine. Our four Tried and tested cat reviewers are not part of our giveaway bonanza, but their former Cat Cabin neighbours are up for adoption along with many others in all our branches and centres around the country – so if you’re interested, give us a call on our new Helpline number 03000 12 12 12! From everyone at Cats Protection we hope you have a very merry Christmas and an even better New Year!
Cats Protection’s vision is a world where every cat is treated with kindness and an understanding of its needs. Reg Charity 203644 (England and Wales) and SC037711 (Scotland)
Do you have an interesting story to tell, a point of view you want to air or something that you just have to get off your chest?
GIVE US A HUG!
From: Keavy McBrown, age eight, Cooksbridge, East Sussex ne afternoon we went into Cats Protection and fell in love with two cats. Then we found out they were indoor cats and needed a quiet family – ours is not always that quiet sometimes. So we were a bit disappointed but a kind manager found a cat that was a purrfect kitten called Pumba! She fell in love with us, we fell in love with her – we got her a week later. I am a cat cuddler at the National Cat Centre in Chelwood Gate – you can go up and ask if you can be a cat cuddler. Editor’s note: Cat cuddlers of all ages are welcome at adoption centres, but children must always be accompanied by a parent or guardian over 18 years. All cuddlers will be shown by a staff member what to do; for example the importance of washing hands after cuddling each cat. Although there will always be a few cats that can’t be cuddled – some may not like children, be too shy etc – it can be beneficial for all the felines to meet cuddlers or visitors of various ages. For more information, please phone 03000 12 12 12.
Send your thoughts, views, stories, funny photos and ‘mewsings’ to The Cat magazine, National Cat Centre, Haywards Heath RH17 7TT or email us at email@example.com Don’t forget to tell us your return address and please remember that your letter may be edited for length.
PAWS FOR APPLAUSE From: Anna Bissell, Ongar, Essex refer to Liz Paine’s letter in the Summer 2008 issue of The Cat magazine, about Charlie and the challenge to ‘beat this’ re his 25 toes. Well, my 15-year old-cat, Hope – adopted from Cats Protection’s Bristol & District Branch – can, she has 26 toes! Seven each on the front and six each on the back – is she a record breaker?
Pumba and Keavy
GOLDEN OLDIE From: Alison Staunton, Wicklow, Ireland adopted Pushkin in May 2008. He is a grand old boy of 18, and had lost his leg in a farm accident when he was six. He is part Siamese, very vocal and very demanding. Within a short time he ruled the house including beating up my two young adopted cats. He sleeps on the electric blanket on my side of the bed and demands food when he feels like it, be it 1pm or 2am. I have had cats that grew from kittenhood to old age, but he is my first experience of an elderly disabled cat. He’s the most loving and articulate cat I have ever had. I would recommend anyone taking on a Pushkin is living proof that new cat to consider this as older cats make great pets an option.
That’s handy! Hope has an amazing 26 toes
BERRY HAPPY From: Ann Buglass, Todmorden, Lancs his is Halle Berry, taken in by the Calder Valley Branch and our happy companion for the last five years. She was called Halle Berry because she’s beautiful and not exactly the sharpest catnip mouse in the shed. Anyway, she says thank you for her prize of an incline scratcher. She can’t remember what she had to do to get it, but she loves it. Editor’s note: Glad to hear our Kong Cat Natural scratcher giveway from Spring 2009 has been such a success!
BOXING CLEVER From: Geoffrey Atkinson, Brighton, East Sussex bout to set out and unable to see my cat, I suddenly heard this cry above my head. Looking up I saw my cat Buffy, twisting around in the fork of my hawthorn tree, unable to get back down. I propped various stepladders against the trunk of the tree but Buffy would not come down. After about half an hour I found a small box which had contained a domestic toaster and which Buffy had curled up to sleep in from time to time. I climbed the stepladder and held up the box in front of her. After a little hesitation she jumped into the box and I lifted her down. She was none the worse for her adventure but so far has not climbed the tree again.
FAREWELL TO TABBY TIGER From: Theresa M Carrier, Davenham, Cheshire ou may recall that you kindly featured the remarkable story of Tabby Tiger in your Spring 2006 issue in the article Let’s Celebrate Rescue Cats. Tabbs was a runner up in the Best Friends category and was a particular favourite of the Rescue Awards team. As a sufferer of fibromyalgia, a very debilitating form of arthritis, Tabby Tiger was aware of my medical shortcomings and always supported me with a cuddle or purr. We had a truly close bond and equally I was always there for him. He was hit by a car seven years ago and his vet discovered he had cardiomyopathy. Two years ago he was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism and, despite being given a 50/50 chance of survival, pulled through his operation. Sadly the damage to Tabby Tiger’s kidneys was so great that I had to let him go in July, in my arms and with the very vet who had given him another chance. How apt then that this Autumn’s edition included an article by Jamie Andrew, Time to say Goodbye and as he looks for his beloved Smeagol in familiar places so do I look for my handsome boy and for the first time I face retirement completely on my own; it is so life changing for me and I am having to define a new routine for myself. Following on from the Rescue Cat Awards, Tabby Tiger’s wonderful story touched many a journalist’s heart and he featured in various publications. I was delighted when he was chosen as the Kitzyme Cat of the year in 2004 and started to write poems and short stories about our life together. Our first story was published in the Smarter than Jack book that was published to raise funds for Cats Protection. Very many thanks for helping to give Tabby Tiger such a remarkable life.
Buffy loves her toasty box!
Our Star Letter wins a fantastic Willow’s Cat-a-Sphere Cat Bed made from natural banana leaf. It comes complete with cotton cushion and will give your cat a cocoon of cosiness in which to snooze the day away! All other printed letters will win one of these Willow’s Bags of Fun sets of toys which should keep your moggy amused for hours. Our thanks to Pets at Home for kindly donating these prizes; visit www.petsathome.com to see their full range of products or phone 08701 943 600 for more information.
BUZZING AROUND From: Kate Harper, via email aving always had cats around when growing up, I wanted cats as an adult, but living in a first-floor London flat I didn’t feel I had the right facilities. In 2003 I was washing up when I heard a miaow and a jingle from my wind chime, I turned around and this thin ruffled, unkempt tortoiseshell came through my bathroom window. My eyes lit up and I immediately gave him a tin of sardines. Not surprisingly this cat continued to come in every day and a week later I was buying proper cat food. Every day my visitor would be at my window miaowing, hesitant and curious. I decided that this moggy looked like a boy and called him Buzz – more due to the lack of elegance in his style and how he presented himself. He was an extremely nervous cat and wouldn’t come close to me. I would try and stroke him, but he would scarper! If I stroked his back he would turn around and swipe me with claws out. The slightest sound would make him dash through the window, not to be seen until the following night. Three months in and I took him to the vet as I had decided that I had been adopted by this naughty tortie. Within minutes I was told that ‘he’ was indeed a ‘she’. They estimated her age to be around two and the vet confirmed what I thought, that she had possibly been ill-treated hence the anger when touching her back. I have since moved and Buzz and I now live in harmony. She will be eight this year and due to a lot of love, fuss and patience over the years she has become a lap cat – loving, docile – on her terms! – and beautiful. She still waits at the door for me to come home of an evening and sleeps in my bed with me. She is also friendly towards visitors and wants to be the centre of attention. She is the best thing that happened to me at that time and I think I am the best thing that happened to her too.
Buzz is happy in her new home
CP – THE NEXT GENERATION From: Ron and Jane Scott, via email ur daughter, Charlotte, aged nine, really enjoyed the local Cats Protection event in Chavey Down, Berkshire in July. She loves her British Shorthair cat named Daisy. Plus she has a great aunt Margaret who is an active member of Cats Protection. Charlotte is also a dedicated reader of The Cat – here she is sporting her Cats Protection paraphernalia, plus a photograph of her beloved cat Daisy!
DIESEL’S DEPARTURE From: Derek Shipley, Thurso, Caithness iesel, the dearlyloved cat well known at Inverness station was sadly put to sleep in July. She was at the station for 14 years, along with a fellow feral named Gasket and they were brought gifts and toys from tourists – once from Finland! A wellwisher has since placed a garden gnome and a plant where Diesel used to sleep and the station staff tend the plant in her memory. She will be sadly missed by the staff and commuters alike.
Cats’ tales Funny, weird, or just plain photogenic; this is the place to show off your cat for the remarkable creature he is. If you think you’ve got a cat who deserves his 15 minutes of fame then write to us, at Cats’ Tales, The Cat magazine, National Cat Centre, Chelwood Gate, Haywards Heath RH17 7TT or email firstname.lastname@example.org including a photo of at least 500kb in size. If you would like your photos returned, please enclose a self-addressed envelope.
hh A kiss from a rose From: Annette Morley, St. Albans, Herts Mittens is a loving eight-year-old cat belonging to Annette’s friend, Annette Carrasco. Mittens loves to walk around the garden and often stops to look at her favourite red rose pictured with her, as if to say “I would like to pick this for my owner with love”.
jjDog gone! From: Tom Culver, Cambridge Tom and his family had friends visiting for lunch. Tom’s cats were out in the garden so his friends brought in their little dog as it was too hot for him to wait in the car. He was as good as gold and sat quietly by his master’s chair but then Tom’s cat Natasha came in and spied the canine visitor. The little dog began to whimper and made it clear he would rather wait in the car! As you can see from her reaction, Natasha wasn’t quite as hospitable as Tom!
iiThe ‘lion’ which sleeps on the wardrobe From: Sheila Waite, Torquay, Devon Thomas was adopted from Cats Protection’s Ashburton Branch seven years ago by Sheila. He was only four months old and had had his tail amputated, plus he had sore feet and swollen lips through stress. Sheila felt sorry for him and couldn’t resist taking him home. Despite being a very nervous puss, he soon took to Sheila’s other cats, Muffin and Ebony. His feet have now recovered and he is much more relaxed. Sheila describes him as a complete softy and says his favourite place to rest is in his cosy bed on top of the wardrobe.
