Photo by Daniel Tuttle on Unsplash
When considering whether or not to keep chickens, it’s important to take into account the pets you already have around your home. The most obvious examples are cats and dogs, who sometimes let their chase instincts get the better of them. However, all your pets can get along just fine, as long as you lay down a few ground rules.
Keeping chickens with dogs
If you’re a dog owner, the first thing to consider is the temperament of your pet. Does it often chase rabbits or deer when out on a walk? How does your dog react to birds in the garden? If your hound tends to lose control in these situations, this behaviour is likely to carry over into their relationship with chickens. Equally, if your dog is of a more relaxed temperament, they may show little if any interest in your coop.
The likeliest scenario falls somewhere between the two extremes, in which case you’ll see your dog taking an interest in the chickens, and spending plenty of time watching and attempting to play with them, but not moving in ‘for the kill’. What’s important here is that your dog needs to understand that the chickens are part of the pack, and not something to be hunted. It’s also important that your dog understands that chickens are fragile, and that dog-style rough play is out of the question.
Teaching dogs to get along with chickens
You can teach your dogs that the chickens are part of the family by letting them watch you spending time in the coop – initially keeping them separated with chicken wire or fencing. Many breeds of dog are naturally cautious around small animals and will be protective of your chickens once they consider them a part of the pack. The behaviour you want to see is your dog cautiously sniffing at the chicken, as opposed to adopting the head-down-bottom-up ‘let’s play’ stance.
One of the most important considerations when it comes to dogs and chickens is the temperament of the dog breed. Hunting dogs such as greyhounds and beagles will cave in to their chasing instincts if the hens begin to flap around, and they should never be allowed to mingle with the chickens. In contrast, farm dogs such as sheepdogs have protective and herding instincts, and they will be less likely to harm your chickens.
There is no sure-fire way to guarantee your dogs and chickens will get on, but spending plenty of time introducing them goes a long way. As with all dog training, this can be an extended process, so be prepared to spend a few weeks introducing your chickens to your dogs with a barrier before you let them meet face to face. When you do introduce them, it’s a good idea to keep the dog on a short leash at first, just in case.
Keeping chickens with cats
Cats are a completely different story to dogs – they are harder to predict and less susceptible to training. However, they are unlikely to view a big fat hen as potential prey. Many farmers concur that their farm cats have no interest in hunting poultry, and are much more interested in the rats and mice that are inevitably attracted by birds. When keeping chickens, the occasional rat is standard, and having a cat around can greatly reduce their numbers.
Although most chickens are too large for a cat to hunt, this largely depends on the breed of chicken and the size of your cat. If you find that your cat is beginning to stalk your chickens, a sturdy and secure coop and run that your cat can’t access will deter trouble. This is good practice either way, as even if your cat is friendly with your chickens, your neighbour’s cat might not be! The ideal answer here is the Eglu, which is super-secure and comes with its own attached chicken run.
Keeping chickens with guinea pigs
You may already have a guinea pig hutch or run in your garden, and while this won’t be a problem for your chickens, it is not recommended for chickens and guinea pigs to share living quarters. This is for several reasons, one being that rats will be further attracted to your pets’ food, and they may attack your guinea pigs. Another reason is that when establishing a pecking order, your chickens will peck at each other and any other animal they live with. This can cause serious harm to guinea pigs, who do not have thick feathers to protect them.
Keeping chickens with rabbits
Rabbits can be great companions for your chickens if you introduce them to each other when they are all very young. You will also need to ensure that you care for their different needs within the same run, in terms of food and equipment.
Rabbits, for example, like to have a clean space to sleep in, so you may need to muck out your coop and run more regularly than you would if the chickens were alone. You will also need to ensure that the chickens and rabbits all have a safe space within the coop where they can have privacy and space. You can achieve this by separating your run into three areas, one to house the roosting chickens, another for your rabbits, and a communal space.
Photo by JackieLou DL from Pixabay
Having a large and secure garden run will make your chickens feel safer in general, and plenty of space will maximise the chance of the hens getting along with each other and their rabbit and guinea pig neighbours.
Chickens and other pets
Chickens can also rub along happily with goats, and with female ducks (males will tends to bully them). Ironically, they do not mix with birds in an aviary. They will eat anything that falls to the aviary floor, but they will also happily peck the other birds whenever they can and may attract rats and mice, which will cause problems for the smaller birds.
Small mammal pets such as hamsters and gerbils should never be kept in the same enclosure as chickens. The rodents will be pecked and killed.
By following these few ground rules, you will be able to keep the various members of your mixed menagerie happy!
Photo by Ricky Kharawala on Unsplash
This entry was posted in Budgies
Cats meow for various reasons. The cries that greet you when you arrive home – a barrage of short meows – are perhaps the most satisfying for a cat owner.
Cats also meow to get your attention – usually because they want some human contact, but also when they are feeling unwell. The meowing of a cat who wants feeding is another familiar variation on the theme! Cats may also meow if something in their environment is stressing them. It is also common for older cats with Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome to start meowing in confusion, often at night.
Which cat breeds meow the most?
Some cats are more vocal than others, and although this is partly to do with the individual cat’s personality, the type of breed plays a role too. The cat breeds famous for their vocalisations include the Birman, Maine Coon, Oriental Shorthair and Siamese.
Siamese cats are perhaps the loudest when it comes to meows. The Maine Coon has a variation on the standard cat meow, making a lovely chirping sound when they feel playful – which is most of the time!
Are there cats that don’t meow?
At the other end of the scale, some of the quietest cat breeds are said to be the Chartreux, Cornish Rex, Persian, Ragdoll and Russian Blue. There will always be cats that defy the meowing stereotypes, though, which is why you may well see the Bengal cat in online lists of the quietest cat breeds and the loudest cat breeds!
Why do cats stop meowing?
There are various reasons why a previously loud cat has gone quiet. These are some of the commonest reasons for a cat to lose its meow.
1. Change in surroundings. If you move home, introduce new furniture or bring strangers home, your cat may go quiet. In these situations they are weighing up the situation, deciding whether or not it’s safe to have ‘business as usual’. This is not actually a bad thing, as a cat who is genuinely anxious or afraid is more likely to meow and cry loudly rather than fall silent.
2. Temporary loss of voice. Cats that have been making a lot of noise – after spending all night fighting off intruders in the garden, for example – may have a hoarse voice or lose their voices altogether. This is the equivalent of you losing your voice the morning after a party where you had to shout all evening to make yourself heard. The cat’s meow will soon return.
3. Upper respiratory infection. This is are uncommon, but if it strikes it is likely to stop your cat meowing. Feline herpes, colds, and calicivirus are common causes, leading to laryngitis. These ailments will come with other symptoms, including runny or gummy eyes; wheezing, panting and breathlessness; coughing and sneezing; lethargy; loss of appetite; discharge from nose, mouth or eyes. Any cat displaying these symptoms needs to be taken to the vet.
4. Allergies. These can produce symptoms in a cat similar to respiratory infections, including wheezing and sneezing. These will often stop the c
at meowing. It is important to find the cause of the allergy, and if it isn’t obvious, a vet can advise you on what to do.
5. Laryngeal Paralysis. This is a dysfunction of the cat’s larynx (voice box). It is linked to old age, which is why very old cats tend to be quiet. Degeneration of the vocal cords means that the cat is no longer able to produce a sound. There is no discomfort involved, however, and a silent cat will still be a happy cat.
6. Tumours. Cats can be prone to various tumours, growths, polyps and cancers. If these affect the cat’s vocal chords, throat or mouth, it will lose its meow or change the sound drastically.
7. Nerve damage. If a cat has managed to get items such as grass blades or twigs stuck in its throat, it may damage the nerves that control the voice box. A blow to the throat region can produce the same effect, and this sometimes occurs if a cat has fallen or been attacked by another animal.
8. Recent surgery. A cat that has undergone surgery involving anaesthesia will have undergone intubation – i.e., had a tube inserted into its air passages. This can lead to internal inflammation that makes the cat unable to produce sound for anything from a few days to two weeks.
Less common reasons for a cat losing its meow include hyperthyroidism and rabies.
