The colder and wetter weather has most certainly arrived. Storms Babet, Ciaran, and others have caused massive problems across the UK and numerous other countries, but hopefully your cats were kept safe and sound. If you have stray cats in your area please think about putting food out for them plus somewhere to shelter. However, do please ensure that they are not owned by a neighbour. See: www.feline-friends.org.uk/feeding-a-cat-that-isnt-yours. Please also remember that if you are supplying drinking water outdoors to make sure that it is kept clear of ice. Putting a stone in the middle should help to stop it freezing.
Despite most cats having a good fur coat I am sure that most dislike the cold as much as many of us do. My own cats won’t go out if it is cold or too windy and if there is snow on the ground….forget it ! That is why we need to make sure that our own cats – whether indoor and especially outdoor – have somewhere warm to sleep. There are however some hazards to avoid such as open fires, hot hobs, and even stopping your cat sleeping on window ledges in the occasional sun – especially if you have those circular raised panels of glass which can act like magnifying glass and cause burns.
Getting your cat in earlier will not only protect them from the evening chill but will also reduce the chance of them fighting and getting injured. Most road accidents that we see in practice happen at night, so it is much safer for your cat to be indoors. Regarding road accidents, with the increasing number of electric vehicles on the road I am concerned that due to the silent running of these vehicles there could be more accidents. This is one time when daytime could be even more hazardous than night since the lights of the cars at night will at least give some warning to our cats. Reflective collars for cats are popular for when our nights draw in, but of course these only provide a small ‘glimmer’ – and assume an attentive driver.
Bonfire night has gone but we all know that fireworks will continue to be used off and on well into the new year so I hope you will forgive me if I reiterate some of my advice from our last newsletter. We not only need to make sure that our cats are indoors earlier and with a quiet small space to hide in, but for those cats which are nervous of the noises and flashes it may be worth thinking of using stress relieving sprays/devices such as Pet Remedy and Feliway or their equivalents. There are also other products such as homoeopathic treatments available which may help. Keeping the curtains closed and playing music or having the television on may help and there are noise attenuation CDs available but all the foregoing take time and really need to be started earlier in the year. What can be an exciting and enjoyable evening for us, can be a terrifying experience for a cat.
It is also a sad fact that while in practice I often had cats brought to the surgery with injuries from fireworks. These were mostly caused by irresponsible and cruel youngsters (and some old enough to know better) tying fireworks to cats’ tails. However, accidents at home can also happen, so please keep cats away from any home fireworks displays.
It is not unknown for cats who get frightened to run away, and some may get lost. You may have noticed some adverts on the television about the dog collars that allow you to track where your dog is if he/she runs off; and the trackers are useful for finding your dog again. Well, my own daughter has been using a smaller version which is more of a ‘locator’ but is available for cats, so my daughter can now go out and find her cat easily – before it gets too dark. I was surprised how reasonably priced these are and I would recommend others to consider them.
A serious winter danger to our cats is antifreeze as used in car radiators. It was only last year that I discovered that the fluid used in heating systems in motorhomes and campervans is also antifreeze. With more motorhomes and campervans on the road this awful danger will be more widespread. When we had our fluid changed recently the engineer doing it was not aware of the danger to cats. He is now giving out advice leaflets on the danger when he does this service. If you have any garages or DIY car mechanics about, antifreeze is very attractive to cats and is also extremely toxic. It causes irreparable damage to the kidneys, so please make sure that any stored antifreeze is securely locked away from your cat.
Winter obviously means Christmas, a jolly time for many of us, but do try to look at it from a cat’s point of view. There is an information sheet on our website that is worth looking at: Your Cat’s Christmas – Feline Friends (feline-friends.org.uk).
Silica gel sachets which are included in a lot of packaging while not ‘toxic’ to cats will cause significant gastric irritation if the contents are eaten by them. The largest danger is if he/she eats the sachets whole – when it could cause a physical obstruction in the gut. Therefore, as with any small item it is best to be careful and dispose of them responsibly.
For many of us there is nothing quite like the soft glow of twinkling candles on windowsills to remind us of the time of year. Imagine therefore how enticing that flickering light might be to a curious cat or kitten. There are many dangers to be aware of if we choose to capture this Christmas glow with wax candles. The number of house fires caused by burning candles falling over is far higher than you might think, and a playful paw can so easily add your own home to this number. The fumes from the candles alone – particularly many of the ‘perfumed’ and ‘essential oils’ ones – can be harmful to your feline friend (and indeed yourself) when breathed in. But don’t despair, there are ‘pet safe’ candles available, and also the alternative choice of battery-operated ‘flameless’ candles. Having mentioned essential oils I should draw your attention to the fact that most of these are toxic to cats. Never stroke your cat if there is any danger of your having such an oil on your hands.
Winter is the time when our roads can become dangerous with ice and snow. Quite rightly our Councils will spread grit and rock salt on them. That’s fine for us wearing shoes or boots, but a cats’ paws can become very sore either directly from the rock salt or by the cat licking it in an attempt to remove any grit trapped between its toes. It is a good idea to check your cats’ paws when they come in and even wash the paws depending upon your cat’s temperament!
Despite the enormous rises in energy bills we will have to turn on our central heating at some stage if we have it. I realise that for many this is a very worrying topic currently. From a flea’s point of view, if there are any eggs lurking in the house this will feel like spring and it is possible to get a surge in the flea population so, please keep your preventative flea control going. If you are leaving your Aga on with the doors open to heat the kitchen (or have one of the older Agas which are switched on all the time) then do check on the whereabouts of your ‘heat-seeking’ cat/cats before turning up the heat to start cooking. I would also recommend that you put something in the way of your cat to prevent it from jumping onto the top of your wood-burning stove if you have one and are, or have recently been, using it. Burnt paws are extremely painful.
One last thing that I wanted to remind everyone about is that in England by the 10th of June next year all owned cats will need to be microchipped with a potential fine of up to £500 for non-compliance.
That’s all for now but please remember to keep a look out for our Spring Newsletter next year.
The Trustees of Feline Friends wish you all a very happy Christmas when it comes, and thanks to all of you for caring about cats.
Eric McCarrison BVMS MRCVS – Trustee.