The Cat Winter 2009
readers’cats gg Milk of human kindness From: Jenny Cooper, aged nine and a half, Farnham, Surrey Jenny’s cat Milky is approximately five and a half years old. She was very timid when she was adopted from Cats Protection’s Farnham Branch four years ago but, after lots of love and care, Milky is now a very relaxed and happy cat and her favourite pastime is sleeping.
iiPippa’s party piece From: Ena Greig, Dereham, Norfolk Not only can five-year-old Pippa open locked cat flaps, but she likes to play a ‘catching’ game with her biscuits. Her owner Ena throws them so that Pippa can catch or run after them. Ena realised if she can aim correctly, Pippa will catch them one after another; so she began to take count. For some time the record was at 18 but Pippa recently quashed this with a new high score of 27! What a clever girl!
iiFriends forever From: Alyssa Stevendale, York Alyssa’s cats, Jasper and Oscar, are extremely close as you can see from the photo. Jasper was an only cat and, following a car accident and a serious operation, Alyssa decided to keep him indoors. To keep him company she brought home Oscar, another Burmese and, despite being an only cat for five years, Jasper took to Oscar very quickly. Alyssa says they adore each other, spending all of their time together.
Don’t forget, Cats’ Tales is sponsored by Felix so, if your cat gets onto this page, you’ll receive a month’s supply of delicious Felix pouches from the As Good As It Looks range*. Your furry friend will find it irresistible at every mealtime. Felix As Good As It Looks is available in eight flavours, you will find them at your local supermarket or pet store. For more information log onto www.catslikefelix.co.uk *please note that pouches can only be delivered to a UK address.
The Cat Winter 2009
From rapacious Romans to vicious Vikings, York has had its fair share of raiders but now there’s a new kind of interloper in town. Tom Briggs investigates…
ork is a city that is rich in history thanks in no small part to the fact that it has played host to a number of significant conquests in its time. It was established by the Romans before changing hands on several occasions – first came the Angles, then the Vikings and the Normans. It is also the place where Dick Turpin finally succumbed to a theatrical but grisly end and where, in 1995, football minnows York City defeated the mighty Manchester United in the League Cup. However, none of these compare to the latest conquest to occur in the popular northern city – well, that’s a bit of a bold and highly inaccurate statement, but stay with me on this one. Yes, forget all your sword-and-sandal battles, dandy highwaymen and David-and-Goliath-style football fixtures, this invasion has been much more stealthy and subtle; the cats are taking over! It is hard to go far in the picturesque city without encountering effigies of the feline persuasion. So it was that, following in the footsteps of our popular article about London’s legions of cat statues, we at The Cat were unleashed upon the home of the Minster, Eric Bloodaxe and the Kit Kat to bring you another feline-themed visit to one of the UK’s finest cities.
Things are looking up If you consider that York is largely accepted as England’s most haunted city – more on that later – along with the fact that cats have a mysterious side that we still can’t properly explain, it shouldn’t really come as much of a surprise that representations of them are a relatively common sight. The majority of these are in the forms of statues on buildings dotted all around the city. Despite the large population of faux felines, it’s quite easy to miss them as you wander through York’s cobbled streets as they tend to be higher up. Of course, walking around while looking up has its perils such as kerbs, other pedestrians and gesticulating men in white vans – well, there was one of the latter at least – but as long as you sporadically keep an eye on where you’re going,
you’ll notice much more in addition to the cats. The other literal high points include the leaning buildings in York’s most famous street, The Shambles, the stunning architecture that adorns the interior and exterior of the equally renowned Minster, the Stonegate Devil, a further seven devils’ heads, a native American Indian and road signs indicating the names of such brilliant locations as ‘Mad Alice Lane’. It seems that there are two ‘colonies’ of cat statues in York. It is ambiguous as to when the first of these appeared in the city, although most authorities on the subject seem to agree that it was in Victorian times. The reason for their sudden arrival? A definitive answer is frustratingly elusive although some have suggested that the early statuettes were made to keep rats and pigeons away while others think they were simply added in order to attract people – children in particular – to shops. A number of the more recent additions can be attributed to the late Tom Adams, an architect who worked in the city he loved for over 30 years. Adams’ association with cats started when he added one to each of his drawings either to add a sense of scale or simply as a visual signature and it seems that they made a successful transition from paper to the buildings he designed. All of the Adams cats are made out of polyester resin or fibreglass and are the handiwork of local sculptor Jonathan Newdick. To find out much more about York’s cat statuettes, visit the superb Cats in York website – the address is at the end of this article.
Minster moggies The representations of cats are not just restricted to statues, however. One of the must-visit places is the York Minster; not only is it the largest Gothic cathedral in northern Europe, it also has a few cat-like creatures for the eagle-eyed among visitors to the city. The easiest to find of these is in the treasury beneath the Minster and, far from being the particular kind of religious relic you might expect to find, it is a reminder of a macabre chapter in York’s history –
the Vikings! Yes, they did indulge in a fair bit of murder and pillage as they marauded their way across Britain but there is something deeply fascinating about these beardy psychopaths from Scandinavia. While their legacy was a violent and often horrific one, there are some instances of peaceful behaviour and the artefact in question, The Horn of Ulf, is testament to this. The horn is actually part of an elephant tusk which is engraved with cat-like creatures along with unicorns and vines. It once belonged to an ageing Viking nobleman named Ulf who had settled in the area. His sons were constantly bickering over who was to inherit which of his estates, so Ulf decided on a strategy that would eliminate this sibling rivalry – he gave it all to the Church. It is said that Ulf took the horn to the Minster, filled it with wine and slugged it down in one go before placing it on the altar as a symbol of his land changing hands. Quite why there are creatures that resemble cats on it is unclear, but we know that Viking myths often included cats; Freyja the goddess of fertility rode around on a chariot pulled by Norwegian forest cats and there are several other tales of moggies duping thick trolls – it’s okay, we can call them derogatory names as they’re not real.
There is also a cat-like creature being attacked by a knight engraved on one of the Minster’s interior walls, while a similar being can be spotted basking high on one of the chapter house’s outer walls. If you’re looking for cat-themed souvenirs of this fantastic city by this point, you can find The Cat Gallery a stone’s throw away from the Minster on Stonegate while there is also a Cats Protection charity shop slightly further out on Walmgate.
Plague and phantoms One of the frequently suggested reasons that York is reputed to be haunted is due to the alarming number of bodies buried beneath the majority of the city. These include some 3,512 – a third of the estimated population at the time – who died of plague in 1604. Residents of the city did everything they could to contain the outbreak but weren’t helped by the fact that the city was a convenient stopping point for traders making the long journey from Edinburgh to London. A rather backwards decision to kill York’s cats to try and limit the spread of the disease also contributed to the death toll – no, we couldn’t fathom their logic either. Meanwhile, standing in the shadow of the humungous Minster is the Treasurer’s House which is home to a number of spectres. The most famous of these is an entire Roman legion that was first spotted by an apprentice plumber named Harry Martindale in 1953 while working in the cellar – the legion was following what later transpired to be the route of York’s Roman road. Other ghosts include a lady in grey, a dog, two of the building’s previous owners and, not to be outdone, a black cat. York is a city that stands out in its own right as a superb tourist attraction. Its apparent fascination with moggies only serves to add to its charm. Now that the Romans, Angles, Vikings, Normans and, of course, cats have had their turns at invading York, maybe it’s time for cat lovers to follow suit. Ready everyone? Chaaaaarge! To find out more about York’s cat statues and for comprehensive maps showing where to find them, visit the Cats in York website at www.catsinyork.org.uk
Clockwise from right: Thought to be the last Tom Adams cat, this moggy climbed into place in 2006 York Minster is home to a clutch of cat-like creatures This concrete cat appeared during the 1980s This ginger tom is believed to date back to the 1920s Photos: Tom Briggs
shopping w credit card! Get online… for our great ne
Now you can help cats when you hit the shops, thanks to the new Cats Protection Credit Card from MBNA. You’ll receive a competitive rate on purchases and you can even manage your account online. Even better, once your card has been approved and used, Cats Protection will receive a contribution of £20 from the issuer, MBNA Europe Bank Limited, and the cats in our care will continue to benefit as 0.25% is contributed from every retail purchase thereafter at no extra cost to you. For more information and full details please visit:
on balance transfers (3% handling fee) for 12 months and on card purchases for 3 months from the date your account is opened*
typical rate (variable)
* If you do not pay your balance in full we will use your payments to lower rate balances
before higher rate balances. If promotional rate balances are the same we will repay them in the following order: first, the one with the earliest expiry date; if the expiry dates are the same then the one which started first; if the expiry dates, and start dates are the same then the one with the lowest standard rate. The Cats Protection Credit Card is issued by MBNA Europe Bank Limited, Registered office: Stansfield House, Chester Business Park, Chester CH4 9QQ. Registered in England number 2783251. Credit is available, subject to status, only to UK residents aged 18 or over. You cannot transfer balances from another MBNA account. We will monitor or record some phone calls. MBNA is authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority.
Cats in cyberspace Amy Rutter ponders the rituals of cat-crazy web surfers…
ome people just love showing off and the internet has become the perfect forum to do just that. You can write your own blog, upload videos of yourselves playing the prankster on YouTube and advertise yourselves and the great things you have been up to – or eaten for lunch – on social networking sites. But what’s with this new craze of launching your pet cats into cyberspace? From admiring each other’s kitty photos and strange videos to pet dating and even online diploma-achieving cats, the internet has proved to be a very popular way of earning your cat the 15 minutes of fame you think he deserves. Let’s look through some of the ways this has been done.
Feline followers The title of first internet celebrity cat goes to a feline named Frank back in 2003, after search engine Yahoo! declared his contribution to the web as one of its top sites of the year. When, unfortunately, Frank was hit by a car and broke his pelvis, his owner set up webcams and created a website documenting the recovery process. Within minutes of going public, the site had received thousands of hits. Up to the point of his recovery, a total of nearly five million people checked the website to see how Frank was doing. The reasons for this are unknown – Frank’s owner, David Donna said “It’s just one of those things that has been blown out of all proportion.” Maybe so, but was this a sign of how popular cats on the internet could soon become? It was only a matter of time then, with the rise in popularity of social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, that this phenomenon would catch on with pet lovers. Many felines have their own profile pages, allowing them to interact with other users and update their friends and ‘followers’ with their daily antics and thoughts. But why would people do this? Obviously it is the owners and not the actual cats themselves, but individuals clearly enjoy living out their online lives as their cats and seeing things from their point of view. The Facebook application, Catbook, has taken this a stage further by creating a cat-only network. With over 160,000 active monthly users, Catbook allows feline users to search for other cats in their area, chat
Love cats It seems this is not the only time a cat has been used online to help someone’s love life. One of the oddest current trends is pet dating sites. That’s right; singletons searching for love will use their fluffy pride and joy to help them find other animal lovers to have a smooch with. These seem to be more popular in America, but there are also a few UK sites buzzing about. Yourmatepetmate.co.uk is one of the most popular sites that allows members to use pets to find soulmates. The bonus is that users do not have to be pet owners, but will of course have an interest in animals and this will be the talking point. The pet’s picture appears alongside their owner’s, with a brief description of the person and the animal. Essentially, your cat could be the key to unlocking the door to the person of your dreams!