In all situations, your cat will need a little time to recover its poise. Medical or age-related conditions can silence the meow, but in most cases the cat will be back to its normal meow in a few days. Give your cat lots of attention and reassurance, and it will soon be back to its old meowing habits!
This entry was posted in Cats
In Britain, the fact that black cats are considered unlucky is a complete reversal of the original belief that black cats were actually lucky. It is white cats that were considered unlucky.
The cause of this drastic reversal of fortune, and the fact that black is the new white, is transatlantic exchange. In America, which in its early days was obsessed with witches and witchcraft, black cats – the classic pet of the witch – were demonized, and that superstition has been imported along with all the other baggage of the American Halloween. What Halloween goody bag is complete without its pumpkin, bat and black cat?
Are black cats a sign of bad luck?
The American blacklisting of black cats is linked to the days when British settlers were founding colonies in New England. These founding fathers were Christian fundamentalists, hounding out anything they perceived as witchcraft. Witches and their pet cats were viewed with fear and hatred, and a black cat was thought to be particularly demonic. They featured regularly in witch trials of the period.
This classic US symbol of bad luck began to overturn the black-cat-good-white-cat-bad superstitions of pre-20th century Britain after the appearance of the 1934 movie The Black Cat, starring Bela Legosi and Boris Karloff (more famous for their Dracula and Frankenstein’s Monster roles in that same decade). The film was based on a short story by American horror writer Edgar Allen Poe, which was first published in 1843. The commercialisation of the American-style Halloween in the last few decades has set in stone these superstitions of the black cat as a scary beast.
Why are black cats sometimes said to be lucky?
The reason why black cats hadn’t been demonized in Britain was that witches and their cats had always been there, originally as part of everyday life. And there was nothing sinister about keeping a cat – they were the only means of controlling the mouse and rat population. The so-called witches were the herbalists and healers of the villages, the Middle Ages version of the GP.
Black cats used to be thought lucky on board ships, not only keeping the rodent population under control, but helping to keep storms away too. Fishermen’s wives sometimes kept black cats at home to ensure their husbands were safe at sea. However, if the cat ran away, or if a random black cat hopped on board and then off again, it meant the ship was in danger of sinking.
In Scotland, the arrival of a black cat in a house was said to be a sign of good fortune. In general, a black cat taking up temporary residence in a porch was said to be a good omen. This is an echo of superstitious ages gone by, when felines (and not just black cats) symbolized domestic happiness. In Ancient Egypt, for example, the cat-shaped goddess Bastet was a symbol of domestic bliss and good fortune.
Gladstone – the black cat of Whitehall
The tradition of black cats as bringers of good luck still survives at the heart of the British government. Whitehall has adopted several cats from Battersea Dogs & Cats Home over the years, for the traditional role of mouse hunter. Many of them have been black cats, including the current holder of the post, Gladstone, who began his official government work in 2016.
Gladstone the black cat is a social media star, not surprisingly. His popular Instagram page makes him one of the most famous black cats around today.
What is the superstition about a black cat crossing your path?
In some parts of the world, including Britain a few centuries ago, the direction of travel of a black cat crossing the road was important. If the cat crosses your path left to right, it means good luck; if it goes the other way, it means bad luck. Similarly, if the cat walks towards you, it brings good luck, but if it runs away from you, it takes the good luck with it. For this reason, chasing a black cat from your property is said to bring misfortune.
The ultimate symbol of a black cat running away is when it dies. In the 1640s, King Charles I was reported to have said that he owed his good fortune to his pet black cat, and that he dreaded the day its nine lives were used up. Shortly after the cat’s death, Charles – having been on the losing side in the English Civil War – was arrested and eventually beheaded.
Where do black cats originate from?
In folklore, the witches’ black cat has very deep roots indeed. In Greek mythology, Hecate, the goddess of witchcraft had a black cat that had originally been Galinthias, a servant of Hera (wife of the god Zeus). She had turned him into a black cat as punishment for trying to prevent the birth of Hercules. Shakespeare’s witchcraft-coloured play Macbeth features Hecate (although her black cat is not mentioned).
Putting all superstition about cats aside, a black cat is simply a cat with the maximum amount of melanin, which turns the fur black. Pure black cats are rare in cross-breed cats, and it is thought that only 22 of the recognized cat breeds can have completely black varieties.
The superstitions about black cats may all sound like simple good fun, but there are definitely downsides. Stray cats and kittens with black fur are harder to relocate, and there are stories of black cats being abused by revelers during Halloween. So, even though we may dismiss the superstition about unlucky black cats as harmless fun, it can still cause very real problems.
The truth of the matter is that black cats, along with all other cats, are wonderful and bring nothing but good luck. The estimated 200 million cat owners worldwide will certainly vouch for that!
This entry was posted in Cats
While all cats are different, there are certain traits common to most felines. Most cats, for example, are united in the things they dislike. Unfortunately, a lot of the things cats dislike are things that that humans do to them, often unaware how much their cats hate it.
To guide cat owners towards more feline-friendly behaviour, here are the top ten things humans do that cats wish we wouldn’t.
1. Cats hate loud noises
A cat’s ear is designed to channel sound, and their hearing is much more acute than a human’s. This means that washing machines, shouting, music and phones – not to mention fireworks and family parties – are all things cats hate. Being respectful of a cat’s sensitive ears may help minimize the problem, but cats are also very good at escaping the loud noise and finding somewhere quiet. It is only when the noise is unescapable – fireworks, for example – that the cat’s stress can really mount.
2. Cats don’t like aggressive petting
While some dogs may enjoy a rough back-scratch or enthusiastic belly rub, most cats prefer a gentler approach. Heavy-handed pats, stroking and paw- or tail-handling will make cats feel in danger, and they will either run, lash out with their claws or simply become stressed. Many cats dislike being cuddled, a condition that has a name – feline hyperesthesia. This is particularly common in rescue cats, so always take care when petting your cat – watch its reactions and don’t force the issue. Dressing cats up in supposedly cute outfits falls into this category, too. Make sure everyone in the household, including the children, is aware of these kitty rules.
3. Some cats don’t like to be ignored
While not all cats crave attention, many domestic cats love it – on their terms, and when it suits them. A cat who doesn’t want to be left alone and wants you to stop doing what you’re doing and give them some attention will jump onto your lap or desk and generally get in the way of your hands. In an age of laptops and home-working, many cat owners are very aware of this feline attention seeking, and the demanding pet cat sometimes seems to be a permanent feature of the desk, computer keyboard or sofa!
4. Cats don’t like water
The fact that cats hate getting wet is such a well-known fact that it has become a cliché, but that doesn’t stop it being true! Cats avoid water, hide from the rain and simply hate being showered. As far as a cat is concerned, that all-purpose tongue is quite capable of delivering the perfect cat shower. You should only resort to cat baths or showers when absolutely necessary –to clean something toxic or oily from the fur, or to prepare a cat for a show.
5. Cats hate car journeys
Felines often hide under cars when they’re afraid, but most of them do not like car rides at all, and some cats are terrified by vehicles. The combination of motion, loud noises and strange smells is stressful for a cat, and they are also prone to motion sickness. Car journeys should therefore be restricted to necessities – for example, trips to the cat vet or to the cat hotel when you’re going on holiday.
6. Cats dislike other pets
Although a kitten that has been brought up with other cats, or even dogs, will tolerate their company, cats need their own territory, and they are also natural loners. Unlike humans – and unlike many breeds of dog – cats do not need a significant other in their lives. You only have to watch how cats react to other cats in their territory – in the garden, for example – to see how true this is.
7. Cats hate taking medication
You can fool a dog by wrapping a slice of ham around its tablet or mixing its medicine into the food bowl. Cats are more resistant to our efforts to make them feel better, though. Giving a cat tablets involves a coating of butter and some gentle throat massage.
8. Cats won’t use dirty litter boxes
Cats are very clean animals, and will not use a dirty litter box. Regular cleaning of the tray is therefore essential, and fresh kitty litter needs adding regularly to keep everything smelling nice and fresh. People often ask “what smells do cats hate?”, and the answer “cat wee and cat poo” is high on the list (along with air fresheners, incense and peeled citrus fruits!)
