Tag Archives: cats

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!

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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.

Travelling with your Cat: Travel Sickness

Today’s blog has been written by Jo Woodnutt, a fosterer and final year vet student. Jo enjoys helping out at the charity and sits on our administrator board. She has an interest in feline medicine and is currently fostering ‘Sophie’.

Good afternoon and welcome to the final post in this series about travelling with your cat. This last post is all about dealing with a cat that gets travel sick.

In general it is pretty rare for a cat to get travel sick to the point of needing medication. Anxiety and stress are far more commonly recognised in cats than travel sickness. Despite this, some cats have been known to get very sick even on short journeys!

Signs of nausea in a cat include:

  • Salivating (drooling)
  • Lip-smacking
  • Loss of appetite
  • Tooth grinding
  • Hunching over/standing or sitting in an unusual posture, often with feet close together
  • Yawning
  • Shivering
  • Vomiting (including retching, whether productive or non-productive)

If your pet is one who suffers from these symptoms, there are several things you can do to help. As anybody who gets seasick will know, being out on deck in the fresh air makes you feel much better. Opening the windows of the car so that your cat can have some fresh air can make the world of difference. You should withdraw food from the night before travel so that there is less likely to be reflux with the movement of the car, and you should try to distract your cat with toys if possible.

Another thing that is important is getting your cat used to small journeys. Often, the fear and anxiety are what brings on the nausea and small, frequent journeys can help the cat become used to the car.

As a last resort, and only on the recommendation of your vet, medications can help to reduce car sickness. They should not be used for regular journeys like going to the vet but may be used for one-off journeys such as moving house.

Slug Pellet Warning

Our latest blog has been written by Joanna Woodnutt, who takes time out from her veterinary student life to help with fostering and administration of the group. She has an interest in feline medicine.

 

As the weather is getting warmer, many of us are starting to head out into our gardens. Winter rubbish is cleared away, fences are painted, and seeds are sown. Inevitably, the slugs will come out of hibernation just as your seeds are beginning to grow, and it’s easy to be tempted to resort to slug pellets, but beware!

Slug pellets containing metaldehyde are extremely toxic to cats. Most of the common ‘blue pellets’ that you see on the shelves in the shop contain metaldehyde- a quick look on the back of the pack should let you know! Unfortunately these pellets are mostly made of something a little like cat biscuits to attract the slugs, but this can also tempt hungry cats to eat them.

Photo by Amelia Hunt

Photo by Amelia Hunt

If you suspect your cat has eaten metaldehydes, please take them straight to the vets and tell them what you’re worried about.

Ways to prevent your cat becoming ill:

The best way to stop your cat becoming ill is to not use metaldehyde slug bait. Try copper tapes or picking them off by hand. ‘Nemaslug’ is a fantastic product that contains slug parasites- these attack and kill slugs and snails but not other animals, so are completely safe.

If you absolutely must use metaldehydes, or you suspect your neighbours are, other options to help to prevent them getting ill are:

  • Try to keep your cat indoors during late spring
  • Don’t let your cat out whilst hungry
  • Give your neighbours some cat-repellant granules to use to try to keep your cat out
  • Give your neighbours some ‘Nemaslug’, and ask them not to use metaldehydes

Nemaslug

Signs to look out for:

Please note your cat may not exhibit all or any of these, but these are the most common signs.

  • Incoordination- unable to walk properly
  • Fast breathing
  • Vomiting and Diarrhoea
  • Noisy mewling and other signs of anxiety
  • Over-reaction to loud noises or touch
  • Twitching or jerky movements
  • Abnormal eye movements
  • Tremors
  • ‘Fitting’ or convulsions

Remember: If you suspect your cat has eaten slug pellets, take them to the vet’s immediately– do NOT wait for these symptoms to appear as the sooner the vet can see the animal the better.

What your vet will do:

There is no antidote to metaldehydes, but your vet will do their very best to get the metaldehyde out of your cat’s system. They will have to give many different drugs and will usually admit the animal to be put onto fluids. Providing it is caught quickly enough, it would be unusual for an otherwise healthy cat to die from metaldehyde poisoning.