Presented by the TICA Bengal Breed Committee (2015‐2018) for the illustration and understanding of the Bengal Cat Standard, Bengal History, Bengal Cat Handling and Bengal Cat Genetic Inheritance

Section 1 : For Breeders, Enthusiasts, Exhibitors and Evaluators of the Bengal Cat

For Breeders, Enthusiasts, Exhibitors and Evaluators of the Bengal Cat
The devotees of the Bengal Cat have undertaken a consequential endeavor that has brought
incredible joy, challenge, triumph and love to the world. Bengal Cat breeders are the most
diverse and numerous of all feline enthusiasts – experience, geography and socio-economic
background. Bengals are a mixture of all known feline possibilities – all colors, all patterns,
hair lengths, body types and brand new non-Felis sylvestris derived genes. When Bengal
Cats were accepted and developing no tests existed for any desireable or undesirable traits.
This breed was not found on an island nor a standard written for a few cats that already
existed. The idea of the ideal Bengal Cat was an aspiration. The beauty of the Bengal Cat
exists because of dedicated breeders.
Is the Bengal Cat breed distinctiveness valued enough by those seeking to appreciate, breed
and evaluate Bengal Cats?
The world now has cats that seek human attention and affection wrapped in coats once
caressed only through hunting or trapping. These cats have heads and bodies with exotic
essence previously enjoyed in fantasies, by the very lucky or very rich. They are domestic
cats in every sense of the word, that’s amazing!

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Section 2 : Historical & Multi- Cultural Appeal of Leopard

What makes the Bengal Cat a unique breed now? …in the future?
Why Breed them?

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Section 3 : Why the words “Asian Leopard Cat” are NOT in the Standard

Initial Goal –

  • Which Asian Leopard Cat? The species is highly variable in pattern, color, size and proportions
  • Jean Mill sought to create a miniature leopard, harvesting only the pattern & contrast from the Asian Leopard Cat
  • Other Early Breeders & Exhibitors wanted Asian Leopard Cat replicas
  • Could/Should law enforcement be able to easily distinguished between a domestic Bengal Cat and an Asian Leopard Cat (or other non-domestic species) with a glance? 
  • Gloria Stephens, Von Pilcher, Solvieg Pfluger and Jean Mill settled on writing the standard around the F1 (Asian Leopard Cat X Domestic Shorthair) as the ideal.

 

  • Conservation– Asian Leopard Cats are classified as Endangered by the US.
  • Law– Would law enforcement/animal control/zoos/veterinarians tell them apart?
  • Politics– How do political bodies define “what is a domestic cat”?
  • Science - How is science and genetic saffecting the determination of species and the ability to select and traits?
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Section 4 : Who is responsible for the Bengal Cat breed now & into the future?

Breeders                Registry                Judges                 Public      

  • Personal preferences
  • What they can place/sell
  • What inspired them to breed in the first place
  • What is appreciated by fellow breeders
  • What wins at shows brings them acclaim/3rd party appreciation
  • Awareness, acceptance, validity and application of emerg

 

  • Definition of a breed
  • Rules for acceptance of new color/hair length/pattern/head structure
  • Value from publicity, registration, entries, volunteers
  • Competition from other registries for $, members, clubs, attention
  • What members, clubs, board of directors allow
  • Awareness, acceptance, validity and application of emerging insights

 

  • What their personal preferences & history suggest
  • How they accept and apply registry rules to their choices
  • Awareness, acceptance, validity and application of emerging insights
  • Their personal preference
  • How the breed is readily distinguished from variation of random bred populations (internationally)
  • Depiction in popular culture (media, art, business)
  • Cultural references
  • Historical metaphors

 

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Owning and caring for a cat can be a source of great enjoyment, but you should be aware that cat ownership is a major responsibility. Typically, cats live for about 14 years, but some live much longer than this. Consequently, you should think carefully about all factors that will affect your ability to care for a cat and whether a cat is suitable for you. Would you be able to provide for all of a cat’s needs? You will need to consider the size and location of your property, and the financial and time implications of having a cat as a pet.Caring for a cat can be expensive and you should consider whether, for instance, you would be able to afford the cost of routine and unexpected veterinary treatment, or the cost of pet health insurance.

There is no one “perfect” way to care for all cats because every cat, and every situation, is different but they all have the same needs. It is up to you to find out what your cat’s precise needs are and how to meet them. Under Section 9 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 (the Act) you must take such steps as are reasonable in all circumstances to ensure that the needs of an animal for which you are responsible are met, to the extent required by good practice which are set out in the Act as follows:

  • Need for a suitable environment
  • Need for a suitable diet
  • Need to be housed with, or apart from, other animals
  • Need to be able to exhibit normal behaviour patterns
  • Need to be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease

Under the Act you are always responsible for your cat’s needs.

Furthermore, if you are a parent or guardian of a child under the age of 16 years old,you are responsible for any animal that child is in charge of. If you are unable to care foryour cat at any time, you must make arrangements for another suitable person to look afterthem on your behalf. It is important to remember that you remain responsible for your cat’sneeds, even when you are away. The person with whom you leave your cat will also belegally responsible for your cat’s welfare in your absence.

If you own, or are responsible for, a cat and fail to meet their welfare needs or cause themunnecessary suffering, you may be prosecuted under the Act.

Section 1 : The need for a Suitable Environment.

All cats, including those that live predominantly outdoors, need a safe and clean environment and protection from hazards. Some examples of hazards include household chemicals, poisonous plants and open windows or balconies in high buildings, which your cat might try to get out of.

All cats need a safe, comfortable place to rest undisturbed. Cats that live outdoors, need access to a safe shelter and a source of food and water. Living in a cold or wet place, without shelter, can cause a cat to suffer. A cat must be able to avoid things that scare them, including other cats and they all need a place to hide where they feel safe. They often feel safest when high up. If unable to hide and avoid threats, your cat may suffer anxiety and chronic distress, which can lead to illness.

Cats naturally enjoy exploring their environment. They are athletic animals and need opportunities to run, jump and climb and if they do not they may suffer. Cats are naturally clean animals and need regular, easy access to an appropriate place to go to the toilet. They do not like to use heavily soiled areas. Some cats need to use an indoor toilet area, for example a litter tray

Cats are territorial and become very attached to their own familiar environment. They are naturally cautious in unfamiliar environments, including around new places, smells, other animals and people. For example, if you have to travel with your cat to a new home, they may be frightened by the presence of cats that have already established territories in the area.

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What you should do:

  • Provide your cat with a safe, comfortable, dry, draught-free, clean and quiet place where it can rest undisturbed. Ideally, there should be a range of such places available – the cat will choose where it is most comfortable.
  • Take all reasonable steps to protect your cat from hazards indoors and outdoors.
  • Make sure your cat has constant access to a variety of safe hiding places including elevated resting places,where it can feel safe.
  • If your cat does not go outside, make sure it has plenty of activities to do and enough space to exercise, climb and play indoors.
  • Your cat should be provided with a suitable toilet area, that is quiet, easily accessible and kept clean.
  • Before you move your cat, you should gradually get it used to a secure cat carrier. Putting items which smell like the cat, for instance its blanket, in the carrier and any place you move your cat to can help it feel at ease.
  • Any place where your cat is left must be large enough and comfortable with effective ventilation and temperature control so that your cat is able to move around to ensure its comfort, avoiding becoming too hot or too cold. Never leave your cat in an area where this is not possible such as a car ona warm day.
  • Your cat should not be routinely kept in a cage.
  • If you have any concerns about moving to a new home, or transporting your cat, you should consult a vet or other suitably qualified cat care specialist.
Section 2: The need for a Suitable Diet.

Cats need fresh clean drinking water at all times. Without water to drink a cat will become distressed and seriously ill.

Cats need a well-balanced diet to stay fit and healthy, and they all need foodstuffs that can only be derived from meat-based products. Individual dietary needs depend on many factors including age, activity and state of health. Some cats have special dietary needs – for example, pregnant and nursing cats, young growing cats, old cats and cats that are ill.

Cats generally prefer to eat several small meals each day. How much food a cat needs depends on their age, the type of food, bodyweight and level of activity. If a cat eats more food than they need, they will become overweight, suffer and this could cause health problems and suffering. If you underfeed your cat, they will lose weight and may become ill. Healthy adult cats should maintain a stable body weight that is neither too thin nor too fat. Your vet can advise on the correct weight for your cat.

Many cats will not eat if their food is placed too close to their toilet site or something they are frightened of.

 

 

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What you should do:

  • Provide your cat with fresh clean drinking water at all times, preferably locatedaway from their food source.
  • Make sure your cat eats a balanced diet suitable for their individual needs.
  • If you are uncertain of the diet your cat needs, take advice from your vet or othersuitably qualified cat care specialist.
  • Read, and be guided by, the feeding instructions relating to any cat foods youbuy. Adjust how much you feed your cat to make sure they do not becomeunderweight or overweight.
  • Feed your cat every day, and allow access to food several times a day, preferably splitting the daily ration into several small meals throughout the day, unless advised otherwise by your vet.
  • Position your cat’s food and water well away from the litter tray, or things that they find frightening
  • Any changes to your cat’s diet should be made gradually.
  • Be aware that any change in the amount your cat eats or drinks may be a sign of physical health or stress. If your cat’s eating or drinking habits changesconsult your vet
Section 3: The need to be able to Exhibit Normal Behavioural Pattern.

How a cat behaves depends on their age, personality and past experiences. Most cats are playful animals and enjoy socialising with people. Play with people and toys is a valuable source of interaction and cats should have regular opportunities to carry out this behaviour. Cats that do not go outside may need extra opportunities to play and exercise indoors. However, some cats, especially those that live outdoors, may be less sociable with people and other animals.

Cats sleep for many hours of the day, but when they are awake they need opportunities to exercise and play. Cats enjoy resting in high places where they feel safe. Cats are intelligent and capable of suffering boredom so need opportunities for mental stimulation. Additionally, all cats need an appropriate scratching place, high enough to allow them to stretch out fully, to scent mark their territory and condition their claws.

Cats experience a range of emotions including happiness, anxiety, and fear. How they behave and their body language can help you understand what they are feeling and whether they are physically and mentally fit and healthy.

Any change in behaviour such as changes in activity and hiding behaviour may indicate that your cat is distressed and needs help. If concerned please seek advice from your vet. (You will find more information in section “How to keep your cat healthy and protect them from pain, suffering, injury and disease”).

Kittens need to get used to be carefully introducedto the many noises, objects and activities intheir environment. They also need to beadequately and carefully introduced to many different animals and people so that they learn how to interact appropriately and behavenormally as adults.

What you should do:

  • You should ensure your cat receives enough mental, social and physical stimulation to satisfy its individual behavioural needs.
  • Provide your cat with safe toys and regular opportunities to play with friendly peopleand by itself.
  • Ensure that your cat is able to rest undisturbed and has somewhere to hide whenit wants to.
  • Make sure your cat has opportunities to exercise each day to stay fit, happy and healthy. If your cat does not go outside, provide suitable indoor activities to keep it active such as high places to rest and toys.
  • If you are unsure how much activity is right for your cat, take advice from your vet or other suitably qualified cat care specialist.
  • Provide your cat with somewhere to scratch, such as a sturdy scratching post.
  • Make sure that your cat can reach all the things that it needs (e.g. bed, food, water, litter or outdoors) without having to get too close to things, people or other animals that may scare it. You should know how your cat behaves when fit, healthy and happy and be able to recognise and interpret your cat’s body language.
  • Never shout at or punish your cat. It will not understand and will just become more nervous or scared. You should only use positive reward-based training, such as food, toys and praise and avoid harsh, potentially painful, training methods. Scharfsinn Shutterstock
  • If your cat’s behaviour changes or becomes a problem it could be distressed, bored, ill or injured and you should seek advice from a vet or other suitably qualified cat behaviour expert who should have a combination of appropriate qualifications, up to date knowledge, skills and experience and who treats cats in such a way that their welfare is protected.

 

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Section 4: The need it has to be Housed With, or Apart From, Other Animals.

Cats show variable degrees of sociability and, although some cats may be friendly with other cats, usually those they have grown up with, others will prefer to be on their own.

Cats that are friends generally groom and rub against each other, and may sleep next toeach other. However, many cats are happier living without other cats and can be reluctant to accept new cats. A cat may suffer if they cannot avoid other cats they do not like or has to undertake activities such as sharing food bowls or litter trays. Introducing cats in a patient, careful way can increase their chances of living together happily. However, keeping too many cats together can result in a stressful and unhealthy environment, which may make it difficult for you to meet the individual needs of your animals.

Cats that are well socialised and are treated kindly from before two months of age usually learn to see people as friends. These cats are likely to enjoy and benefit from human company and have regular opportunities for contact such as play or grooming. Some cats may become bored or distressed if they do not have appropriate stimulation and company.

Socialisation with people, and other animals they are likely to come into contact with, is an essential part of early learning for a kitten. In early life, the more kittens get used to people, noises, objects and other animals, the less likely they are to find these frightening as adults. Unless carefully introduced early in life, cats will usually be scared of other animals such as dogs.

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Section 5: The need to be Protected from Pain, Suffering, Injury and Disease.

Cats can feel pain. Individual cats show that they are in pain, frightened or suffering in different ways, which can sometimes be difficult to spot.For example, some cats may become withdrawn and hide or change their eating and drinking behaviour, whereas others become restless or aggressive.Others develop unwanted behaviours, such as spraying or not using the litter tray. Other signs that your cat may be suffering from long-term distress include high levels of grooming or pulling hair out, withdrawal and a hunched posture.Cats that are insecure or stressed for long periods are more likely to become unwell as stress can trigger both psychological and physical problems.

Cats, like us, benefit from regular health care. Long-haired cats and some others need help with grooming to avoida matted coat.

Cats are vulnerable to a range of infectious diseases and other illnesses. Your vet can provide advice on serious infectious diseases. Signs of illness include sudden changes in behaviour, such as restlessness and crying,or becoming quiet and withdrawn.Cats may stop grooming when ill and any changes in eating and drinking habits, such as lack of appetite or excessive drinking, may indicate problems.Changes in weight, either up or down should be investigated. Signs of injury include swellings, limping and evidence of pain, such as sensitivity to the touch. Other signs of illness include discharges from the eyes, ears or nose, difficulty with toilet behaviour, or sickness and diarrhoea. Cats that have eaten corrosive or poisonous substances often salivate excessively. This list is for guidance only and is not exhaustive.

Microchipping a cat gives them the best chance of being identified and more likely to be reunited with their owner if injured or lost. They are more likely to receive the prompt veterinary treatment they need if injured.

To avoid adding to the over-population crisis affecting cats in the UK,many people choose not tobreed their cat. Neutering can prevent your cat becoming pregnant, or fathering an unwanted litter. Good advice about the age at which cats can be neutered, where you can have your cat neutered and the health benefits of neutering is available through the Cats Protection’s Kitten Neutering Vet Database (www.cats.org.uk/kittenneutering).

Neutering has numerous benefits including a reduction in spraying, lessened risk of some cancers. Un-neutered cats are more likely to fight, to catch some diseases as a result of fighting, and to be lost or run over whilst roaming. Cats frequently enter puberty at a very young age and unplanned early breeding may result in welfare problems.

If you decide to breed from your cat, your vet can advise on the risk of inherited conditions and exaggerated features.

Kittens require care and cannot be sold under eight weeks. Raising kittens is difficult and time-consuming, and the kittens are your responsibility, with the same needs as any cat under theAnimal Welfare Act.

 

What you should do:

  • Check your cat for signs of injury or illness regularly and make sure that someone else does this if you are away. You should examine your cat closely, including their coat, which should also be checked for parasites such as fleas.
  • If you notice changes in your cat’s behaviour, you should contact your vet and follow the advice you are given.
  • If you suspect that your cat is in pain,ill or injured contact a vet promptly and follow veterinary advice regardingtheir treatment.
  • Try to minimise fear and stress in your cat’s daily life. By doing so you will decrease its risk of certain illnesses.
  • You should take the advice of your vet on how often your cat needs a health check and about the things that you can do to protect your cat’s health including routine preventive health care, such as vaccination, neutering and treatments to control parasites (e.g. fleas and worms), as well as how to deal with any current health problems your cat may have. You should follow the adviceyou are given.
  • Make sure that you groom your cat without causing distress if they need help with the care of their coat. If you are uncertain, ask your vet about grooming your cat and how often youshould do this.
  • Only use medicines and drugs that have been prescribed for your individual cat.
  • Human products and medicines intended for other animals can be dangerous to cats and sometimes fatal. If you are unsure seek veterinary advice.
  • Make sure your cat can be identified such as by microchipping and ensure any microchip details kept up to date. This will ensure that it can be treated quickly if injured when away from home, or returned to you if lost. Make sure any collars fit properly with a quick release mechanism and are not harmful. If using a microchip as a form of identification.
  • Seek the advice of a vet before allowing your cat to breed and take all reasonable steps to ensure that you will be able to provide the care required during pregnancy and rearing and find suitable homes for the kittens.
  • You should always contact your vet immediately if you are concerned that your cat has come into contact with any chemical or other substance that could be harmful. You should also be aware that cats regularly groom themselves and may ingest or come into contact with a poisonous substance when doing so.
Sources of Further Information

This Code of Practice applies to all cats

The purposes of the Code is to provide practical guidance to help you to comply with the provisions set out under Section 9 of the Animal Welfare Act (www. legislation. gov.uk/ukpga/2006/45/section/9). It does not tell you precisely how to care for your cat but it does summarise important things you should know and what to do when making decisions about how best to care for your cat.

Breach of a provision of this Code is not an offence itself but if proceedings are brought against you for an offence under Section 9 of the Act, the Court will look at whether or not you have complied with the Code in deciding whether you have committed an offence.

If you are unsure about anything to do with the care and welfare of your cat, you should always seek advice from an expert such as a veterinary surgeon, mainly referred to as vet. You will also find reference within this Code to “other suitably qualified cat care specialists.” These are people who hold the qualifications and experience to provide expert advice on cat welfare and behaviour.

A list of suitable organisations and places to find help are provided on page 13 of this Code. You can find out more about the legislation relating to cats at www.defra.gov.uk.

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/697941/pb13332-cop-cats-091204.pdf

Having a cat can mean different things to different people. Some want a cat to cuddle and sit on their laps; others are happy to live with a very independent cat which spends most of its time outside and doesn’t want too much human interaction.

What is important is that you try to find a cat that will interact with you if you want it to. All cats are not the same and how each individual cat behaves with you can depend on its inherent personality and early experiences (or lack of experiences), which can make it fearful or confident with people and life in general.

The environment in which you keep a cat is also extremely significant – for example if it lives with many other cats which do not get on, then it will be stressed and will react differently than if it was on its own.

While there is no guaranteed way to choose the perfect cat for you and your lifestyle, understanding your expectations as well as what makes cats tick will help you to bring home a cat that should be able to cope with its new environment and be the pet that you want too.

 

To care for a cat you will need to:

  • Provide plenty of human companionship
  • Provide regular, suitable meals with a constant supply of fresh water
  • Provide a clean and comfortable bed
  • Provide the cat with outdoor access or be prepared to empty and clean a litter tray on a daily basis
  • Provide it with a stimulating and safe environment
  • Groom it regularly. Longhaired cats require daily grooming
  • Have it neutered between 4 and 6 months old
  • Vaccinate against the major feline diseases regularly
  • Worm regularly and provide treatment for fleas
  • Take the cat to the vet when it shows any sign of illness
  • Insure your cat or make sure you can afford the cost of any veterinary treatment it may need

 

How much care and attention does a cat need?


As pets go, cats are relatively low maintenance compared to dogs which need companionship, walking, training etc. However, like any pet, they do need care, and some cats need more care than others. Do you want to spend a lot of time with your cat, do you want it to be demanding, or do you have limited time? Cats can fit into busy, modern lifestyles more easily than dogs, as they are pretty independent, can be left alone much more easily and are more suitable for smaller flats or houses. Cats are often chosen by people who have busy and stressful lifestyles and who want some companionship when they go home to relax.