9. Cats should never be given physical punishment
This is one that a cat is unlikely to forgive a human for. A cat should be dissuaded from unwanted behaviour by making a not-too-loud noise, such as hitting your hand with a rolled up magazine or clapping (but, again, remember that they dislike loud noises too). Any physical chastisement will break the bond of trust between cat and owner.
10. Cats need their own space
A cat’s bed, favourite hidey-hole or quiet corner of the garden should be areas where humans never intrude. Children need reminding of this, as their instinct may be to pluck the cat from its bed and give it a cuddle. Once again, cats have a territorial nature and need their own quiet spots and safe zones, where they can unwind.
Knowing what a cat likes and what a cat dislikes is one of the keys to avoiding pet peeves and keeping your cat happy and healthy. One of the key takeaway messages is that cats are not like humans or dogs. They are cats – unique and purr-fect.
This entry was posted in Cats
Humans stress about work, running late for a brunch, money issues or that something is going to happen to our loved ones. In times of stress and worry, our cats are always there for us to calm us down and make us focus on something else for a moment – they know exactly how to reduce our stress. But do we as owners ever think about what might potentially make them stressed?
Stress is not an uncommon problem with cats. They are naturally anxious animals that don’t deal well with change, so there are lots of factors that might make your pet stressed. It’s not always easy to spot signs of stress, or to combat them, but it’s important to try, as chronic stress can lead to health and behavioural problems in felines.
What causes stress in cats?
Stress for cats is, easily explained, the perception of threat, rather than something actually harmful or risky. Often this is triggered by something changing in the cat’s daily life, as even positive change will be seen as a threat to the cat.
It’s important that you manage to identify what might be the cause of your cat’s stress. We’ve divided the most common causes into four categories:
An illness or physical trauma that requires treatment or medication will very likely make your cat feel worried. Apart from the potential pain or discomfort, the cat might also have to take pills or wear a cone, which limits their agility and freedom. Being on heat, or being pregnant, will unsurprisingly make most female cats feel on edge, and it’s very difficult to tell them what’s happening to their bodies. Apart from more medical conditions, grooming related changes like having a bath or getting a haircut can sometimes cause stress in your cat.
The big ones here are moving to a new house, or spending time away from the home, like in a kennel or on holiday. Cats prefer the safety of what they know, and will most likely not enjoy travelling anywhere.
Extreme weather and seasons changing can make cats worried and stressed, as can a lack of stimulation in their current living space. Outdoor cats who for some reason have been limited to the house will for example often develop stress related symptoms. Another common environmental stress factor for cats is the presence of other pets, including another cat.
Anyone unfamiliar to the cat coming into the household will be seen as a threat, and can make your pet anxious, whether they are guests who are just over for dinner, or new housemates moving into the spare bedroom. A new baby in the house is also a nightmare for some cats.
Often the problem is a change in the amount of attention the cat gets. Excessive stroking and playing will be just as stressful as the sudden lack of attention a newborn baby can cause.
- Litter tray and diet factors
Changing brand or type of litter or food will likely make your cat stressed, unless done gradually over a longer period of time. A new litter box can also be anxiety-inducing, as can an unusually dirty tray or lack of food and water.
What can stress do to a cat?
All living things are affected by stress, cats included. Bursts of stress, fear or anxiety are normal and harmless, but prolonged, chronic stress can be dangerous. Like in humans, longer periods of stress are associated with depression and a weakened immune system. In cats, stress is also believed to cause or trigger things like asthma, allergies, liver disease and stomach problems.
Stress can also cause many behavioural problems like aggression and litter tray avoidance.
How can I tell if my cat is stressed?
First of all, it’s worth pointing out that a cat that seems worried by a barking dog outside the window or the sudden noise of something dropped on the floor is completely normal. You only need to help your cat if you think they may be stressed than normal, or if they are constantly on high alert.
Physical symptoms of stress include, but are not limited to:
- Vomiting and diarrhoea
- Excessive shedding and/or grooming
- Changes in eating and sleeping patterns
And in terms of behavioural symptoms you should look out for:
- Any big changes in routines or behaviour
- Urinating outside the litter tray and spraying on furniture
- Unexpected aggression towards humans or other pets
- A disinterest in things going on around them
- Excessive meowing
- Hiding for long periods of time
If you notice a change in your cat’s behaviour or physical appearance, the first thing you should do is take them to the vet to rule out any possible medical condition that could be causing the symptoms. Stress can in itself be a symptom of some diseases and illnesses, but the vet will be able to give you some advice.
What can I do to help my cat?
The most important thing to do is to try and find the source of the stress. Have a look at the things we’ve listed above and try to observe your cat’s behaviour in different situations to try and see if there are any triggers.
Once you think you have located the reason or the reasons your cat feels stressed, try to solve the problem. Some are easier to deal with than others, and in some cases, as with moving or introducing a baby to the family, you will just have to give it time.
Make sure your cat has a safe space they can retreat to when they feel stressed or anxious. It can be a room where you rarely go, or a cat den like the Maya Nook. It’s important that everyone in the family knows not to disturb the cat when they are in their safe space, so that the cat can fully relax.
Spending time with your cat is a good way for you to keep an eye on him or her to make sure they are not struggling, and it gives the cat stimulation and social interaction, which are both great ways of dealing with stress. It can be chasing after a catnip toy or just relaxing on the sofa, let your cat decide.
Another thing to think about is that our pets are highly affected by our wellbeing. If you feel stressed your cat is more likely to feel stressed, and if you’re relaxed they are more likely to not see everything around them as a threat. It’s obviously easier said than done to stop feeling stressed and anxious, but maybe the knowledge that you’re affecting your pets’ mental health can make you find ways of making your life less stressful.
This entry was posted in Cats
Cats that are let outside have a shorter life expectancy than indoor cats. Sure, some outdoor cats live until they’re 20 years old, but on average, letting your cat roam free outside significantly increases the risk of injuries, accidents, and infections.
There are clear pros and cons for both indoor and outdoor cat, but certain factories can encourage the decision to keep your beloved pets indoors most of the time.
Cats and cars don’t mix, and if you live by a busy road you might not want to run the risk of letting your cat out to roam freely. Even the cleverest of cats can’t assess speed from a moving vehicle, and you’ll struggle to train them not to chase a mouse over the road without first checking the coast is clear.
Some cats are just not made to go outside. Their fur might not be thick enough to handle neither sun nor rain, they are not agile enough to move around different structures and textures, might not have the street smartness to stay out of trouble, or will just never see the point of outdoor activities, like exploring and hunting.
Cats with FIV
Feline Immunodeficiency Virus is a very contagious disease that significantly lowers your cat’s immune system. If your cat has been diagnosed with FIV, it’s highly recommended that you keep him or her indoors to stop them from passing the virus on, but also to protect them from infections or injuries that their immune system can’t handle.
Letting your cats roam free allows them to express natural behaviours, and one of these is the strong urge to hunt. While no one really cares about the odd mouse cats kill, people can get very upset when they see your cat bringing home song birds, baby hares or rare lizards. Wildlife fans are often great opponents of cat predation, and even if you trust your neighbours not to hurt your pet, letting your cat out might create an uncomfortable glitch between you and the rest of the neighbourhood.
Cat thefts are more common than you might think, maybe not surprisingly seeing how much some popular cat breeds cost. Thieves might keep an eye on your cats comings and goings over a few days, and lure them away when no one will notice.
It’s important to be aware that this does happen, and if you have an expensive cat you might not want to let it run free outside without supervision.
Illness and injuries
If your cat is sick or has hurt themselves in some sort of accident, the vet might have told you to at least temporarily keep them indoors. While this can be extremely frustrating for both cat and owner, it’s important not to hurry the healing process by letting your cat out too early.
If any of these apply to you and your cat, or if you for some other reason have decided not to let your pets roam free, you’ll be glad to know that there is a great solution that will both give your pet access to fresh air (which is highly beneficial to both their physical and mental health) and keep them safe: a cat run.
