Rehoming your Cat Responsibly

Today’s blog has been written by Sheryl Leonardi, our founder. Amongst other things she deals with all of the rehoming requests for the group, so spends a lot of time advising people on how to rehome their cats safely and responsibly. Please note that if you want us to take your cat into rescue, you need to contact us. Why not read this first and get some tips?

Having to re-home our cat/s is never something we think we may have to do when we add one to our family and is always a heart-breaking decision to make. Every month I read hundreds of e-mails from people who need to re-home their cat for one reason for another. At Lina’s we have a policy which assures people they will never be judged when asking for help for their cat, we will also never ask questions on the circumstances although advice will sometimes be offered if the circumstances are voluntarily disclosed to us.

Unfortunately our waiting lists are long and it is unlikely that you will be offered an immediate space unless the cat is what we would consider to be an emergency.

STEP ONE – IS THERE ANYTHING I CAN DO TO HELP MY CURRENT SITUATION?


Do you really need to re-home your cat? Are there any changes you can make which may mean you can keep your beloved furry family member? The most common reasons for re-homing a cat is as follows:

We are moving house and due to our landlord we are not able to take the cat with us
– If you are dealing with a letting agency, see if you can speak to the landlord directly. Sometimes letting agencies have a blanket policy which is not changed unless the landlord requests it, the landlord may infact be happy for you to have a pet.
– Offer to pay a larger security deposit. A landlord’s primary concern is damage to the property which may be caused by the cats. Offering a larger deposit gives them more security and assures them that it will be able to cover any damage which is caused.
– Suggest the landlord visits your current property for reassurance that your cats are house trained and that you take care of your home.
– Be honest and upfront from the beginning about the fact that you have cats and how many you will be bringing to the property. The landlord is much more likely to come round to the idea of cats in the property if permission is asked for, rather than the discovery that you have broken your contractual agreement by having undisclosed pets in the property.

I/my partner/my child is allergic to the cat
The first step is a visit to your GP to have the allergy diagnosed. There may be medication you can take which eliminates the symptoms, that alongside daily vacuuming may be enough to control the allergy.

I am pregnant and I am worried about toxoplasmosis and the risk to my unborn baby
There is no need to reduce contact with your cat if you are pregnant. Statistically speaking cat owners are not at any more risk than non-cat owners and you are more likely to contract it from raw meat or unwashed vegetables.
The parasite which causes toxoplasmosis is shed in cat faeces but ONLY becomes infectious after a week. This means if you wear gloves, scoop every day and thoroughly disinfect the litter tray every week then you are ruling out all chances of catching toxoplasmosis from your cat.

We just don’t have the time to give her the attention she deserves anymore
Cats are self-sufficient, independent animals. Although they are all different generally (especially in older cats) they will be content with being fed twice a day and a bit of attention after work or when the kids are in bed. If you live in a safe area, allowing outdoor access to your cat via a cat flap can give them free range to come and go as they please throughout the day. They may also appreciate a companion to play with, or perhaps toys that they can play with alone (such as cat trees/climbers, a “Cats Meow”, rotary tracks and cat nip toys).

My cat is toileting outside the litter tray and I just can’t take it anymore!
First of all take your cat to the vets with a fresh urine sample, they will be able to check your cat over and test the urine for any medical causes such as UTI’s, cystitis, etc.
Once this has been ruled out, turn your attention to the cat and your home.

Not enough litter trays is just one of the reasons your cat may toilet inappropriately. Read more about inappropriate toileting here: http://www.catchat.org/urination.html

STEP TWO – OK, I’VE THOUGHT LONG AND HARD AND THERE IS NOTHING I CAN DO WHICH WOULD RESULT IN BEING ABLE TO KEEP THE CAT. NOW I NEED TO CONTACT AS MANY RESCUES AS POSSIBLE


The first port of all in any re-homing situation is to contact as many cat re-homing rescues as possible. Here’s the link to our email so that you can contact us. All will have waiting lists and most of the time will not be able to offer immediate space. Even if you think you may try to rehome the pet yourself first, please contact the rescues anyway. We often have people contact with very short notice because they had made a private arrangement with a friend or family member who have pulled out at the last minute. No rescue will mind if you need to remove your cat from the waiting list because you have found an alternative!