What do you want from your relationship with a cat? If you’re the kind of person who really needs to have a close relationship with your cat and to be able to handle it and have it interact with you, then you’ll be disappointed if you take on a nervous cat that hides every time you come into the room. You may want to think about one of the pedigree breeds which can be more interactive and perhaps more needy of human company than some moggies. This may however become a problem for the cat if you are out at work all day and only available to give attention on evenings or weekends.

Some cats need to know exactly what’s going to happen when, in order to feel relaxed. Such cats would be quite happy living with an old lady who rarely has visitors and leads a very quiet life, but would probably find it quite stressful living in a home full of kids and other animals with lots of visitors and activity. Other cats, however, might thrive on different interactions with lots of people and fit in perfectly well in a busy household.

If you’re not likely to have the time or inclination to groom a cat on a daily basis, don’t even think of getting a Persian or a cat with a long coat. In pedigree jargon, any cat with a longer coat, aside from a Persian, is called semi-longhaired because the coat is not as full as the Persian’s and does not have such a thick undercoat; however, it is still long and requires grooming. In addition, if you are extremely house-proud, you may not want lots of hair everywhere.

A shorthaired cat is a much easier option, as most cats are fanatical about their coats and keep them in immaculate condition. That’s not to say that they don’t leave hairs around – bear this in mind if you’re thinking of getting a white cat but have dark furniture, or vice versa. Likewise, a cat is quite likely to sharpen its claws indoors, often on the stair carpet, sometimes on the furniture or even on the wallpaper. Whether your cat does this can depend on the cat itself and also the environment you provide for it; however there are things you can do to try and deal with this, but it is best to acknowledge from the outset that your cat is an animal with free will and natural behaviour that may not suit someone who needs to have an immaculate house.

 

Can I keep a cat on vegetarian food?


Are you a vegetarian and want your cat to be one too? If you want a vegetarian pet that won’t challenge your beliefs, then it would be better to get a rabbit – a cat is a carnivore first and foremost, and looks and behaves as it does for just this reason.  A cat is what is called an obligate carnivore – it has an absolute need for some of the nutrients found in meat and all of its senses of smell and taste are atuned to being a carnivore – it would be unfair and very dangerous to health to even attempt keeping it as a vegetarian.
Feeding your cat or kitten

 

Is there a type of cat which doesn’t hunt?


You may have a great aversion to your cat hunting outside. Perhaps you are a bird lover, or are simply unable to deal with small carcases on the floor. Hunting is normal behaviour for cats. Keeping a cat indoors may prevent it actually killing anything, but it will still need an outlet for this, its most instinctive behaviour, and not all cats will be happy with an indoor lifestyle. Likewise, if you’re simply getting a cat to keep vermin at bay, you won’t want to find yourself with one which isn’t especially interested in huntin’, shootin’ and fishin’ and prefers being a couch potato! Older cats are likely to hunt much less than younger ones and some cats don’t bother at all, but there is no easy way to know how a cat will behave.

 

Can I keep a cat indoors?


If you think about the lifestyle of a cat which has access outdoors you will realise that being outdoors brings a huge variety to its life and allows it to use all of its hunting behaviours if it wants to. Of course, there are risks outside for cats, but you need to balance these with the very positive aspects of physical and mental stimulation and an outlet for natural behaviour.
Indoors versus outdoors

 

Can I have a cat with a baby or young children?


There is no reason not to have a cat or kitten if you have children.  It is up to parents to teach their children from the very beginning how to approach, stroke and handle cats and to treat them kindly.  Many children have fantastic relationships with their cats and learn about respecting other creatures and being gentle – it is done successfully all the time, but it is up to parents to lay down the rules. Perhaps taking on a new kitten when you have a new baby or a toddler might be a lot to handle at once, so ensuring you have time for all the parties is part of a successful relationship. Likewise, if you are pregnant there is no need to get rid of the cat. Simple and basic hygiene precautions and common sense management of the cat, while the baby is small, can ensure all cohabit happily and safely.

 

Should I get an adult cat or a kitten?


A kitten gives you the opportunity to take on an animal right from the beginning and treat it and care for it so that it gets the best start in life. You will also be able to get some idea of its character. However, kittens require a lot of attention and some forethought to prevent them from getting into trouble. If you leave them alone you have to make sure they will be safe while you are away. You may also have to organise neutering, initial vaccinations and so on, depending on where you get your kitten from.
Where to get a cat or kitten and what to ask

While kittens have a huge ‘cute’ factor, it is worth remembering that they don’t stay kittens for very long – just six months out of a potential 14 years or more.

With adult cats, it is at least clear if they are long or short haired.  You should be able to get a good idea of a cat’s personality, although if it is being kept in less than ideal circumstances and is stressed or frightened it may act very differently compared to when it is relaxed. A confident adult cat is likely to move in and settle down quite quickly; a nervous one may take more time. It will be much easier to leave an older cat alone in the knowledge that it is not going to get itself into trouble, and it will generally be much less hard work and worry than a kitten. An adult cat will probably already be neutered and vaccinated.
Choosing an adult cat and where to get one

 

What sex of cat should I get?


The sex of a kitten doesn’t really matter, as long as you neuter your kitten before it reaches puberty (at about four months of age) when the influence of sex hormones kick in. Un-neutered cats may exhibit unwelcome reproductive behaviours. For example, un-neutered male cats will mark their territory with strong smelling urine while un-neutered female cats can come into season every two weeks if they do not become pregnant.

If you are getting just one cat or kitten, it doesn’t matter which sex you choose. Equally, if you want two kittens and you are getting two from the same litter, the sex of either cat is probably not important. However, if you have a resident cat and are getting just one kitten or another cat, it may be worth considering going for one of the opposite sex to try and remove some of the competition factor. A kitten may be a better option than another adult cat in such cases as the young cat’s immaturity seems to remove this competition factor – for a while anyway during which time you hope they will get to like each other! Neutering also removes the need for so much competition and makes the choice of sex much less important.
How to tell what sex a kitten is

 

Should I choose a specific breed or moggie?


The majority of cats kept as pets are what we call moggies or domestic short or long haired cats – that is they are a random mixture of lots of different cats, we have often have little idea about their parentage (well the father anyway). This means we have no control over the colour, body shape, coat length or anything else that the kittens can inherit from their parents. So, for example, if your kitten is from a moggie mum but its father is unknown, it may develop a longer coat than you desire if the father was indeed longhaired.

There is more to choosing a pedigree cat than just liking a certain coat colour or length – there are ethical considerations with some breeds if you really want to consider the cat’s welfare.  There are also health issues which you need to check with the breeder and things you need to ask. Good breeders aim to breed healthy, people-friendly cats and avoid (or seek to deal with) inherited disorders which arise.
Pedigree cats – things to consider

 

What breed of cat should I choose?


There are many different breeds, some of which will require extra care and attention, for example if they have a very long coat or even no coat at all. (See our A-Z of cat breeds). Some pedigree cats are more people orientated and may not like to be left alone for long periods. If you are out all day at work it may be worth getting two kittens together for company – do your research about the breed you are interested in. Always make sure that health comes first, no matter what the ‘look’.
How to choose a kitten

 

Can I have a cat if I have a dog?


If you have other pets there should not be a problem in getting a cat, but you just need to make sure that you take everything into consideration.  If you have a dog you just need to make sure that you make introductions carefully so that your new cat is not chased or injured while the dog gets used to it. Not all dog types make good companions for cats.
How to introduce a new cat or kitten to a resident dog

 

How many cats can I have together?


It’s very easy to ‘collect’ cats – they’re addictively beautiful, they’re small and they’re quite easy to care for. Even if they don’t get on, they tend to remove themselves from the situation rather than fight. However, there may be a great deal of tension between cats which owners just don’t pick up on. Cats originate from a largely solitary species and although they can live in groups these are usually related individuals or are self-selected so that cats are not sharing space with cats that they don’t get on with. Cats may start to spray or soil in the house because they’re trying to deal with a situation where they feel under stress because of other cats, and this might be all that owners notice.

If you have two cats living together very successfully then think very carefully before you add more. If you have three cats living well together then thank your stars and quit while you’re ahead! The trouble with adding more is that it might not be just the relationship between the resident cats and the new one that causes problems; it may upset the whole equilibrium of the resident cats’ relationship and introduce difficulties even between the original cats as tension and stress levels rise. Any new cat needs careful introduction.
How to introduce a new adult cat to your cat.

The best way to have two compatible cats is to choose siblings. These will have grown up together, and this usually bodes well for a good future relationship (although never guaranteed!).

 

What does it cost to keep a cat?


If you are buying a pedigree cat then there will be associated costs and these may be quite large. Pedigree kittens usually come vaccinated and in some cases already neutered. If you are getting a cat from a rescue organisation then they may ask for a donation or a fee and again it will probably come already neutered and vaccinated. Kittens or cats from friends or neighbours don’t usually come neutered or vaccinated, wormed, treated for fleas or anything else and it will be up to you to register with a vet and get these things done. Neutering is obviously a one-off cost, but several vaccinations will be required to make sure that a kitten is protected from infectious diseases; thereafter a regular booster vaccination will help to protect it during its life (requirements depend on the cat’s lifestyle and risks associated with that – your vet can advise you).  Then there is food, preventive health care regarding treatment for fleas and ticks and worms, cat litter if you want or need an indoor litter tray, beds and grooming equipment if you take on a longhaired cat. Microchipping is also recommended in case your cat goes missing. We recommend that you also insure your cat so that if an accident or illness happens then you do not have to worry about the costs. Choose your insurance carefully to make sure you get what you expect or need.

 

I am allergic to cats – is there any breed which is better than others?


Many people think it’s a cat’s hair that causes us to react to them by sneezing, wheezing or itching. In fact it’s a protein or allergen called Fd1, present in feline saliva, which causes the allergy. Because cats groom themselves regularly they have saliva all over their coat.  This dries on the coat and when the cat scratches, moves or brushes past objects the dust or dander and the hairs which contain the allergen are spread about. Cat-lovers who really want to have a cat but are allergic sometimes think that by choosing a breed with less, little or no coat they can avoid the problem. However, as it is saliva that causes the problem, this is unlikely to help, and although longhaired cats do seem to cause more allergic reactions that’s probably only because, having more hair, they’re also covered with more allergen.

It’s worth trying out different cats by visiting friends with cats to see if they elicit less of an allergic reaction. Unfortunately it’s a very difficult problem to get around for people who react or who have family members who are allergic.

 

What should I do with my cat when I go on holiday?


If you go away on holiday you also need to consider who is going to look after your cat.  If you are only away for a day or two you can ask a neighbour to pop in and feed it and check it is OK. If you are away for more than this you may want to consider a boarding cattery, as many cats may wander looking for company.  If you have a nervous cat it may hide when the feeder comes and he or she may not be able to be sure that everything is all right. A good boarding cattery will keep your cat safe and you can relax while you are away. There are bad boarding catteries however.
How to choose a good boarding cattery

 

When should I get a new cat?


If you are considering getting a new cat or kitten, choose a time when it is quiet in your house (not in the middle of a family celebration etc) and perhaps when you have a day or two when you can help it to settle in and be there while it finds its way around, not just before you go on holiday etc.

 

Where do I get a cat from and how do I choose it?


Once you have thought about the responsibilities and costs of keeping a cat and what type you want, then consider where you are going to get it and how you are going to choose your cat or kitten.

Bengal Cat Introduction

Throughout history, there are indications of a profound human fascination with the large and small wild felines that inhabit the jungles and forest of the world. In 1963, Jean S. Mill crossed the domestic cat with the Asian Leopard Cat, a spotted five to twelve pound shy wild cat species from Asia. This was the first effort to use hybrid offspring to create a breed of domestic cat with the loving nature of a favored fireside tabby and the striking look associated with Leopards, Ocelots and Jaguars. The modern Bengal breed traces to cats bred by Mrs. Mill beginning in the early 1980's. The breed's name is a reference to the scientific name of the Asian Leopard Cat, Prionailurus bengalensis. The hybrid crosses are registered as Foundation (F1, F2 & F3) Bengals that are not eligible for show and only the females are used for breeding.

Traditionally the various coat color and effects are described in alphabetical order by Locus (location) but I find this order more helpful as it builds from the skin up.

B Locus: Primary Color

Black = B - Dominant - if a cat receives this gene from one of it's parents, the cat's primary color is black.
Chocolate = b - Recessive to B
Cinnamon = bl - Recessive to B, b

Most Bengals have black as their primary color. The colors Chocolate and Cinnamon are recessive colors that exist in the breed. A cat can carry Chocolate or Cinnamon and not exhibit the color so it is important to know a breeding cats genetics. If two cats are bred that carry for Chocolate, there is a chance of the kittens being Chocolate. If two cats are bred that carry for Cinnamon, there is a chance of the kittens being Cinnamon. Chocolate and Cinnamon are not recognized colors in some registration organizations and cannot be shown there. For a cat to be chocolate or cinnamon he or she must receive the gene from both parents. For the colors Blue, Lilac and Fawn please see the D Locus.Chocolate, b, is recessive to black. Chocolate is not recognized in most registries of the Bengal cat. Cinnamon, bl, is recessive to both black and chocolate. The pawpads and the tail tips are Chocolate and Cinnamon. This is one of the main ways to identify that a cat is not a brown/black tabby.

 

C Locus: Color Exhibition (The Full Color Locus)

C = Full Color - Dominant
cs = Colorpoint Siamese (the gene that causes Seal Lynx Point) - Recessive to C
cb = Colorpoint Burmese (the gene that causes Seal Sepia) - Recessive to C, incompletely dominant to cs
ca = Blue eyed Albino - Recessive to C, cs, and cb (ca/ca cats will be deaf)
c = Pink eyed Albino - Recessive to C, cs, and cb

You will note that there is no gene listed for Seal Mink. Seal Mink is caused by the combination of cs and cb genes. A Seal Mink receives Seal Lynx Point from one parent and Seal Sepia from the other. Just like other recessives a cat can carry the genes and not display them. Bengals carrying for "snow" are quite common and surprise white kittens can show up from two brown marbled or brown spotted cats. Both cs and cb are an albino variant found in the Siamese and Burmese breeds. True albino come in two forms, blue eyed and pink eyed. An albino Bengal will not display a pattern even if it has the Agouti gene. Albino cats often have a number of health related issues including vision problems, skin problems, and sensitivity to light. Another form of albinism is called leucistic, this is the condition that causes white tigers and lions with naturally colored eyes. A number of animal species produce occasional leucistic individuals.

 

A Locus: Agouti Banding (the ASIP gene)

Agouti (domestic) = A - Dominant - Pattern Displays
Agouti (ALC) = Apb - Dominant - Pattern Displays, Comes from the Centerwall ALC [PICTURE] [subspecies unknown] 
Agouti (ALC) = A2 also called H1 by Dr. Christopher Kaelin - Dominant - Pattern Displays, From ALCs Taro [PICTURE]and Kabuki [P.b.chinesis] [PICTURE]
Agouti (ALC) = H2 Dominant, Comes from ALC Art Decco [subspecies unknown] [PICTURE] 
Agouti (ALC) = H3 Dominant 
- Another ALC Agouti gene that comes down from Taro [PICTURE], a hybrid of two different ALC subspecies.
Agouti (ALC) = H4 Dominant - Comes from ALC Stoney [subspecies unknown] [no pictures exist and subspecies unknown]
Agouti (ALC) = H5 Dominant - Comes down from ALC Phantom [PICTURE] who was wild caught frim the Himilayan Mountains making him P.b.horsfeildi
Non Agouti = a - Recessive - Pattern Does Not Display

This is the gene that determines if the tabby pattern will display or not. All Spotted or Marbled Bengals are Agouti/A - the pattern displays. However an all black Bengal, a Melanistic, is Non Agouti - the pattern does not display and the primary color, Black, is seen everywhere. Non-agouti is recessive and a cat must receive the gene from both parents for the pattern to be prevented from displaying. The gene can hide for several generations in a line. The Apb gene is a fairly recent discover and when combined as Apb/a it produces the "Charcoal" pattern. This gene comes down to Bengals from an ALC ancestor. It should be noted that as of 9/4/2016+ six different Agouti (ASIP) proteins have been identified that cime down from the ALC including A2.

To Read the White Paper on ALC Agouti genetics Click Here

Dr. Kaelin's ALC Research Slide

Another interesting paper on pattern genetics

E Locus: The Extension Gene (sometimes called the amber gene)

Extension = E - Dominant -Full Extension
Non Extension = e - Recessive - Non-extension

The Extension gene (red factor) has two alternative states (alleles). The dominant allele E produces black pigment (Eumelanin) in the coat. The recessive allele e produces a larger amount red pigment (Phemelanin) in the cat. It was once believed to be the source of "sorrel" coloring in Bengals but this theory has been disproven by genetic testing. The source of sorrels is unknown but it is currently being researched.

Wide Band Locus: Agouti Banding Variable

Wide Band = Wb - Dominant
Not Wide Band = wb - Recessive

Wb means that the agouti banding is made wider, thus more uniform and not as "ticked" looking. It is not known if this is a gene perse or a group of polygenes at this time. The wide band polygene affects the Agouti portions of the shaft where the emelanin (black) is turned off making them wider, sometimes so wide that the additional affects of the Agouti banding are pushed off the shaft giving the shaft a single color. It may be the source of the "clear coats" we see in the Bengal Breed. While this gene is covered in the book "Robinson's Genetics for Cat Breeders and Vetrinarians" it is not throughly examined in Bengals. There appears to be a relationship between the :clear coat" we see and some Bengals and the Wide Banding Variable it may also be what is called a "short tight coat" where the shaft of the fur is shorter and therefore lending itself having the Agouti banding pushed off the end of the shaft.

 

Mc Locus: Pattern Flow

Mackerel Tabby = Mc - Vertical Flow
Classic Tabby = mc - Circular Flow
Horozontal Tabby = mz - Horizontal Flow

A Mackerel Tabby pattern means the flow of the cats pattern is more vertical, up and down. This is where the vertical barring can come from. The Classic Tabby pattern means the flow of the pattern is circular on the body of the cat. Many Bengals have the pattern flowing in a circular manner on their sides. But where does the Horizontal Flow we see in the Asian Leopard Cat and many champion bengals come from. There are two theories:1.) The gene combination Mcmc creates Horizontal Flow. The problem with that theory is you don't see Horizontal Flow in any other breeds that don't use some form of leopard cat for their foundation2.) A new theory is that there is another gene being labeled mz that comes from the Asian Leopard Cat, and it is found on the same Locus. If this theory is true it may be the gene that makes the Horizontal Flow we strive for, and mzmz may be what makes some of the cutting edge cats so great.

 

Sp Locus: Pattern Interruption (the Taqpep gene)

Interrupted Pattern = Sp - Dominant - The pattern is interrupted producing "spots"
Uninterupted Pattern = sp - Recessive - The pattern is continuous creating a "marbled" effect

This is where our spots and marbles come from. Little is know about the genetics that make the differences in the spots at this time. Clearly there is a genetic piece causing round spots, arrowhead spots, two color rosettes, two color arrowhead rosettes and paw print rosettes. The marble gene is the same genes that causes the King Cheetah pattern.

How the tabby got it's blotches

T Locus: Ticking Locus

Ticked = T - Dominant - Agouti Band covers all but the base of the shaft
Not Ticked = Ta - Recessive - Agouti band pushed off the shaft of the hair

Ticking contributes to the intensity and contrast of the pattern by determining how much of the shaft is the base color (Black, Chocolate or Cinnamon). A highly Ticked cat will only have a narrow Agouti yellow band at the base of the shaft in the pattern. While T is dominant not receiving the gene from both parents does reduce the intensity indicating that the dominance may be incomplete. A cat that is TaTa will not show the Agouti pattern because the primary color is pushed off the shaft (like an Abyssinian).