Illustrations: Rasoul Hudda
‘The internet is a very popular way of earning your cat the 15 minutes of fame you think he deserves’
and look at photographs. Rather more confusingly, Catbook has a Twitter page – under the alias Pawis Hilton, a satirical take on celebrity-watcher Perez Hilton – at http://twitter. com/catbooker. Catbook doesn’t stop there, however. The application expands to Fishbook, Dogbook and Horsebook, providing something for every animal lover. Well, not quite every animal, but it sure is getting close. Social networking sites have also been used in more unconventional ways. In April of this year, Facebook was used to reunite a missing cat with his owners when he was found at a humane society in Minnesota, USA. The employee scanned his microchip, only to find that the contact details were out of date. Her next step was going to be to put Bob the cat up for adoption, but in a last attempt to locate the owners, she decided to search for them on Facebook. She found the owner’s personal profile – amazingly, he had only joined the site a week earlier – and sent him a message arranging the collection of Bob. More recently, singer Amy Winehouse allegedly pretended to be her cat, Shirley, to contact her estranged husband using Facebook. It is said that she set up a profile for Shirley and sent messages to ex-husband Blake. Perhaps this is a clue in answering the question of why people set up profiles for their cats: to hide behind another persona and acquire greater anonymity?
Online blogs are often used as an extension of self promotion as they allow for a whole website to be dedicated to a person – or indeed, a cat. Unrestricted on word count, a blogger can natter away to their heart’s content. Blogs – a contraction of the term ‘web logs’ – for this purpose function as a kind of online diary allowing communication, reflection on life and providing social commentary, on a day in the life of a cat, supposedly. Icanhascheezburger.com was started after a random internet find by Eric Nakagawa – a photograph of a smiling cat with the caption “I Can Has a Cheezburger?” After emailing it to a friend, together they began a website which initially only featured this one image but is now listed among the top 10 of the world’s most powerful blogs by The Guardian newspaper. The language used on the site is known as ‘Lolspeak’ which parodies internet slang. Cat-loving visitors to the site can create and vote on captioned photographs of cats in supposedly amusing settings. Another well-known blogger is Willow, a tortoiseshell cat who loves to share the details of her everyday life with everyone and anyone who will listen. Well... read. She writes about her daily antics plus the activities of her “food lady” on her extensive blog at http://willowscatblog.blogspot.com. Unitedcats.com allows you to make a whole website for your cat, look at other people’s cats and communicate with them and comment on the photographs. The feature that sets this apart from blogs and social networking sites is that there is a forum area where members can share advice and experiences.
Surfing kitties Cats truly are taking over! But is the following a step too far? One very intelligent feline has even been awarded an online high school diploma! Kelvin Collins, CEO of the Better Business Bureau in Georgia, USA, was determined to prove that online diplomas are of little real value and so sat the test on behalf of his two-year-old cat, Oreo. Entering Oreo’s name as the test-sitter, Kelvin wrote about Oreo’s life experiences to achieve mainly A grades in the online test. What’s next for the contemporary felines of the online world? It is a possibility that they will soon be ‘cyberslacking’ or ‘social not-working’ along with the rest of us – surfing the web when they should be doing more important things like, in the case of a cat, sleeping. Don’t be surprised if you think your cat is on an outdoor adventure only to find him using the computer to build his own website or upload secretly filmed videos of you falling over onto YouTube. This is closer to becoming a reality than you think.
Picture this! YouTube has created a whole new medium for cats on the internet. Many, many videos can be found of cats, usually doing something silly and being laughed at or having an unusual talent. Nora, the piano playing cat, has gained stardom as a result of her YouTube video hits. Nora has her own website and a DVD of all her videos has been released. Madness? Apparently not, as cat loving internet users can’t get enough! Five-year-old Nora even inspired Lithuanian conductor Mindaugas Piecaitis’ first composition and he included Nora’s video performance in what he called his CATcerto. The performance at www.catcerto.com has currently had around a million views. Extending this phenomenon further, funnycatvideos.net, as the name suggests, is a site completely dedicated to cat videos. It does what it says on the tin and lists videos of cats performing various actions – users can submit videos of their own cats and get new videos uploaded sent directly to their inboxes. Similarly, photo sharing sites are often used by people to show off weird and wonderful images of their mogs to the online world. Amusing pictures of so-called ‘Kitlers’ – Hitlermoustache-clad kitties – can be posted on www.catsthatlooklikehitler.com. Humorous site www.kittenwar.com presents you with side-by-side photographs of two kittens and instructs you to vote for the cutest. Users can upload their own kitten pictures for others to vote for and against. Kittenwar also has its own Facebook group and MySpace page, giving users even more online space to parade their cute kittens!
Top: Nora, the piano playing puss Right: Catbook’s Twitter page Bottom: Yourmatepetmate: dating for pet owners
An appetite for life Bronya Glet remembers an adored friend who had a taste for the finer things in life
ooty and her sister Bramble came into my life aged about five in 1991 as rescue cats from my local Cats Protection branch. They were the first and only cats we saw, Sooty having firmly planted herself on my knee. We barely saw shy Bramble as Sooty took over proceedings. Their names then were Whisky and Brandy. We decided that Brandy would become Bramble, sounding similar, but weren’t sure what to call Whisky. We left them in the kitchen that first night and when I came down next morning, there was no sign of Whisky. I became aware of a scrabbling noise from the chimney and out emerged a very sooty cat – name resolved. Sooty and I quickly became devoted to one another. She would follow me around the house and garden, even sitting on the loo seat while I was in the shower. She loved to drape herself over my shoulders and I learned to carry out my household tasks while carrying her. Both she and Bramble were extremely chatty and we soon established an extensive dialogue as I mimicked their sounds in regular conversation. Shortly after we adopted her she was diagnosed with a rodent ulcer, which meant she had to have a tiny amount of steroid tablet every other day for life. This had the unfortunate side effect of making her obsessed with food. Sooty’s greed was legendary. Our lovely neighbour had the same type of magnetic cat flap as ours and Sooty first disgraced herself by eating a fruit cake which was cooling in her kitchen. After two fruit cakes and one leftover roast chicken, her magnet was confiscated, depriving her of entry to this food heaven. Sooty loved roast dinners and always sat hopefully on a spare chair at the table,
greedily swiping at any morsel offered. She was desperate for breakfast in the mornings and would charge over my bed to wake me up. To get some peace, I invested in timer bowls, but she quickly learned that if she pushed and nudged the bowl towards opening time it could be forced to open a little earlier. This was a very noisy activity, but at least I could stay in bed! In 2002, after coming back from a holiday, I noticed she wasn’t eating much. I took her to the vet for what I thought would be a routine dental, only to be devastated to hear that she had a tumour in her mouth. The vet didn’t think she’d live more than a couple of weeks, but it was three months before we had to make that heartbreaking decision. Right to the end, she followed me around and didn’t appear to be in any discomfort, but eventually her mouth became in danger of giving in and I knew that was the time to say goodbye. The anguish of waking up the next day to no Sooty was unbearable. But all things happen for a reason and Sooty dying meant we were able to adopt two beautiful boys, but that’s another two stories.
Illustration: Rasoul Hudda
A day in the life of a cat behaviour counsellor
‘Miaow Tse Tung’, I presume? Vicky Halls investigates the feline despot
ats are territorial creatures, meaning they actively defend their patch against invasion to protect the resources within it that they need to survive. Selective breeding for domestication over thousands of years has reduced this innate behaviour sufficiently to enable the modern pet cat to live cheek by jowl with unfamiliar cats. Those with access outdoors patrol their territory, leaving scent marks that enable large numbers to inhabit the same area without frequent confrontation and the risk of teeth-and-claws disputes. Most of the cat’s communication, using scent, body language and vocalisation is about avoiding fights and increasing distance between individuals rather than encouraging contact. Unfortunately, competition within a territory is not only about neighbour versus neighbour; multiple cats within a household can share space without having that important mutual bond. They often form cliques or splinter groups and cohabit without tears by agreeing to disagree and avoiding each other whenever possible. This doesn’t mean that there won’t be times when things have to be ‘said’ between members of separate factions to reaffirm who gets access to a particular resource at any specific time. This is when a cat may well employ passive bullying as a highly effective tactic of psychological – rather than physical – warfare.
Bullying in the household Within any multi-cat group there will be potential bullies; all they need is a victim. A ‘victim’ is any cat who responds dramatically and with obvious apprehension to the posturing and threatening behaviour of another. The more the cat responds to this form of intimidation, the more the bully will ‘up the game’. Some of the more determined types do not stop short of driving their victim from the home. These are the cats that develop stress-related illness as a result of the constant, unavoidable threat that the bully represents.