The Omlet Outdoor Cat Run, or Balcony Cat Run, can be customised to fit the space you’ve got in your garden or on your balcony. It’s just over 2m high, so you can easily go inside to spend time with your cat in the run if you want, or you can leave them to play or rest in the sunshine while you tend to the garden.
The run can be placed on most surfaces, and you can decorate it with climbing toys and scratching posts to keep your cat active and entertained. It’s stable and secure, so you won’t have to worry about leaving your cat unsupervised for shorter periods of time.
Not having to walk your cat on a lead will mean he or she can be outside for longer, and by adding covers to your run you can make sure they won’t get rained on, or burn their skin in the sun.
In a cat run, your pet won’t get into contact with traffic or any other, potentially unfriendly cats. You will be able to limit and control how much he or she moves around to not over activate bones and muscles, and the risk of theft is greatly reduced. Not only will your cat be safer, small rodents and song birds can also live a slightly more relaxed life!
This entry was posted in Cats
What is FIV?
FIV, or Feline Immunodeficiency Virus, is a viral infection that affects cats all over the world. It’s not in itself particularly dangerous, but steadily weakens the cat’s immune system, making them more susceptible to secondary infections.
FIV can be found in 2.5-5% of all cats worldwide, but is less common in healthy, domesticated cats like our pets.
How can my cat catch it?
FIV is spread through direct contact with an infected cat, most commonly through bites and wounds, which is why unneutered male cats prone to fighting for territory are over-represented among cases. Some evidence shows that mums can pass the infection onto their kittens, but it is rare. Infection through social grooming, sharing food and water bowls, and general close contact is very rare.
FIV can’t be transmitted between species, so infected cats can live with humans and other pets, but should be kept in a single cat household to be on the safe side.
How does it affect my cat and how do I spot it?
FIV starts with a short, normally relatively manageable illness that is not always noticed by the owner. After this the cats’ immune system will start to slowly deteriorate, but it can be years before it actually affects your cat in any way.
Something that will make a vet react and test for the infection is a cat that seems to struggle to recover from minor infections and illnesses. The cat doesn’t necessarily need to be very ill, it’s more a question of how often he or she needs to see the vet, or if they seem to be constantly battling some kind of health issue.
FIV positive cats are more susceptible to certain types of tumours, serious respiratory infections, skin diseases and mouth inflammations. That being said, research shows that infected cats have a similar life expectancy to healthy cats, and will in most cases be able to live a long and happy life if kept inside and looked after by a caring owner.
Can FIV be cured?
The simple answer is no, there is no cure for FIV, but as it’s secondary diseases and infections that mainly affect the cat, there are in most cases treatments, and there is no reason that a FIV positive cat won’t make a great pet for years to come.
A vaccine against FIV has been developed, but its efficiency has been questioned, and it’s currently only being used in some places in America.
What can I do if my cat is infected?
As FIV is spread through direct contact with other cats, it’s very important that infected cats are kept indoors. Not only does this stop the cat from passing on the disease to other felines, but also reduces the risks of catching secondary infections that due to their weakened immune system can make them very ill.
If you have a cat with confirmed FIV that can’t be let outside, they will still greatly benefit from some fresh air. The Omlet Outdoor Cat Run makes it possible for your cat to be outside and interact with the world around them, without the risk of running into any other cats. Decorate the run with some toys and a climbing post and let your cat play while you potter around the garden, or put a chair inside and take the opportunity to spend some quality time with your pet in the sunshine.
Other things you can do to help your cat is to take him or her for regular check ups, and to contact your vet as soon as you notice any changes, even if minor, in your cat’s health or behaviour. Also make sure to give a nutritious and well-balanced diet. Raw food diets are not recommended for FIV positive cats as uncooked meat and eggs can be dangerous to cats with a compromised immune system.
This entry was posted in Cats
Most cats don’t need much persuading to use a litter tray. This makes training a straightforward process, and the key detail is the tray itself.
A litter tray needs to be large enough to accommodate your cat comfortably while it’s using the facilities. It also needs to be placed in a suitable spot. Cats feel vulnerable when they’re relieving themselves, and will not use a litter tray in a busy part of the house. A quiet corner is what they need – but it should be away from the feeding area, as cats, like humans, do not like their eating and toileting activities to be in the same space!
The cat litter itself is not usually an issue. All the available brands do the job. The advantage that shop-bought products have over plain sandy soil is that they are super-absorbent, and don’t stick to the cat’s feet. It is best to avoid perfumed or deodorizing litter, unless the additives are all natural. Chemical perfumes can cause allergic reactions in some cats.
Basic Litter Training
A young kitten with a weak bladder – or a stressed rescue cat – may take time to get the hang of litter trays, but it is rare for a cat to fail this basic training course!
- Make sure the tray is big enough. If in doubt, get the biggest one you can. This will accommodate the growing cat, and the tray will not seem ‘full’ after a couple of visits. If the cat thinks the litter is too soiled, it will not want to enter the tray.
- If your cat is particularly shy, a covered tray is the best option, as these give more sense of privacy.
- If you have more than one cat, it is recommended that you should have one tray per cat. This prevents problems if the pets fall out or decide they’re not going to poo where another cat has just pooed!
- Remove the solid waste from the tray each day, and thoroughly wash it – and replace the litter completely – at least once a week. If the tray starts to smell too unpleasant, the cat will be tempted to relieve itself elsewhere else.
- In the early days, timing is important. A kitten will usually need to relieve itself after playing and after eating. When a young kitten has finished eating, carry it to the litter tray. A few sniffs and a bit of litter-pawing will often stimulate the desired response. You can also play with your kitten next to the litter box, ready to lift her onto the tray when play has ended.
- Lead by example. Not by actually using the tray yourself, of course, but by pawing the litter with your finger. Don’t take the cat’s paw and force it to dig, though, as this can be stressful and may even lead to litter phobia, which is definitely not what you want.
- If accidents happen outside the litter tray, put the droppings in the tray as a prompt for the cat.
- Be patient, never shout at the cat if it’s taking a little time to get the hang of it, lavish praise and affection on a successful litter-visit, and once your pet knows what to do, just quietly leave her to it.
Litter Training Problems
If the cat is resistant to the idea of using the tray and continues to use other parts of the house as the toilet, one effective deterrent is to move the cat food bowl to the place where the accident happened. Cats do not like mixing and matching their food and toilet, so this should help her move on to the more appropriate facilities.
If the message is still not getting through, confining the cat to a spare room may do the trick. With the litter tray at one end and the food and water bowl at the other, it would be a very perverse cat indeed who did not get the message. It may sound a little like a prison, but as long as the room isn’t too hot or cold, the cat will feel secure. You can visit for playtimes too, of course, and the need for confinement will usually be over in a couple of days.
Cats that persistently refuse to use a litter tray may be stressed by something in their environment. This could be other cats, a dog, noisy children, or the simple fact that the tray is not in a suitable location. There are occasionally health-related issues that make a cat ‘miss’ the tray, too, so that’s worth checking out if you’re not making progress with the training.
Otherwise, litter training a cat is simplicity itself.
This entry was posted in Cats
Allergy to cats is the most commonly seen of all pet allergies, almost twice as common as the dog equivalent. It’s estimated that up to 3 out of 10 people have some level of reaction to felines, but to what extent it limits peoples’ ability to spend time with cats varies greatly.
Common symptoms of cat allergy include one or several of the following symptoms after having been around a cat, or having spent time in a house where cats live:
- Coughing and wheezing
- Itchy and blotchy rash on the chest and face
- Red and itchy eyes
More extreme allergic reactions are shortness of breath, severe swelling, and in bad cases anaphylactic shock. If the allergy is present but not as prominent people might at first be absolutely fine around cats, but over time experience never ending fatigue and a constant sore throat.
What causes these symptoms?
Opposite to many people’s belief, it’s not actually hair that causes pet allergies, but a protein produced in oil glands on the skin, and is found in cat saliva, urine and dander (dried flakes of skin often found on cat hair). This protein is called Fel d. The World Health Organisation recognises 8 different allergens, Fel d 1-8, and out of these, Fel d 1 accounts for 60-90% of allergic reactions. Its exact biological function is still unknown, but it sure knows how to annoy humans!