I Locus: Inhibitor (also called the Silver gene)

Color Inhibited = I - Dominant (incompletely dominant to i)
Color Not Inhibited = i - Recessive

This gene affects the display of the yellow pigment on the Agouti banding by suppressing it. Working in tandem with the Agouti gene suppressing the production of phaeomelanin pigment (yellow/red), it has little or no effect on the emelanin pigment (black) production. With no production of phaeomelanin the shaft is left only with whatever emelanin production is occuring. If there isn't any, the shaft is white, if there are trace amounts the shaft is gray. The end result is that the shaft of the hair will look gray or white while tipped with the primary color (preferably black). This gene is dominant and only one parent needs to carry the gene for it to express. This is a very difficult gene to work with however and the color inhibition may be incomplete. In some cases break though of the phaeomelanin (yellow/red) occurs (Robinson's 142). This seems to only happen in silver cats that have one Inhibitor gene from one parent, and a Non-inhibitor gene from the other parent. This suggests that perhaps while the Inhibitor gene is dominat it may be incompletely dominant, or that there is a limit to the amount of phaeomelanin (yellow/red) it can supress when not homozygous.The resul is that by allowing the yellow to brown pigment to display the cat has what is called tarnish. Tarnish is very undesireable.

To Read the White Paper on Silver genetics Click Here

D Locus: Color Density

Dense Color = D - Dominant
Diluted Color = d - Recessive

This gene affects how the color cells in the shaft of the hair are dispersed. Normally the color cells are evenly distributed along the shaft of the hair, this is Dense Color and it is what we see in most Bengals. However if the color cells in the shaft of hair clump together they don't demonstrate the full coloring of the primary color making the shaft look "frosted" properly called Dilute. To be dilute the cat must receive the recessive d from both parents as dd ... DD and Dd will not show the diluted or frosted appearance. This is where the Bengal colors Blue, Lilac and Fawn come from. Blue is actually diluted Black, Lilac is actually diluted Chocolate, and Fawn is actually diluted Cinnamon.

 

O Locus: Orange

O = Orange - Dominant
o = Not Orange
 - Recessive

Orange is the elimination of all eumelanistic (Black) pigment by converting the proteins into phaeomelanin (yellow). It comes from the Torbie influence used as an early outcross in the Bengal breed. This is not to be confused with rufousing. It is sex linked carried on the X chromosome. Females may exhibit the full Torbie or Calico, males will be all orange except in rare instances of non-disjucntion of the zygote. The Orange gene is not common but it has surfaced in the breed from time to time.

Mi Locus: Mica Glitter

Non-glittered = Mi - Dominant
Glittered = mi - Recessive

This gene is still partially theory. It affects just the tips of the hair shaft. In the recessive form, mi, when we look at the hair shaft under a powerful microscope we see what appear to be small flecks of Mica, a very reflective mineral, embedded in the tip of the hair shaft. We hope to post pictures of this effect on this page in the future. This gene did not come from the Asian Leopard Cat but rather from a domestic cat used by Jean Mill in her early breeding program. Another form of glitter runs the full length of the shaft, please see the Sa Locus for more information on that glitter type.

Sa Locus: Satin Glitter

Sa = Non-Satin - Dominant
sa = Satin - Recessive

This gene is still very much in the theory phase. This gene is seen in several species. Inter-species genetic comparison is common. Many mammals are genetically similar and traits found in one species may also crop up in another. The satin gene is well documented in some rodent species including mice and rabbits. It is also believed to be in Bengals coming from some of the domestic cats that were used as outcrosses in the Bengal such as Siamese, Burmese, Ocicat and Egyptian Mau. This gene creates little bubbles of air in a sheath that surrounds the full length of the follicle. These air bubbles catch and refract the light giving the coat a glittered effect which, while similar in some respects to the Mica Glitter, it is also very different. This gene also makes the shaft of the hair very smooth and gives the cats coat a very soft and silky feel. The more satin shafts in the coat the silkier and softer the fur.

 

L Locus: Hair Length

L = Short Hair- Dominant
l = Long Hair- Recessive
 (older designation)
m1 = Long Hair- Recessive
 (found in Ragdolls and Siberians)
m2 = Long Hair- Recessive
 (found in Norwegian Forest Cats, Siberians and Tiffanies)
m3 = Long Hair- Recessive
 (found in Ragdolls and Maine Coons
m4 = Long Hair- Recessive
 (found in all breeds of cat including Ragdolls, Maine Coons, Norwegian Forest Cats, Siberians and Tiffanies)

The long hair gene doesn't crop up very often in the Bengal breed, but it is out there. Bengals are intended to be short hair but the occasional long hair kitten crops up. They are gorgeous, loving and make a great friend. They are not currently showable and are usually only available as beautiful pets. A small group of breeders in Europe have decided to work with the long hair gene under the new breed name Cashmeres. Research on the gene has shown that there are five different variations of this gene. New research has found that there are four different variations of long hair in domestic cats. Because a number of "pound cats" were used early in the Bengal breed the long hair gene has been found in some lines of Bengals. It should also be noted that a number of Abyssians have also been used and this is another possible source of long hair due to their relationship to Somalis. The only genetic difference between Abyssians and Somalis is the long hair gene. Many Somali breeders also breed Abyssians as well and use a "variant" male, a short haired male that carries for long hair, to produce kittens of both breeds. To judge whether or not a cat is a long hair or not look at the hair at the base of the tail. If the hair at the base of the tail is long the cat has one of the long hair genes from both parents. It should be noted that the long hair genes must be of the same type for long hair to display.

To Read the White Paper on Long Hair genetics Click Here

As a cat owner, it is crucial that you are aware of how you can help to keep your cat safe.

In this section you will find information on microchipping; where to board your cat when you are away from home; transporting your cat; and common household items and plants that may present a very real danger to your cat. 

Keeping cats safe – fireworks and halloween

Keeping your cat safe during Halloween and bonfire night celebrations

In October and November celebrations for Halloween and bonfire night take place, not just on one or two evenings, but over several weeks it seems; indeed similar celebrations now also happen at New Year. Although great fun for us humans, our cats may find them both stressful and dangerous.

Fireworks

For us, fireworks are bright, noisy and enjoyable to watch, but for a cat they may be a new experience (and therefore make the cat wary), loud and unpredictable, and can be very frightening. Frightened cats may be startled, run away and become lost, or run across roads and be involved in accidents. Distressed cats can develop behavioural issues such as house-soiling or excessive grooming.

On nights when firework noise is present in your area, here are a few things to consider to help your cat.

  • Ensure your cat is safely indoors before dark. Tempt it inside with a treat and ensure all doors, cat flaps and windows (even the small top ones) are closed to keep the cat inside but also to help keep the noise out.

Advice box : 
Shutting your cat inside if it is not used to being restricted or called in

Some cats are not used being restricted indoors or using an indoor litter tray. If this is the case, 'rehearse' confinement overnight in the run up to the event.

Practise getting your cat to come to you when called. When your cat is hungry, call his name and reward approach with a tasty treat (you can do this first when the cat is indoors). If your cat is not very food motivated, you can reward it coming to you with a game it enjoys, such as with a wand toy. Once your cat has mastered coming to you when called within the home, you can extend this to the outdoors. Always be ready to reward your cat with food or play so that it learns that coming home from outdoors is rewarding. In this way your cat will continue to be motivated to come to you.

Coming indoors at night may be safer for your cat longer term, as night time is when more road accidents and cat fights occur.

  • Get your cat accustomed to the sound of fireworks many weeks before the firework season. This will help it cope when hearing fireworks for real. You can obtain (via your vet or online via YouTube) audio clips of firework sounds. Play these initially at very low volumes and gauge your cat’s response. If your cat appears indifferent to the sound, you can reward this behaviour with a food treat or play, and gradually, over several days, increase the volume. If at any stage your cat seems worried by the sounds, go back a few steps and progress more slowly. 
  • Provide your cat with a safe and comfortable hiding place in case it is frightened. A cardboard box on its side or an igloo bed are perfect. The hideaway can be placed in an elevated location (eg, on top of a wardrobe) if your cat tends to seek high places at times of uncertainty. If your cat prefers hiding places on the ground, ensure it can get under your bed or behind the sofa. If you have purchased a new bed, help to make it smell familiar by adding some bedding which already smells of your cat. 
  • Don’t try to cuddle your cat to make it all OK. Treat your cat as normal, stroking it if it makes contact with you. Your cat is going to feel safest if it can hide, so preventing this by holding or cuddling for reassurance during the fireworks may be counterproductive, and your change in behaviour may even give it reason to worry!
  • Use treats and toys to distract your cat from the firework noise.
  • Plug a Feliway diffuser into the room your cats spends most time in a few days before you expect any fireworks. Synthetic plug in pheromone products (eg, Feliway, CEVA) are available from your vet and can to help cats feel more secure. Ensure it is switched on continually throughout the firework season. 
  • If you are holding your own display, try and light the fireworks as far away from the house as possible and choose silent or quieter fireworks if possible. 

Sparklers

If you have a very nervous cat it is better not to use sparklers indoors as the light and hissing noise may be frightening. Even if using them outdoors make sure the burnt sparklers (which are initially very hot) are kept away from animals and children before being safely disposed of.

Bonfires

Bonfires which have been built some time before burning make good hiding places for small animals such as hedgehogs, and even a cat or kitten, so check them before lighting.

Candles

Cats may be attracted to the flickering light of a candle which could result in burns to the paws or singed whiskers. The cat may even simply walk past and put its tail over the flame or knock it off a shelf, so be aware of these dangers. Using electric candles in pumpkins can minimize the risk to animals and children.

Glow sticks

Glow sticks, made into wands or necklaces are often sold at Halloween and Bonfire night. They are tubes made of pliable soft plastic which contain a liquid which glows in the dark. The main component of this oily liquid is dibutyl phthalate, which has a highly unpleasant taste. Even a small amount in a cat’s mouth will cause frothing and foaming with the production of lots of saliva. It may be hyperactive and show aggressive behaviour (the cat gets confused and upset by the horrible taste in its mouth). The liquid can also cause irritation to the skin and eyes.

If this happens, you can help your cat by immediately feeding small quantities of milk, canned cat food, tuna juice or other highly palatable food to dilute the chemical in the mouth and provide a more agreeable taste. If any drops have fallen on the cat’s skin or coat wash it off with water, or the cat will ingest it again when it grooms. Looking at the cat in the dark can help show up glowing areas that haven’t been washed off.

If it goes in the cat's eyes, wash out with lots of water.

The cat usually recovers within a few minutes, but keep an eye on it to make sure it is OK and seek veterinary advice if you are worried.

Glow stick cases

One young cat developed foaming and frothing at the mouth immediately after chewing through a glow stick. He vomited as he had swallowed some of the bitter and unpleasant tasting solution. His owners rushed him to the vet where his mouth was washed out with water and any residual chemical was wiped off his face. Although the curious cat was quiet and sleepy for 2 hours afterwards, he was described as none the worse for his little indiscretion, although he was somewhat apprehensive about chewing unknown objects from then on!

A Bengal cat developed immediate drooling and distress after chewing a luminous necklace that had been disguarded after a night out at a firework display. He pawed at his mouth and rushed around the room trying to escape the unpleasant taste in his mouth. His mouth was washed out with water and he recovered promptly with no further issues. His owners will make sure the left over colourful necklaces are thrown away in the future.

Keeping cat safe at Halloween – decorations and chocolate

Halloween can be a fun time for adults and children alike; however, there are certain things associated with this celebration that pose a risk to our cats. Read our advice on how to keep your cats safe during this time of year.
 

Decorations

Many of us enjoy decorating our home with spooky theme at halloween. Cats are curious creatures and may investigate any decorations you put up. Young cats may be more likely to investigate and play with decorations, as well as indoor-only cats through boredom, if they lack enough suitable enrichment. As well as the risk of cats knocking down decorations, which may cause injury to themselves or others depending on the type of decoration, in some cases cats may even ingest (eat) them. String and string-like items are one of the most common types of foreign bodies that cats eat, according to vets, and can lead to serious problems such as causing the intestines to ‘bunch up’; surgery may be required to remove the object(s).

Therefore, decorations should be placed well out of reach of cats, and cats should always be supervised around them. 

More information on foreign bodies can be found in our ‘keeping cats safe’ series: https://icatcare.org/advice/keeping-cats-safe/foreign-bodies.
 

Chocolate

Halloween is a time when chocolatey-treats abound. Although a treat for us, chocolate contains a compound called theobromine which is toxic to most animals. Cats would have to eat a large amount for the dose of theobromine to be lethal (around 560 g milk chocolate and 140 g dark chocolate), but even a small amount can cause signs of poisoning, such as vomiting, diarrhoea, lethargy, depression or hyperactivity.

Chocolate should be kept well away from cats; remember that cats are good at getting up high so it needs to be shut away somewhere they cannot access. Supervise cats carefully if you do have chocolate out where they can reach it.

More information on toxic foods for cats can be found in our ‘keeping cats safe’ series: https://icatcare.org/advice/keeping-cats-safe-campaign/toxic-human-foods.

 

Download our poster!

Download our free poster for your cattery, rescue centre, vet clinic or local pet shop about the hazards of Halloween and Bonfire Night

Household hazards for cats and kittens

When you have a new kitten you can understand the why the phrase ‘curiosity killed the cat’ came into being.

They cannot resist jumping climbing or crawling into or onto anything which looks interesting or different – and when you are a teenage kitten, that is just about anything. For the mature sensible cat which has lived through this process and learned a few lessons, there is probably less to worry about; however, even the most street wise of cats can get itself into trouble sometimes.

For people who have had small children it is time to go back and think like you did then remembering that a small cat can get itself into some very small spaces too. Get down on your hands and knees and see the world from the perspective of the kitten, but remember that he will be a great climber, so look up too.

Here are some things to think about:

  • Open washing machines or tumble dryers are very tempting, especially if they have dry or warm clothes inside which make a nice bed.
     
  • Hot hobs – especially those which are smooth and just look like an extension of the worktop. Keep kittens off worktops for safety as well has hygiene reasons.
     
  • Paper shredders which attract the inquisitive kitten paw or nose with horrible consequences.
     
  • Small holes or chimneys which are dark and attractive to nosy kittens or fearful cats.
     
  • Large ground level fridges where the kitten can climb in easily when you are putting the milk away and don’t notice.
     
  • Plants and cut flowers – kittens can nibble these out of curiosity and indoor cats may chew because they do not have access to grass etc outdoors. See our information on cats and poisonous plants.
     
  • Cleaners, bleaches, disinfectants, laundry capsules and concentrated liquids etc often kept under the sink but which may spill and coat a cat’s paw and will then be groomed off. See our information on cats and poisons.
     
  • Needles and thread left lying around which attract play and are easily swallowed or wrap around the tongue.
     
  • A rickety ironing board and iron left to warm up may tip over if climbed by a curious kitten. Likewise a cooling iron may still be pretty hot.
     
  • Wires may prove exciting because they move when the kitten prods them with a paw and then tries to chew them. Some cats seem to be attracted to chewing wires which is rather a dangerous pastime and they may need to be covered or put in covers temporarily or permanently.
     
  • Christmas trees! All those dangling baubles will prove irresistible and the challenge of climbing the tree too much for the adventurous kitten. It may be worth putting the tree in a different room for the year the kitten is small or having a smaller one up high and remaining vigilant. This is where a kitten pen comes into its own when you have to leave the kitten alone with the tree.
     
  • Pieces of tinsel, holly and mistletoe berries (which are poisonous) etc which fall off as the plants dry inside and could be eaten.
     
  • Balconies and windows in high-rise flats present a great danger for cats. For mosre information on what you can do to protect your cat see high-rise cats.
Cats and poisonous plants

Most of us are surrounded by plants, both wild and cultivated, in our homes and gardens and come to no harm.

However, a small percentage of these plants have the potential to cause harm to ourselves and our cats.

What are the risks?

Most cats are fastidious creatures and are careful about what they eat. Poisoning in cats is therefore generally rare. It is the young inquisitive cat or kitten that is most at risk of eating harmful plants, particularly household ones. Boredom also has a part to play. When a cat is confined to a run or lives entirely indoors, hazardous plants should be removed from its environment. Cats given free access to the outside world tend to have other things to occupy their minds than sampling unfamiliar vegetation. But even free-roaming adult cats may accidentally ingest needles or seeds that have become entangled in their coat during grooming.

All plants, even grass, can have an irritating effect on a cat’s gastrointestinal system causing it to vomit. But, given the opportunity, cats like to nibble on grass. When not available, their attention may turn to less suitable household plants. Particularly dangerous are Dieffenbachia (Dumb Cane), and lilies, which are popular in bouquets and flower arrangements.

Preventive action

Remove all potentially hazardous household plants to prevent unnecessary exposure. This is especially important for kittens and for cats kept indoors. A list of plants that are unsuitable for a house with cats is given below.

Outdoors the story is not so simple. Free-roaming cats have access to many gardens so it will be impossible to prevent all possible contact with potentially harmful plants. You can, however, remove the most toxic plants from your garden and make a note of any in your neighbours’ gardens that are potentially dangerous. List common and Latin names. This list may help your vet if poisoning is suspected.

You can also ensure that any new additions to the garden are safe. The Horticultural Trade Association has a code of practice for its members, and most garden centres and nurseries label plants that are toxic or cause skin reactions. Plants are grouped into three categories:

  • A – Poisonous
  • B – Toxic if eaten
  • C – Harmful if eaten

You are unlikely to find a category A plant on sale – Poison Ivy being one example. Category B plants should be avoided.

After gardening, never leave hedge clippings or uprooted plants near pets. Their novelty value may encourage inquisitive chewing. Sap from damaged stems can cause skin irritation as well as being poisonous. Bulbs, rhizomes and roots can be the most hazardous parts of some plants.

Has my cat been poisoned?

A veterinary surgeon should be contacted immediately if your cat suddenly collapses, has repeated vomiting or severe diarrhoea, or shows signs of excessive irritation (redness, swelling, blistering or rawness) of the skin of the mouth or throat. Cats that are lethargic and off their food for a day or more may also have ingested something unsuitable and professional help should be sought. If you see your cat eat something that you suspect to be poisonous, do not attempt to make the cat vomit. Take the cat to the vet with a sample of the plant – or even better a plant label. This will help the vet to find a treatment or antidote to the poison. Make a note of the time of eating and any symptoms. Several days may pass between the ingestion of the undesirable material and the effects.

Skin reactions

It is more common for plants to cause skin irritation in gardeners than to poison them. Contact with the leaves, stems or sap of certain plants can cause rashes and
hypsensitivity to sunlight resulting in sunburn. In cats these plants may cause blistering or itching of the mouth and gums. Occasionally this is misdiagnosed as gingivitis.
Sneezing and eye problems can also be caused through contact with these plants. Contact with the leaves of food plants such as tomato, strawberry, rhubarb, parsnips, carrot, celery, marrow and cucumbers may all potentially affect the cat in this way. Geranium and Primula leaves can also cause similar skin irritation. Many plants that are poisonous when eaten may also have the potential to cause skin irritation on contact with their leaves or sap. These are indicated in the list below.

Hazardous plants

The following is a fairly comprehensive list of plants that are potentially poisonous or harmful to your cat when eaten. Contact with some of the plants listed may be sufficient to cause skin irritation (marked*). It is often the fruit or seeds of plants that are potentially harmful. Many of us are already familiar with plants that carry really toxic berries such as Deadly Nightshade. Only a small quantity of these need to be eaten for a fatal result. Other plants in the list may come as a surprise – Daffodils, for example. Here, however, it is the bulb that causes harm if ingested.

The fact that the list contains some very common plants should not be cause for concern. Most of these potentially harmful plants taste bad and are unlikely to be eaten in sufficient quantities to cause permanent damage. Woody garden plants are also unlikely to be eaten by your cat – tender household plants pose most risk.