Signs of bullying include UÊ Staring UÊ Claiming resting places or access to owners by physically pushing another cat away UÊ Pouncing on another cat while he is asleep UÊ Blocking thoroughfares, sitting directly in front of the cat flap to deny entry/exit Blocking access to an indoor litter tray UÊ How to combat bullying in a multi-cat household UÊ Provide all ‘cat resources’ – feeding areas, water bowls, litter trays, beds, toys, scratching posts, high perches and private places – in the formula ‘one per cat plus one extra, positioned in different locations’ to limit competition. If separate social splinter groups have been identified and space is limited, then ‘one per social group plus one extra’ may be sufficient UÊ Provide dry food for ‘grazing’ throughout the day or divide wet food into frequent smaller meals to avoid competition at set mealtimes. Position the bowls to enable each cat to eat without the need to turn his back on a potential adversary UÊ Provide indoor litter facilities, even if the cats have access outside UÊ Provide two separate entry and exit points to the property, i.e. cat flaps, doors or windows, to avoid the risk of guarding or blocking and enable even the most timid cat to get indoors and outdoors unhindered
Despotic behaviour – territorial aggression Probably the most emotionally heated problems I have to deal with in my role as a cat behaviour counsellor is the kind of bullying that takes place outside the home, with the victims being cats belonging to neighbours or even strangers living in another street. These bullies are often described as ‘despotic’ and their modus operandii is to actively seek out territory defended by others to claim it as their own. They will even enter houses, located over a wide area, attack the resident cat – and the owners if they get in the way – and spray mark vertical surfaces with urine before departing. Some pedigrees, such as the Burmese and more recently the Bengal, represent a surprisingly large
healthcheck percentage of the reported perpetrators. Entire tom cats are also likely to be included in this list of feline despots, together with any domestic moggy – despots are all usually male – that takes his territoriality seriously. The victim’s owner demands that steps are taken by the owner of the bully, believing that person to be solely responsible for preventing future attacks. It is entirely appropriate that these measures are put in place but the unpopular truth, whether we like it or not, is that the victim’s owner should also take reasonable steps to protect his or her property if the cat is unable to deter intruders or defend its territory.
Tackling a neighbourhood despot UÊ Ensure that the despotic cat is neutered. If there is no evidence of an owner, it may be possible to request assistance for humane trapping, neutering and rehoming. Remember you must make reasonable endeavours to find the owner in instances like this, as neutering someone else’s cat can constitute criminal damage in the eyes of the law UÊ Confine the despotic cat indoors at night if the fighting and property invasion occurs during dawn and dusk or the hours of darkness. Feeding the cat a late-night treat may by sufficient incentive to come in by a certain time UÊ Inform the neighbours that the despotic cat is confined during these hours so that they know when their own cats are safe – or vice versa by confining during the day if the cat is nocturnal in his habits UÊ Ensure there are sufficient warm beds around the house to give the cat every opportunity for relaxation in a comfortable setting UÊ Provide plenty of stimulation indoors – active play sessions etc – to use up energy, particularly early morning and evening when he is most active. Puzzle feeding should be introduced, incorporating a number of permanent feeding stations indoors where the cat can experience a little more challenge in the acquisition of his food UÊ Other resources such as high perches, scratching posts, private places and novel treat food should also be provided to give the despot a sense of abundance of everything important in his own core area
UÊ The neighbour – owner of the victim – should install an exclusive entry system cat flap, ie magnetic, electronic or microchip-operated UÊ The despotic cat should have a couple of bells attached to his collar so neighbours and their cats can hear him coming and take any necessary action UÊ The owner of the victim should – in the first instance – block up the cat flap, with a solid board over both aspects, and give their cat only escorted access to the garden. Many victims become fairly agoraphobic after a severe mauling so, in those instances, it’s important to make them feel as secure as possible indoors and leave the excursions outside for another time UÊ An indoor litter tray should be provided for both the victim cat and the aggressor for use during any enforced confinement UÊ The aggressor’s route into the garden should be established and blocked where possible If you are the owner of a ‘Miaow Tse Tung’ – or a victim of his bullying – please seek advice and guidance from your vet who will put you in touch with a pet behaviour counsellor in your area, before things get out of hand!
Vicky Halls is a registered Veterinary Nurse, a member of the FAB’s Feline Behaviour Expert Panel and author of several best-selling cat counselling books. For further information regarding these and to subscribe to Vicky’s free monthly e-newsletter featuring cat behavioural articles, cats in the news, tips for cat owners and competitions, please visit her website at www.vickyhalls.net
Photo: Jane Burton/Warren Photographic
Ask the vets…
Every issue, CP’s team of veterinary experts will be tackling your feline-related questions… Pushkin was diagnosed with arthritis at the age of 10. Her history is unknown as she came to us as a stray when she was about two. She has had liquid anti-inflammatory in the past when her weight was an issue, but it was only used for the short-term due to worries about side effects. She has now lost this weight due to a thyroid complaint but the joints in her front legs are causing her to hobble. Is there anything I can do to help her? Louise Mudd, Kirkbymoorside, Yorkshire Arthritis is increasingly recognised as a common disorder in cats and is the progressive degeneration of one or more joints, leading to deterioration of the joint cartilage and underlying bone. The condition can be due to long-term overuse and ageing, or it may be secondary to a previous injury and can significantly affect a cat’s quality of life. Signs include lameness, stiffness, reduced mobility and increased rest and sleep. The disorder often affects both sides of the cat, so obvious lameness may be difficult to appreciate and the most commonly recognised sign is a general change in behaviour and activity level. Signs may worsen in cold or damp weather. The disorder may be confirmed following detection of appropriate signs, a physical examination and X-rays. Longterm anti-inflammatory medication may be prescribed to reduce inflammation and pain and the vet will weigh up the benefits of any medication verses the risks of any possible side effects. Dietary supplements such as glucosamine and chondroitin may be recommended to provide some relief. Some fatty acids may also reduce joint pain and the breakdown of cartilage, so it may be worth discussing these with your vet. Some diets specifically developed for arthritic cats incorporate such dietary supplements to avoid additional tablets having to be given and your vet will be able to guide you on the most appropriate nutrition, especially as Pushkin has another disorder – hyperthyroidism. The fact that Pushkin has lost weight is likely to have helped reduce the load on her arthritic joints, but there are other adaptations that can be made to help make arthritic cats more comfortable: UÊ Provide deep, soft bedding which is easily accessible, warm and draught free UÊ It may be hard for cats to jump or climb, so make allowances in the home for this – for example, using safely positioned ramps or stools can help affected cats reach surfaces they enjoy sitting on UÊ Extra grooming may be necessary if the cat is having difficulty reaching all areas, bear in mind that it may also be uncomfortable over sore joints, so care is required UÊ Ensure that food and water can be reached easily and the litter tray is also easily accessible – ideally with a low entrance at one end
UÊ Environmental enrichment can have positive effects on pain, so provide an opportunity for the cat to hide and opportunities for gentle play BS My four-year-old cat, Sandy, often spins round in circles, growling and chasing her tail. She appears to be aggravated by her tail and I’ve noticed that her lower back twitches sometimes just before an attack. We give her a flea treatment every four weeks and worm her regularly. Our vet thinks she is suffering from blocked anal glands and has cleared them out for her, but this made the growling worse for three or four days, she then quietened for a couple of days, before it was back to normal. She seems to growl more at night, specifically when I go bed. Can you shed any light on this as I hate seeing her so distressed? Rachael Scott, via email There could be a number of reasons for Sandy exhibiting this behaviour and, unfortunately, it is very difficult for us to give specific advice because we do not have her full history and are unable to examine her. It is important to rule out any medical reason first of all. It may be pain related so we would urge to you contact your vet again to discuss your concerns. Do let them know that the behaviour worsened when her anal glands were emptied as this may help them to identify another cause such as a skin allergy. If the vet can’t identify any medical cause, it is possible that the problem is behaviour related. Cats can develop compulsive behaviours such as tail chasing, shadow chasing or wool sucking. The origins of these behaviours vary but stress and a lack of ability to carry out normal behaviours – such as hunting in an indoor cat – can be commonly associated. Compulsive behaviours seem to be displayed more often by Burmese, Siamese and other oriental cats. Another possibility may be feline hyperaesthesia syndrome. Affected cats may begin to resent human contact and aggression can be triggered by play or grooming. Signs include muscle twitching, sudden bouts of intense grooming or attacks on rear quarters, feet or tail, ear twitching and sudden bouts of increased activity often accompanied by vocalisation. This condition is poorly understood and should only be diagnosed by a vet and/or qualified behaviourist, preferably with an interest in feline behaviour. If your vet can’t recommend someone suitable then we would suggest contacting the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors via www.apbc.org.uk to find out who is available in your area. In the meantime you can take some steps to alleviate any potential stress that Sandy may be under: UÊ Provide high vantage points for her to sit on such as empty shelves or stools. Cats tend to feel more comfortable if they can get high up
Have you got a question? Send your questions to ‘Ask The Vets’, The Cat magazine, National Cat Centre, Chelwood Gate, Haywards Heath, RH17 7TT or email: email@example.com
UÊ Provide plenty of safe hiding places such as upturned cardboard boxes and igloo beds, preferably in several different places. She shouldn’t be disturbed while using her hiding area UÊ It is ideal to have one toilet upstairs and one downstairs and the same with food and water if possible, although cats don’t like to eat near to their toileting area so this should be avoided. Try to ensure that the litter trays remain as clean as possible UÊ Exercise is a good stress reliever so try playing short games with her several times a day. Interactive toys that squeak, have feathers or move are good for keeping attention. You could also try hiding small parcels of dry food around the house so that she has to search for it which will enable her to act more like she would in her natural environment and will also be another source of exercise. Hiding dry food in scrunched up bits of paper works well, or you can buy feeding balls to put it into UÊ Have a look for anything outside the windows that may be upsetting Sandy – if necessary, putting a screen up at a window to block out the view of other cats in the garden can be helpful. This can be as simple as misted sticky plastic and may only need to be to the level at which she can see out of the door UÊ A Feliway diffuser can help cats to feel more relaxed about their environment by mimicking the natural pheromone they secrete from facial glands Sandy should never be punished or physically restrained while she is chasing her tail, although you may find she can be distracted with a fishing rod toy which might redirect her aggression. We sincerely hope you get to the root cause of the problem quickly and work towards finding a suitable treatment that resolves this issue for Sandy. VH Mitten is a 15-year-old female long-haired cat of Turkish Van extraction but was a rescued stray. Her teeth have always been poor and she has often had gingivitis. In the past she has been given patches that stick to her gums. In the last few years she has had several teeth removed but now struggles to eat hard biscuits and has stopped grooming herself. How many teeth can she lose safely? Her canine teeth are intact but her molars are the issue. Ann Wilson, Rosedale, Yorkshire Gingivitis is inflammation of the gums and chronic cases can be uncomfortable for affected cats and frustrating to manage. Signs of the disorder include bad breath, a change in eating habits, dribbling, sneezing and/or bleeding gums and can be confirmed on examination by a vet. Dental treatment is often required and extraction of teeth may be needed to alleviate the problem and, in severe cases, extraction of all teeth may be necessary. Surprisingly, most cats cope well without any teeth at all and some can even cope with dry food. If Mitten is struggling to eat and groom, this may indicate that her mouth is sore and she should be taken back to the vet so that this can be investigated. Specific dental diets and/or long-term oral medication – antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, pain relief – may be recommended in some cases. Unfortunately, some cases can not be cured, and can only be managed in the long-term, through dietary management, and regular dental care and treatment. MR
The experts Maggie Roberts BVM&S MRCVS After qualifying at Edinburgh University in 1986, Maggie went on to work primarily in private practice with some time spent abroad. Maggie first worked for Cats Protection as Veterinary Officer from 1997-99; her interest in feline medicine brought her back to the charity as Head of Veterinary Services in 2006. She has three cats, Trevor, Frankie and Ronnie. Beth Skillings BVSc MRCVS Beth qualified at the University of Liverpool in 1998 and then went on to work in general veterinary practice until 2005 when she joined Cats Protection as Head of Veterinary Services. After proposing and developing a significant growth to the veterinary department, Beth moved into a new role as Clinical Veterinary Officer in November 2006. Beth has two CP cats, Starsky and Vincent. Vanessa Howie BVetMed MRCVS Vanessa graduated from the Royal Veterinary College, London in 2000 and spent six years working in general practice before joining Cats Protection as Field Veterinary Officer. Her interests include feline medicine and surgery and overseas charity work. Vanessa has two cats, Tilly and Mabel, adopted from our own Bridgend Adoption Centre. Veterinary surgeons have provided the advice on these pages, but for specific cases and health concerns, it is important that you consult your own vet who will be able to look at your cat’s history and do a clinical examination.