STEP THREE – MY CAT IS ON WAITING LISTS BUT I DON’T REALLY HAVE TIME TO WAIT FOR SPACE TO BECOME AVAILABLE. I WOULD LIKE TO TRY AND RE-HOME THE CAT MYSELF


If you choose to privately re-home your cat, there are steps you can take which will mean you have tried everything you can to make sure your cat goes to a responsible, loving home who is fully committed to the lifetime of your cat. The following steps are very similar to the procedure Lina’s follow when cats are adopted, as the last thing we want is for the adoption to fail.

State a price
Asking a price for the cat is a very important factor in making sure the cat goes to a good home. Putting a price on will discourage impulse buys and spontaneous decisions, it will discourage the less desirable, illegal activities such as dog fighters looking for free “bait” and it will also help to prevent people taking a free cat to sell on for profit.

If you do not want to profit from re-homing your cat then you can donate the money to a charity of your choosing.

Be honest about the cat’s temperament/behaviour
No matter how quickly we need the situation resolving, we have a duty of care to pets we are responsible for and we must make sure that the home they are going to are willing to take on-board any behavioural or medical issues they may have.

Neuter your cat before re-homing
Neutering your cat is the responsible thing to do and will prevent unwanted litters should she escape from the home. It will also in most cases stop males from spraying which is a huge deterrent for people who want to have a cat. Many charities will help with low cost neutering or you could use the cost of the operation as the price to sell your cat for if costing is an issue.

Ask for interested parties to visit the cat in the home
A chance to meet the cat in his home environment will ensure that people are happy with the cat and that the cat is happy with them! It will also give you a chance to talk about the cat and discuss his likes/dislikes and to ask questions about their home and lifestyle to see if it would suit the cat.

After they have visited the cat, ask to visit their home so you can see where the cat will be living
It is best to mention that you would like to visit the home from the off-set so that people are prepared for this and know that if they want to buy your cat they will need to have a home check. It is a great deterrent for anyone who has something to hide or may want the cat for something other than a pet! Consider your own safety first and if you can’t take someone with you make sure you always tell someone where you are going and when you expect to be back by. If you do not drive, many rescues may know someone who can go on your behalf using the rescues own home checking procedure.

Things to check/look for during a home visit:

Surrounding area – If the cat is to be let outside check that they do not live near any main roads. Are there any hazards in the immediate area? For example garden ponds?
ID – Are they who they say they are?
Other pets in the home – Ask to see them if they are not visible. Do they look happy, healthy and well looked after? Do they envisage any problems when being introduced to your cat?
Condition of the home – We all have clutter and our kids rooms are always a bit of mess. Dust on skirting boards or mantel pieces shouldn’t bother us, but is the home generally hygienic and are there any hazards that may be a risk to a cat?
Have they re-homed any other pets in the past and why – There are genuine reasons for re-homing our pets, but asking this question will help to reassure you that your cat will not be re-homed for a trivial reason.

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‘Cairo’ the Stowaway Kitten

After much hush-hush and preparation, we are pleased to announce that we, Lina’s Cat Rescue, have taken into our care a very special little girl.

Cairo4

‘Cairo’ the ‘Stowaway Kitten’ was found hiding when a box of fruit from Egypt was opened on arrival at Birmingham airport. This beautiful girl had survived the freezing temperatures and 3000 mile journey to make it to the UK, and was unsurprisingly extremely afraid on arrival. Staff at Birmingham Airport contacted the authorities and she was placed in quarantine under ‘rabies watch’.

After around 10 days, we were contacted to see whether we would foot the bill for the rest of her 4 month stay in quarantine. Our founder and chairperson, Sheryl Leonardi, said

“We have a strict “No Kill” policy for healthy cats and when contacted by Solihull Council we were happy to take on the responsibility for all her costs.”