House plants

Amaryllis
Aphelandra
Azalea
Castor Oil Plant (also see Ricinus)
Christmas Cherry (also see Solanum)
Chrysanthemum (also see
Dendranthema)
Codiaeum
Croton (also see Codiaeum)
Cyclamen
Devil’s Ivy (also see Epipremnum aureum)
Dieffenbachia*
Dumb Cane (also see Dieffenbachia)
Elephant’s Ear (also see Alocasia,
Caladium)
Epipremnum aureum
Ferns
Holly (also see Ilex)
Hypoestes phyllostachya
Hyacinthus
Ivy (also see Hedera)
Kalanchoe
Mistletoe (also see Viscum)
Nerium oleander
Oleander (also see Nerium oleander)
Ornithogalum
Senecio
Star of Bethlehem (also see Ornithogalum)
Umbellatum
Umbrella Plant (also see Schefflera)
Zebra Plant (also see Aphelandra)

Garden plants

Abrus precatorius
Aconitum*
Actaea
Aesculus
Agrostemma githago
Aleurites
Allium
Alocasia
Alstroemeria*
Anagallis
Anemone
Angel’s Trumpets (also see
Brugmansia)
Angel Wings (also see Caladium)
Apricot (also see Prunus armeniaca)
Aquilegia
Arisaema
Arum
Astragalus
Atropa
Avocado (also see Persea americana)
Azalea (also see Rhododendron)
Baneberry (also see Actaea)
Bird of Paradise (also see Strelitzia)
Black-eyed Susan (also see
Thunbergia)
Bloodroot (also see Sanguinaria)
Box (also see Buxus)
Broom (also see Cytisus)
Brugmansia
Bryony
Buckthorn (also see Rhamnus)
Burning Bush (also see Dictamnus)
Buttercup (also see Ranunculus)
Buxus
Caesalpinia
Caladium
Caltha*
Catharanthus
Celastrus
Centaurea cyanus
Cestrum
Cherry Laurel (also see Prunus
laurocerasus)
Chincherinchee (also see
Ornithogalum)
Chrysanthemum (also see
Dendranthema)
Clematis
Colchicum
Columbine (also see Aquilegia)
Conium
Convallaria majalis
Corncockle (also see Agrostemma
githago)
Cornflower (also see Centaurea
cyanus)
Cotoneaster
Crocus (also see Colchicum)
X Cupressocyparis leylandii*
Cyclamen
Cytisus
Daffodil (also see Narcissus)
Daphne*
Datura*
Delonix
Delphinium
Dendranthema*
Dicentra
Dictamnus
Digitalis
Echium*
Elder (also see Sambucus)
Euonymus
Euphorbia*
False Acacia (also see Robinia)
Ferns
Ficus
Flax (also see Linum)
Four O’Clock (also see Mirabilis jalapa)
Foxglove (also see Digitalis)
Frangula (also see Rhamnus)
Fremontodendron*
Galanthus
Gaultheria
Giant Hog Weed (also see Heracleum
mantegazzianum)
Gloriosa superba
Glory Lily (also see Gloriosa superba)
Hedera*
Helleborus*
Hemlock (also see Conium)
Henbane (also see Hyoscyamus)
Heracleum mantegazzianum
Hippeastrum
Holly (also see Ilex)
Horse Chestnut (also see Aesculus)
Hyacinthus
Hydrangea

Hyoscyamus
Ilex
Ipomoea
Iris
Ivy (also see Hedera)
Jasminum
Juniperus sabina
Kalmia
Kalanchoe
Laburnum
Lantana
Larkspur (also see Delphinium)
Lathyrus
Ligustrum
Lilium
Lily of the Valley (also see Convallaria
majalis)
Linum
Lobelia* (except bedding Lobelia)
Lords and Ladies (Cuckoo Pint) (also
see Arum)
Lupinus
Lycopersicon*
Lysichiton
Madagascar Periwinkle (also see
Catharanthus)
Marigold (also see Tagetes)
Melia
Mirabilis jalapa
Monks Wood (also see Aconitum)
Morning Glory (also see Ipomoea)
Narcissus
Nerium oleander
Nicotiana
Nightshade, Deadly (also see Atropa)
Nightshade, Woody (also see
Solanum)
Oak (also see Quercus)
Onion (also see Allium)
Ornithogalum
Oxytropis
Paeonia
Papaver
Parthenocissus
Peach (also see Prunus persica)
Peony (also see Paeonia)
Pernettya
Persea americana
Philodendron
Physalis
Phytolacca
Pokeweed (also see Phytolacca)
Polygonatum
Poppy (also see Papaver)
Primula obconica*
Privet (also see Ligustrum)
Prunus armeniaca
Prunus laurocerasus
Prunus persica
Quercus
Ranunculus
Rhamnus (including R frangula)
Rhododendron
Rhus*
Ricinus
Robinia
Rosary Pea (also see Abrus
precatorius)
Rubber Plant (also see Ficus)
Rudbeckia
Rue (also see Ruta)
Ruta
Sambucus
Sanguinaria
Schefflera*
Scilla
Skunk Cabbage (also see Lysichiton)
Snowdrop (also see Galanthus)
Solandra
Solanum
Solomon’s Seal (also seePolygonatum)
Spindle Tree (also see Euonymus)
Spurge (also see Euphorbia)
Strelitzia
Sumach (also see Rhus)
Sweet Pea (also see Lathyrus)
Tagetes
Tanacetum
Taxus
Tetradymia
Thornapple (also see Datura)
Thuja*
Thunbergia
Tobacco (also see Nicotiana)
Tomato (also see Lycopersicon)
Tulipa*
Veratrum
Viscum
Wisteria
Yew (also see Taxus)
* Contact with these plants may be sufficient to cause skin irritation 
Cats and poisons

It is sometimes said that because cats are fussy eaters they are less easily poisoned than dogs. However, because of their curious nature and the fact that they will groom any substance off their coats and ingest it, intoxication is not that uncommon.

Other factors predispose cats to becoming ill once they have been exposed to a poisonous substance; these include their small body size, their ability to hide so that exposure is not immediately evident, and because cats, being specialist carnivores, lack certain liver enzymes, they are unable to breakdown certain chemicals. It is because of this that when cats become poisoned they are perhaps less likely to recover than dogs.

How can a cat become poisoned?

Cats can be poisoned in a number of ways:

  • Directly ingesting a toxic substance either by eating it or by eating poisoned prey.
  • Swallowing poisons while grooming contaminated fur.
  • Absorbing some toxins through the skin (particularly the paws)
  • Inhaling the poison.

What signs might warn me that my cat may have been poisoned?

The clinical signs are very variable and will depending on the particular poison concerned. Many toxins produce gastrointestinal signs (vomiting and diarrhoea), others produce neurological signs (tremors, incoordination, seizures, excitability, depression, or coma), respiratory signs (coughing, sneezing, difficulty breathing), skin signs (inflammation, swelling), liver failure (jaundice, vomiting) or kidney failure (increased drinking, inappetence and weight loss). Some toxins act on more than one body system, and so can produce any combination of the above signs.

It is important to remember that while most cases of intoxication will cause acute problems, chronic intoxication can also arise, and often proves even more difficult to recognise and treat.

What should I do if I think my cat has been poisoned?

  • Remove your cat from the source of the poison and isolate from other animals.
  • If the poison is on the coat or paws, try to prevent the cat from grooming itself further.
  • Contact your vet for advice immediately; make sure you know when, where and how the poisoning occurred. If appropriate take the packaging, plant or substance with you to the vet.
  • Do not try to make the cat vomit, unless you are instructed to do so by your vet.
  • If the skin or fur is contaminated wash thoroughly with mild shampoo and water.

My cat has got something 'chemical' on its coat, what should I do?

Only when the contamination is mild and confined to the coat, can the cat may be treated at home. The aim of treatment is to prevent further contamination.

The cat's collar should be removed as it may also have been contaminated. Also, some flea collars contain chemicals which may be harmful to sick cats. To remove chemicals from the coat it is best to clip off contaminated hair and then wash the cat in warm soapy water. It is important to remove as much of the contamination as possible before washing because the process of washing can increase the absorption of some chemicals. The cat must then be dried fully to prevent it from chilling. Oily material can be removed by rubbing it with clean, warm cooking oil, then wiping it off thoroughly, (ie, remove oil with oil).

If you feel the cat may have ingested any toxin it should be taken to the vet. Even if the contamination is confined to the coat, it is important that the cat should be encouraged to drink as this will help to wash out any absorbed toxins.

After any exposure to possible poisons it is advisable to keep the cat under observation in a warm, quiet room for 24 hours.

Common poisons

In many cases of poisoning in cats, the poison in unknown. However, there are many substances within the home which are potentially poisonous to cats.

Household products

  • Cleaning and hygiene products such as bleach, cleaning fluids and creams, deodorants, deodorisers, disinfectants (particularly phenolic compounds like 'Dettol' which turn milky in water), laundry capsules and concentrated liquids, furniture and metal polishes. Concentrated washing liquids or powders can burn the feet and skin if cats walk through them.
  • Human medicines such as laxatives, aspirin, paracetamol and antidepressants. Paracetamol is often given to cats in a caring but misguided attempt to relieve pain. It is highly dangerous to cats and just one tablet is enough to cause severe illness or death. Signs of poisoning include depression, vomiting, swelling of the face and paws and a bluish discolouration of the skin. An effective antidote is available but must be use very soon after the dat has taken the tablet.
  • Motoring products such as antifreeze, brake fluid, petrol and windscreen washer fluid. Antifreeze often contains ethylene glycol or methanol, which are toxic to cats (also found in car screenwashes and de-icers). Many animals find antifreeze sweet tasting, and ingesting even the smallest amount can lead to kidney failure and death, especially in cats. 

  • Beauty products such as hair dyes, nail polish and remover and suntan lotion.
  • Decorating materials such as paint, varnish, paint remover, white spirit and wood preservatives (such as creosote). These can be poisonous if groomed from the coat or can cause burning, blisters or irritation to the skin and footpads or severe irritation in the mouth.
  • Miscellaneous household items such as mothballs, photographic developer, chocolate and shoe polish.

Always ensure that any of these products are stored safely and spillages cleaned up immediately and carefully. If products are kept in high places where cats can push them off a shelf and then walk through liquids which escape though broken or split containers or tops, then make sure they are secured in closed cupboards.

Never give cats products intended for people (unless instructed otherwise by your vet)

To avoid accidental poisonings:

  • Always keep antifreeze in clearly labelled, robust, sealed containers, away from pets and their environment.
  • Clean up any spills immediately, no matter how small, and make sure pets cannot access the area until it is clean and safe.
  • Always dispose of antifreeze safely and responsibly. Contact your local authority for advice.
 

If your pet shows any of the following signs take them to a vet immediately:

  • Increased urination
  • Increased drinking
  • Vomiting
  • Depression
  • Lethargy (being abnormally sleepy)
  • Appearing drunk and uncoordinated
  • Seizures (fitting)
  • Abnormally fast heartbeat
  • Very fast, shallow breathing

The sooner veterinary treatment is received, the better their chances of survival.If left untreated pets can suffer, and will die.


Pesticides

  • Insecticides (insect killers including ant and wasp killers) such as organophosphates and pyrethroids.
  • Molluscicides (slug and snail killers) such as metaldehyde and methiocarb. Slug pellets are sometimes eaten by cats and should not be used where cats can reach them - liquid formulations are preferable.
  • Fungicides (for treating fungal infections, eg, mildews, rusts, rose black spot) such as thiophanage-methyl and benomyl
  • Rodenticides (rat and mouse killers) such as brodifacoum, difenacoum, chlorphacione and coumatetralyl. Rodenticides are the most common pesticides implicated in poisoning of cats, usually because the cat has eaten poisoned prey. The other pesticides are normally safe for cats when used at their correct working strength, provided that cats are excluded from the treated area until the spray has dried.

Always ensure that any of these products are stored safely and spillages clean up immediately and carefully. If products are kept in high places where cats can push them off a shelf and then walk through liquids which escape though broken or split containers or tops, then make sure they are secured in closed cupboards. When using sprays of pesticides or herbicides in the garden keep the cat in until they have dried.

Dog flea treatment products

Permethrin is found in many spot-on preparations for dogs used for the control of fleas, biting flies and lice (also in some ant powders). Posioning can arise when cats are accidentally treated with such dog flea products or where they groom themselves or other animals treated with the product. Cats may salivate a great deal, be thirsty and have a high temperature and tremors or convulsions – urgent veterinary advice is essential.

See our 'protect against permethrin campaign' and sign our petition to get it better regulated. Please also see our information on treating your cat for fleas.

Never use dog products on cats

Bites or stings

Across the world there is a huge range of biting and stinging animals or insects which could injure a cat. In some cases where these are not rapidly fatal, treatment or an antivenom may be available. Check with your vet.

Plants

There are many commonly-grown plants, both house plants and garden plants, that are toxic or can cause skin irritation. Most cats that go outside do not eat poisonous plants but will nibble grass and other herbs, perhaps as a remedy for digestive problems. However, if cats are kept permanently indoors they may not have access to grass and may try eating other things either out of boredom or to try and access some plant material.

Curious kittens may also sample foliage and because they are small, do not need a great deal to suffer the consequences. The simple answer is to provide a supply of growing cocksfoot grass for the cat, which can readily be grown in a pot or seed tray. Some house plants, such as the Dumb Cane (Dieffenbachia) are so poisonous that it is unwise to grow them where there are small children or pets in the house.

It is not just growing plants that can be a problem – cut flowers such as lilies (plants of the Lillium species) are highly toxic – not just the leaves but the flowers and the pollen as well. Less than one leaf ingested by a cat can cause kidney failure and urgent veterinary treatment is required to prevent death. Check flower labels for warnings of toxicity to animals.

For full details see our information on cats and poisonous plants.

Identifying your cat

It is not unusual for cats to go missing – some just for a few hours, some for days and some permanently.

The loss of a cat can be very traumatic and it is at this point that an owner often wishes that he or she had taken the time to give the cat some form of identification in case someone finds it and knows who to return it to.

While some cats may be visually individual and identified by photograph, there are many black, black and white, tabby or ginger cats which could easily be misidentified using coat markings alone. Many cats enjoy an indoor and outdoor lifestyle and a very satisfying and active life. However, they could become injured or frighten by something, or wander into an open van and be transported across the country, or shut in a shed or garage or even picked up as ‘lost’ by someone.

Even indoor only cats can escape and get lost outside. Therefore the accurate and permanent identification of pet cats is both important and desirable, and is regarded as an essential component of cat welfare. Having this information is vital in reuniting cats with their owners should a cat ever stray, escape or get lost.

There are different ways to identify your cat – visual identification with a collar and tag, by tattooing, or by using a microchip.

Microchips

A microchip is a small chip about the size of a grain of rice which contains a unique microchip number. It is inserted under the cat’s skin by a trained person. Using a microchip reader, it can read, identified and matched to the owner’s contact details should the need arise.

In some countries it is now mandatory to microchip cats as well as dogs. Of course there is no point microchipping an animal unless there is a reliable database on which to register the cat and owner details and which can respond if the cat is found by another party and the microchip read and matched a contact address or phone number for the owner.

International Cat Care encourages all cat owners to microchip their cats where possible, as it is permanent and cannot be lost. See our microchipping position statement.

Collars

Collars with tags can also be used to identify cats and carry contact information via a tag or a small barrel attachment with information inside.

Some cats wear collars to carry ‘keys’ to a cat flap anyway (some cat flaps can also now be controlled by the cat’s microchip too), so identification information can be attached to this.

Many owners do want to have a form of visual identification either as an alternative to or in addition to microchipping. If a cat is run over on the road and killed, the body may not be checked for a microchip but a kind person might take the collar and let the owner know so that they are not continually searching for the cat.

In an ideal world a cat would not wear a collar because there are risks involved. Cats, being active and inquisitive often get into small or dangerous places and can get caught up by the collar on a branch or fence or even by something indoors, and could potentially choke or be injured. They can also get a leg through the collar if it is too loose and this can cause injuries under the front leg which can be serious if not sorted out immediately.

There are two ways of minimising this problem – choosing the right collar (a snap open safety collar which comes undone if it gets caught – see picture right) and fitting the collar properly – see our information on how to choose and fit a collar for your cat.

The benefits of collars are that it is immediately recognisable that the cat has some identification; the disadvantages are that this could be removed easily or, if not chosen and fitted properly, could be uncomfortable or even dangerous. Collars and identifying discs or barrels are however cheap to replace.

Tattoos

What about a tattoo? In some countries cats are tattooed as identification, however it can be difficult to see easily as the fur can grow over it or the skin colour make it difficult to see; it can also fade or alter in shape as the cat grows and, it is alterable.

The cat may require anaesthesia to have it done (not many cats will sit still to have a tattoo!) on or in the ear or on the inner leg. There also needs to be a registry with whom to liaise should someone wish to check the number.

 

Some owners opt for several methods, microchipping as well as providing a collar so that all possibilities are covered.

Choosing a boarding cattery

Some people don’t go away on holiday because they don’t want to leave their cat in a cattery.

 

If the cattery in question is of poor quality then that may well be a wise decision for the cat’s health and welfare. However, there are many excellent catteries where cats are kept safe and happy and may even enjoy the experience.

Understanding what constitutes a good cattery will help you to look for the right things. Then you just need to book well in advance (good catteries are often booked up very early) and go away with a clear conscience knowing that you will come home to a happy and healthy cat. What should you be looking for?

What are the basics in boarding cattery care?

 

You want to be sure your cat won’t escape

This sounds very basic, but cats do escape if the cattery is not built, maintained or managed properly. The cattery must have:

  • Individual cat units which are built to be secure and are properly maintained so that there are no holes or gaps through which a cat can squeeze.
     
  • A ‘safety corridor’ or ‘safety area’ outside the cat’s unit, like an airlock in a spaceship. Cats can get past someone opening the door with food or to clean – some are pretty fast and slippery! The outside door must always be kept shut when the inside one is opened and vice versa. This ensures the cat is safely contained and cannot reach the outside. Trained staff who understand the importance of door-shutting are equally important, as the only way a cat can escape from this set-up is by human error – and this should be an exceptionally rare occurrence in any well-run cattery.

You want to be sure that your cat will be warm and comfortable

There are different types of cattery out there – some are totally indoors, some have units like little chalets that also have an outdoor run, and some are sort of in-between. You might instinctively think you want your cat to stay indoors, but it can be much more rewarding and healthier for it to have an outdoor run (safely enclosed to prevent escape) which is in the fresh air as this provides better ventilation which will remove smells and infective organisms in the air. Inside the unit there should be a cosy bed, and a heater in case it gets cold. The heater has to be safe – there are various different types from radiators or pipes to infrared bulbs. A cat flap will let the cat in and out of the chalet or unit into the run so that it can choose where it wants to be.

You want to ensure your cat does not catch a disease

Where you have a lot of cats together there is a chance to spread viral or bacterial disease. Some of these organisms love to hop from cat to cat given the opportunity. They do this via grooming, via droplets from sneezes, through bites, through contact with faeces, from shared food-bowls, or even from the clothes of people who’ve touched cats that are excreting viruses. If you have several cats that live together they will probably already have shared each other’s bacteria and viruses. However, if cats are brought together in a cattery, the cattery must do its utmost to ensure that they don’t catch anything from other cats that they’re looking after. This is where the design and management of the cattery come into effect. Basic principles of disease control mean that cats from different households should never be able to touch each other, and they should be protected from the danger of another cat sneezing on them or from transmitting disease on the hands or clothes of cattery carers or on food-bowls or litter trays. How is this done?

  • The design of the cattery is important – the individual cat units can be alongside each other, but they need to be separated either by an impermeable barrier such as Perspex or by a wide gap, often referred to as a ‘sneeze barrier’ as that’s its function. Cats should never be able to touch each other through the mesh.
     
  • Avoid communal runs. Some catteries offer communal areas where cats share a large space with other cats (not from the same household). Many owners naively think this will be lovely – the cat will have ‘friends’ and it will be able to run around and play with them. However, the majority cats don’t want to share space with a cat they don’t know and will be very stressed by this. In addition such communal spaces enable cats to share litter trays, lick each other and share food-bowls – all potential ways to spread disease.
     
  • Avoid exercise areas. If the cattery says that their cats go out into a communal area to exercise and then back into their individual pens, avoid it like the plague – this is a potential virus-sharing scenario too.
     