People with allergies have an oversensitive immune system that mistakes harmless things, like a cat protein, for dangerous invaders and sends out a strong attack to destroy these invaders. The symptoms allergic people feel are side effects of the body’s defence against the allergen.
What is there to do?
Male cats produce higher levels of Fel d 1 than females and neutered males. The difference is however relatively small, so if you’re struggling it probably won’t matter that much.
The same goes for so-called hypo-allergenic cat breeds. While they do work for some allergic cat lovers, they still produce Fel d 1. So if you have severe reactions to some cats, getting one that produces less dander won’t make it possible for you to live with one. The only thing you can do is to spend time with the breed you’re potentially planning to buy or adopt beforehand and see how you get on.
Antihistamines can be a help to some allergic people; if taken regularly they minimise symptoms and make it possible to spend time in a house where a cat has been. They are normally best taken preventatively, making sure the body is prepared should it come across any triggering allergens. It’s however not recommended to depend on antihistamines on a daily basis to make it possible for you to get a cat. Even if it’s sad, you might have to come to terms with your allergy and that cat ownership might not be possible at the moment.
Finally, it’s worth noting that you can develop cat allergies at any time of your life, even if you’ve never shown any signs before. Allergies are not hereditary as such, but the tendency to develop allergies is sometimes passed down from parents to their children. This means that if you’re allergic to cats, it is more likely that your child will develop an allergy to something. It won’t necessarily be to cats as well, but as it’s one of the more common allergies it’s worth letting your child spend time with other peoples’ cats before getting one yourself.
This entry was posted in Cats
If you have problems with your cat eating their food too quickly, try changing their food bowl to a larger, shallow plate. This will slow them down significantly as they have to take smaller mouthfuls, which minimises the risk of the food coming back up again.
If you’re worried your cat doesn’t drink enough water, try putting the water bowl in a different spot to where they get fed. In the wild, cats will not drink at the same place as they eat to avoid the meat contaminating the water, and this behaviour lives on with some pet cats.
Does your cat rub against your laptop or try to sit on the keyboard as you’re trying to work from home? Bring out the best cat toy of all time, the cardboard box! Place a box on your desk and most cats will forget about you and happily play or curl up in the box.
Try freezing some of the treats you give to your cat. The unusual texture and temperature of the treat will stimulate several of the cat’s senses and encourage explorative play. This is especially good in summer when the cat will love the cooling effect even more.
If you want to keep your cat off the kitchen counter, a new sofa or an expensive side table, put some double sided tape over the surface where the cat’s sharp claws would cause damage. Cats hate the feeling of the sticky tape, and will quickly learn to avoid these spots. At that point you can remove the tape.
The best way to avoid cat hair all over the house is to get on top of grooming and brush your cat regularly, preferably daily. It doesn’t only decrease unwanted shedding, it also helps the cat groom itself and prevents matted fur and hairballs. Get a brush that suits your cat’s type of hair and make it a lovely time of the day together with your cat.
For fur that has gathered on rugs and upholstery, put on a rubber glove and run your hand over the surface to gather up pet hair. Shower squeegees can also be useful for this task!
Potted plants sometimes become alternative litter boxes, which is neither nice nor very good for the plant. To stop your cat from going in the pot, cover the soil with a layer of pine cones. These blend in nicely, but will put your feline friend off.
One of the best ways of stimulating an indoor cat is to give them a place to climb. If you haven’t got enough space for a large climbing station, put up some shelves that the cat can explore.
No matter how much you groom your cat and make sure the house is nice and clean, the cat’s bed will still be exposed to a lot of hair and dirt. Make sure you get a cat bed with a machine washable cover that can be cleaned over and over again without fading or weakening.
This entry was posted in Cats
We often get asked which is the best cover for an Eglu run to keep pets comfortable all year round. Read our simple guide below so you know how to help your pets in all weathers!
These shades are a thinner cover material which offers protection from the sun, without creating a tunnel where heat can build up inside the run. These are smaller than the winter covers to allow better airflow through the run for ventilation. Move the summer shade around the run to suit the time of day and your hens’ routine. You may wish to change this for a Clear or Combi Cover in summer when there’s rain on the way!
The Clear Covers allow for sunlight to flood your pet’s run, while also offering protection from rain. This makes them ideal for spring and autumn, so the run is light and warm with sun, but also protected from unpredictable wind and rain.
Get the best of both worlds, with shade from the sun on one side and light coming in the other, as well as full wind and rain protection on both sides. The Combi Covers are half dark green, heavy duty cover for extreme wind and rain protection, and half clear cover to let in sunlight and warmth and to let your pets see when you are bringing them treats!
Heavy Duty Covers
For strong, hard-wearing protection against the worst of winter choose heavy duty covers. Even when the temperature drops to single figures, the rain and wind batters your pets home, or a deluge of snow covers your garden, the dark green, impenetrable heavy duty covers offer sturdy weather protection. Your chickens or rabbits will be able to hop around the Eglu run in complete peace, without getting cold, damp or wind-swept!
Extreme Temperature Covers
Chickens and rabbits are very efficient at keeping themselves warm in cold weather, and the Eglu’s twin wall insulation will assist them by keeping cool air out and warm air in, but when temperatures plummet below freezing for multiple days in a row, they may appreciate a little extra support. The Extreme Temperature Blankets and Jackets add another insulating layer, like your favourite wooly jumper, without compromising the ventilation points around the coop.
This entry was posted in Cats
Snowy weather can bring great fun for all the family, but when it comes to our pets we need to take extra care to keep them happy and healthy (even if they love it!) Take a look at our snow safety advice, and make sure you’re prepared for whatever winter may bring…
Dry off damp fur and feathers
Check on your outdoor pets a few times throughout the day during periods of snowy weather and check they haven’t got too wet. Damp fur and feathers will take longer to dry during colder temperatures, making it difficult for them to warm up again. Indoor animals should also be dried off with a towel after being outside or going for a walk.
Clean paws of ice
For dogs and cats in particular, snow can get compacted into their paw pads and turn to painful cubes of ice. Use a towel or drying mitt to dislodge any chunks of snow and dry off their feet. Also take care when walking your dogs in snow, as salt used to grit the roads can be poisonous. Watch that they don’t stop to eat snow at the roadside and clean their legs and paws of any snow or dirt after their walk.
Pets of all kinds will use more energy to keep themselves warm in winter, particularly in super cold, snowy spells, so they will benefit from some extra food. Although they will appreciate more treats, don’t be tempted to overfeed on these. Something nutritious will help them the most.
Outdoor pets will need more dry bedding in their coop or hutch for them to snuggle into and keep warm. However, make sure their home is still well ventilated to keep fresh air moving through and prevent health problems. Read other ways you can get your coop winter-ready. Indoor animals might also appreciate an extra blanket or a cosy den for bedtime.
If you have a cat who still likes to go outdoors whatever the weather, be wary of the potential of antifreeze poisoning. Look out for symptoms such as vomiting, seizures or difficulty breathing and call a vet immediately if you think your cat may be ill. An outdoor enclosure could also provide a solution for letting them play outside in safety.
Don’t forget about the wild birds in your garden!
Place a wide bowl or tray of water in your garden with something inside to float around (e.g. rubber duck!) to keep the water moving and prevent freezing. Extra wild bird food will also be appreciated!
This entry was posted in Cats
There is only one universal rule when it comes to good timing with a new cat. Avoid introducing the furry newcomer when there’s a big party taking place, or at a time of year associated with fireworks.
Unfortunately, this one rule is often ignored. Big parties tend to take place at Christmas and birthdays. And when do people usually receive presents, including, possibly, new cats and kittens? Exactly…
The problem is that celebrations involve lots of noise and lots of people, and a cat introduced into this environment is likely to run for cover and stay in hiding for as long as possible. It can take a nervous animal several days to recover from party trauma.
The Best Feline Times
- It is far better to introduce the newcomer when all is quiet on the domestic front. That way, the cat gets an early taste of how everyday life will be with you and your loved ones.
