Tag Archives: health

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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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.

Things to Look Out for in Your Ageing Cat

Written by Sophia Beeley- Sophia is a second year veterinary student at the University of Nottingham who has a special interest in feline medicine. At home she has 9 rescued stray cats, which are a handful but a huge part of her family! In her free time she enjoys swimming and curling up with a good book!

Kittens are understandably adorable, but what happens when your cat has reached an elderly age? A senior cat has different needs to a younger one, and it’s essential to monitor your pet’s health to make sure that any health issues are detected early on, and so can be managed. Make sure you organise regular vet visits, as even though your cat may seem healthy there may be underlying health issues.

Common Diseases & How to Spot Them

Teeth
An important activity is checking up on your cat’s teeth. Dental disease can be very painful, and also may cause your pet to lose their appetite. If your cat starts to lose weight, drool more than usual and has particularly bad-smelling breath then it may have issues with it’s teeth and gums, and a trip to the vets is recommended. A preventative option is to brush your cat’s teeth, but as that is likely to be difficult, specialised dental treats may be a safer option!

Joints
An older cat may start developing arthritis, which will affect its lifestyle. Your pet may be more reluctant to jump off heights, or generally become less active due to pain in their joints. They may also become more irritable, which is a sign of pain. Your vet will be able to provide painkillers, but a lifestyle change is also necessary. One way of reducing the strain on their bones is to make sure their food and water is at ground-level, and give them soft bedding and litter boxes with lower sides.

Kidney Disease
Another very common disease in senior cats is kidney disease. The major warning sign for this is if your pet starts to drink more water than usual. Kidney disease is managed, rather than treated, and there are many specific and prescription pet foods that can benefit your cat in this situation.

Weight
Keeping your elderly cat’s weight normal is essential for its health. For some cats, a more inactive lifestyle caused by age and arthritis will cause it to gain weight. This not only puts more strain on the joints, making the arthritis worse, but can also result in diabetes, which can become a condition your cat will have to live with if not discovered. Low-calorie foods and dieting are the best bet!
For other cats, diseases affecting the kidneys or the heart cause weight loss. Extreme weight loss and hyperactivity can also be a sign of a thyroid disorder. If you see any weight loss in your cat, you should go to the vet, as this can be serious.

Special pet food for specific conditions can be bought, which will help maintain your pet’s health.

Aging is a natural process and your cat will greatly benefit from you as an owner making small adjustments to accommodate your pet’s changing lifestyle. And never forget, your pet may be older in years, but that doesn’t change it’s personality and character and they could easily be around for many more years!