  • Don’t spread diseases on hands. You may see notices for visitors not to touch the cats because stroking them can spread disease. Cattery proprietors themselves should wash their hands between handling cats, and many now use hand-washes like the ones hospital staff use to prevent the spread of infection and MRSA.
     
  • Vaccinations are vital for a cat coming into a cattery because of the presence of lots of cats and therefore viruses, and a cattery must ask to see the cat’s vaccination certificate as proof that its inoculations are up to date, in order to protect both your cat and the other cats in the cattery. It is recommended that your cat has an annual booster against cat flu and enteritis if it is going into a boarding cattery.
     
  • Clean and disinfected. The cattery proprietor should understand the importance of keeping the cattery meticulously clean and disinfected and will be able to explain how that is done. The cattery should not smell and litter trays should be cleaned regularly. Uneaten wet food should be removed and food and water bowls kept clean. Food bowls should be washed in a separate area to litter trays.

You want your cat to have room to move around

  • Cats should be in individual runs (except cats from the same household which come in together) that are kept meticulously clean and should never come into contact with cats from another household. If the cattery is well built and the runs are about 6ft by 4ft (1.8m by 1.2m), with shelves to sunbathe on, and the run is equipped with something for cats to play with and sharpen their claws on, they’ll be very content.

You want your cat to be relaxed and secure (but not bored!)

  • The presence of a lot of barking and excited dogs in kennels near a cattery can be very stressful for cats, so choose a cattery which has no kennels on the premises or one well separated from kennels.
     
  • Many catteries will let owners bring in familiar bedding or toys to help the cat feel secure because they smell familiar. Likewise a cat scratch post from home can help them settle in.
     
  • Cats like high places – they will seldom sit on the ground if there is somewhere higher up – the same applies in a cattery. A shelf in the cat sleeping accommodation and in the run will give the cat a chance to climb up and view the world – making it feel much more secure.
     
  • Routine makes cats feel secure – they know when they’re going to be fed, they see when people come and go and they don’t feel threatened.
     
  • Many excellent catteries plant butterfly attracting plants around the cattery to provide interest and movement for the cats to view.

You want your cat to eat well

Good cattery proprietors will find out about your cat’s regular food and try to feed it the same food as at home. This may be difficult if you feed lots of fresh food or if you feed a special prescription diet (in which case you will need to bring this in for the cattery to feed). They will monitor the amount eaten and if your cat needs a little encouragement to eat will try different things to help it feel relaxed and happy to eat.

You want your cat to be watched and monitored

Good proprietors will monitor your cat – they’ll even have what’s called a ‘pee and poo’ chart which records what happens in the litter tray, as well as noting what the cat is eating. This gives them a very good idea of the cat’s wellbeing, as well as enabling them to notice if it has an upset stomach and so on.

Any cat that’s unwell will be taken to the vet – and again, a good cattery will ask you for details of your own vet as well as asking you to sign a consent form allowing them to contact a vet and give treatment if it’s necessary.

Make sure you give details of how to contact you or ask someone to be the contact while you are away – it is unlikely your cat will be ill but if it is old or something occurs, someone may have to make a decision about what is best for it or whether you want it to have treatment etc.

You want your cat to have tender loving care    

For most of us our cats are important members of the family and we want them to be looked after with the same care and consideration that we give them. That’s down to the people caring for the cats and the enthusiasm and dedication they give to the job.

If you look at the very best catteries you’ll recognise that the people involved love cats and each one is important to them. There’s attention to detail and knowledge behind that care which comes from their love of cats.

Most cats actually adapt very quickly and as long as they feel secure in their new environment and they have food, warmth and toilet facilities they make the best of the cosiness and the run to sleep and watch everything going on in the cattery’s daily routine.

You need help with your cat’s special requirements

  • Most catteries will give medication if it’s required and a few of the best will even give treatment such as insulin injections for diabetic cats. Obviously, if you have a higher maintenance cat that needs such medication you need to search out a cattery that’s capable of providing the required treatment.
     
  • If your cat is infirm or disabled it may not be able to climb a ladder/ramp if the cattery is of a ‘penthouse’ design where the sleeping accommodation is a raised box accessed by a ramp. The proprietor may have some units where the accommodation is at ground level or may be able to build a much more gently sloping series of steps up to the box. 

Finding a good cattery

When you visit a cattery (any you must always visit to see for yourself) ask questions about the topics raised in this article.

See if it is clean and the cats in the cattery look relaxed and happy. If the proprietor won’t let you see where the cats are kept then go elsewhere – a good proprietor will have nothing to hide and will be proud to show you their cattery.

Click here for a list of catteries which have been visited by this charity and checked against a standard to ensure they have a high quality of accommodation and care. The proprietors work very hard for the cats in their care and are knowledgeable. Some are undertaking new qualifications from icatcare and COAPE which cover the health and welfare of cats as well as special units covering boarding catteries.

If you can’t find anything of good quality in your area (there are some very poor catteries out there, even though they should have been inspected by the local authority to get a licence to operate), then you may want to look a little further afield. Even if your cat doesn’t really like travelling in the car an extra half-hour (it won’t harm the cat even if it doesn’t really enjoy it), it may well be worth it for peace of mind while you’re away.

Travelling with your cat

Most cats are not particularly happy travellers – they are usually bonded strongly to their own territory and feel very vulnerable off home ground.

The rewards of staying with the family 'pack' or the potential of exploring or walking somewhere new at the end of the journey do not excite the average feline in the same way as its canine cousins.

If you wish to take your cat on a train/car or air journey you will have to ensure it is safely and comfortably secure in an appropriate carrier and is kept confined at the end of the journey, at least until it has become bonded to the new territory.

Of course you get the occasional cat which travels frequently with its owner and does not panic or run off in a new environment, however, these are few and far between.

Travelling by car


cat in carrier

It can be very dangerous to have a cat loose in the car – not only could it cause an accident by becoming entangled with the driver, but if a window or door was opened or an accident occurred, the cat could escape and become lost.

You will need to invest in a carrier which is strong and easy to clean should the cat urinate or defecate or become sick during the journey. There are a wide range to choose from – wicker, solid plastic, fibre-glass, plastic-coated wire mesh etc. It is best to avoid the cardboard or very cheap, light plastic boxes which are suitable for short journeys or very temporary confinement but would not be strong enough for longer periods, especially if they became wet. See our information on how to choose and use a cat carrier.

Also consider the weather you will be travelling in – both your present situation and the likely temperature of your destination. If it is likely to be very hot then use a basket which allows a good air flow through – if it is going to be cold then one which can provide draft-free warmth while still allowing a good air flow would be useful. If your car journey is going to lead to another type of travel, eg, in a plane, then you need to find out the type of carrier which the airline prefers or demands (see later). 



If you have a large metal pen (such as those used for a dog when in the back of the car) then you may wish to put your cat in this, however, do bear in mind that larger is not necessarily better when it comes to the cat feeling safe and secure. Cats quite like to sit in a small space and are unlikely to move around a great deal anyway. If you are using a larger crate which fits in the back of the car you will still need a small carrier which can be carried to and from the car to keep the cat safe at either ends of the journey. 

If you are using a large crate you may be able to provide the cat with a litter tray although it is unlikely that it will actually use it during the journey. It may be better to line the carrier well with newspaper and absorbent cloth in case an accident happens, and take some spare familiar-smelling bedding if you need to replace it. 
 

Place the carrier where it will be secure if you have to brake suddenly but where it has a good air flow – ie, not underneath lots of other luggage in the back of the car. Do not put the cat in the boot and take care with the rear of hatchbacks – ventilation may be poor and the cat may overheat. You can secure the carrier behind one of the front seats or use the seat belt to make sure it is held securely on the seat. 

The cat may meow initially or even throughout the whole journey – speak calmly and reassuringly to it but resist letting it out of its carrier. The noise will probably drive you mad but the cat is unlikely to be suffering; just voicing its dislike of the situation! Eventually the constant motion and noise of the car will probably induce it to sleep or at least to settle down. 



Check the cat regularly, especially if the weather is hot – don't underestimate how rapidly the temperature inside a car can rise - bear this in mind if you stop for a refreshment break and leave the cat in the car. Put the car in the shade and leave windows open – if it is very hot take a picnic and eat it nearby with the cat secure in its carrier outside the car or with all the doors open. Heat-stroke can be a killer. 




Travelling by train 


Obviously if you are travelling by train you will need a very secure carrier which the cat cannot possibly escape from, but one which is also light enough to carry. You may want one with a solid base in case the cat urinates so that it does not soil the railway carriage. Line it with absorbent paper and material and take spare bedding too. You will probably be able to keep the cat in its carrier on your lap depending on the type of train and the space available. 




Travelling by air 


If you intend to travel by plane with your cat then you need to plan well ahead. You may have a choice of airlines and how they can transport your cat may influence your choice. Most airlines do not allow cats to travel with their owners and have to travel in a special part of the hold which is heated and pressurised.

Most cats do travel well but it is not recommended to send a pregnant cat or kittens under three months old. They also note that not all flights are licensed to carry animals so the cat may have to travel on a different flight to you. If possible get the cat onto a direct flight so that there is no need for it to be disturbed for transfer and prevents any problems associated with waiting around in a very hot or cold country can be avoided. This may also affect the timing of the flight you choose. The International Air Transport Association Standards say a container must be large enough to stand up in and turn around with ease – check with individual airlines on what they need.




Using the carrier

For cats the production of a carrier usually means a trip to the veterinary surgery so they are often not too keen to get into it! Take time to let the cat become accustomed to the carrier or travel crate well before the journey. Make it a pleasant place to be – feed the cat treats inside it and make a cosy bed of familiar smelling bedding which can be used on the journey. Leave the door open and encourage the cat to go in and out and to sleep in it. Then, when it comes to the actual journey, the cat is at least familiar with its immediate environment.

If you have more than one cat it is better to give them separate carriers which allows better flow through of air, more room and less chance of overheating. Even the best of friends may become stressed during a journey and behave in an uncharacteristic way such as becoming agitated with each other; separate carriers will prevent any injury. If they can at least see and hear each other they may be comforted by that.

Withhold food for about four to five hours before the journey in case the cat is sick while travelling. Offer water up to the time you leave and again during the journey if possible. You can buy bowls which attach to cages so they are not spilled by the cat during the journey and are easy to fill without opening the cage should there be a delay during the journey. 




Arriving at your destination 


When you arrive place the cat in one room and make sure it is secure, comfortable and cannot escape. Offer water and a little food although it may not be interested in eating until it settles in a little more. Do not let the cat go outside for at least a week and make sure it is identifiable if lost. Withhold food for about 12 hours so that the cat is hungry and comes back to you for food when you call. Gradually let it explore further and use food to ensure it does not go too far and returns for regular meals. 



Use of sedatives


If you know your cat is a bad traveller and has previously been sick on a journey it is worth talking to your vet about giving a tranquilliser. However, some cats actually become more agitated with tranquillisers so it may be worth testing this out before the actual journey. If the cat is going into the hold of an aeroplane tranquillisers may not be recommended as drugs can alter the way cats adjust to temperature changes. Cats may also recover from the journey more quickly if not sedated.

Travelling outside your own country

Remember to check all the regulations if you are taking your cat from one country to another. Preventive health requirements such as rabies vaccination (or even quarantine) will vary, as will those for worm/flea treatment etc. Failure to comply may mean the cat not permitted to continue with the journey and it may be at greater risk of catching diseases it is not familiar with.

Fencing in your garden

For many people, a major deterrent to having a cat as a pet is the problem of keeping it safe and well without restricting it from leading a normal, happy, outdoor life. However, the problem of keeping an active cat in a safe environment can be solved without necessarily condemning the cat to a life indoors.

Cats which have been kept indoors all their lives adapt reasonably well to their environment provided that they are given ample companionship and attention. However, such an enclosed environment is far from ideal and a solution which permits the cat to have access to a garden as well as the house is preferable.

Safety first

The advantages of providing an enclosed environment for domestic cats are many. Safety is high on the list but there is also relief from the fear of them being run over, of them causing a problem by digging up the neighbour's best plants, or of them being injured by predators. The need to provide a protected environment becomes more important as the number of hazards rises.

There are two possibilities available to the cat owner. The first of these is to fence the garden, either completely or in part, to prevent the cats from getting out. Such fencing can, with a neighbour's consent, be adapted to prevent outside cats getting in - a solution which may be attractive to owners of gardens full of plants constantly being uprooted by neighbourhood cats. There can, however, be a problem if there are any perimeter trees which overhang such a fence. The presence of such trees will enable the cats to climb on top of the fence and escape into the outside world. Judicious pruning may help, but the problem remains that an active cat can both climb and leap from branch to fence and so escape.

Fencing the trees themselves is a possibility by 'bonnetting' or giving the tree an Elizabethan collar. Trees which pose a problem can be trimmed up to a height of 1.8m (6ft) and made secure by attaching wire mesh, horizontally, under the lowest remaining branches to prevent cats climbing upwards into the trees. Loosely attach a loop of wire around the trunk immediately below the main branches. Attach another loop about 1 metre (3ft 3in) out to the same branches. Stretch the wire mesh between these loops, attaching it at regular intervals to the supporting branches. Where such trees adjoin a fence, the 'bonnet' can be attached to the wiring of the fence, effectively boxing the cats in. Leaves and small branches growing down through the wire soon make such fencing virtually invisible.

However, it must be stressed that, if you live in a designated conservation area or any trees in your garden are subject to a preservation order, you must consult the planning department of your local Council before trimming or pruning any trees.

Gardens vary in size and shape and what may be practical for one will not necessarily work in another. Nevertheless, it should be possible to create a safe haven in at least one part of a garden. Problems with neighbours' fences, uneven ground, or overhanging branches will inevitably arise and allowance must be made for these when adapting the following suggestions.

The cat-proof garden

To make a garden cat-proof will require the creation of a border fence of at least 1.8m (6ft) in height which, in the case of a wooden structure, means uprights of at least 2.3m (7ft 6in) so that there is sufficient length to fix in the ground. These uprights should be at least 8 x 5cms (3in x 2in) and should be placed not more than 1.8m (6ft) apart. It is advisable to ensure all timber below ground level is properly treated with a preservative and that the posts are set in concrete to provide a more rigid structure. An existing brick or stone wall may be used and can be extended to the requisite height with a wooden framework to form the basis for the wiring. The use of trellis sections can improve the appearance of safety fencing and will permit lightweight trailing plants to be trained along it.

It is always wise to discuss plans for a new fence or garden wall with neighbours to ensure that no objections will occur, particularly if there is no existing boundary fence. It is also very important to discuss construction of fences over 2m high (6ft 6in) with the local authority planning department as planning permission may be required. Permission will definitely be required for any fence or enclosure above 1m (3ft 3in) along a road frontage. In some housing developments there may be legal covenants and/or local restrictions which prevent fencing being erected on either front or side gardens. Whatever the situation, it is always advisable to check with your solicitor, neighbours and the local authority’s planning officers before incurring the expense of building the new fence.

How it's done

The actual escape-prevention system needs to be constructed at the top of this 2m (6ft 6in) wall or fence. There are various methods of doing this, using either a fixed framework or brackets and stretcher wires. Likewise, the actual fencing may be rigid or flexible, according to the type of wiring or netting used. A rigid wiring may well out last the softer fruit netting but is easier for the cat to climb. In either case, the basic approach is the same.

Once the fence or wall has been raised to the necessary height, a horizontal section should be constructed, jutting out at right angles into the garden for at least 0.5m (18in - 2ft), thus creating an overhang. Alternatively, this section may be built at an upward angle of 45 degrees. This has a slight advantage in that the cat is less likely to jump on to it from above if there are trees nearby but, since it is easier for a cat to climb, it may require a longer vertical drop down. This drop down should be attached to the garden edge of the horizontal or angled section, to hang parallel to the original wall or fence. It should hang down approximately 0.30m (12in).

Both these sections, the horizontal or angled section and the drop down, may be built of a rigid framework. Alternatively, metal angle brackets can be attached to the wall or fence and stretcher wires run between them to support whatever wire mesh or netting is used.

The framework or brackets should be covered with either welded wire mesh or chicken wire, which should be firmly stapled to the wooden framework or tied to the metal brackets. Wire mesh should be of 16 gauge (1.6mm) and the mesh size not more than 2.5cm (1in). Chicken wire is cheaper than wire mesh but may not last so long. It should also be of 2.5cm (1in) mesh. The use of a larger mesh may permit a small cat or a kitten to push its head through the mesh and get trapped. The same applies to chain link fencing which has sufficient 'give' in the mesh to trap a cat by the head.

All wire fencing or netting should be carefully erected and the joins between sections made secure. This can be done by weaving a lightweight stretcher wire through the mesh or by tying the mesh to the stretcher wire at regular intervals of not more than 25cms (10in), preferably less.

A rigid fence is easily climbed by most cats, so too are wooden uprights, no matter which side the wiring is attached. One attraction of the 16 gauge wire mesh is that it does provide a strong climbing frame and play area for active cats. However, an agile cat which can occasionally cope with the first horizontal overhang cannot normally cope with the second drop down section. It is obliged therefore, to stay in its own garden. Where the bottom of the wire is not attached to a solid structure (timber framing or a stone or brick wall), or where the ground level is uneven, the wire should be buried to a depth of at least 10cms (4in) since persistent cats can bend the wire sufficiently to crawl out underneath it. Equally important, other animals can attack the wire from outside the garden and gain access to the cat run, so preferably bury the wire as deep as is practically possible.

Should this type of fencing be developed into a T-shape or a Y-shape rather than simply the upside down L, it will also serve to prevent outside cats from entering the garden. However, any branches which overhang the fence or any tree growing within 2.5m (8ft) of it will permit an agile cat to jump on top of the fence and so cross to the other side - in either direction. In other words, a neighbouring tree may allow an unwanted cat to have access. It will then find it cannot escape! To angle the horizontal section upwards at 45 degrees generally prevents such acrobatic behaviour as cats are more loath to jump on to a slanting surface.

Any gates giving access to the garden will have to be given similar treatment. If the gate is tall enough, the fence can run continuously across the top of it - but not, of course, attached to it. Any gap below the gate must also be dealt with. For example, ground level may be raised by laying paving stones or the bottom of the gate extended by the addition of an extra cross bar and wiring to reduce the gap to an absolute minimum. If the gate opens on to a road, planning permission may have to be sought before any additional fencing is erected. If, however, it stands at the side of a house between neighbouring properties, then extension to a height of 2m (6ft 6in) may be permitted. Again, it is always wise to check with the planning department before undertaking such work. Of course, any gate must inevitably be opened at some time and offers a splendid opportunity to the cunning and adventurous cat. A 'please shut the gate' notice may help here.

Purpose built enclosure

Enclosing the entire garden will present no problem of access to the house for cats but may be impossible to achieve because of the size or the nature of the garden. The alternative solution is to create a purpose built enclosure specifically for the cats. Here, provision must be made for the animals to be protected from the weather throughout the year, either by having access to the house through a cat flap or window or by the provision of a purpose built cat house or chalet.

This purpose built enclosure can be constructed to provide a special cat run within, or as part of, the garden. It may be open, in the sense that its 'walls' are constructed with the same type of fence and overhang as described previously for the whole garden, or it may be totally enclosed with a roof, this roof being made either of wire mesh, like a fruit cage, or of PVC. If the need is for a large protected area, then a PVC roof with a UV filter is undoubtedly the best solution. Remember that if PVC is to be used, some form of timber roof support will be required to fix the sheets and it would be advisable to increase the size of the vertical supports to 100m x 50mm (4in x 2in) and to incorporate diagonal struts to stiffen the framing. Once again, it is advisable to consult the local planning department to check on any regulations with regard to such structures.

Detached or semi-detached?

In planning both the size and position of such an enclosure, the first question must be one of access, both for the cats and for their owner. There are two options: 1) a totally self contained run, where the cats can live happily all day until they are taken in on their owners' return home; or 2) a run attached in some manner to the house so the cat can have equal access to both house and run.