- If the new cat is a birthday or Christmas present for a child, explain to them why the kitten is arriving a day or two ‘late’. The party day itself can then be a time to make the home cat-friendly. Install the scratching post, cat bed, cat flap and litter tray. Stock up on cat food and treats, and get lots of cat toys ready to go. These can all act as surrogate birthday or Christmas presents, paving the way for the new furry arrival a day or two later. Preparing your home in this way is necessary anyway, with or without the excuse of a birthday party.
- Homes need to be cat-proofed too, with toxic house plants and vulnerable ornaments removed.
- The new cat arrival date should be delayed until the person looking after the pet has enough time to do just that. Cats are independent animals, once they settle in, but in the early days you need to offer reassurance, a comfortable lap, and a few sessions of litter-tray training. An older cat may have been toilet trained already, but a kitten will take a while to grasp the idea.
- If the cat is going to be spending time outdoors, it’s a good idea to bring it home when it’s not too cold outside. Although good weather can never be guaranteed, the summer months have a better chance of delivering dry and sunny conditions. The cat won’t be harmed by wind, rain or snow, but if the weather is very bad, the wet pet might decide to head for shelter away from home. If it has not been a household pet for long, it may decide to take up residence in this new abode, and tracking it down won’t always be easy.
- The elderly: It’s a melancholy thought, but many cats outlive their owners. This is not a reason to avoid getting a new cat if you are elderly, but all owners should digest the fact that a cat will live 15, even 20 years, and if basic cat care is going to be an issue, it needs to be discussed. If there is someone who can help out with cat food shopping and litter tray cleaning, even if the cat owner is no longer able to carry out these tasks easily, that solves the problem. Cats are, indeed, a health asset for the elderly, with scientific research suggesting that they are greatly beneficial to mental health and happiness.
- Infants: At the other end of the age scale, it’s recommended to avoid bringing a new cat home if there is a baby in the house. Although incredibly rare, there have been tragic stories of babies accidentally suffocated by cats. A far commoner issue is allergies – some children can develop symptoms such as asthma and skin rashes in the proximity of cats and dogs, and until you know your child is allergy-free, it is best to avoid taking the risk. And even if a child is allergic to cats, there are hypoallergenic breeds – including the Abyssinian, the Cornish Rex and the Bengal – that do not provoke the allergic reactions.
- Children: If the new cat is for a child, it is important that there is someone else who is willing to put in some cat-care hours too. No child under the age of 12 should be given full responsibility for a cat – or indeed any pet.
- The Inbetweenies: Between childhood and old age, there is a time when many of us plan making a new start in new jobs and new homes. If you know this kind of change is imminent, it’s best to delay getting a new cat. Acclimatising them to a new home, and then another new home soon after, is not ideal, and the cat might leave the second home in search of the first one…
So, if you’re looking for a general rule here, it’s this: You can bring a new cat home any time – as long as it’s the right time!
This entry was posted in Cats
A cat’s signature move is the slinky walk with an upright tail. Intriguingly, no other cat species walks like this, and it is not known exactly when pet cats first adopted the posture.
The domestic cat’s ancestor, the African wildcat, hooked up with humans more than 10,000 years ago. They probably adopted us, rather than the other way round, attracted by the surplus of rodents nibbling away at our grain stores. It seems pretty certain that the feline freeloaders soon adapted their body language – tails included – just to please us, quickly securing their place on the sofa.
The following cat-of-nine-tails facts tell you everything you need to know about your pet cat’s swishing tail.
1 – Balancing Act
Cats have fantastic balance. Their tails play a major role in this skill, acting as a counterweight when puss is ‘tightrope walking’ on narrow walls or ledges. The tail also helps cats run and change direction with great agility – and without stumbling. Next time you get the chance, watch a cat run and turn – if a human took some of those feline twists and turns at a similar pace, they would simply fall over.
2 – Tails Tell Tales
Cats communicate with their tails, sending out subtle signals. The most familiar signal is the upright tail, a sign of a happy cat. In moments of great pleasure, the upright tail will quiver at the tip. This is not to be confused with the twitching tail of a resting cat, which means she’s irritated. Once the cat is on her feet and the tail is swinging from side to side, she’s switched from annoyance to anger, so watch out!
3 – Let us Prey
When they’re stalking prey, cats tend to keep their tails low and still, but they may still flick and twitch in excitement as the moment of pouncing draws near. If the hunt is unsuccessful, the tail will twitch restlessly in irritation.
4 – No Tail to Tell
Some breeds, including the Manx, are born without tails, due to a dominant gene. Two tailless Manx cats should never be allowed to breed, however, as a combination of the two dominant genes brings severe health problems to the kittens. The curly tail of the Bobtail breeds doesn’t come with the same potential health problems as the Manx cat gene. Both the Manx and the Bobtails seem to have learnt to balance pretty well without a classic cat tail.
5 – When the Tail Goes Cold
A cat that has lost its tail in an accident, or has injured it in a door or traffic accident, is definitely handicapped. It will not be able to balance as well as before or send out those tail-twitching signals. It is still capable of leading happy life, though – owners just have to look for other body language details to read their pet’s mood.
6 – Inside Story
Cat’s tails have between 19 and 23 vertebrae, depending on the breed (and not counting the tailless Manx!) This represents around 10% of the total number of bones in the cat’s body. These vertebrae give the tail its whiplash flexibility, held together with complex muscles, tendons and ligaments.
7 – Ailing Tails
If your cat is feeling unwell, you can usually see the signs in its tail. It won’t be held upright or twitching excitedly like before. If you notice that the behaviour of your pet’s tail has changed, take it as a sign that she needs a health check. Some cats are prone to dermatitis, sometimes brought on by fleas. This can often be seen in inflamed areas in the region where the tail joins the rump. Some hormonal problems can result in inflammation in the tail too.
8 – Upstanding Felines
The ability to walk with an upright tail is actually unique to domestic cats. All other members of the cat family walk with the tail down, horizontal, or tucked safely between the legs.
9 – Tail End
Cats raise their tails to tell us they’re happy and relaxed, but when prowling amongst other cats the raised tail signal is an invite to come and investigate. Other cats will sniff a cat whose tail is in the air.
It is widely thought that purring is something cats invented just for us – and perhaps that upright happy tail is another one of the ways they won a place in our hearts and homes.
This entry was posted in Cats
Some cats would rather have an early night on a warm sofa than a long night out on the tiles. The Persian, the Ragdoll and the Russian Blue, for example, all view the world beyond the window as a hazard rather than something irresistible on the other side of the cat flap.
Breeds such as the hairless Sphynx and the thin-coated Cornish Rex and Devon Rex struggle at both ends of the weather scale, burning in strong sunlight and shivering in the cold.
Other breeds, such as Burmese, Korat and Siamese love being outside and will soon become stressed and destructive if forced to live behind closed doors.
Many others mix and match as the mood takes them. For example, you’ll never see an Abyssinian cat more content than when she’s curled up in a favourite armchair – until you’ve seen her rolling blissfully on the lawn.
But no matter where your feline friend sits on the Coach Potato/Great Outdoors scale, one thing they all love is warmth. For an outdoor cat in the UK this is no problem from – let’s be optimistic – the back end of March to the middle of October. But when the temperature drops and the frosty mornings bite, every cat needs somewhere to warm its paws.
An Indoor Haven
You don’t need to have the central heating blasting out to keep your cat from shivering. A cosy spot to curl up in, away from drafts, hustle and bustle, will do the trick. It could be something as simple as a box with a blanket, or a safe space under the cupboard – or even on top of it. Best of all, a tailor-made cat bed will maximise cosiness and heat retention.
Another custom-made option is the Maya Nook. This transforms your cat’s cosy corner into a piece of attractive furniture, providing snuggling space for your pets, and with curtains that keep it all nice and private. The Maya Nook also has an optional wardrobe attachment, for keeping cat food, toys and other feline bits and pieces tidied away.
Even without the heating cranked up, the enclosed nature of the Maya Nook makes it the perfect hot spot at any time of the year.