Luckily for us, once we contacted Emirates and explained what had happened, they were happy to pay the rest of her quarantine costs. Despite this, she will still have many of the usual costs when she makes it into rescue as she will still need to be neutered and have her usual vet checks and routine treatment before becoming available for adoption.

“We are so grateful to Emirates for offering to fund her quarantine period which means this money can now be spent on other needy cats in our care. As a small group of volunteers totally funded from donations and fundraising events, their generosity is extremely welcome. If anyone wishes to donate to her ongoing care, please email us for details of Cairo’s account at linascatrescue@gmail.com. Any funds in excess of those required for Cairo will be used to fund other cats in our care.”

Cairo has another 3 months or so in quarantine before she can be released into our care, but we do go to visit her and are pleased to announce she’s settling in very well. Please join our Facebook page for regular updates on her progress.

Cairo the stowaway kitten loves to play with her toy mouse

Cairo the stowaway kitten loves to play with her toy mouse

Flea Treatment: The Products

Today’s blog is written by our tame veterinary student Joanna Woodnutt. Jo is in her final year at vet school but still finds time to write our blog!

Flea treatment and prevention is one of those subjects that causes a lot of confusion. At least once a day somebody will come into the vets with flea troubles, and we get weekly questions about flea products on the Facebook group… so it’s time to dispel some of the mystery around fleas!

In this first blog, we will have a little look at what products are available to prevent and treat fleas.

Cheap Over-The-Counter Products

Over-the-Counter Products (OTCs) are those that you can buy from pet shops, pharmacies, and supermarkets. The price range for these products is huge and the products themselves are varied.

Unfortunately with flea products, there is such a thing as ‘too good to be true’. Cheap OTCs, such as Bob Martin or supermarket own-brand products often don’t work. Some may have been diluted to make them cheaper to produce, or may be ‘repellents’ rather than killers.

There are some good OTCs out there, and these will be discussed in the following section.

Good Non-Prescription Products

There are two well-known good non-prescription products in the UK. These are products which contain ‘fipronil’ (such as Frontline + Fiprospot), and products which contain ‘imidacloprid’ (such as Advantage). Both of these products are spot-on treatments and work well Although there has been no evidence documenting resistance to fipronil products, some anecdotal reports suggest it doesn’t work as well as it did.

The Best- Veterinary Prescription Products

The best you can give your pet is veterinary prescription products. These can often be prescribed by nurses, usually during a free consultation. The great thing about getting a product from the vets is that they can examine your pet, ensure that fleas really are the problem, and then give you good advice on which product to use to best suit your situation. For instance, they may be able to suggest a spot on that also treats worms, or a flea product that also treats ticks, if these are a problem. Some common products used by vets are listed below.

Stronghold (and similar products Advocate and Broadline)

Stronghold is a spot-on like many flea treatments. It is good because it doesn’t contain much liquid, so is easier to apply than some. It is released from the cat into the environment and so can treat some of the immature stages of the flea. It also treats many types of worms. It needs to be applied monthly to work to full effect.

 

 

Progam

Program is a flea contraceptive- it can prevent an infestation starting, but cannot control one that is already underway. It kills the immature stages of the fleas, but not the adults. To use Program effectively, all pets in the household should be on it. The advantage of using it is that it is an injection and it lasts 6 months.

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

Indoor Cats: The Advantages and Disadvantages

As a rescue fully commited to the safety of cats, we often have to turn down potential owners who would like an outdoor cat, but who live near a main road. Final year veterinary student Joanna Woodnutt talks us through why keeping a cat indoors isn’t cruel.

So first of all, do you think it is cruel to keep a cat indoors?

Definitely not. Cats were originally desert dwellers that would have had very small territories that contained everything they needed. Provided no rival cats deterred them from this space, they would have been quite happy with this territory and wouldn’t have roamed, preferring instead to defend what they had. Our domesticated cats today can be quite happy living indoors, provided their basic needs are met.

And what would you consider those basic needs to be?