The self contained run will require some form of 'house' of its own so that the cats can retire in comfort should the weather prove inclement. A small summer house or garden shed will serve the purpose but it should be insulated for temperature control and lined with a washable surface to make it easy to clean. A melamine faced hardboard serves this purpose very well and will require less maintenance than a good coat of gloss paint. Overall height must be sufficient to make human access easy, whether the cats are permanent, twenty-four hour a day residents, or merely daytime occupiers of their run. A minimum height of 1.8m (6ft) is required. This allows sufficient headroom for most adults without placing the ceiling out of reach for cleaning. The size of this unit or chalet will depend on the number of cats using it and the amount of equipment provided for them. A minimum floor area of 1.5sq m (16sq ft) will provide ample space for one or two cats. If the fenced in area is large and contains a suitable toileting area, then there should be no need for a litter tray in the chalet. Space will still be required for a water bowl, feeding dishes, beds for the cats and chairs both for the cats and for their human visitors. Try to resist the temptation to use this chalet as a garden shed, filling it with garden equipment. This will only create problems later.

If the cats are to be daily visitors to their outdoor house and run, then the question of access has to be considered. How will they get there? Will they be carried each way night and morning, or would it simply be easier to build a run either attached to the house or linked to it in some way. If the cats are already using a cat flap, then access will present no problems. Alternatively, perhaps access could be made through a window. One solution is to transform half the garden into a cat proof enclosure, the framework of which is attached to the house. Such an enclosure can be camouflaged with climbing plants. If the enclosure is constructed using part of a perimeter fence, it may be necessary to consider roofing the enclosure to prevent access by other cats. Once again, discussion with neighbours is vital.

Similarly, the question of access to food, bedding and possibly litter trays arises. If access between the house and outside run is open twenty-four hours a day, there should be no problem. Cats which are used to being shut in at night may, in poor weather, still prefer to use the litter tray rather than go out into the rain. Clean drinking water must be available at all times, so, if access to the house is limited extra provision must be made for this.

Whatever type of enclosure is created, it is important to provide play areas for the cats. If the garden does not already offer such amusement facilities, then the provision of scratching posts, shelves and climbing frames made from branches of trees may prevent the cats from giving too much thought to the possibilities of escape.

Maintenance

The question of maintenance arises with any structure which involves wood. It is important not to use any wood preservatives which contain substances harmful to cats. There are, however, a number of products on the market which are eminently suitable and a few which have no adverse effects provided they are allowed to dry properly before the cats come into contact with the treated surfaces. Likewise, the wiring itself must be checked regularly. Stretcher wires, their attachments and the ties joining individual sections of wiring should also be checked. It is essential to ensure that leaves or heavy snow do not sit on the wire as their weight can cause damage.

Other methods of fencing

There are also systems using metal fencing made from profiled steel, similar to that used on modern industrial buildings which resemble a painted wooden fence with the posts finished with ball caps which cats can't climb because it is slippery metal. Other systems foil a cat's desire to escape using PVC drain piping inside or on top of a wooden fence (see picture above) – this prevents the cat from getting a grip. It can also be used on top of chain link fencing.

Here are some useful websites of companies which undertake fencing in gardens – even if they are not available in your county, they can give you ideas of how to approach the problem yourself:

Electric system

There is an electric fence system which works through the use of a wire buried underground which carries a much reduce electric current. This works in conjunction with a receiver worn by the cat on a collar. The wire sends out a signal to the cat's receiver; an audible warning sound is emitted every time the cat walks towards the boundary wire and if it is ignored the cat receives a small correction – similar to static electricity.

Use of electric fencing has always received mixed reviews. Some people are very pro the system and it has worked well for them and their cats. However the jury is still out on its use and in the UK is currently in the process of reviewing the use of electric fencing in this environment. 

Security

A final comment needs to be made on the security aspect of any construction which is left unattended throughout the day. In the same way that the doors and windows of a house are locked when no one is present, any doors or gates providing human access to the cat enclosures should have a security catch like hasp and staple which can be closed and locked with a padlock. This is particularly relevant where the enclosure is attached to the house and where the cats are permitted access through an open window. 

The end result should be a contented cat and a relieved owner, both enjoying the knowledge that the cat is well provided for in conditions of safety which allow as much freedom as possible.

Minimising risks for the outdoor cat

More than just being able to detect so much more of what is going on around them, cats actually need to have their senses stimulated during their waking hours, and have the opportunity to organise the behaviours that go with detecting, stalking and catching their prey.

Being socially dependent on their mother when young, and, as adult pets, often sociable with each other, they may also have social contact with other cats, and all will certainly need to have such contact frequently with their owners to remain content in a domestic setting.

This is where the keeping of cats allowed the freedom of the outdoors is so easy. The cat simply goes outside when he feels the need to exercise, or to hunt, a need which is so emotionally fundamental to the cat that it usually persists very strongly even in the most well-fed of pets. He goes out also to find stimulation for his highly advanced mammalian brain to keep it in fit responsive, working order.

The opportunity to explore new things in a changing environment and fulfil the desire either to be sociable, or to be highly territorial and even defend resources against other cats in the neighbourhood, are all part of a cat’s needs. They are just as important for his psychological health as being loved, played with and fed the best food indoors by his loving owners.

Risks

Letting a cat control its own movements in and out gives it freedom, but lays it open to the dangers of the great outdoors. The main risks are:

  • Injury - Road traffic accidents account for many cats' lives every year. If you live in a town or near a busy road then the risks are probably greater. Dogs, other cats and humans are also the cause of cat injuries.
     
  • Poisoning - Cats can become poisoned by chemicals used in the garden or by eating poisoned prey.
     
  • Disease - Contact with other cats (especially fighting) and the environment can lead to infections with, for example, feline immunodeficiency virus, feline leukaemia virus, cat flu or enteritis viruses.
     
  • Infestation - Fleas and other parasites can be picked up from prey and the environment.
     
  • Loss - Cats can sometimes get shut in garages or are driven away in cars or vans they have climbed into. They may even move in with someone else.
     
  • Stress - A timid cat may find the great outdoors very stressful and prefer to be inside.

Benefits

However, there are also many benefits to letting your cat go out: 

  • Rodent control - Cats help to keep the rodent population around your home at bay.
     
  • Social contact - Outdoor cats can have social stimulation if they want to interact with other cats in the area.
     
  • Regular exercise - Outdoor cats are well exercised through hunting and generally being out and about, and are less likely to become overweight.
     
  • Outlet for behavioural needs - less stress for the cat and therefore improved welfare.
     
  • Good behaviour - Outdoor cats are less likely to develop behavioural problems such as inappropriate urination in the house, clawing furniture or stalking humans or other household companions. They are less likely to become bored or frustrated. 

Minimising the risks

Before deciding that the myriad risks of a free-roaming outdoor cat are too great, consider ways in which you can minimise them.

  • Let your cat out in the day but shut him in at night as this is a more dangerous time to be out. There are more wild animals around and cats can be dazzled by car headlights on the road. A reflective or fluorescent collar may help get him seen, particularly in the winter months when it gets dark earlier. If you can train your cat to come when he is called you will be able to let him out at dawn and make sure he is in by dusk each day.
     
  • If you are near a busy road try to encourage your cat to come in (by feeding at this time) at busy times in the morning and evening.
     
  • Ensure that your cat is vaccinated against all infectious diseases it is possible to cover (as yet there is no vaccine for FIV). Worm your cat regularly, especially if he is a hunter.
     
  • If your cat is wearing a collar make sure it is one with a safety catch which will enable him to escape should the collar get caught up in a tree or fence. Write your name and phone number on it clearly so that anyone finding him sick or injured can let you know. Many people now have their cats microchipped (click her for information on identifying your cat and on microchips). A microchip the size of a grain of rice is injected under the skin that carries a unique number. Cats taken to rescue centres are automatically scanned for this and matched to the address on file.
     
  • Make sure that your cat is neutered. The risks to entire animals are much greater than to neutered cats. An unneutered tom will wander for miles, often crossing busy roads. The average lifespan of an unneutered male is probably only a couple of years. Neutered animals do not wander so far, do not fight so much (and therefore are not at such a great risk of being infected with various diseases), and do not cause the noise and smell nuisance to neighbours that an unneutered torn can inflict. The risks of pregnancy to the unneutered female are also obvious. 
Antifreeze poisoning

Antifreeze is sweet tasting to humans. Cats cannot taste sweet things but still appear to find the taste of antifreeze attractive for some reason, leading them to ingest the substance. Ingesting even the smallest amount can lead to kidney failure and death, especially in cats. International Cat Care would like to remind people to take care this winter.

Follow our advice to help keep your pets safe.
 


To avoid accidental poisonings:

  • Never add antifreeze to garden water-features or ponds.
  • Always keep antifreeze in clearly labelled, robust, sealed containers, away from pets and their environment.
  • Clean up any spills immediately, no matter how small, and make sure pets cannot access the area until it is clean and safe.
  • Always dispose of antifreeze safely and responsibly. Contact your local authority for advice.

If your pet shows any of the following signs take them to a vet immediately:

  • Increased urination
  • Increased drinking
  • Vomiting
  • Depression
  • Lethargy (being abnormally sleepy)
  • Appearing drunk and uncoordinated
  • Seizures (fitting)
  • Abnormally fast heartbeat
  • Very fast, shallow breathing

The sooner veterinary treatment is received, the better their chances of survival.  If left untreated pets can suffer, and will die.

More information on Antifreeze

Antifreeze and cats

In the Northern hemisphere, the onset of winter and low/sub-zero temperatures brings about an increase in the number of cats poisoned by antifreeze.

Most antifreeze solutions (used often in cars in the winter) are based on a product called ethylene glycol. The problem with ethylene glycol is that it can be very toxic when ingested, often causing rapid and frequently fatal injury to the kidneys.

All animals (including humans) are susceptible to ethylene glycol poisoning, but cats are more susceptible than most due to differences in their metabolism. These differences mean that even a very small amount of ethylene glycol, if swallowed, can be fatal.

It is therefore vitally important to take great care when using ethylene glycol. It should only ever be used in closed systems (such as car engine coolant systems) and never be used elsewhere (such as in ornamental ponds or fountains to prevent them freezing - cats, dogs and other wildlife can be readily poisoned and killed by drinking from these contaminated sources). Bottles containing ethylene glycol should be stored carefully and tightly closed. Any coolant drained from a car should be disposed of carefully and any ethylene glycol spilled on the floor should be mopped up thoroughly.

If you are worried that your cat may have swallowed some ethylene glycol (or even licked its paws or fur if it may have come into contact with ethylene glycol) you should take your cat to the vet immediately as the sooner a cat is treated the better its chances of survival.

Alternative agents

Unfortunately, ethylene glycol is almost universally used as an antifreeze agent, despite being so toxic, and there are few alternatives. It is possible to obtain propylene glycol based antifreeze in some regions, and this represents a safer alternative (although more expensive and still not completely safe).

Adding agents that taste bitter

It has been suggested that all antifreeze solutions should contain an additive, such as Bitrex®, or denatonium. Denatonium is a safe chemical that is said to be the most bitter tasting chemical known and can be added to potentially poisonous substances to make it less likely that they will be eaten or drunk. 

While this sounds like an ideal solution to the problem of cats and other animals drinking ethylene glycol, in fact denatonium (or Bitrx®) has not been shown to be very effective in discouraging dogs from eating palatable foods, and in humans, adding denatonium to antifreeze solutions has apparently not decreased the frequency of poisoning among young children. Thus while adding denatonium to antifreeze will do no harm,. it may well not have the desired effect in preventing animals drinking or licking the solution.

The best advice therefore is to be highly vigilant and to prevent animals and children coming into contact with ethylene glycol, and if they do, to get them treated as soon as possible

Christmas safety for your cat

Cats can enjoy the festive season too, with a 
few top tips:

  • Feeding your cat a few pieces of cooked meat (turkey, chicken etc) is fine, but take account of these treats in the cat's daily food ration.
     
  • While cooked meat is fine, ensure that there are no bones present. Bones, especially cooked ones, can splinter and cause intestinal damage. 
     
  • Most adult cats cannot tolerate the lactose in milk so, unless your cat has milk on daily basis and you know it doesn’t cause problems, don’t give your cat milk at Christmas.
     
  • When looking at gifts for your cat, interactive toys are an effective way to stimulate cats while also helping them exercise.
     
  • Keep your hangover cures locked away – paracetamol is highly toxic to cats.
     
  • Christmas plants are common place in our homes around the festive season, but be aware that some, like Poinsettia, Mistletoe and Christmas Cherry, can be poisonous to cats. See our list of poisonous plants.
     
  • Your cat may be attracted to the Christmas tree and decorations, so it is advisable to keep glass baubles higher up, to prevent breakaged, and ensure that the tree is well secured. 
     
  • The hustle and bustle of lots of family and friends in the house, and the even the simple change of routine, over the holiday season can be stressful for cats. Make sure that there is a quiet area for them to retreat to.
     
  • Make Christmas better for all those unowned cats by donating tins, sachets or packets of cat food to your local shelter or by supporting our work.
Caring for your cat in hazardous weather

As we all know, the weather can be extremely unpredictabled - one second it is hot and sunny, the next there is torrential flooding. Whatever the weather, it is important to ensure that cats are safe and cared for.

Cats are very good at taking care of themselves, but sometimes they need a little help. If you are worried about how the weather could affect your cat, please take a look at the tips below that cover heatwaves, floods and winter weather. 

Heatwaves
 

Many of us love the warm and sunny weather, as do the majority of cats. However if the temperature becomes extreme, make sure your cat has plenty of fresh water. Replacing the water a few times a day can encourage the cat to drink, and placing multiple bowls around the house and garden will ensure that water is in easy reach where ever your cat may be residing.

Most cats will enjoy a snooze in the sunshine and then retire to a shady spot when they get too hot - after all, they have evolved from desert animals. Ensure your cat has a few cool and shady spots to retreat to dotted around the house and garden - cats will normally find these themselves but helping to provide the spots can help. Simply opening the windows to let in a breeze can also help provide a cool area to rest. Also don't be surprised if you find your cat lying on the tiles on the kitchen floor or in the bath - tiles and materials such as porcelain keep cool and so cats can gravitate towards them when they are a little too hot. 

Although most cats can look after themselves, they may be confined to a room or conservatory which gets very hot and heatstroke can sometimes occus. Being aware of the symptoms of heatstroke is always worth while, as then you are prepared for any eventuality. These symptoms include: excessive panting; lethargy; drooling; fever; vomiting; collapse or unconsciousness. If you are worried about your cat or suspect they are suffering from heatstroke, please consult your veterinarian.

Always check sheds, greenhouses and summerhouses before closing them up. Cats can find their way inside if they are looking for a shady spot to cool down in, and it is best to avoid trapping them inside as they could become dehydrated. This will also help prevent the number of cats that worry their owners by going missing for a couple of nights - or until the shed is reopened again. The same goes for checking cars - if you leave your windows open to let the car cool down, always check that a cat hasn't snuck inside before you drive away.

Ensure that your cat is microchipped so that if it ends up locked in someone else's shed or wanders off one evening on a hunt, that you can both be reunited as quickly as possible. If you find a cat in your own shed/summerhouse and it does not have a collar and tag that you can use to ring the owner, take the cat to your local vet. If the cat has a microchip, the vet will be able to detect this and contact the cat's owners.

Floods

Floods can hit at any time of year, regardless of the season, and can affect hundreds of homes and families. If you are a cat owner in a flood-affected area or an area that is prone to flooding, we suggest you consider the following:

  • Keep your cat indoors, preferably upstairs, until the risk of flooding has subsided.
  • Keep a supply of fresh water, food, bedding, litter trays and medication somewhere safe, dry and easily accessible.
  • Keep your cat carrier to hand in case you need to vacate your home temporarily.
  • Keep your cat’s essential documents (microchip details; vaccination records) in a sealed bag or other waterproof container in an easily accessible location.

If you have to leave your home, take your cat securely in its carrier, making sure to take food, bedding, water, bowls and documentation with you, in case it is some time before you are able to return home.

Snow and colder temperatures

Entering winter typically means a multitude of things – the nights get darker, the temperature gets colder and the weather gets worse. These changes not only affect us but also affect our cats. Below are some practical tips that owners can use to keep their cats safe during the cold winter months. 

Litter trays

If you have an older or unwell cat, or the weather becomes very extreme, and your cat is unable to venture outside, it may be useful to provide litter trays in the house. These should be filled with the cat's preferred litter and placed in quiet areas to encourage the cat to use them. If you have a multi-cat household, multiple trays should be provided at different locations around the house (to avoid competition and conflict over territory). Cats are clean animals and so spoiled litter should be removed and replaced as soon as possible. Click here for more advice on litter trays and their use.

Food and water

Over the winter your cat may eat more which will help it with with temperature regulation and insulation however, monitoring weight and body size is still important. Many cats prefer to stay indoors during the cold and wet weather, meaning they may eat more and do less exercise. Providing enrichment and monitoring their weight will ensure that they stay healthy. 

Whether your cat is able to venture outside or is kept indoors, providing fresh clean water for it is essential. If you keep a bowl outside, regularly check it to ensure that it hasn't frozen over and ensure that it is clean. Avoid putting chemicals in ponds and water features where possible as cats will often drink from these, which can be harmful and in some cases, fatal (as with antifreeze). Ensure that any spills are cleaned thoroughly as contamination of the fur and paws can also be harmful. 

Outdoors or indoors?

Keeping a cat inside when it is used to going out may not always be possible, so if your cat is allowed out then ensure it is microchipped. If cats do get lost or into any trouble and are taken to a shelter/vets, they will be scanned for a microchip that will contain owner details, resulting in their safe return home. If there are roads and pavements near you that are gritted/salted and your cat is likely to wander over them, it is advisable to wipe its feet with a damp towel to remove excess rock salt or other chemicals that could be groomed off and ingested (this could be harmful). Additionally, check their paws regularly for signs of injury, frostbite or dermatitis (sore and irritated paws caused by contact with rock salt etc). Most pet cats sleep in our homes, but if you have a street or feral cat which you feed and which sleeps in the garage/shed rather than the house, make sure that it has a warm bed that is free from drafts, and blankets to keep it warm over night. When temperatures get very low, it is advisable to bring cats indoors to sleep. 

In the case of snow/ice storms or very low temperatures, cats should be kept inside to keep them safe. Storms can be very disorientating, and your cat may lose its way or get injured, while freezing temperatures can also result in injury. Keeping cats inside means that you must provide them with enrichment. This can be in the form of a cat tower, scratching post, puzzle ball or toy, which will keep them stimulated (and help them get a little exercise) – see our cat friendly home page for some ideas on enriching their environment. Some household items may be hazardous to cats, so make yourself aware of these. Cats may also find some entertainment from playing with household plants, but again some of these can be hazardous – see our full list here

Flooding

Floods don't just happen in winter, but with increased rainfall they can be likely. Please read the above section on floods for some handy tips on caring for your cat in a flood.

Hotspots

Cats enjoy being warm and so will look for 'hotspots'. Warm engines in parked cars attract cats, who may keep themselves toasty by curling up in wheel arches, between the wheels or under the hood. If you have a local cat which does this, before starting your car, always tap on the hood and check between the tyres to ensure that a cat isn't hiding there. As they enjoy being warm, cats may also gravitate towards radiators and fireplaces. Prevent potential burns by protecting your cat from open fireplaces, wood stoves and space heaters. You can also place blankets over radiators to keep your cat happy and safe. 

Elderly or sick cats

Cats which are inactive, have lost muscle tone/weight or have trouble maintaining their body temperature will need some extra care during the winter. Ensure they have adequate warm, draft free places to sleep and relax – an arthritic cat will especially appreciate a bit of extra warmth. Cats which need a little extra help getting around may find normal tasks like getting through the cat flap harder when the floor is icy and the cat flap is a little harder to push open so be mindful of this and help them where possible. Keeping older and sick cats inside during the cold will help keep them healthy and safe.

