Saturday, 12 December 2015

How to keep your feline in purr-fect shape this Christmas

Christmas is fast approaching and many of us are preparing to eat, drink and be merry. However, I would advise cat owners to think twice before they offer their pet cat a tasty titbit from the dining-room table.
Overfeeding will cause a cat to become overweight, placing a strain on his joints and risking health problems such as diabetes, we would advise that puss continues to follow a balanced diet throughout the festive period, for the benefit of his long-term health.

If you are thinking of offering your cat a treat:

  • Do not give them human chocolate, which is not good for cats, or pieces of turkey which may contain small bones
  • Instead, offer them a little boiled fish or boneless chicken in its own juice (ensure it is adequately cooked to avoid the risk of salmonella poisoning). Alternatively you can give puss one of the many safe to eat Christmas cat treats that are available. - MellyBoy is a big fan of Dreamies!

Some cats will also nibble at the seasonal items that appear in their home over the festive period so do remember:

  • Holly, Poinsettas and mistletoe are potentially toxic to cats so, if choosing to have them in your house, position them well away from your cat’s reach. Also if you receive any plants as Christmas presents, consult your vet to check they are safe for felines (Lilies are particularly toxic).
  • Watch your cat to see how he reacts to decorations such as baubles, tinsel or Christmas light cables. If he can’t keep his paws off them then it is best to keep him out of the room when you are not with him.
  • After opening presents, be sure to completely clear the room of wrapping paper, elastic bands and so on to prevent your cat from nibbling at them.

As well as the physical dangers over the Christmas period, it can also be a stressful time for some cats... the excitement of visitors coming in and out of the house can be fun for some cats but stressful for others. 

It is always a good idea to make sure that your cat has somewhere to hide if he is feeling stressed out of nervous and consider using something like Feliway which is a great way to help calm stressed out pusscats.

For more comprehensive advice from a wonder Feline Behaviour Advisor, Debbie - check out this blog post


Tuesday, 8 December 2015

The Charm of the Older Cat

This week brings another guest blog from the wonderful Debbie, Feline Behaviour Advisor at Blackwater Valley Vets.


So very often older cats are sadly overlooked by people wanting to adopt from Rescue Centres but these cats can give their new owners so very much.

Older felines are not such hard work as young kittens and young adult cats can be. As we reach a certain age we often don’t want to take on a kitten or young cat as they could outlive us and depending on your family situation this could cause concern in later years.

Older cats are more content to sleep more and will often seek out the comfort of a warm lap or sit close by you on the sofa. Aloof cats can become more affectionate as they age. Older felines often  feel more vulnerable in their outside territory especially if younger and more confident cats are in the local vicinity so would prefer to accompany their owners outside or potter about rather than venturing further away from their garden.

Obviously taking on an older cat will need a lot of thought and careful consideration especially financially as when they age they are more susceptible to age related conditions. Once a cat reaches 12 years of age it is the equivalent to us being 70.

Signs to look out for with an older puss is a loss of appetite, drinking more, mobility issues, bad breath, weight loss, constipation or passing urine more frequently. If you notice any of these signs take your cat to the Vet for a senior health check, as generally if conditions are caught early enough they can be treated.

Cats at any age are masters of disguise when it comes to pain or discomfort so clues for this include sleeping more, obviously more difficult to pinpoint with an older cat as they would naturally sleep more anyway. Out of character grumpiness or aggression can also indicate pain that the cat may be is experiencing. Also observe any unusual sleeping positions as tummy or abdomen pain can be associated with these as the cat finds it tricky to get comfortable.
A few main age related conditions that can affect the older cat are Renal Disease, Hyperthyroidism, Arthritis, Diabetes, Cystitis and Constipation.

Environmental Enrichment:
Consider your older cat when making any changes however insignificant to ourselves, to the inside of your home as your cat will find them more challenging even if new furniture or carpets arrive as these will bring strange smells into your cat’s core territory. Just as we would look at the layout of our homes when we age and get stiffer it is no different for our cats and any helpful tweaks to their inside and outside territories to help them cope more will be much appreciated by them.

Ideas to help you with this are as follows:-
Placing a few water bowls around the home away from their food bowls will encourage your cat to drink as in the wild cats are reluctant to drink near to where they catch prey in case the water is contaminated. Older cats can suffer with urinary tract problems or Cystitis so drinking is important for them. Some cats like mine prefer filtered water; others bottled water and a lot like the water fountains that cascade a continual stream of running water. I have found that placing a bowl at the top and bottom of my stairs and one in the utility room has helped my cats and they drink from all three.

If your cat’s feeding station is elevated then placing a chair or making a few steps to help them climb up can help with any mobility issues. Placing the food bowl on a brick to higher it up to avoid any extra strain on their necks can be useful. You can buy elevated bowls to help with feeding from larger pet stores and on line.