An Outdoor Haven
If you have the kind of cat who craves the outdoors no matter what the weather, and who sometimes likes to sleep rough in the garden, there are things you can do to make their life a little comfier.
A box-with-a-blanket in a shed or other outbuilding, or a covered area in a quiet corner, can all give the bare minimum of cosiness that no outdoor cat can resist. Even a little dry area under a trampoline or climbing frame can do the trick.
If you have an Omlet Cat Run, you can put a covered snoozing area in one of the corners. That keeps things snug and safe for a cat who likes being outside, but who has a tendency to disappear or wonder into danger.
If your cat still suffers the shivers in winter, you could buy a cat jacket. These can be particularly useful for hairless breeds such as the Sphynx.
Best of all, though, there is that perennial favourite warm spot that can help a cat through the longest of winters – your lap!
This entry was posted in Cats
Watch a cat stalking through the grass or simply relaxing in the sunshine, and it’s clear that they love being outside. If you live in the countryside, this isn’t much of an issue, and all country cats mix and match the great outdoors and the great indoors. In towns, however, owners may be less keen to let their cat spend a night on the tiles.
Town cats have shorter lifespans than country cats, on average. This is not due to the benefits of fresh air – it’s simply because most premature deaths in the cat population are caused by road accidents, and a town the cat has far more chances of quickly shedding its nine lives.
Why do cats like being outdoors?
Do you like spending time in the sunshine, with the fresh air in your lungs and a gentle breeze on your face? Cats are exactly the same. Like you, they get a buzz from life beyond the four walls. They are stimulated by movement, sounds and scents, and even the humblest garden has these in abundance. Cats will investigate whatever the world has to offer, and this gives them both mental and physical stimulation, a combination that results in a happy and healthy cat.
Research has shown that certain sounds, including the squeaks of rodents and the twittering of birds, is particularly stimulating for cats. They find these things satisfying and engaging on an instinctive level, and all animals need to keep their instincts happy.
If given the chance, cats will make full use of the possibilities of life in the fresh air – not just the immediate vicinity, but the much wider local area, sometimes prowling a territory with a radius of one mile from their home. They will form all kinds of relationships in this territory, some friendly and some not, but all part of the rich tapestry of cat life.
What this means is that access to the outdoors is a great stress reliever, giving a cat many of the things it needs in order to stay alert and content, and to allow it to chill in its natural habitat.
However, owners who want to keep their pets indoors should not be put off by this. They can still provide their pet with most of the benefits of the outdoor life.
How to bring the outdoors indoors
Breed – and therefore personality – plays a big part in a cat’s contentment. Some breeds – including the Burmese, the Siamese, the Korat, the Oriental and the Abyssinian – need the outdoors in the same way as a piano player needs a piano, and they will not be happy if denied access to nature. Others – including the Persian, the Russian Blue and the Ragdoll – seem to have been bred for a life on the sofa, and will not miss being outdoors one little bit. Most crossbreed cats like to enjoy the best of both worlds, so if your cat is going to live indoors, you will need to make the domestic space a bit more ‘wild’.
Providing stimulation with toys, including ones filled with catnip, is half the battle. You should also open your windows wide enough to let the fresh air and the scents and sounds indoors, without giving an escape route for the cat. Failing that, opening the door to the garden while closing off the inner doors will allow the fresh air to circulate.
If space allows, a cat run is a great option. This can be linked to the house via a cat flap on the door, allowing your pet to spend as much time outdoors as it wants. If the cat run is not connected to the house, you can let the cat spend time on the run while you’re out in the garden as well. Or, if you start early, you may be able to train your cat to walk on a lead. This needs careful planning, though, as avoiding dogs out on their walks is an important detail!
The main takeaways from this are that cats need fresh air, and all the things it represents. But at the same time, town cats who are happy with a life on the sofa can enjoy most of the fun and stimulation of the outdoors by staying indoors.
This entry was posted in Cats
The closest ancestors of the domestic cats were solitary wildcat species that didn’t have to, and in most cases didn’t want to, draw attention to how they were feeling. Showing weakness would potentially expose you as an easier target for predators or competing cats. This is still present in cats today; in most cases they will try to hide what they are feeling from you.
With that being said, they do of course communicate. With other felines, and with us. They use scents and vocalisations, but also a lot of visual cues in the form of body language.
When you’re trying to analyse and understand your cat’s body language it’s important to use the context of the whole situation rather than just looking at one thing. Check the surroundings and try to work out what factors might affect your cat. Is there anything that might make the cat stressed, angry or worried? This might make it easier to understand the cat’s, not always crystal clear, signals.
There are five things to focus on when trying to read your cat’s body language. Eyes, ears, face, body and tail!
- Slow blinking – Eyes that blink slowly or are half closed indicate that your cat is really relaxed and trusts that the situation is not threatening. Try blinking back in the same slow way to mimic the cat’s behaviour. This is a great bonding exercise for the two of you.
- Dilated pupils – Given it’s not extremely dark in the room, large pupils indicate that your cat is feeling surprised, or scared and anxious. Normally the eyes will also be open wide, and the cat will not blink.
- Constricted pupils – If the pupils on the other hand are very small and constricted, your cat will most likely feel tense, possibly bordering on aggressive.
- Staring – If your pet locks their eyes on something or something, it is likely to be a challenge. If it’s you the cat is staring at – best not to approach!
- Pointing slightly up and forward – A content and relaxed cat will keep its ears held upright and pointing forward. This is the default ear position, and the ears will probably move somewhat as the cat follows familiar sounds in the room.
- Pointing straight up – This is a sign of a cat who is alert and ready to go. They might have heard something they want to investigate, but will first listen out a bit longer.
- Pointing in different directions – If one ear is angled to the side and the other one points backwards it is possible that the cat is nervous and trying to assess the situation to get as much information as possible.
- Pointing back, lying flat against the head – This is a sign of an annoyed, angry and potentially aggressive cat who is ready to pounce. It’s best to leave them alone.
- A relaxed and happy cat will have relaxed whiskers pointing going out from the face. Many cats also have a relaxed facial expression that resembles a smile.
- An anxious or scared cat will pull its whiskers back along the side of the face to take up as little space as possible and not seem like a threat. Or if they are on high alert, the whiskers will point forwards.
- If the whiskers stand erect pointing away from the face, or forwards, it’s a sign that the cat is angry. He or she might show their teeth and hiss or growl.
- The neutral body stance for a cat is relaxed and even, with no tension. If they are lying down, they will be stretched out or curled up into a ball with their paws tucked in under the body. Often this might be followed by purring, a sign that the cat is content and relaxed.
- An anxious or scared cat will in most cases just run away and hide somewhere away from what is frightening them, but if it’s not possible they will crouch very still on the ground with their head held low.
- An angry cat will try to make itself look as big as possible, with the fur pointing away from the body, straightened front legs and an arched back.
- It’s worth noting that a cat that’s lying on its back might not want a belly rub. Just as dogs they are trying to show submission, but would in most cases prefer just to be left alone.
- Held upright – This is a sign of a happy cat that wants attention and company. The tail can also be relaxed, but normally doesn’t move.
- Held straight down – This should be a sign that the cat is scared or upset. A scared cat can also hold its tail under its body.
- Wagging – A wagging tail does not mean the same for cats as it does for dogs. If the tail is moving quickly from side to side, the cat is likely annoyed and would like to be left alone. If the cat instead wags the tail slowly, they are trying to assess the situation and deciding what to do. The cat might be a bit worried, so if you can, try to reassure him or her.
- Big, bushy tail held out straight from the body – Do not approach! This is an angry cat that is trying to look as scary as possible to potential threats.
This entry was posted in Cats
We’ve all been asked the age-old question at some point in our lives… “Are you a cat person, or a dog person?”
For those who reply “cat person” you will likely have had the confusing but unsurprising reply of “No way! I HATE cats!”
But why? So many people have strong feelings against cats, and most of the time can’t even justify their negativity. While some reasons can be understandable, others are just plain unreasonable! Here are a few reasons why our feline friends gained so many haters…
Myths and history
If we look back into Ancient Egyptian history, we will see that cats were considered magical beings, protectors and a sign of good luck by the Egyptians, and they even worshipped a Cat Goddess, named Bastet.