I, Caticus Visitors to the eternal city of Rome cannot fail to notice the large colonies of cats that guard the world famous ruins. Charlotte Dalgarno discovers their history and what is being done to find them a cosier home
â€œRomeâ€™s street cats have been a feature of the city for generations. It is believed that the first domestic cats came to Rome from Egypt over 3,000 years agoâ€?
ello kitty, do you want something to eat?” The tourist fishes into her bag, pulls out the remainder of a chicken sandwich and offers the filling to the hungry feline. The cat hesitates for a second before grabbing the meat with her mouth and racing away to the coolness and tranquillity of the excavated catacombs, beneath the chaotic street life. “Not even a stroke or a rub of her little chin!” the tourist sighs and smiles before heading over the lawn towards her intended destination, Rome’s magnificent Colosseum. Rome’s street cats have been a feature of the city for generations. It is believed that the first domestic cats came to Rome from Egypt over 3,000 years ago. However in recent times, large numbers of stray and abandoned domestic felines have formed huge colonies and taken up residence in the city’s most ancient districts. The ruins offer shelter and shade from the elements, protection from the traffic and other animals and the promise of scraps from the thousands of tourists, who visit the area each day. Many visitors watching the cats, lounging in the sun on the stone columns or hiding among the crumbling arches must conclude that this is a feline paradise. But life is extremely difficult for them. With no permanent home, healthcare or guaranteed access to food, they live a precarious life trying to avoid disease and the many perils of a crowded and bustling metropolis.
Torre Argentina There has never been assistance from city officials, since cats still come under a legal category of “free/wild” animals like squirrels or pigeons. Yet most Roman cats are not wild but domesticated and need human care to survive. Luckily for them, cat lovers span the globe and Italy is no different. In the 1920s, a group of Italian ladies got together to start a group to feed and care for the cats. Despite criticism from some locals, their work continued for several decades and even the legendary Italian film star Anna Magnani got involved while working at the Teatro Argentina, which borders the ruins. It is a challenge to feed so many hungry mouths and one of the largest colonies is around Torre Argentina. The area contains the site of four sacred temples, which were excavated in 1929 and immediately became heavily populated by the cats. In 1994, after seeing the desperate efforts of one lady to care single-handedly for the huge numbers of cats there, Silvia Viviani and Lia Dequel got together with some friends to start the Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary. The early days of the sanctuary were tough as the friends had to work in difficult conditions, without electricity, water or simple amenities. They also faced disputes with members of the archaeological profession, city officials and the police. Today there are still many challenges but the sanctuary manages to feed and provide shelter for between 350-750 cats, both at Torre Argentina and at 40 other locations throughout the city. It also provides vital healthcare, such as injections, neutering and spaying and a rehoming service.
Improving attitudes Despite their hard work and tireless effort, not everyone in Italy appreciates their actions, but Deborah believes that attitudes towards them are getting better. She says: “In the early years, even the newspapers were horrible, printing stories about us with headlines such as ‘strange women create concentration camp for hundreds of cats’. “We are still considered to be squatters even today, but in the past archaeologists would play hard ball with us and send the police down. We said ‘we don’t want a fight with you, we didn’t bring the hundreds of cats down here and we are here to help’. Lots of tourists have written to the city on our behalf and they know the sanctuary is now a tourist attraction, so now they mostly turn a blind eye.
“Also, little by little, more vets are promoting the idea of spaying and neutering. So let’s say from those years, things have got a lot better!” Deborah and the other volunteers are only too aware that there is still a long way to go, but the satisfaction of seeing a cat go to a loving new home, or hearing the purr of a warm kitten just after feeding time make it all worthwhile. Encouraging too is the support that the sanctuary receives from all over the globe. From the United Kingdom, the AISPA – Anglo-Italian Society for the Protection of Animals – has supported and continues to help tremendously with urgently needed supplies and medicine. It has also donated threewheeled vans to be used as ambulances, general transport vehicles, computers to assist with record keeping, publicity materials, a website and a professional printer for the issue of informative and educational materials, including newsletters. The sanctuary welcomes and relies on public donations and asks people to consider adoption at a distance. Those that offer financial support receive regular updates on the cats and kittens from the team. Many vets visiting the city have been kind enough to offer their services to the team free of charge and cat lovers living in or visiting Rome can support the sanctuary by volunteering at the shelter to clean and feed the cats or to act as a guide to other visitors. The team works long hours without pay but is heartened to know it is not alone. “All these kind things are the sparks in the darkness”, says Deborah. “They keep us going. When nice people say, ‘keep up the good work’, ‘hang in there’, ‘don’t get discouraged’ and they help us, it means everything to us.” For more details of how you can help the Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary visit www.romancats.de or phone AISPA on 01743 232 559.
Photos: Courtesy of Charlotte Dalgarno
The sanctuary receives no official funding; in fact it is still not officially allowed to reside within the ruins. It only survives due to the dedication of a team of volunteers, donations from the public and services provided at a minimal cost by some of the local veterinary practices. Although many towns and cities have a problem with stray animals, in Rome the situation is more acute than in most. American Deborah D’Alessandro is a resident of Rome and has been a devoted volunteer at the sanctuary for over 10 years. She says: “The biggest problem is that, here, animals don’t tend to get neutered, so you can imagine the problem it can cause when a female gets pregnant and has kittens.” Deborah also explains that many vets in Italy still insist that it is good for an animal to have at least one litter. She says: “People believe them and allow their animals to have litters because they think they are doing it for the health of the animal, but then they don’t realise there are not enough homes for all these animals.” Summer used to see a big surge in the amount of cats dumped on the streets, as Italians headed out of the city to the beach for the annual holidays, but now the cruelty happens all year around. Deborah explains: “Unfortunately, a relatively recent trend is getting a kitten or a puppy for your ageing parents because maybe you don’t want to spend time with them, but then they get too old to care for the animal and what do you do?” While the sanctuary will help anyone who is struggling to care for their pet, it upsets Deborah when people dump animals on the doorstep of the shelter without warning. She says: “They think it is fine to throw the cat in the ruins, but many times the cat doesn’t stay in the ruins, it tries to run into the street to find its family again, so we never see the cat. “Often cats don’t want to stay here because there are already hundreds. People see the ruins and think they are beautiful and, as they are sunken, they are a perfect place for a cat, but it is like leaving your child in a beautiful park.” As well as caring for and attempting to rehome as many felines as possible, the sanctuary aims to radically reduce the number of unwanted cats and kittens through an ongoing neutering programme. It currently performs between 3,0004,000 operations a year, which gives some indication of just how big the problem is in the city.
Fingal’s foibles Alison Prince deliberates her black cat’s peculiar habits
lack cats, in my experience, tend to be disconcertingly intelligent. I had one who worked out when the highlevel grill on the cooker had cooled enough to climb onto, allowing him to hike around with a long paw and steal a leftover sausage. Fingal is of the same irreverent kind. Rescued as a derelict kitten half the size he should have been, he’s still quite a slender cat, but he’s lively and athletic now. He skips around so lightly that Julie next door calls him Ariel – she’s an actress, so she’s into Shakespeare and all that fairy stuff – and he’s prone to funny ideas about self-expression. Climbing up me, for instance. He comes in with his double-squeak introduction, “Ee-ee!” and gazes up adoringly. Sweet, I think but the next thing, he’s swarmed up my jeans to arms-level. The only trouble is, he’s apt to do this in the morning when I’ve just come out of the shower. And if you think you’re getting an illustration of exactly what that’s like, sorry. You’ll just have to visualise a lot of towel-clutching and stern uttering of the word, “No!” while he gazes up with threatening eagerness. The deterrent effect is about as useful as a paper bag against a guided missile. He launches and the trick is to catch him before he lands on my vulnerable bits. Luckily, cats have their own weak spot, which is the scruff of the neck. So once fielded, Fingal can be bundled up and plonked outside the door to wait for his breakfast less aggressively. Why don’t I shut the door? Good question. It’s because Paddy often settles down with me for the night while Fingal is elsewhere and his presence is so pleasant that I don’t want to exclude him. Neither do I want to get up at some undesirable hour to let him out if he so desires. The cats and I live by mutual agreement that we all do our own thing and are nice to each other. It’s just that Fingal hasn’t clocked that climbing up a nude human being is not nice. But breakfast is extraordinarily important to him, perhaps because toast crusts and the odd bacon rind got hurled out of the farmhouse back door when he was small and constituted the only meal the cats were given. Maybe I should write a book
called Freud for Cats. The analysis is probably rubbish, but whatever the cause, Fingal is ravenous every morning, even if he hasn’t finished last night’s late snack. Since humans are a bit dim about understanding ‘Cattish’, Fingal has worked out a better way of communicating that he’s hungry. He bites my fingers. Quite gently at first, but if that doesn’t get me down to the kitchen immediately, he steps up the message. You get the picture. Having managed to climb up, he is determined to chew me even while being held in the air by the scruff of his neck. Dumped firmly outside, he bears no malice. When I emerge, clothed, he rolls on his back in his most charming manner, then runs down the stairs beside me like a good cat. Which he isn’t. Then there’s the question of taste. Why did he launch a determined assault on my dinner last week? I told him it was all vegetarian stuff and he wouldn’t like it, but he ignored that. “I want some,” he said, – my grasp of Cattish is improving – and made a grab at the broccoli. So I gave him a bit to try. He gobbled it up and came back for more, seriously interrupting the mealtime Sudoku. I placated him with a saucer of broccoli on the floor and he ate the lot, then washed his face in a state of high contentment. Dog-owning friends assure me that their peculiarly-chosen pets adore broccoli, but I haven’t had a green-minded cat before – though come to think of it, my mother-in-law’s cat used to steal the cucumber. She kept it in the bread bin with a brick on top. The cucumber, I mean, not the cat. And he was black, too. Paddy is mildly shocked by Fingal’s behaviour. His Bengal tabby breeding would never allow such Genghis Khan tactics – but he brought Fingal up from kittenhood. I hope he doesn’t feel responsible. No. Even Freud For Cats wouldn’t go that far.