Tips to help with a cat that seems disinterested in food are to gently warm the food up in a microwave for a second to blood temperature as this increases the aroma as older cats often lose some sense of smell. Adding a little water to make the food more of a pate consistency can also help. Adding the liquid from a low sodium, low protein source like tuna spring water not brine or low salt chicken broth can increase palatability and encourage eating. It is a good idea to get your older cat’s teeth and gums checked by your Vet if they go off their food as this can often indicate dental problems. Bad breath is often another common indicator of gum or dental issues.

A brick or step placed either side of the cat flap can help your cat enter and exit more easily and a bolt hole located near to the exit of the cat flap will allow an older more insecure cat enter their outside patch more securely as they can survey from here before entering further. I have found that a garden bench or the barbeque has worked well for me.  Looking at the garden from your cat’s view point can be useful especially in the older cat’s case. Densely stocked flowerbeds with shrubs and bushes of varying heights will provide more private surveying areas. A private and un overlooked latrine site will be welcome as older cats feel more vulnerable eliminating outside. A safe spot reserved for sun bathing in the warmer months will be welcome too.

Installing a microchip cat flap will help give your older cat more confidence with venturing outside as this cat flap will only read and recognise your own cat’s microchip and thus deters neighbourhood cats from entering the security of the resident cat’s home. The one I recommend is the Sure Flap one as it was easy to install, runs off normal AA batteries and fitted my old Staywell hole which a lot of people will have. Please have a look at the sureflap website for full details at
I can offer you a very competitive price for a Sure Flap cat flap so please contact me or my colleagues at the Gordon House surgery on 01276 22193 or email me at

Arthritic and stiff jointed cats will benefit from a soft fleece placed on their favourite resting place and I have bought a heat reflective fleece for my cat’s basket. You can also warm up a heat pad and place this under a fleece or blanket for them. The damper and colder weather can really affect the older cat’s joints and mobility. There are joint supplements you can give your cat or sprinkle onto their food but please be careful and take advice from your Vet before using them as some supplements are not what they appear to be and the contents may not necessarily be inside. The International Centre for Nutritional Excellence has a handy website who can give you proper information on joint supplements to help you, or speak to your Vet for their recommendations.

Providing a couple of litter trays with some soft grained litter in as this is softer under paw, please try to avoid pellets as these can be hard on an older cat’s  paw pads as they will be more sensitive due to not going outside as much. Fill with a minimum depth of 3cm as your cat needs to dig and place the trays in quiet, private corners avoiding main thoroughfares and not near to windows, glass front door panels or cat flaps. I have placed one tray on the upstairs landing and one in the utility room and both are used. In my view providing a litter tray for an older cat is a must and it gives them a choice especially if the weather is cold, icy or damp outside.

Even older felines can still enjoy a gentle game and little 10 minute play sessions can help keep them mentally stimulated. Fishing rod style toys encourage their predatory skills and popular options are inexpensive ones like rolled up pieces of paper or tinfoil or ping pong balls.

Try to keep an eye on your cat’s nails as they may need regular clipping to avoid them getting caught in your bedding or carpets. Curled round nails can be painful as they dig into the sensitive paw pads. Our Veterinary Nurses can perform nail clips to help you if needed and can teach you do this task at home. Older cats often prefer to spend most of their time indoors especially in the colder months so they will not wear their claws down as much. Providing a scratching post will help with this and cats will want to strop, scratch and stretch their muscles when they wake up.

The same goes for your cat’s coat as often the older cat can’t twist and turn easily due to age related mobility issues and as a result their fur can become greasier and more unkempt. Gently wiping a moistened cotton wool pad over your cat’s fur concentrating on areas that
would be hard for your cat to reach can help with the coat appearance. Gently grooming with a baby brush or other soft brush can help to get rid of loose top hair. Regular flea treatments with a product that actually works will also be beneficial for the older cat.

Don’t be too alarmed if your older cat especially the more senior they become starts to vocalise more, especially at night. This is quite normal and part of the ageing process. Some cats can become disorientated or distressed if they are not within sight of their owner, some will wail and stare at blank walls. Senior cats can suffer with a form of feline dementia. What helped me in the past with my 17 year old cat who was unable to get up on my bed and cried a lot, was to make a warm bed for him out of a cardboard box, I laid it on its side and cut a wide gap in the front for access. I lined it with a towel, a fleece with a heat pad wrapped in it and then put my soft dressing gown on top, and my scent was stronger on this garment and acted as a comforter. He seemed to settle better with this.