Well, unfortunately for us, it depends on the cat. The Animal Welfare Act 2006 considers a pet to have five basic rights or ‘freedoms’. These include its need for a suitable environment, its need for a suitable diet, its need to be able to exhibit normal behaviour patterns, any need it has to be housed with, or apart from, other animals, and its need to be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease.

All of these can be met in an indoor environment, provided the right adaptations are made. Normal behaviour patterns may, for some cats, include the need to hunt or climb- these cats should be provided with toys and climbing frames to allow them to exhibit this behavior. Others may prefer hidey holes and high places, and require provision for this too.

I do think there are some cats that can’t be kept indoors- some of those that have always had outdoor access would find this stressful- but many have no interest in going out provided their needs can be met indoors.

Are there any disadvantages, medically, to keeping cats indoors?

Unfortunately, there are a couple of diseases that have a higher prevalence in cats that are kept indoors. One of these is FLUTD, although diabetes and arthritis are also more likely in indoor animals. This is because indoor cats are more likely to be obese, which is a major cause of these problems- indeed, an overweight outdoor cat is more likely to get diabetes than a normal weight indoor cat.

And what are the advantages of keeping them in?

To me, the advantages of keeping cats in far outweigh any disadvantages. Cats kept indoors can’t get run over, and are far less likely to be exposed to poisons. They won’t roam and get lost, and cause you worry. They are far less likely to get in fights and end up at the vets with costly abscesses. They won’t bring you home ‘presents’ of the local wildlife. They are also much less likely to contract diseases from cat flu to FeLV.

Do you have any tips for keeping cats happy indoors?

As I said before, overweight cats are more prone to disease. Providing lots of toys and a climbing frame such as a cat tree allows cats to play and exercise, making it easier for them to remain fit. Making mealtimes more fun and active using treat balls can keep cats entertained. Remember that many cats, especially those that are older, like to sleep for a lot of the day- making sure they have a warm, comfortable place to do this is very important!

Keeping the Peace: The Multi-Cat Household

Today’s blog was written by Alice Hurn, a final year veterinary student at the University of Nottingham. Alice has two dogs and one very spoilt cat named Lord Squilliam. She is interested in feline infectious diseases and dermatology.

The social life of cats

Humans are a social species. Living as a group or pack was necessary for the survival of our ancestors. The cat family however (with the exception of lions) are solitary animals. This means that, even though they can and occasionally do form social groups, they hunt and feed on their own. Our pet cats, the Felis catus species, however have shown to be remarkably adaptive with their social behaviours. Given the correct circumstances, they can adapt to group living by developing social structures, and this is why your cats may live happily together in your household.

 

What can go wrong?

As social creatures, we humans can find it hard to understand our cats’ social life. Though many of our cats are very affectionate and seek our attention, they are largely independent animals and the introduction of a new cat to a household can bring with it many problems.
There are many factors that play key parts in the development of a successful social structure including number of cats in the area, availability of food sources and compatibility of individual cats. If the cats in the household feel uneasy with any of these things, tension can build amongst the group. This tension can lead to chronic stress, which brings with it many other problems including inappropriate behaviours, such as urine spraying and also stress-induced diseases such as cystitis. You may even witness bullying and intimidation between the cats if social structure hasn’t developed properly. Furthermore, if a cat becomes particularly stressed in its environment and he is confident enough, they may even resort to leaving the home to establish a territory elsewhere.
It is therefore very important to provide enough resources, which your cat deems adequate, to fulfil their own needs in a group environment.

Resources for the cats

Litter tray
The general rule for the number of litter trays for cats is one per cat plus one. Cats can block others from using litter trays and cats may not use the litter trays if they don’t feel safe. This may lead to stress-related diseases or inappropriate urinating and defaecating. Therefore litter trays should be in private and quiet areas away from communal (e.g. feeding) areas. There are a wide variety of types of litter and trays available. If in doubt provide a choice of facilities and watch to see which one is most popular!