High-rise cats

‘High-rise syndrome’ in cats: they don’t always land on their feet

 

Breaking the myth

It is often said that cats always land on their feet – and indeed they do have a complex righting reflex that naturally kicks in as a cat falls, allowing it to orientate itself to land on its feet. However, the fall needs to be high enough to allow the cat to twist, but not too high to cause serious injury, and the cat’s legs need to be able to absorb the shock of the fall. With high falls the jaw often hits the ground and is broken, and other severe injuries can also occur. Older or less agile cats may also not be able to right themselves in time.

Why do cats fall from heights?

Increasingly, due to our growing cities and busy lifestyles, cats are kept in flats and high-rise buildings and, in many cases, without access outdoors. With hard work to ensure the cat’s environment is enriched, it can express natural behaviours such as hunting and climbing, and live happily indoors. However, if windows are left open, or cats have access to balconies, they are at risk of falling. Studies have shown that the majority of injured cats are young cats (many under 1- year- old), presumably due to inexperience and a more playful and curious nature. Owners often report that the cat or kitten was playing with another cat, walking along the window or balcony ledge or chasing birds and butterflies when it fell. High rise syndrome is more prevalent in warmer climates where windows are left open, and in cities where high rise living is more common.

What injuries do cats sustain?

As expected, the greater the height of the cat’s fall, the worse the injuries tend to be. Reported injuries include broken bones (limbs and joints as well as facial injuries such as jaw fractures), ligament injuries, and internal injuries such as bladder and lung trauma. These latter injuries, even though less obvious from the outside, are still very serious and require emergency treatment. Therefore, all cats known to have fallen from a height should be checked over by a vet.

How can we prevent falling?

Of course, high-rise syndrome is completely avoidable by taking steps to prevent a cat’s access to areas from which it can fall. However, on a hot day, it is easy to leave a window or balcony door open without thinking of the risks.

Ways to minimise the risk of falls:

  • Move any furniture that would allow cats to have access to higher-level open windows
  • Make open windows safe with limiters that allow the window to only open a certain amount (designed to keep children safe) – but remember cats, and particularly kittens, can squeeze through very small spaces or get stuck trying.
  • Use meshes or barriers to cover open windows (eg, Cataire). These allow the window to fully open and remain safe.
  • A balcony can provide valuable extra space and stimulation for an indoor cat but must be totally cat proof as well. Use balcony safety nets and meshes and remember the small gaps that cats can squeeze through (eg, ProtectaPet).

Falling from a height can be very serious or even fatal for cats. However, it is preventable by taking sensible steps so both humans and pets can enjoy the fresh air. Cats can be kept happily in flats and high-rise building, but we must ensure they have enough stimulation and play opportunities. 

A cat’s environment is crucial to its happiness.

In this section you will find ways of making your home more cat friendly, together with information on keeping cats indoors or let them go outside; keeping more than one cat; and what you can expect from your relationship with your cat.

Making your home cat friendly

Your cat’s happiness is greatly influenced by how you behave and what kind of lifestyle you offer – as the cat is a territorial species, the environment is everything!

First of all, therefore, you need to get the cat-related equipment and facilities right, particularly if you keep your cat exclusively indoors or give it restricted access outside. Even if you haven’t made the decision to have a house bound cat, you may have to confine yours indoors due to ill health or have one that chooses to only go out occasionally because it is nervous or getting old. Having said all that, there is no reason why the following suggestions for a cat friendly home shouldn't apply to all pet cats, even those with free access to outdoors! 

Your cat’s ability to choose, based on personal likes and dislikes, is compromised when you are in sole charge of making the decisions, such as where your cat feeds or where it goes to the toilet. If you base those decisions on purely human considerations (or what you perceive to be important to your cat) then you could be making the cat’s life a little less than perfect.

Try to satisfy specific needs

As cats have such specific needs it isn’t enough just to provide some food, shelter and love. While these elements are as important as ever to your cat, it is the quality and quantity of each that is the key. There are practical challenges about the provisions you make for your cat in the home: What sort of cat bed should you provide? Where should you locate the scratching posts? What sort of litter facilities would your cat want? 

A cat friendly home takes into consideration the needs of the cat as a very different species to man. It provides an environment that is safe and stimulating.

Most homes are not necessarily the ideal habitat for a domestic cat, so provisions have to be made to cater for their specific needs. You may have heard the phrase ‘environmental enrichment’ with regard to keeping a cat happy indoors. (Click here to see an environmental enrichment article) This basically means making provisions within a cat's confined environment that stimulate and challenge and enable it to perform natural behaviour. Living indoors almost automatically deprives a cat of the ability to behave naturally and experience the challenge and frustration that occurs in an outdoor lifestyle. Indoor cats will adapt to their environment but can fall victim to a number of physical or emotional problems associated with boredom and lack of activity. In the absence of the challenge of hunting, exploring and social contact, cats will fill the void of activity with those that are readily available such as sleeping, grooming and eating. It is no coincidence that indoor cats develop physical problems associated with a sedentary lifestyle, for example urinary tract disease, over-grooming problems and eating disorders. 

A cat friendly home

A cat-friendly home is about compromises that you can make so that the environment suits you both. However, if you are a lover of contemporary minimalistic interiors you are probably going to have to adjust more than most to provide everything your cat needs. Open-plan living spaces with clean lines and an overall lack of clutter may be the basis of the modern style, but this couldn’t be further removed from your cat’s natural habitat. Although the domestic cat is highly adaptable to most landscapes, it still requires a degree of camouflage to enable it to roam relatively inconspicuously. This camouflage can be found almost anywhere apart from the contemporary living space; it is very hard to disguise a cat in an empty room! The slightly more cluttered home is a haven of possibilities for a cat, offering high places to sit and plenty of places to disappear from view. 

Keeping safe

While it is essential to stimulate and challenge cats within the home there is also a duty of care to keep them safe. There are many household appliances, features and products that could be potentially dangerous. It is important therefore to ‘risk assess' the home on a regular basis to keep these dangers to a minimum. There is a happy medium however between overwhelming anxiety about all possible risks and a casual laxity. An owner's constant concern for the wellbeing and safety of his or her cat can cause it to develop a sense of helplessness and inability to function normally without the owner present. Equally, an irresponsible attitude to safety by the owner could lead to a tragic accident. (Click here for information on household hazards)

The cat flap

While discussing safety it is worth mentioning the greatest challenge to the cat's perception of security in the home. If cats have any access outdoors it may be facilitated via a cat flap. Cats often see the flap as a vulnerable point in the defences of their home where any invader could potentially gain access. This can lead to a state of constant vigilance and uneasiness and a definite compromise to the individual's sense of safety in the home. (Click here for information on how to choose and using a cat flap) If your cat has restricted access outside, or chooses to venture out only in your presence, it may be preferable to dispense with the cat flap altogether. Otherwise it would be sensible to locate all your cat’s important things well away from this potential danger zone. 

In order to provide a cat friendly home you need to understand the objects or provisions within it that your cat considers important. These ‘resources' should be available in sufficient number and type to appeal to even the most discerning individual. ‘Resources' within the home represent all those things that provide nourishment, entertainment, stimulation and security for your cat. 

Food

Some of the essential provisions are often taken for granted but even food can be offered in a cat-friendly way. You have numerous food bowls to choose from - ceramic or glass food bowls are probably the most sensible choice as plastic receptacles scratch easily and can give off a slight odour that your cat may not like. Stainless steel is hygienic and easy to clean but, if your cat wears a collar, the constant clink of any disc or bell against the metal can be very off putting. The bowl size or shape is dependent on your own personal taste, although many cats can be messy if eating from a flat plate and prefer to push food around a bowl that contains the food better. The only exception to the plate rule is the Persian or any breed with a flat face that may prefer theirs as shallow as possible.

Cats would naturally spend up to six hours a day foraging, stalking, catching and consuming prey. They would eat ten or more mice a day, probably involving about thirty attempts at capture. Therefore the predictable availability of food only twice a day in a food bowl in the kitchen does not represent any kind of challenge whatsoever and leaves the average pet cat with a void of several hours that it would need to fill with other activities. Click here for information on how to make food foraging fun for your cat (Page 51).

Water 

The majority of owners always provide water in the same location as the food bowl. Cats naturally hunt for food and search for water on separate occasions to satisfy either hunger or thirst. The presence of water near the food can actually deter some cats from drinking sufficient fluid, particularly if they are on a dry diet. Finding water elsewhere can be extremely rewarding and there should be at least 'one water container per cat in the household plus one extra' in various locations away from food. Some cats object to the chemical smell from tap water so filtered or boiled water can be used. Pet drinking fountains and even glass tumblers are popular drinking vessels for cats but regular bowls can also be attractive if they are presented appropriately and are large enough that your cat can drink without touching its whiskers against the sides. Cats like the bowl to be full to the brim so that they can lap without putting their heads down.

High resting places 

Cats are natural climbers and it is important for your cat to be able to rest and observe its surroundings from high places. It’s hard to beat a staircase in a home as this gives access to a ‘high place’ and perceived safety. If your property is single storey then your cat’s instinctive need to jump up high when in danger has to be fulfilled with shelving, cupboards or other possible platforms. Any high resting places provided should be located in such a position that the cat is able to get down; it is always easier to climb up! 

Here are some suggestions for suitable locations: 

• Tall scratching posts are available as modular units and they are often floor-to-ceiling structures. Many provide platforms and enclosures for resting and represent challenging climbing frames. (How to choose and use a scratch post)

• Free standing cupboards and wardrobes have large areas where a cat can rest or hide in a high place. It may be necessary to place furniture nearby to give the cat a halfway platform for ease of access. 

• Shelves can be constructed specifically for the cat's use. It is important to provide a non-slip surface as many wooden shelves are extremely slippery. Bookshelves and other shelving can also provide sanctuary if a small area is cleared for your cat's use. Keeping expensive breakable ornaments on shelves or mantelpieces is not advisable! 

Private places 

Taking time out from social demands is an essential part of everyday life for a cat so secret hideaways are an important facility. These can be created by making space available under the bed, inside cupboards or wardrobes or behind the sofa, for example. Your cat should never be disturbed while using a private area unless you have any reason to believe that it may not be well. 

If you make your cat’s private place a warm one too, like the bottom of the airing cupboard, you are providing five-star accommodation! 

Beds 

Cats spend the majority of their time asleep so it makes sense to focus on what provisions you are making for your cat’s rest and relaxation. Cats favour warm places to sleep and many prefer them to have a strong familiar scent of their owners to give a sense of safety and security. Not all cats need the reassurance of their owner’s smell when they are resting so they may have several sleeping locations that rotate according to the position of the sun. An assortment of beds should therefore be provided in warm, sunny, quiet or communal areas. These don’t have to be special beds designed for the purpose as the average cat is perfectly content with its owner's bed, chairs or sofas, so you may wish to place some warm bedding on your furniture in your cat’s favourite sleeping spot. Make sure any cat bedding provided is washable but don’t clean it too frequently, unless heavily soiled, as cats gravitate towards surfaces with a familiar scent. Radiator hammocks are great for those heat-seeking cats (Siamese and Burmese for example); they hook onto a radiator to enable the cat to gain the maximum benefit from the heat but do remember to keep the radiator on a fairly low setting!

If you want to purchase a cat bed then positioning it appropriately may be the key to its appeal. Place it in a raised position (many cats feel a little vulnerable sleeping on the floor) near a source of heat or an area in sunlight. If your cat likes its own space then ensure beds are provided in quiet areas away from thoroughfares. Those with three high sides that surround the cat will keep draughts away and give a sense of camouflage to avoid attracting attention (even a cardboard box with some thick bedding would also do the trick).

Your bed is potentially the ultimate delight for your cat - with the warmth of a duvet and a strong smell of you! This provides a tremendous sense of security and enables your cat to sleep deeply in the knowledge that it is safe. If your bedroom does become an important resource however it can also be a place of conflict if you have a multi-cat household as individuals compete for the best spot. Providing heated pads or raised cat beds in other bedrooms or even allocating space in your own room for such additions may go some way to finding a sensible compromise.  

Litter trays 

Litter trays are a necessary evil, absolutely essential if your cat is housebound or has limited access outdoors and highly recommended even if your cat is free to roam. (Click here for information on how to choose and use a litter tray and litter). 

The position of the litter tray is important. It should be located in a discreet corner, away from food and water, full-length windows and busy thoroughfares. Cats may see external doors and cat flaps as potentially dangerous places so locating them as far away as possible from these stressful areas would be ideal for your cat.

One tray for every cat in your household, plus one extra ideally should be placed in different discreet locations away from food. This doesn’t mean that each cat will automatically choose their own tray but it will give a general sense that there is plenty of choice. These trays can be covered or open but it is important that the areas they are located represent a place of safety where the cats don’t feel vulnerable. A regular cleaning regime is essential, removing faeces and urine soiled litter at least once a day and cleaning the entire tray weekly. Some cats find polythene tray liners unpleasant, particularly if they spend a lot of time scraping in the tray, as this could result in them getting their claws caught in the liner. Litter deodorants can also introduce a strong alien smell into the tray, so you may find your cat prefers a well maintained tray without any added fragrance.

Scratching posts/areas 

Cats need to scratch to maintain their claws and mark their territory. If provisions are not made for this then cats will scratch items of furniture. Scratching posts should be as tall as possible to allow your cat to scratch vertically at full stretch. Panels can be attached to walls at the appropriate height if space is at a premium. Some cats prefer to scratch horizontal surfaces so a variety of scratching areas should be provided. (Click here for more information about how to choose and use a scratching post)

Social contact 

Many cats enjoy the company of their own species, under the right circumstances, and some sources of advice actively encourage owners to acquire more than one cat when keeping them indoors. However problems can arise when the individuals reach social maturity (usually between the ages of eighteen months and four years) and find themselves competing for limited resources within a territory that is relatively small. These problems can potentially be minimised by providing plentiful resources in the home and keeping the appropriate number of cats for the size of property. A commonly quoted formula to calculate the appropriate number of resources is ‘one per cat in the household plus one extra, placed in different locations’. There is no formula for the recommended number of cats per square metre floor space but common sense should prevail. Keeping seven cats in a two-bedroom flat for example is asking for trouble! Townhouses also represent a uniquely challenging environment for cats with the narrow staircases leading to each floor becoming areas where conflict can often occur.

Social contact with humans is important but the level will vary according to the personality of the cat. It is best to allow your cat to dictate the level of interaction and to initiate most of the contact. Owners that are constantly approaching their cats for petting can cause irritation or, occasionally, distress. Predatory play, grooming and verbal communication represents important social contact between owner and cat and is often better received than ‘kissing and cuddling'. Some cats enjoy the company of dogs also so company can come in different forms! 

Predatory play 

Every cat is an individual but most prefer toys and games that are as close to the natural hunting experience as possible. Toys that move randomly are great; those that are motionless and left lying around soon become predictable and boring. Toys made from fur material or feathers that are of a similar size to prey animals are popular, as are those impregnated with catnip - a herb that cats can find particularly attractive. All should be stored away and brought out from time to time to maintain their novelty. Many cats enjoy retrieval games and this can represent an opportunity for social contact as well as play. (Click here for more information about playing with your cat

Vegetation 

A source of grass is essential for the house cat to act as a natural way to clear hair from the gut that has been ingested during grooming; some cats may vomit after eating grass but this is perfectly normal. It can be purchased as commercially available “kitty grass” or pots of grass and herbs can be grown specifically for this purpose. (Click here to find a list of poisonous house plants)

Scent stimulation 

About two-thirds of cats respond to the smell of catnip (dried catmint Nepeta cataria) which can produce a temporary euphoric state in cats. If it is used sparingly it is a fun distraction. Catnip toys can easily be made at home and used to good advantage for ten minutes a day or every other day, for example. Bags of dry catnip can be purchased which tends to be more potent than catnip sprays or treats.  

Novel/challenging items 

It’s good for house cats to be exposed to new things every now and then, otherwise a constant, unchanging environment can become too predictable and some might then find new experiences or situations stressful.

New items can be brought into the home on a regular basis to challenge your cat's sense of smell and desire to explore novel things. Wood, stone, plants, cardboard boxes or paper bags, for example, can be placed in various locations and left for your cat to decide whether or not they are worth exploring. Even for those cats that don’t go outside, it’s still important that they are regularly vaccinated and treated for parasites, as items could potentially have been in contact with other cats. Stimulating your cat's senses is extremely important and this also includes novel sounds but beware playing loud music; a cat's hearing is extremely sensitive and this could be distressing. 

Windows to the outside world

Windows are a significant viewing point for the great outdoors but, contrary to most people’s understanding, cats usually prefer smaller windows in darker rooms if given the choice. Large expanses of glass appear to be confusing to cats; they see the garden or the street outside and all the potential dangers that they harbour, but fail to grasp that they are safe indoors. It all comes down to camouflage. Glass does not give the cat any opportunity for concealment while it checks out the territory and if it is full-length then the ultimate horror may occur and a cat may come face to face with next-door’s tomcat on the other side. 

If you think this could be a problem for your cat then you might want to consider attaching sheets of decorative static film (no adhesive needed) to the lower portion of full-length glass that opaque the view but still enable the room to remain light. To your cat this will look like a more solid defence. In conjunction with this you can ensure your cat has a high perch somewhere near the window from which it can view the outdoors from a position of comparative safety. If you don’t fancy putting any film over a full-length window then the strategic positioning of potted house plants near the glass may just be enough camouflage for your cat to feel a little safer. 

Fresh air 

Don’t underestimate the value of fresh air, particularly if there is a smoker in the house. Grills over your windows, either home-made or purchased specifically for the purpose, will allow fresh air to enter your house. This alone will carry challenging and interesting smells from outside and be a focus of attention for a bored house cat.  

Synthetic pheromones 

Feline facial pheromones are important signals of familiarity and security secreted naturally from glands in a cat's face. A synthetic version of a part of these pheromones common to all domestic cats is available. Feliway®, manufactured by Ceva Animal Health Ltd, can be purchased in spray and ‘plug-in' diffuser form. This can have a useful calming effect on your cat if you move house, decorate, add furniture, visit the vet or even if you consider introducing a new cat. The presence of a Diffuser may even relax your cat sufficiently to promote play, particularly if there are other cats in the household. It is important not to rely too heavily on the presence of Feliway® if your cat becomes anxious. There may be an underlying cause for this emotion that should be investigated by your veterinarian. 

‘Cat TV’

Some television programmes can be interesting to your cat but don’t presume that it will find everything you watch equally enthralling. A recent study found that cats’ attention to television was at its greatest when small prey animals or other cats in friendly situations were shown. While cats certainly watch the screen and often appear very interested in the squeaks and tweets of wildlife documentaries, it may cause frustration if they are unable to catch the prey that they have spotted. Dedicated cat DVDs have been produced that put together a sequence of all the sights and sounds that attract cats, to appeal to the housebound, but more evidence is needed to confirm that they are genuinely enriching and they shouldn’t be relied upon as a sole source of entertainment.

The ways that an environment can be enriched for a cat are many and varied based on the principles described about; you are limited only by your imagination! An understanding of the provisions necessary for a cat friendly home will ensure that your cat remain as happy and healthy as possible. 

Playing with your cat

Most cats enjoy interacting with their owner and playing is a great way to develop the bond between you and your pet.

Play for a kitten, like any other young animal, is essential for its development to maturity and for the majority of adult cats, it is a pleasurable part of domestic life. As a cat ages, its mobility and energy may lessen but gentle games can still be enjoyed by both cat and owner.

Owners’ involvement in play can range from a simple game of ball to focused training (involving ‘clicker’ rewards) over a period of months. Much will depend on the nature of the cat and the time you wish to devote to your pet. 

Cats which never go outside will need plenty of stimulation and play, particularly when young, to prevent them becoming bored. The owner of such a cat needs to be aware of their responsibility to ensure that the cat’s mental needs, as well as it physical ones, are met. A cat which has access to the great outdoors will find plenty of interest – walls and trees to climb, prey to stalk, leaves to chase and possibly other feline company.

Cats vary in their motivation to play but all cats, if provided with the right opportunity, will play and benefit from the opportunity to do so, no matter what age. Understanding the specific likes and dislikes of your own individual will enable you to provide the best possible opportunities for play. Your cat’s receptivity to play will depend on its routines and natural activity rhythms.