You may want to consider a product called Feliway which can be helpful with our older felines. A cat will rub their cheeks against objects indoors and outside or us owners to leave behind substances called facial pheromones which convey a message of security and reassurance. Pheromones are chemical substances used for communication between members of the same species. Feliway has been formulated to contain a synthetic fraction of this facial pheromone and comes in a plug in diffuser or a spray both of which can be used in conjunction with each other if needed. It is scent free to us and is safe to use around babies, children and dogs. The diffuser lasts a month with refills available and the spray comes in handy for vet and cattery visits or to use on the cat’s bedding or around the cat flap area. I have plugged in a Feliway diffuser in my bedroom to help my older cat cope better at night. Have a look at my autumn feline tips on our Blackwater Valley Vets Facebook page as we are offering a discount on any of the Feliway range until the end of the year.

Well I really hope that these tips have helped a little and that you have enjoyed my article on older cats. My final advice and something I have followed long before I worked for a Veterinary Practice is to have my older cats annually blood tested from the age of 12. Early, chronic or acute age related diseases can be detected and the earlier diagnosed the easier it is to treat.

Finally, enjoy the charm and companionship of your older cat and long may your special relationship together continue.

Best wishes, Debbie. 

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Christmas Gifts for the Cat 2015

My darling little companion, MellyBoy gets pretty spoilt at Christmas.  He gets lots of great toys and treats, not only from me but from friends and family too - lucky boy!

I have pulled together a list of some of the best cat gifts available.  From pennies to many, many pounds, I am sure there will be something here for the fur baby in your life - enjoy!

Treat Ball

This is one of MellyBoys favourite toys - mainly because it involves food and he is beyond greedy!  You basically pop a few little treats inside it and the cat has to bat the ball around so that the treats fall out of the hole.  It's a nice little toy to leave with your cat if you are out for the day and they get a little bit of exercise and a lot of excitement.

Cat Scratch Laptop

This is hilarious!  It plays on the fact that so many of our feline friends climb on to a laptop when we are trying to work.  Now, pusscat can have a laptop of their very own, plus a handy scratch pad to deter said cat from scratching your furniture!

Jolly Moggy Cat Pod

I think this is a great gift for a cat.  It combines somewhere to snuggle up and hide, somewhere to scratch and a fun toy too!
Dog Shaped Scratch Post

This is by far the most expensive thing on my MellyBoys this year.  £695 for a giant dog for the cat to scratch anyone?  Wow!  I do love my cat, honest I do, but I could buy a seriously nice handbag with that kind of money!  Sorry MellyBoy - you'll have to dream on mate!

Do it Yourself

Are you a bit crafty?  Maybe you could make something yourself for your moggy friends.  Check out this blog post for some ideas

Yeowww! Cat Toys

I don't know what it is about this brand but the cat nip must be super strong as these toys send MellyBoy, and every other cat I know, completely barmy!  They are quite pricey but, in my opinion worth every penny as the (rather gross) smell lasts for ages and they are pretty tough which is handy because the way MellyBoy batters his, it needs to be!


OK so I know it is a dog in the picture but how about a little sofa for your pampered puss?  I don't know about you but MellyBoy only really likes to lay where he shouldn't so I am not sure he'd go for this but I love the idea of it!

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Christmas Gifts for Cat Lovers 2015

Christmas is fast approaching and I am having great fun searching for fabulous gifts for my cat loving friends!

I wanted to share some of my favourite finds with you...

Cat Post It Note Dispenser

OMG how cute is this?  Perfect desk accesory for a cat fan!

Subscription to The Cat Magazine

I love this magazine and look forward to receiving it and reading through all of the great articles.  This is a great gift for the feline loving person who already has everything!
 Cat Plasters

I think this is a fabulous little stocking filler.  Cats always make me feel better so a kitty cat plaster surely will help heal your wounds? OK, maybe not but I love them anyway!  Also, these are available for Cats Protection so you will help raise a few pennies when you order :-)

The Cats Pajamas

These PJs are gorgeous and whatsmore, they are fleecy so your fur baby will definitely want to curl up on your lap when you are wearing these!  I would like a pair to protect me from MellyBoys kneading which can be pretty painful at times!

Selfie Stick

Does your cat loving friend love taking selfies with their cat?  A selfie stick is the perfect gift for them!  MellyBoy and I love taking selfies!

Pet Portrait 

Have you heard of fiverr?  It is an amazing website where people offer their services for $5 (don't worry, you can order from the UK).  There are loads of people offering pet portraits and they send you pdfs so you don't have to pay for postage! You can then print it locally and pop in a frame for a very personalised, inexpensive gift!  My link is just one example so have a good look around the site for other drawing styles.

Cat Notebooks

I love notebooks and I think they make great stocking fillers.  I also love Doodlecats... a really fun website selling fantastic, original gifts.  I particularly like these recycled notebooks.

Cat Necklace

I think this simple necklace is beautiful and would be a great present for a cat lover!  Available on Etsy!