Feeding stations
As solitary hunters and feeders, asking your cats to share food bowls can be an invitation for intimidation and bullying; two things that are important to avoid in a multi-cat household! Therefore each cat in the house requires its own feed bowl. Ideally they should be in their own feeding area separate to the feeding areas of other cats in the house. If this doesn’t suit, provide enough feed bowls per cat in the main feeding area may suffice. Similarly, there should be a water bowl per cat and these should be placed around the house. Cats prefer to drink away from their feeding area but require an area they can still observe any competitors coming. Position the water bowls so they can face any direction while drinking allowing them to remain vigilant.

Hideaways and bed
At times, your cat may feel the need to get away from other cats if he is feeling threatened or if they just need some alone time. It is therefore important to provide areas which your cat can use to hide away. Cats love high perches so make sure there are some high spaces free and accessible in your house. You could even purchase some tall scratch posts that may serve for this purpose. Be sure that there is a quiet dark area such as a covered bed or a cardboard box that will allow your cat to seek for some ‘time out’. Whatever your choice, always consider how safe a bed would feel to cats when providing bedding.
Toys
Play time is leisure time for your cat so it is important that each of your cats can get time to enjoy this. Often if a cat feels intimated by another this will suppress them playing in front of the more confident cats. Play time can also be a welcomed opportunity for conflict. Similarly, the use of scratch posts can lead to tension as they can be an important point for marking territory. To avoid this, try and allow time for you to play with each cat individually. Let your cat dictate when this is happens though- don’t force it! This will also reinforce your bond with your cats. With toys and scratch posts, like litter trays, provide one each plus one more and position them in different locations.
The most important aspect of managing your multi-cat households is considering the individual cats’ personalities and needs. Catering for them as individuals is the best approach and when in doubt just remember ‘one per cat, plus one more!’

Cystitis- How Can You Help?

Today’s blog was written by our ‘tame’ vet student Joanna Woodnutt. Jo is a final year vet student who fosters for us and has an interest in preventative healthcare.

What is cystitis?

‘Cystitis’ translates as ‘inflammation of the bladder’, and is a common problem in cats. It is not always an accurate term- often cats have inflammation of their urethra, rather than their bladder. This is why vets prefer to call it Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease, or FLUTD, as this is more accurate- it is an umbrella term for many of the cystitis-like symptoms that they are prone to.

Unlike many other animals, feline cystitis is rarely bacterial and is in fact idiopathic- that is, the cause is unknown. It is likely to be stress-related and involves the urethra becoming inflamed. Since the urethra is a tube, this can make it very difficult to pass urine, and since it is inflamed, the urine can make the urethra more sore, causing it to become more inflamed- and the cycle starts again.

How will I know if my cat has it?

Cats with FLUTD will visit their litter tray little and often. They will be able to hold less urine in their bladder before they need to go, and it will be painful to go, meaning they may yowl or strain in the tray. For those cats that do all their business outdoors, it can be hard to spot these problems developing, but you may notice they have ‘accidents’ indoors. You may see them in the garden squatting again and again. Sometimes they will have blood in their urine as well. If you have a cat that doesn’t seem to be passing any urine at all it is extremely important that you take them to the vets, as this is an emergency situation and the longer that it is left the poorer the prognosis.

The only way to be sure your cat has FLUTD is to take it to the vets. If you can, take a urine sample with you as this will help the vet to work out what is going on. Vets and some pet shops will stock a non-absorbant sterile cat litter such as ‘Katkor’ that can be used in the litter tray to obtain a urine sample. They even come with a urine pot!

katkor

What will my vet do about it?

First, the vet will need to examine the urine to be sure your cat has an inflammation, and to check that there is no underlying cause such as bladder stones or bacteria. Usually, there isn’t, and after an assessment of your cat’s health, the vet may give your cat meloxicam. This is an anti-inflammatory pain relief drug that will take down the inflammation in the urethra and allow the cat to urinate properly again. It is really easy to use as it is a liquid that can be poured onto food or squirted straight into the mouth.

How can I prevent it happening again?

Unfortunately, there is no clear-cut way to prevent cats getting FLUTD, and some cats are prone to it and will get it again and again. However, there are a few options for prevention:

1. Overweight cats are at a higher risk of FLUTD. Whilst you’re at the vets, ask about your cat’s weight and make sure it is where it should be.