36 The Cat
Caring for a blind cat Could your cat be visually impaired? Veterinary ophthalmologist Natasha Mitchell explains how you can find out
ats rely on their vision to perform several tasks such as navigation, hunting, orientation, avoiding undesirable situations, interaction with other cats and watching the world go by. In order to see an image, several factors are combined including detecting light and motion, depth perception and perception of shape and colour. The brain receives this information from the eye, along with other information about sounds, smells, texture and taste and combines all of these to create a complete visual experience.
Extra layer Cats have evolved to become excellent night-time hunters. Vision in a normal cat is very good but, in order to gain advantages that particularly help with night vision and hunting, some trade-offs mean that cats do not see in the same fine detail as we do. The main reason that cats have better night – nocturnal – vision than us is because they have an extra layer in the back of their eye called a tapetum. This is a reflective layer which lies underneath the retina – the ‘seeing’ part of the eye. The retina contains special cells called rods and cones which absorb light and convert it into information which is processed by the brain to form an image. Some light passes through the retina without being absorbed, but is then reflected back onto the rods and cones by the tapetum, allowing a second chance for the light to be absorbed. The tapetum is responsible for the mirror-like reflection which we see from cats when we catch them at night with a bright light, such as with the headlights of a car. It is suggested that cats’ nocturnal vision is six times better than ours. Another factor which improves their nocturnal vision is the fact that they can dilate their pupils so widely, maximising the amount of light which enters the eye in dim lighting.
How can you tell if your cat’s vision is poor?
Original photo: istockphoto.com/crisserbug
Believe it or not, determining how much your cat can see can be quite difficult. However, in most cases where vision has been lost gradually, behaviour changes are more subtle because the cat is able to gradually adapt to the disability, learning where furniture and other obstacles in the home are. Sudden vision loss is easier to notice. Bumping into objects is an obvious result of poor vision, but actually may only be noticed when furniture is moved or when doors which are normally opened are closed. This is because cats possess a tremendous ability to adapt to the situation and will retain an awareness of the normal layout of their familiar environment, only getting caught out when it is changed. You may notice more hesitation and a reluctance to jump down from a height. The cat may actually climb down by gingerly reaching his feet down first. They are usually happier climbing up onto objects, but go about it in a more cautious manner. They may walk in a crouched position with their body closer to the ground and stretch their necks out further, using their long whiskers to feel their way. Cats with vision problems actually seem to grow longer whiskers! In some cats with vision problems you may notice a change in the appearance of their eyes. Cloudy eyes can be caused by cataracts, which is an opacity of the lens. It could also be caused by glaucoma, a raised pressure inside the eye, or uveitis which is the medical name for inflammation inside the eye. Eyes may be red due to high blood pressure causing bleeding inside the eye, or due to glaucoma, uveitis or a tumour in the eye. With some conditions affecting the retina such as retinal detachment secondary to high blood pressure, the absence or thinness of the retina allows even more light to be reflected back from the tapetum, making the glow from the back of the eye appear more intense. If you have noticed a recent colour change in one or both of your cat’s eyes, it is highly recommended that you take him to your vet to have an eye examination. In many cases, your vet will be able to tell you what is wrong and can therefore advise on the best treatment. In some circumstances, your vet may recommend that you are referred to a specialist in veterinary ophthalmology. The ophthalmologist is better equipped to be able to diagnose certain conditions and will be able to offer treatment advice and specialised procedures. Some conditions will be managed with eye drops or oral medications and all conditions are more successfully treated when diagnosed early on in the course of the disease.
How can I test my cat’s vision? This can be tricky, even for your vet! As well as closely observing your cat’s behaviour, as mentioned earlier, there are several tests which a vet will perform, some of which can be tried by an owner at home.
The menace response test Gently waving a hand towards the eye would cause a normal cat to blink. It is important not to create an air current by waving a hand on one side of the head which, of course, a normal cat will sense and blink their eye as a reflex.
The dazzle reflex This involves shining a bright focused light suddenly into the eye. A normal cat would blink, squint or turn their head away, but a blind cat cannot see it and will continue to stare ahead.
This pupil is constricted – in this case because of bright sunlight – which means that more of the coloured iris is visible and the pupil is a narrow slit
This is a dilated pupil. The coloured iris is only visible at the periphery and there is a large central dark – which can appear black – area
The tracking response test This involves dropping small pieces of cotton wool, from a height, near your cat. A cat with normal vision can’t resist watching them fall. The reason cotton wool is chosen is because it doesn’t make a noise as it passes through the air. Noisy objects falling can be followed using the sense of hearing on its own.
This cat has poor vision and is apprehensive when moving in a strange environment. He is crouching low to the ground Photo: Courtesy of Professor Sheila Crispin
How can I care for my blind cat? Cataracts in both eyes – the eyes appear greyer as the lenses are cloudy
A veterinary ophthalmologist examining a cat’s eye, with the help of a veterinary nurse
About the author Natasha Mitchell graduated from University College Dublin in 1998. She developed a keen interest in veterinary ophthalmology and obtained a Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) Certificate in Veterinary Ophthalmology in 2004. After working in two ophthalmology referral practices in the UK, she set up her own veterinary ophthalmology service based in Limerick, Ireland. She is studying towards a RCVS Diploma in Veterinary Ophthalmology. Natasha has developed a website for owners and vets www.eyevet.ie and published her first book, Caring for a Blind Cat in 2008 through Cat Professional www.catprofessional.com
Photos: Courtesy of Natasha Mitchell unless otherwise stated
Visually impaired cats function very well in familiar surroundings, so much so that it may be a surprise for you to learn that your cat has any vision problems at all. Cats face many challenges in order to adapt to life without vision, but do so without our knowledge in many instances. Cats do not feel sorry for themselves because their vision is poor, but they get on with things. Some causes of blindness – for example high blood pressure – require specific treatment which your vet will prescribe. There are lots of simple but effective ways in which the home and garden can be adapted to support a visually impaired cat. A detailed technical guide which covers all of the topics discussed in this article in much greater detail was published in August 2008. Caring for a Blind Cat is available as an electronic – e-book – or printed softback via www.catprofessional.com. E-books cost £7 and printed books are £9.99 plus postage.
All you need is love Photo: CP Library/Stephen McBride
Jo-ann Hodgson investigates the importance of cats to the elderly
ats enhance our lives; it’s why we love them, but there are certain portions of the population for whom the benefit of keeping cats can be life changing and the positive role our feline friends can provide the elderly has been widely documented. In a research paper presented to the Urban Animal Management Conference in 1999, Dr Kathryn Wilks, an expert in the field of pet ownership, stated that “… the impact companion animals have is greatest among vulnerable populations”, naming the elderly, socially isolated and chronically ill among those likely to reap the biggest benefits. Sadly, social isolation is a common complaint among the elderly. Help the Aged states that over half of all people aged 75 and over in the UK live alone and that 13 per cent of older people always or often feel lonely. However, studies have suggested that owning a cat can help combat such negative feelings. Research by Karsh, Moffat and Burket in 1988 reported greater life satisfaction and less loneliness and depression among people over 60 one year after adopting a cat than among those who didn’t own a cat.
A Cats Protection survey of 1,000 cat owners over the age of 55 in 2005 also revealed that 80 per cent of respondents believed that they were happier than non-cat owners, which rose to 90 per cent among those over 80 years old. Some 80 per cent also said that their cat adds to their quality of life, rising to 93 per cent in the over 80s. “Cats provide company and help reduce isolation and loneliness which we know blights the lives of so many old people,” says Andy Harrop, spokesperson for Help the Aged and Age Concern. “Cats provide affection and love – especially at a time of ill-health or following the death of a spouse – and as such their true value cannot be underestimated.” One cat owner who has first-hand experience of the emotional support cats can provide the elderly is Rhoda McVey, owner of two of last year’s Rescue Cat Award winners. Struie and Meallie, Rhoda’s 10-year-old black-and-white cats, brought her parents much comfort late in their lives. Struie was allowed to visit Rhoda’s mother at the hospital and care home in which she spent her final years and always cheered her up with purrs and cuddles. And after the death of his wife, the cats were a great comfort to Rhoda’s bereaved father, keeping him company when he did his gardening and often curling up beside him for his afternoon nap. It isn’t just emotional benefits that cats can provide the elderly, however. Studies have also shown that owning a cat may improve physical wellbeing – a greater concern for us all in our later years. The Cats Protection survey revealed that 56 per cent of respondents said that they’d feel and act older if they didn’t have their cat, which rose to 68 per cent among the over 80s. Some 56 per cent also said that their cat helps them to keep active, rising to 77 per cent in older owners. Research from the University of Minnesota states that cat owners are 30 per cent less likely to die of a heart attack than non-cat owners. Maggie Roberts, Cats Protection’s Director of Veterinary Services, is not surprised by the findings. “Cat lovers have always believed that cats are good for their wellbeing but this research from the University of Minnesota proves it,” she says. “It is known that stroking a cat reduces blood pressure which will, in turn, reduce the likelihood of having a heart attack. Also it is thought that cat owners are naturally more relaxed and laid back than non-cat owners.” Be it based on scientific or anecdotal evidence, it is clear that cats bring great comfort to those in their later years, at a time in our lives when what we all need is a bit of love and company.