So how have we become a world completely split over whether cats are good or bad?
Throughout history, other countries have had mixed thoughts on the symbolism of cats. The main myth that has been carried through to the present day is most damaging to the reputation of the black cat. Some say if a black cat crosses your path you will have bad luck, others believe black cats are actually witches in disguise. Despite neither of these conspiracies holding any weight in truth, they still impact black cat adoption rates to this day, and may go somehow in explaining why so many people feel uneasy around cats of any colour.
A common reason for the hate towards cats is related back to bad experiences that may have happened as early as childhood. It normally follows a story of visiting a family or friends house as a kid, and being swiped, bit, scratched or hissed at by the resident cat, with rarely any mention of what the disrespectful child-self may have done to provoke said cat.
Some people fear dogs for the same reason too so it definitely isn’t the main cause of hostility. We can only hope that someday these people may come around to the fact that it is very rare for a cat to attack for no reason, as an adult you are going to be better at reading the signals of a cat who would like some space.
Yes, okay, sometimes cats aren’t as affectionate as dogs but this is because they are typically more independent. However, the notion suggested by some cat-haters that cats aren’t capable of loving their owners at all, is just plain silly.
Some cats who have bad experiences with humans, may be more wary or even fearful of us, and will likely have got used to their own company and learnt to fend for themselves. But even the most frightened and isolated cats learn to enjoy human company again, after lots of love, care and affection.
There are lots of fascinating ways that cats show they love their owners and you can read all about those here.
If your neighbour’s cat is causing a mess in your garden or terrorising your chickens, it is understandable that some anger may develop towards the whole species. However, that behaviour is not a reflection on all cats, so don’t paint them all with the same brush!
You might, however, like to place the responsibility on the cats’ owners and suggest solutions to prevent upsetting neighbours, such as an outdoor pet enclosure for cats to spend time outdoors without getting up to mischief. Some people even walk their cats on a lead when they are new to an area to show them where they can go – whether this works or not is debatable.
“Dogs are cuter”
Some people are just die hard dog fans and we have to accept that, but the argument of which pet is “cuter” is entirely subjective and shouldn’t be taken as truth. If you think cats are cuter, then good for you! Cats should have as much chance as any other pet in finding a happy and loving home for life, and if you give them everything they need to be safe and content, they will love you right back.
This entry was posted in Cats
When a cat scratches a wall or post, it’s a sign that strong winds are about to rattle the rafters. If the cat scratches the legs of your table, it mean a change in the weather. According to old British folklore, that is…
In reality, cats scratch for personal reasons – not to alert you to things your weather app may have missed! But the folklore underline something very true – the fact that cats will happily run its claws up and down your household treasures. That’s why a tailor-made scratching post is a must for all pet cats.
There’s no doubt that cats enjoy the sensation of scratching. But there are two practical reasons for the behaviour. Cats trim their nails by clawing against hard or rough surfaces, so a scratching post is a kind of manicure station. Scratching also lets them have a good, general body stretch.
Cats also have scent glands in their paws (to match the ones on their cheeks – that’s what they’re up to when thy brush against your legs). When scratching, they are also scent-marking, to tell the world that this particular territory belongs to them.
It’s not just domestic cats that do this. Tigers, for example, scent-mark trees, gouging them with their enormous claws as they do so.
Learning From Scratch
Pet cats that spend a lot of time outdoors will not scratch as much in the home. Their nails will be kept in good shape the natural way as the animal roams its wider territory. Cats will also, like tigers, take advantage of trees and other natural scratching stations.
If your cat spends little time outdoors, the urge for indoor scratching will be strong. You can reinforce desirable scratching behaviour by showering the cat with praise and affection when it uses the scratching post, and gently discouraging it if it tries to get its claws up close and personal to the furniture. It’s important not to simply cuddle the cat to stop it clawing, as your pet may interpret this as attention. The assumption “My Claws + Your Furniture = Quality Time With You” is one you need to discourage.
Cat Scratch Posts – Feline Groovy
A persistent furniture- or curtain-scratcher will need to break the habit. Covering the cat’s favourite table leg, sofa arm, etc., with kitchen foil, double-sided sticky tape or shiny plastic sheeting usually does the trick. The cat doesn’t like the feel of its claws on these surfaces.
Odours can deter persistent scratchers too. Citrus and menthol are two scents that most moggies will keep away from.
Another trick is to buy (or make) a scratching post and place it next to the piece of furniture the cat has been scratching. A sprinkle of catnip will make the new scratch post irresistible. Once the cat has engaged, the post can be moved somewhere more convenient.
It’s important that the scratching post is appealing to your pet. It will need a wide, heavy base to prevent it from wobbling or falling over during clawing, and should be tall enough to accommodate your cat at full stretch – between 60cm and 90cm. Make sure the material attached to the post has vertical grooves, rather than horizontal. Corrugated fibre boards work well, or materials with a vertical weave. This will ease the scratching process, and also minimise the chance of a claw snagging in the material (something to be aware of if you’re making your own post).
A scratching mat is another option, although many cats seem to prefer stretching upwards to scratch. This may be something to do with getting their scent spread at optimal height for feline passers-by to sniff at.
Identifying the Claws of Stress
Cats sometimes claw when they’re stressed, and that’s when your furniture is in real danger from cat-scratch-fever. Identifying the source of stress is important. It could be another cat, another pet (usually a dog), or even a child in the house whose rough handling has freaked out the poor puss. On the other hand it could be a noisy household appliance, or some regular noise from outside the home, such as aircraft or hyperactive car alarms.
As far as possible, remove or minimise the source of stress. Provide a second scratch post too. If you have more than one cat, it’s a good idea to give them each a separate post to call their own.
And just out of interest, next time your cat has a prolonged scratch at its post, take a look outside. Is it getting windier? Is the weather on the change? After all, those weather apps don’t get it right every time.
This entry was posted in Cats
Have you ever looked at your pets’ paws and wondered why? Why don’t they have hands and fingers like us? The answer dates back thousands of years and is the result of our pets’ ancestors adapting to the independent and wild lives they once lived in an environment which was very different to your safe, warm home.
The History of the Paw
Before our pets were domesticated, they had to defend themselves to stay alive while hunting for their own food. Many of the traits that helped them do that haven’t changed, staying with the species’ throughout evolution. This includes the paw.
Dogs and cats are the main paw-ed animals that may come to mind. But before we had house cats and dogs, there were generations of wild cats and wolves. The purpose of the paw is largely related to sound and shock absorption. The fatty tissue inside the pads helps animals jump and land without pain or noise, especially helpful for silently hunting prey in the wild while protecting limbs from impact.
The paw pads are also much rougher when the animal is subject to extreme surfaces day in, day out. This assists with grip in treacherous or slippery conditions, working in a similar way to human shoes. For our domestic pets, the paw pads are often much smoother as conditions are easier underfoot. Some dog breeds still have webbed feet to help them swim, an adaptation that wolves passed on and still benefit from.
While paws are well adapted for walking and jumping around, debris can sometimes get stuck in the paw pads and cause pain. If you spot your pet chewing at their paw or limping and lifting it off the ground, carefully check their paw pad for any stones or splinters that may need removing. If your rabbit or guinea pigs paws look sore it could be a sign that their bedding is too scratchy.
What can the paw tell us?
Did you know, that some animals use their paw pads to keep cool and release sweat? So damp paw prints could mean your pet needs some help cooling down.
Pet’s paws can sometimes tell us a little bit about how they are feeling, too. For example, cats will knead blankets, beds, pillows and even humans with their paws when they are feeling happy and content. There’s lots of reasons why this may be; it might remind them of nursing from their Mother, they could be trying to create a cosy spot to sleep, or they could be using the scent glands in their paw pads to mark their territory.
Have you also noticed your cat doesn’t like their paws to be touched? This is because the pads are extremely sensitive to touch, but some cats can be trained to tolerate their paws being touched, often easier if done from a young age, so if your cat does let you touch their paws it could be a sign of trust.
More info here and here.
This entry was posted in Cats