2. Less active cats are at a higher risk of FLUTD, so use toys to engage your cat and encourage them to exercise.

3. Stress is often a precursor for a FLUTD episode. This includes changes in routine, but also accounts for the prevalence of FLUTD in multi-cat households. Try to ensure any changes in routine, foods, and even cat litter are made slowly so as not to stress your cat.

4. Encourage your cat to drink plenty of water so that the urine is more dilute and less toxic to the urethra. You can do this by placing multiple water bowls, investing in a drinking fountain, or wetting their food a little.

5. Depending on the cause of the flare-up, your vet might suggest a presciption diet. These have carefully controlled minerals to reduce the production of urinary stones.

Early Neutering- Is It Safe?

Today’s blog was written by our very own Jo Woodnutt. Jo fosters for us, but is also a final year vet student with an interest in feline health and shelter medicine.

 

Lina’s Cat Rescue operates a strict neutering policy and we neuter all cats that come into our care. Thanks to the vets at Saint Leonards, our kittens can now be neutered before they leave us to their new homes… which means there’s much less chance of owners taking them and then not bringing them back to be neutered!

Traditionally, the recommended neutering age for cats has been 6 months. Recently, this has been decreased to 4 months or less, due to the fact that many cats were reaching puberty and becoming pregnant at 4-5 months.

‘Early’ neutering describes the neutering of kittens before they become sexually mature. This generally means neutering at 4 months of age or less. Many vets will neuter any kitten that has reached 1kg, generally at 9-10 weeks. Currently only 4% of owners neuter at this age.

What are the risks?

All neutering carries a risk, as with any surgery. However, in a young and healthy cat this risk is very slight.

Some people are concerned that kittens aged less than 4 months are ‘too young’ to survive surgery, but in fact they make excellent surgical candidates. Because they have not reached puberty, their reproductive organs are very small and poorly vascularised- this means they will bleed less during the surgery, making it quicker and safer. In addition, they often recover faster from the anaesthetic and you can find them bouncing around with their littermates as usual soon after they recover.

Because they are smaller, kittens that are neutered young are more likely to get cold during surgery, but vets overcome this by providing them with hot water bottles and keeping the surgery as quick as possible.

When early neutering was first proposed there were worries that it would result in a reduced immune system and the cats would take longer to reach skeletal maturity. However, several studies suggest that this is not the case, and there are no risks that early neutering will cause any problems in this regard.

What are the benefits?

Obviously, all of the usual benefits of traditional-age neutering- no unwanted pregnancies, no pyometras, no uterine cancers- are the same with early neutering. However, early neutering has been found to provide many extra benefits.

Cats that are neutered before 6 months of age have a 91% reduction in the risk of mammary cancers. Since these are often malignant in cats, this is an excellent benefit. One study found that cats neutered before puberty were also less likely to suffer with asthma or gingivitis than those neutered at a normal age.

Neutering at any age reduces the incidence of undesirable behaviours such as spraying, but this is much more effective if the cat has not ‘learnt’ this behaviour- so neutering at an early age drastically reduces these problems. Other hormonal behaviours- such as fighting and roaming- are also reduced.

 

Want to know more?

The following papers give more information about early-age neutering.

  • Help stop teenage pregnancy! Early-age neutering in cats by Joyce A, Yates D. Can be found here
  • A quick fact sheet from the American Association of Feline Practitioners is here (opens as PDF)
  • Long-term outcome of gonadectomy performed at an early age or traditional age in cats by Howe et al. Can be found here
  • The Cat Group statement has loads of succinct information about the pros and cons and can be found here.
  • This is an article from a veterinary magazine. It is aimed at vets and has some rather graphic photos of some of the things that can go wrong in labour… and in comparison, how easy it is to neuter early.

Want to get your cat neutered ‘early’?

  • Phone your vets and talk to them. Many vets now offer this service, or are open to persuasion.
  • Go to the Cat’s Protection Kitten Neutering Database (KiND) which helps you locate the nearest vets that neuter from 4 months of age.