Feline fine in the
As the evenings draw in, Graham Clarke shows how to enjoy an ‘indoor garden’ this winter
inter is when gardening, effectively, comes indoors. It is the season when house plants and ‘indoor gardens’ come into their own. Sometimes we can keep plants – usually things like cacti and aspidistras – for years and years – I knew a lady who kept her Christmas cactus for nearly 50. But I’m a believer in bringing something new into the home on a regular basis. I like to ring the changes. Most of us want house plants that are cheering, colourful and, yes, even good old fashioned value for money. And, of course, they should be safe for our cats. A trip to the garden centre will show you the range on offer, but if you don’t know much about indoor plants, the bright – and often large and colourful – displays can be a little daunting. Imagine going to a large supermarket to buy food, but you don’t know what most of it tastes like or even whether you’d like it; that would be pretty daunting too. Displayed correctly, indoor plants can offer incredible value for money. Some, such as orchids, can flower for months. Here are my five favourite cat-safe house plants for winter cheer:
Christmas cacti If you have a bright, sunny room then the plant with the wonderful Latin name of Schlumbergera truncata will be just the ticket. Although it appreciates a well-lit room, don’t be fooled into thinking it will thrive in direct sunlight. Mist the leaves regularly and keep it in a temperature of about 16°C (61°F). It will be in flower from November until February, at which point you should give it a rest by providing less water and putting it in a cooler place. As I’ve already said, these plants can last for decades.
Happy hibiscus Hibiscus rosa-sinensis has the common name ‘Rose of China’ and although it is not related to the rose, it is likely to have originated in China. Its natural habit is as a shrub or small tree, but in the UK it is a woody house plant. The redflowered varieties are the most frequently seen, but there are many other forms. Reds, oranges, salmon-pinks, yellows and white-flowered types exist, with a wide range of doubling and there are some with wonderfully frilled petals.
Outstanding orchids For a taller plant, an orchid is unbeatable. There are many different types and growing them can become a bit of an obsession. Not all types are suitable as house plants – they sometimes need real humidity, constant filtered light or large spaces to grow – meaning that they are better suited to a special greenhouse or conservatory. However, the good news is that all of those sold in a garden centre will make excellent room plants – at least for a year or two. Things like cymbidums and phalaenopsis can be encouraged to flower several times.
Perfect peperomias These low-growing foliage plants are easy, generally pest and disease-free and are certainly attractive either as specimen plants or in planted displays. They are native to tropical and subtropical America. With their long, thin, white or creamcoloured flower spikes, one could not label them ‘showy’, but the heart-shaped, deep green leaves of Peperomia caperata – commonly known as the emerald ripple – are attractive, borne on fairly long, red-tinged stalks. They are deeply veined and have a curious, corrugated surface. ‘Luna Red’ has lovely copper tints.
Veritable violets If you’ve only got room for a small plant then African violets are about as small as you can get. They need a constant temperature – no less than 16°C (61°F) – and hate change of any kind. They crave a south-facing windowsill through the winter months, but this will be too bright for them in summer. When watering, keep water off the leaves otherwise they’ll scorch and end up rotting. There are dozens of varieties available, some with strongly marked and frilled petals.
gardeningfeature Good siting of plants From time to time, cats like to pounce on, chew, scratch at and playing with house plants, so they should be put out of reach. But we all know how impracticable that is. Since cats love to nibble on plant matter, consider growing some cat grass for them. Cats require grass in their diet – probably to add roughage or to help deal with fur balls – and it is evident they like the occasional graze. If a cat is housebound, it is recommended that you have a seed tray converted into a mini-lawn. You can find ready-to-grow cat grass kits in some pet supply stores and seed is available from Chiltern Seeds on 01229 581 137. Using this may also stop your cats from chewing on the leaves of house plants. There is also a bitter apple spray. Mainly sold for use with dogs, you can find this in certain pet supply stores or visit www.vet-medic.com. Spray the plants outdoors – or at least place newspaper on the floor – to avoid causing damage. It shouldn’t take long before your cat realises the unappealing nature of the taste. The following are my golden rules for displaying indoor plants with a moggy in mind: UÊ If the plants are close to windows, make sure the cat has a window shelf or ‘cat tree’ so he has access to the windows without knocking plants over UÊ Make sure that house plants are potted in sturdy containers to avoid them toppling over UÊ Stop the cat from digging in large planters by covering the compost with a layer of stones; make sure the stones are too large for the cat to swallow UÊ Finally, stop your cat from pawing dangly leaves and flowers by spending enough interactive playtime with him so that he doesn’t get bored
Clockwise from left: Hibiscus rosa-sinensis, Schlumbergera truncata, Feeding orchids, Peperonia caperata ‘Luna Red’. Below: Place housing plants high.
Winter plant care Watering This is the most important element and over-watering – particularly in winter – is as deadly to indoor plants are underwatering. Plants need very little water in winter, but the rule is to only provide enough water to cover the surface of the compost and do this whenever the surface is dry to the touch.
Humidity When central heating comes on, our rooms get nice and toasty. This in itself doesn’t do too much damage to house plants, but what is worse is the dry atmosphere that is also created. Resolve this by standing plants on trays of gravel and moisten the gravel each day with a small fine-mist sprayer. This raises the humidity level around the plants’ leaves and stops them from drying out and turning crispy.
Deadheading Finally, remove faded flowers and leaves; this makes the plant look tidier. Flower removal prevents the plant from setting seed, which uses up valuable energy so it can, usually, help to prolong the flowering period.
This is the time of year when, every time we enter a supermarket, DIY store or garden centre, our eyes hit upon visions of seasonal or ‘Christmas’ pot plants. The three plants that are most associated with the Yuletide season are poinsettias, azaleas and cyclamen. Popular also are the two early ‘forcing’ bulbs: hyacinths and narcissi. Cat owners should be aware that all of these subjects are on the lists of plants that have been known to harm cats, so they should be avoided. The plants I have described in the main bulk of the article are not on such lists and offer useful alternatives to the traditional – but harmful – types.
All photos: Graham Clarke
All house plants can probably do without fertiliser until late winter/early spring. Then feed them with a balanced fertiliser – such as Baby Bio, Phostrogen or Miracle Gro – every month during the growing period.
Christmas plants warning
Bright Ideas Award The winner for this category was Ella Christopher from Bournemouth & District Branch. Upon her 50th birthday, Ella struck upon the idea of collecting tins of cat food until she had one for every day that she had been alive. Over the next few years, Ella collected an astonishing 18,262 tins of cat food, which she donated to the branch to feed to the cats in its care. The branch estimates that this has saved around £10,000.
Unsung Hero Award This is designed to recognise volunteers that play a vital role behind the scenes and Alan Todd from Dundee & District Branch, definitely fits this description. For the past 12 years, Alan has donated many hours to helping cats at the branch. When he first started, Alan was responsible for opening the branch’s adoption centre at 7.30am to give the cats their morning feed. He now volunteers around 30 hours a week, taking on a variety of tasks to help the centre run smoothly. Fellow branch members added that Alan works tirelessly and provides tremendous support and encouragement to other volunteers.
Flying the Flag Award The Flying the Flag Award recognises those volunteers who have made a significant contribution to raising awareness of Cats Protection. This was won by Jeanette Greaves, from Preston & District Branch, for her impressive work generating an interest in what is happening at her own branch and across the rest of the charity. Jeanette promotes CP’s work by giving talks to schools and community groups while also running the branch website and producing the branch’s newsletters.
Extra Mile Award
Introducing our Volunteer of the Year 2009…
ow in their second year, Cats Protection’s Volunteer of the Year Awards recognise the enormous contribution made by more the 7,000 volunteers to the success of the charity, which helps over 193,000 cats and kittens each year. Nominations were made by anyone who had been impressed by the work of a Cats Protection volunteer and the 2009 winners received their awards at a ceremony during Cats Protection’s AGM held at the National Cat Centre in Chelwood Gate, Sussex.
Elspeth Stirling from Forfar Branch has helped 2,300 feral cats in Tayside and elsewhere across Scotland over the last 13 years, sharing her specialist knowledge and experiences with the community. Elspeth helps to neuter these cats and either finds them homes as working cats in places such as farms and garden centres, or takes them to feral cat colonies where Cats Protection can look after them. On one occasion, Elspeth was snowed in with 19 feral cats. After waiting for a break in the blizzards she loaded them up in her car and drove over a mountain pass between enormous snow drifts for 60 miles, successfully returning them to their rural home.
Trustees’ Distinguished Service Award This award is chosen by the Trustees and is for volunteers who have shown an incredible level of commitment, sometimes over many years. Peter Simmonds from Maidenhead, Slough & District Branch was recognised for his level of commitment. After being introduced to Cats Protection by his daughter, Karen, Peter has dedicated more than 10 years of his life to the charity, acting as a Fosterer, Welfare Officer and Publicity Officer. He is now the Branch Co-ordinator and his dedication, immense love of cats and overall passion for animal welfare is apparent to all.
Volunteer of the Year 2009 After much deliberation,our panel of judges voted Alan Todd to be the overall winner. A delighted Alan said: “I am very proud to be named as Cats Protection’s Volunteer of the Year. I really enjoy helping unwanted cats to get a second chance in life, but I never thought it would result in a national award!” Carol Carbine, Cats Protection’s Volunteering Manager, said: “Alan was a worthy winner of both the Unsung Hero and Volunteer of the Year because of his commitment to Cats Protection. He has devoted a lot of time towards helping his branch purely out of a love for cats and a desire to see the unlucky ones find a home. He is a great example of just how committed and dedicated our volunteers are.” Cats Protection’s work would be impossible without the dedication and commitment of our volunteers. Thank you to everyone who took part in this year’s awards ceremony and made it a truly memorable day.
The overall winners join Chief Executive Peter Hepburn and last year’s winner Sharyn Wood at the awards ceremony.