Cat Therapy - Colouring Book for Adults

I had to order one of these for myself... what a nice relaxing way to spend an evening!

Cat Tote Bag

With the new rules around charging 5p for carrier bags, I think tote bags and shopping bags are the ideal stocking filler for crimbo 2015!  I do love this one very much!

Cat Watch

I am literally in love with this, I do not know what else to say!

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Debbie’s Christmas & New Year Tips For Felines

Christmas is a lovely time of the year especially when it is spent in the company of family and friends but please do spare a thought for our feline household members as changes in their indoor environment, and routines, can cause them various degrees of emotional stress. Our older felines and the anxious ones can be affected much more.

Some of the seasonal challenges that our cats face at this festive time of year are different and strange smells from Christmas trees and scented candles, furniture that may need to be rearranged in order to accommodate the Christmas tree or extra visitors. Visitors that pop in or even stay over during the Christmas holiday can create more noise and change the familiar scent profile around the home for your cat. Visitors or house guests may include a baby, young children, teenagers or a dog.

By “thinking cat” we can help our cats with these stressors just by providing ample hidey holes, bolt holes, escape routes or even a separate familiar “den” if space allows with all of your cat’s resources in so that your cat can feel safer and in more control. Don’t worry if your cat hides away, especially if they feel more anxious when visitors arrive this is normal behaviour and their way of coping with the situation.

Young Kittens:
Kittens are not only a pure delight but are usually very inquisitive and playful and often find the sight of the Christmas tree and dangling baubles very appealing and are often tempted to climb up the tree so try to keep young cats and kittens supervised when they play around the tree or near to lit candles, fairy lights and tea lights. It would certainly be an idea to keep kittens out of your main room overnight.

Tinsel, ribbons, string and Christmas wrapping paper and baubles are other playful objects that attract kittens so again keep a watchful eye out when wrapping presents in your cat’s presence. Ribbons and string can be easily swallowed by a curious and playful cat.

 Normal Routine:
Wherever possible try to stick to your cat’s normal feeding routine over the holidays as cats need predictability and consistency.  Avoid giving turkey dinners to them as this can be rich and cause tummy upsets.

The Party Season:
New Year’s Eve can bring further challenges for our cats due to the many fireworks that go off  the noise of which can be very frightening for our felines as they can hear at a much higher level than ourselves.

So as mentioned earlier, one of the cats coping strategies is to hide, so do not worry if your cat does this in response to the fireworks it is normal behaviour. Do not disturb your cat and try to provide plenty of easily accessible hidey holes for your cat to retreat to. Under a bed, inside of open cupboards, tops of wardrobes and cardboard boxes are handy options.

As well as trying to keep to your normal cats routine, keep curtains or blinds closed and keep the TV or radio on as a background noise. I would recommend locking your cat flap if you have one during the evening so that your cat remains safe inside your home. Remember to provide  a litter tray and place it in a quiet and private area away from a busy thoroughfare and try to use an unscented and a fine grain litter as it is softer under paw.

Supplements to help with feline stress:

There are a couple of  complimentary supplements that can help with feline stress, one option is the Calm dry diet by Royal Canin as its active ingredients include a combination of “Alpha Casozepine” a milk peptide which is known for its calming effects and
“ L-tryptophan” an amino acid that regulates mood as it is a precursor for serotonin. In studies it has shown that increased brain concentrations of L-tryptophan leads to an increase release of serotonin which plays an essential role in the regulation of mood, anxiety, appetite and sleep. The calm diet is highly digestible and palatable and has added nutrients to support the skin, urinary tract and digestion.

The Calm food comes as a dry kibble form in bags of 2kg and 4kg and you should see a difference in the cat’s mood state within two weeks. This food can be fed for a few weeks or months or long term if needed unless the pet is on a prescribed veterinary diet or is an older animal. At the moment Blackwater Valley Vets are giving a discount on the Calm food until the end of this year.

Another option is Zylkene a milk peptide and mimics mother’s milk. It is easy to administer as you break the capsule and mix the powder into the cat’s food once a day in the mornings. You should see an improvement after about ten days. The usual course would be a month’s worth. Again until the end of this year Blackwater Valley Vets are offering a discount on Zylkene.

Then there is Feliway that can also help in times of feline stress as it releases a comforting and reassuring pheromone throughout the home environment. Feliway comes in a diffuser or a spray and I would suggest using a plug in diffuser over Christmas and New Year as it should last for up to 4 weeks. Blackwater Valley Vets are also offering a discount on any of the Feliway range  until the end of this year.

** With either the Calm food, Zylkene or the Feliway diffuser I would suggest using them 2 weeks before Christmas to take effect.

Finally may I take this opportunity in wishing our clients and Cats Protection Supporters a lovely Christmas and a Happy and Heathy New Year, and to our felines, a stress free yuletide.

Seasons Greetings