Into the great
unknown Reader Susan Clark learns how to adapt to a much-loved cat going blind
harles came to us in 1993 as a rescue cat and is about 19 years old. He is a beautiful, big-boned tabby cat with the gentlest nature and a big purr. We have two other cats – Toby is a loud, ginger boy who is sadly lacking in the required number of brain cells to call him intelligent and Twinks an opinionated, fluffy, mini cat who keeps the two boys in their place. Three years ago, Charles started to drink copiously and was diagnosed as having diabetes. This is treated with insulin and Charles was not worried by his jabs, accepting that a quick tickle followed by a jab was not a problem when you’re eating – and food has always been his main hobby. Charles has always watched birds, never finding the energy or inclination to chase them. One Sunday afternoon, several
Illustration: Rasoul Hudda
years ago he wandered to the end of the garden during early summer. He must have lingered too long under a tree where the blackbirds were nesting because a very irate blackbird chased him down the length of our 100-foot garden, the bird flying about 18 inches above the ground and poor Charles running for the safety of the house. Then, 18 months ago, I noticed that Charles was spending a lot of time looking at a wall rather than watching the birds through the window. A visit to the vet confirmed that he had gone blind. We have a cat flap into our integral garage where the litter trays are so the cats do not have to go outside if they don’t fancy it and for Charles outside on his own was now not an option as he couldn’t defend himself. Finding and going through the cat flap wasn’t a problem, he just carried on as he’d always done, so that was good news. At feeding time I started to put Charles’ food down and then took him to it by tapping my leg and, yes, he followed. This also works when we take him round the garden. He ambles around with me or my husband, sniffing out good smells and even squirting up bushes. We can also save him from next door’s cat and any nasty blackbirds. If Charles wants to sit on your knee he’ll come up to the chair and tap – he’s right-pawed – until he’s confident of how far to jump before he arrives, ready for a tickle and a brush which always makes him dribble. He’ll quite confidently jump down from a chair or bed into the great unknown not knowing what’s down there. Curiously though, until very recently Charles has never had a miaow. He’d open his mouth but nothing would come out. Now, he will sometimes stand and make the most peculiar noise, much like that made by a seal. It’s as if he’s looking for reassurance. As soon as we talk to him and tell him he’s okay he will stop making the noise and settle down. Unfortunately Charles does enjoy winding Twinks up, having perfected the art of walking straight for her, which understandably she sees as a threat, after all he is twice her size. This always sets her off growling, hissing and generally waking the dead, but he takes no notice. When will she learn that if she kept quiet and just sloped off in the other direction she’d spoil all his fun? He has coped so well with his lack of sight and has come up with his own way of dealing with it, while also understanding the signals we give to help him. We are truly lucky to have him.
ts a c g n ri e b m e m e R through helping others by helping others. Donations go towards pens for our branches, This section offers readers the chance to pay tribute to a beloved cat send your donations to: Remembering Cats, The Cat which help house cats and kittens while they wait for new homes. Please RH17 7TT. Cheques should be made payable to ‘Cats magazine, National Cat Centre, Chelwood Gate, Haywards Heath print your tribute clearly to avoid errors (no more than 20 Protection’. Tributes will be printed in the next available issue. Please words). Thanks to readers of The Cat, 310 pens have now been bought.
MOLLY PTS 01.07.08. Thank you for 12 lovely years, my gentle ‘Molly Olly’. Miss you every day. Love Wendy mum & sister Zoe x
SOOTY 19.11.79. In loving memory of seven happy years. A loving pet, always remembered every day and forever missed.Helen.
SMARTIE – 21.07.01, aged 16 years. Still loved and sadly missed. Always in my heart. Until we meet again. Love Mum x x x
In loving memory of MOWIE – 1977 to 12.01.00. A loving friend; asleep in his favourite garden. Till we meet again. Peter and Sooty.
SASHA RICHARDS, 14.07.94-25.07.08. I have, I do, I will love you forever. Remember, my darling, your paws hold my heart. Your human
SANDY – A dear, gentle cat who disappeared one September day. Remembered always, Gwen.
KITTY – 06.08.92 – and her kitten cat BUNTY – 03.07.95. Joined by SAMMY – 24.12.07. All beautiful and loving and gentle. We’ll meet again. Kimmins family.
GEMINI 10.01.95-15.07.09 brave little tortie foodcritic, garden supervisor, frog-chaser, cushion-tester & purry princess. Thanks, Gem! Much loved, never forgotten. Kay.
Dearest FLORENCE. Remembering your treasured companionship. My beautiful girl. So missed by me and your devoted sister Cristal. Forever loved, Betty.
OEDIPUS – Psalm 73:23 “I
In memory of DAISY PTS 23.12.08 and HARRY died 05.10.00. Two precious friends dearly loved and sadly missed. Love from the Renshaws.
DIESEL 18.04.09. Inverness station cat, who departed from platform 6 to join her friend GASKET. Greatly missed by station staff and passengers.
ORLANDO 30.09.9223.06.09. Affectionate and entertaining companion. Greatly missed. In loving memory of BARNEY, our handsome, ginger tom. Recently passed on to that big mouse hole in the sky at the age of 11 years, greatly missed. Angus and Anne.
am continually with thee”. Don.
CASSIE – You gave us love and happiness we will never forget. Love you forever, Mum and Dad.
ERIC 01.11.03. Thanks for sending a new tabby to keep an eye on us. Miss you always. The Bid.
LUCY – 25.10.02. Treasured
SCOMBIE – remembering
memories of a special little girl. Dearly loved, sadly missed. Always in our thoughts. Fondest love, Norman & Barbara.
our dearest tabby kitty, who left us 17 years ago. Greatly missed but forever in our hearts. Love Mummy and Daddy.
TIGGY our lovely tiny tortoiseshell cat, who lived to be an amazing 27 years. How we loved her and miss her terribly. Sweet dreams little girl, your loving Mummy and Daddy, Trudy and Molly.
JOLLEY – 17.11.04 and INKY – 14.02.01. The years may pass by but you will always live in our hearts. Mam & Ev. In loving memory of GIZMO – 13.01.06 and TEDDY – 04.12.06. Loved and sadly missed. Always in our thoughts and hearts. Love Mummy, Daddy, Perry, Leo.
MISTY PEEPERS 1986-2005. Still miss you so much, I will love you forever. Remembered every day. As long as I live, never forgotten. In loving memory of KATIE 05.04.03-21.04.09. Always in my memories, never forgotten. Lots of love, Mummy.
LITTLE PUSS – We were growing old together – 90 & 17. I don’t know how I’ll live without you. Such a horrible death. I love you. Dorothy. POLLY PTS 29.12.08; THOMAS PTS 07.03.09; GERALD PTS 01.08.06; WILLIAM died 21.01.07; KATY; KIM; CINDY. Gone, never forgotten, all so special. Mum, Dad, Richard.
SMUDGE 21.11.04 Age 16 years. We watched as you were born. Great joy. We saw you leave us. Grief stricken. You gave us 16 years of love and affection. Now reunited with your mom ANGEL 12.12.95. Love Sheila & Ivan xx
SANDY, 20.07.09, RIP. A most gentle, loving and brave cat, I am lost without you, my most precious friend. I love you forever, your Mum xxx
Book reviews Looking for a great book about cats? Check out our reviews before
Cat Manual By Claire Bessant ing you should ever need This is a colourful and well-presented manual covering everyth the Feline Advice Bureau of ve Executi to know about owning a cat. Written by the Chief field with a wealth the in expert an is (FAB), Claire Bessant, it is clear that the author integrates with he how cat, the of experience. Sections cover what we know about how we can make us, with ship relation his environment and incorporates that into his is a well-rounded, book This health. him feel happy and how we can keep him in good alike. owners nced informative manual ideal for new and experie Francesca Watson Cat Manual (£17.99) is published by Haynes Publishing of Cat Manual to give away. (www.haynes.co.uk Tel: 01963 442 030). We have five copies ’. Send your entries to us in the usual way marked ‘Cat Manual
Goats from a Small Island
By Anna Nicholas her experiences of This title from Anna Nicholas is the third in which she shares recall that Anna may You relocating to Mallorca and the island’s day-to- day life. her plans to establish a about us appeared in last year’s Winter edition of The Cat telling and many more venture this of story cattery in her back yard and this book continues the this volume out, through ts momen besides. With witty observations and laugh-out-loud n to additio in cats; as well as should also be popular with those who like other animals toad, a include time this tes anecdo the plethora of colourful characters it boasts, Anna’s a Mallorc roamed once that goat scorpions and, of course, Myotragus – the now-ex tinct and topics main the of one both and whose history has fascinated her enough to become the subject of the title. Stick it on your Christmas list! Tom Briggs Goats from a Small Island (£7.99) is published by Summersdale (www.summersdale.com Tel: 01243 771 107)
Stars of Big Cat Diary
s-Hamilton By Jonathan & Angela Scott with Simon King & Saba Dougla one of the most popular at This beautifully illustrated book is a behind-the-scenes peek produc tion timeline of the wildlife programmes on television, Big Cat Diary. Following rapher wife, Angela, the series, the stories of presenter Jonathan Scott and his photog lves. It is an themse cats are interwoven with the tales of the stars of the show – the ing read, fascinat her interesting insight into how the series is produced and an altoget cats! big of fans for topped off with wonder fully composed imager y. A must read Amy Rutter Stars of Big Cat Diary (£19.99) is published by Evans Mitchell Books (www.embooks.co.uk Tel: 01923 713 030)
Tabby Cat by Alison Wilkerson; Orchids for Aphrodite by Ursula Caring for a cat with hyperthyroidism by Dr Sarah Caney; Little Cats in the Belfry by Doreen Tovey; My Cat is Ignoring Me by Hadden; Rescue Matters! By Sheila Webster Boneham, PhD; More Christmas Kittens by Pamela Binns; Silent Heroes, the bravery Peter Wedderburn; TT Cats and their Fishing Families by Liz Lenton; r Dancing by Felix Foxtrot; How to take over teh wurld by Professo and devotion of animals in war by Evelyn Le Chêne; Strictly Cat . Cat Doing That? by Sarah Heath; Glamourpuss by Julie Jackson Happycat; Cats Among the Cedars by Olivia Meynell; Why is My
Christmas! Wishing all of our readers a very happy festive season.