Some clues to ideal ‘playtime’ can be evident in your cat’s behaviour, including:

  • Spontaneous play with objects
  • Sudden staccato movements
  • Dilated pupils, ears flattened laterally (no other cat around)
  • Frozen postures, crouched legs
  • ‘Mad half hour’
  • Vocalisation

Assessing your cat’s motivation to play enables you to tailor play to suit its needs. For example,

High motivation to play =

  • Plays frequently (and spontaneously) with objects
  • Receptive at any time of day
  • Less discriminate about objects chosen for play
  • Rarely tires (you give up first)
  • Destructive, often tearing or consuming toys
  • Responds to ‘conditioned stimulus’, for example, the sound of a drawer opening that contains toys

Low motivation to play =

  • Does not play spontaneously with objects
  • Receptive only at specific times of day and circumstances
  • Discriminate about toys chosen for play
  • Tires quickly and needs a great deal of persuasion to start playing 

Games to play

Toys can appeal to all the feline senses – sight, sound, scent, touch and taste. Movement is a great stimulus and most toys are designed to be used actively in one way or another. Gentle noise (for example, a tinkling bell firmly concealed in a ball) may attract, but some cats will be alarmed by more strident noises. Catnip (dried catmint plant) rubbed on a plastic toy or secreted within a stuffed toy is of particular importance for blind cats and will appeal to the majority. Some cat toys feature different fabrics which encourage cats to rake their claws or rub their necks. 

Each cat will have specific likes and dislikes regarding toys and these will be based on some or all of the following:

  • Texture
  • Shape
  • Size
  • Scent
  • Noise
  • Movement eg, random, quick, stop/start
  • Owner interaction
  • Time of day
  • Location
  • Presence of other cats

Establishing what stimulates your cat is based on trial and error, although some commercially available toys have majority appeal, such as those that contain high quality dried catnip (using the dried flowers and leaves of the catmint plant only), fishing rod toys with feathers on the end, small objects on wire that move erratically and small, fur mice. Even simple toys, such as a ping pong ball, can provide hours of fun and exercise. The ball is light enough not to do any damage around the house and the right size for a small paw to bat. For example, if you have stairs in your home, throw the ball up to encourage your cat to chase it or drop it gently from the top so that your cat sees it bounce from step to step. Even everyday household rubbish, such as screwed up balls of paper, sweet wrappers, string and corks can be transformed into exciting toys that can be chased or tossed from paw to paw.

Types of play

Self play (solitary)

  • Running around

Self play (object)

  • Toys

Interactive play (social with other cats)

  • Chasing
  • Play fighting

Interactive play (social with humans)

  • Fetch games
  • Wand toys
  • Laser pointer

Explore, search, forage play

  • Cardboard boxes
  • Cat activity centres
  • Cupboards, wardrobes
  • Bags

Play explores all parts of the predatory sequence: search, stalk, chase, pounce, catch and manipulate. Further research is required to establish whether or not the order and completeness of the sequence is important. It can be observed however that some games/toys can cause frustration if the pounce/catch parts of the sequence are absent, for example, laser pointers, so it is advisable, until proven otherwise, to follow the sequence and mimic the natural circumstances as closely as possible, for example play in short bursts of activity before feeding times and end the game on a positive note when the cat catches the toy.

Rules of the game

It may be possible to identify, particularly if your cat has a high motivation to play, a particularly powerful toy that promotes an instant response every time. This toy should be used randomly to maintain its power. Cats are naturally neophilic (excited by novelty) so toys left out will soon lose their appeal. All toys should therefore be rotated randomly and kept in a sealed bag when not in use. 

Games should be ended on a positive note before your cat gets bored; a strong signal, particularly for the enthusiastic player, that the game has stopped is essential. If your cat appears to become over-excited or over-stimulated by a particular toy, stop that activity and redirect its attention to something else. Any toys that are interactive and require your involvement should not be left out.

Play should mimic natural predatory behaviour so short bursts of activity at frequent intervals would be most beneficial.

Playing with kittens

If you have a kitten it is important to teach basic good manners – cats should be discouraged from scratching, clawing or biting. This may be fine when little but as its ‘weapons’ become larger and the cat stronger it can cause damage and certainly pain. Children can be frightened by cats that do this when they haven’t learned to be gentle or to hold back in play. Small feathers or toys dangling on the end of a rod and wire or string keep your hands a safe distance from the claws.

Play and the older cat

Don’t forget the oldies too; even elderly cats will enjoy the stimulation and gentle exercise of a game that is adapted to suit their level of mobility. Even if your cat lies down to play it will still be beneficial, both physically and mentally.

Multi-cat households

Playtime is more complicated in multi-cat households where one cat may be more motivated to play than others or any tension is present within the group. If a cat is suffering from stress due to social conflict then play, deemed a leisure activity, will be avoided due to the need for heightened vigilance. It is therefore essential to monitor each individual in a multi-cat group and consider factoring in some time in the day to play individually in isolation.

Encouraging social play between cats

Cats are more likely to indulge in social play with each other if the environment is conducive to doing so safely. If observed, cats enjoy the opportunity to play in environments where there are obstacles and varying levels to give camouflage, hiding opportunities and the chance to access high places for ‘timeout’. It appears that the opportunity to break the stare in social play fighting diffuses tension and avoids the arousal from escalating to agonistic levels, inappropriate for play. Areas indoors that are designated for play therefore should contain some or all of the following to get the maximum benefits: 

  • Cardboard boxes with entry/exit holes
  • Furniture at various heights
  • Tables
  • Cat activity centres 

All objects should be positioned in such a way that each cat can move around it and approach from any angle. 

Interventions

It may be necessary on occasions to intervene in social play between cats that has escalated and risks injury to either party. It is advisable not to physically intervene using arms or legs as, in a heightened state of arousal, the cats will not distinguish between you and each other and injury is inevitable. If the escalation has not progressed to physical fighting but has reached the stage of direct staring then an opportunity to break the stare, and therefore the view of each other, can be sufficient to diffuse the situation. A suitable intervention would be to use distraction with a fishing rod toy, laser pointer (leading the cat towards a favourite toy) or kick toy (one large enough to be held in the forelegs and kicked with the hindlegs) to gain the cats’ attention by triggering the peripheral vision with rapid movements.

If the encounter has escalated beyond this point then physical contact can be interrupted by using a blanket or towel thrown over the cats. If the problem persists it may be necessary to seek advice from your veterinarian who may refer you to an animal behaviourist or pet behaviour counsellor to assess the situation and recommend action for long-term management. 

Indoors versus outdoors

Most owners in Europe allow their cats the freedom of the great outdoors to do whatever it is that cats do all day outside, and then care, feed and enjoy social interaction with them when they return home.

Only about 10% of cats are believed to live permanently indoors in the UK, although the figure is increasing and is already much higher in the USA, where keeping cats indoors is encouraged.

Much of the recent growth in cat keeping has occurred where our lives are busiest, in the city, where many owners live in high rise apartments. The cat may simply be unable to get to ground level outside, but other owners in the city have concerns about their pet’s safety outdoors and choose to keep them indoors even when they live at ground level.

Until fairly recently all cats spent part of their day outside hunting, patrolling their territory and relieving themselves. It wasn't until the advent of cat litter in the 1950s that cat owners had any choice about letting their cats out. Pet owners then began to keep cats indoors for their own safety. Indeed indoor cats can have longer, physically healthier lives than cats allowed outdoors. But on the down side, indoor cats are also more likely to suffer psychologically and develop behavioural problems than those allowed outside. 

Perceived risks

As more and more people opt for keeping a pedigree cat (about 10% in the UK), the perceived risks of theft also encourage many owners to confine their cat to the home for its own safety, even though the risk of such is probably vastly over-estimated. The fact is that many cats with outdoor access simply move home for one reason or another, or just get lost or accidentally shut away in yard sheds and garages, and then get taken in by someone else, or are passed on as strays to homing organisations to be found new homes. 

One in four cats will perish under the wheels of a car in the UK, although, as with other causes of mortality, death on the roads is highest in the first year of life. If a cat survives its first year and learns about dangers in his environment, it is very likely to live a long life of 15 years, or even 20 and beyond. A cat in the city is thought to be at even greater risk from being injured or killed on the road than one in suburbia or the countryside, simply because of the greater volume of traffic and numbers of roads, but many cats in the countryside also fall prey to cars. The surprise solitary vehicle per day passing down a lonely road can often catch out the relaxed and unwary cat, and so some owners in rural areas also choose to keep their pet indoors for safety reasons. This may also save young cats from what may be risky competition with wild predators and also from any risk of being poisoned by baits left out for countryside vermin.

Indoor cats are also unlikely to catch diseases that cats communicate one to another, are protected against injuries and resulting infections that might arise from fighting, and are far less likely to contract parasites, such as fleas and worms. And of course, some timid and older cats may also prefer to stay indoors anyway, warm, protected and well away from all the startling things that can happen to them outdoors. 

The 'natural' cat

There is no doubt that indoor cats live longer and safer lives than cats allowed to hunt and explore outdoors, but what of their mental welfare? The cat began to evolve 13 million years ago and ultimately became a top-of-the-food-chain, obligate predator and solitary hunter. This means that a cat has evolved to move through its hunting environment, on the one hand avoiding danger and, on the other, detect its prey, then approach and catch it. To do this, cats have had to develop astonishing sensory capabilities, with specialised eyesight that functions at low light levels when their usual prey of rodents is most active and birds are roosting, and a sense of hearing that extends way up into the range employed by bats so that they can hear the very high frequency chattering of rats or mice. Their sense of smell, although largely reserved for social organisation rather than hunting, is also far superior to ours, and that of most dogs. Along with their very touch sensitive whiskers and guard hairs, cats can be regarded as super-sensory compared with social hunter-gatherers like man, or hunter-scavengers like dogs, that find much of their food as part of a team and can rely on one another to detect and respond to danger.

Lots of activity

Many people feel that a cat should be able to go outside if it needs to and if it can. There’s a huge part of a cat’s life that we’re unaware of, where it uses all its highly evolved senses and talents. It can hunt, patrol its territory, mark, sunbathe and generally indulge all the behaviours naturally programmed into its body. Inside our homes the cat is really a shadow of its potential self, with its engine and navigation system and weapons switched off. Outside it comes to life and sharpens up its talents and its body by hunting, climbing and exploring.

Given that a cat which has to hunt to feed itself would need to eat at least ten mice a day, and that each actual catch might require three hunts, you can see that a ‘normal’ cat would spend a lot of its day actively seeking food. It would also need to make sure that its coat is clean and well groomed so that it’s sensitive to touch, is waterproof, and doesn’t carry a heavy smell that might give it away. That dedication to achieving a perfect coat takes a long time, and for the rest of the time the cat probably sleeps. Thus an active normal cat won’t sleep all of the time in the same way as it’s able to do when stuck at home and given everything it needs.

Weighing up the pros and cons will help you decide what is best for your cat. It is easier to opt for an indoor only cat right from the start than to convert an outdoor cat successfully into an indoor one. The benefits of keeping the cat away from possible dangers outdoors have to be weighed against the effects on the cat's behaviour. While you won't have to put up with daily hunt offerings if your cat is kept indoors, you must balance that against the natural behaviours which your cat has missed out on and the need to provide alternative opportunity for the expression of hunting behaviours. Much will depend on the personality of the individual cat and your circumstances. 

Click here for more information on miminising the risks for outdoor cats

So, there’s disagreement when it comes to keeping cats indoors – safety versus natural behaviour. However, there is agreement that if a cat has to stay indoors – whether because it’s too nervous to go out, because it’s in a genuinely very dangerous place, because there is a law against it, or because its owner can’t bear to have it put at any risk at all – then owners need to work hard to compensate for the lack of the stimulation it would get outside. See our information on satisfying the needs of the indoor cat.

Satisfying the needs of the indoor cat

Keeping a cat permanently indoors away from all the potential hazards outside may sound the ideal solution, however, the benefits of safety need to be weighed up against the needs of that particular cat. 

Some of the potential problems are listed below: 

Behavioural problems

Cats in the USA have a much higher incidence of anxiety-related problems such as urine marking than cats in the UK, possibly because British cats are allowed out more whereas in the USA they are more commonly kept permanently indoors. There are many stress-linked psychological problems in indoor cats. 

Fear of change

Indoor cats may become over-reactive to changes within their small territory (the house) and become unable to cope with novelty, be it people or objects or new smells. It can be difficult to introduce a new cat (or even a new person) to your cat's restricted territory – there is no neutral ground to retire to for either party. 

Obesity

A lack of exercise can lead to weight problems that in turn can result in major health problems such as heart diseaseosteoarthritis and diabetes

Over dependence

A solitary indoor cat will rely on its owner to provide stimulation, companionship and exercise.  

Cleaning litter trays

A chore those with outdoor cats don't have to do. 

Damage to the house

Your furniture and carpets may suffer from being scratched excessively. Cats may also expend energy climbing, jumping and generally whizzing around the house in mad moments – again damage can occur. 

House rules

Keeping doors/windows shut or covered so cats cannot escape can be impossible with children around. 

Household hazards

An active indoor cat will explore crevices that an outdoor cat would probably not bother to investigate. Boredom and curiosity can be a dangerous combination. Washing machines, toilets, medicines, cleaners, small holes, exposed wires and wobbly shelving are all particular hazards for curious kittens. While outside, cats will often nibble grass or herbs. If there is no access to this they may turn to indoor plants, some of which are poisonous. See:

Escape

An indoor cat that gets out may be disorientated and will not have any street skills. Escape from a high rise flat could be fatal. The cat may also be highly stressed to find itself suddenly in an unknown environment. 

Frustration/boredom

Cats may develop behaviour problems if they are stressed by the lack of opportunity to express their normal behavioural repertoire. They also have the problem of being unable to escape from a situation or another cat which they find difficult to deal with. 

Displaying normal behaviours

The main problem faced by the indoor cat is lack of opportunity to display a normal repertoire of behaviours. The cat is a natural hunter and if he cannot go out he be may be frustrated and develop behaviours which stimulate this activity. Thus, if you wish to keep an indoor cat content you will have to continue to be creative and produce new toys and games to keep your cat stimulated and exercised, physically and mentally. Kittens and cats love newspaper tents, cardboard boxes and paper bags, not to mention various cat play centres, fishing rod toys/laser pointers, etc, which encourage stalking and pouncing. 

Start with two

It is best to get two kittens instead of one from the start in a totally indoor situation. It will provide companionship and also help you to get over feelings of guilt associated with leaving one kitten on its own while you are at work. Having two kittens relieves you of some of the burden of having to stimulate and exercise it as they will happily wear each other out playing and then collapse in a heap to sleep. They will, however, need somewhere safe to play. 

Things to do

Make sure that you have regular visitors and life is not too quiet, especially when your kitten is small, because this is what it will come to see as normal. Because the cat's whole world may be made up of a couple of rooms in a flat which it knows inside out, it can become hypersensitive to change. Human or animal visitors or even changes in household routine can introduce a potentially huge novelty to the cat's day to day environment and cause stress. 

Indoor cats, especially when young, are likely to have quite an impact on your furniture and fittings. Try not to be too house-proud about the ensuing damage. Prevent rather than regret. Move all the ornaments and imagine that you have a toddler that can fly! Provide places where cats can have a 'free for all'. 

Your cat will need to act out its natural behavioural repertoires such as sharpening claws within your home. Outdoor cats usually use a tree or garden post. An indoor cat must be provided with a good scratch post and even with this it is likely to use the furniture occasionally too. Click here for information on how to choose and use a cat scratching post

Monitor your cat's food intake if it is tending to put on excess weight either through lack of exercise or is overeating because of boredom. 

A cat that goes outdoors will nibble on grass and herbs as part of its diet. It is believed that eating vegetation helps cats to regurgitate hair balls. You can overcome the deficit by providing the cat with an indoor window box. Grass, catnip (Nepeta), thyme, sage, parsley or wheat and oats can all be sown indoors in a potting mixture. Sow seeds every couple of weeks to provide a fresh supply for your cat. 

Invest in some good nail clippers as your cat's claws may not wear down as quickly as they would if it went outside and walked on hard surfaces. Long claws can become snagged in carpets and upholstery.

It is important to cat-proof your home carefully as an inquisitive kitten can get though a very small hole. If you live several storeys up, put mesh over the windows or purchase screens (http://www.cataire.co.uk/) and train everyone in the family to keep doors shut. A purpose built outdoor enclosure could provide your cat with the sights and smells of the outside world and give its life some variety without exposing it to many of the outdoor risks. Alternatively you might consider using secure cat fencing to keep your cat within the confines of your own garden. Click here for information on fencing in your garden.

Moving house with your cat

The cat is a territorial species so they develop strong bonds with their environment. As a result, house moves are potentially stressful.

Planning ahead will ensure that the transition from one home to another goes smoothly. After all, this is a traumatic time for you and one less worry would be a good thing!  

Moving day 

  • Before the removal van arrives it is advisable to place your cat in one room – the ideal location may well be a bedroom. Think about where this furniture will go in the new home as your cat may see this as its safe place in the future and it therefore needs to be a room where there is unlimited access.
     
  • Put the cat carrier, cat bed, food bowl, water bowl and litter tray in this room and ensure the door and windows remain shut. 
     
  • Place a notice on the door so that removal men and family know that this door should be kept shut. 
     
  • When all other rooms have been emptied, the contents of the bedroom can be placed in the van last. Before the furniture is removed your cat should be placed in the cat carrier and put safely in the car to make the journey to the new home. (see travelling with your cat).
     
  • Do not transport your cat in the removal van or in the boot of the car. 
     
  • If it is a long journey you may want to stop and offer water or a chance to use a cat tray, although most cats will not be interested. 
     
  • If it is a hot day make sure the car is well ventilated; never leave the cat inside a hot car if you stop for a break. 
     
  • Once you arrive at your new home, the bedroom furniture should be at the back of the lorry or van and therefore the first to be installed in the new home. 
     
  • Place a synthetic feline facial pheromone diffuser (a plug-in Feliway®device) in a floor level socket in the new room where your cat will be temporarily confined, ideally several hours before your cat is brought in.
     
  • Once the room is ready your cat can be placed inside with his bed, food bowl, water bowl and litter tray and the door shut. If possible a family member can sit in the room with your cat for a while as it explores. 
     
  • Offer your cat some food. 
     
  • Once the removal has been completed your cat can be allowed to investigate the rest of the house, one room at a time if there are any signs of anxiety. 
     
  • It is important to remain as calm as possible to signal to your cat that it is a safe environment. 
     
  • Ensure that all external doors and windows are shut. 
     
  • Be cautious about allowing your cat unsupervised access to the kitchen or utility room as particularly nervous individuals will often seek refuge in narrow gaps behind appliances. 
     
  • If your cat is particularly anxious it may be advisable to place him in a cattery the day before the move and collect the day after you are established in your new home.  

Helping your cat to settle in 

  • Keep your cat indoors for at least two weeks to get used to the new environment. 
     
  • Provide small frequent meals. 
     
  • Maintain routines adopted in your previous house to provide continuity and familiarity. 
     
  • Continue to use the synthetic feline facial pheromone diffuser (Feliway®) in the original room. 
     
  • Extra care should be taken for the permanently indoor cat as a new environment will be potentially unsettling, it may take a little longer to adapt – having familiar furniture will always help. 

Letting your cat outside

  • Keep your cat indoors for a couple of weeks to get used to the new property.
     
  • Make sure your cat has some form of identification (a collar with a quick release section to avoid getting caught up) with its name, address and contact phone number. 
     
  • Alternatively, (or additionally) ask your vet to microchip your cat to ensure it can be returned if it gets lost. If he is already microchipped, remember to inform the registering company of your change of address and phone number. (See identifying your cat)
     
  • Ensure your cat's vaccinations are up to date. 
     
  • Consider fitting a cat flap for ease of access outdoors when you are out once your cat is settled. Make sure it is an electronically or magnetically controlled exclusive entry system to avoid the risk of strange cats invading your home. 
     
  • Chase away any cats if you see them in your garden, your cat will need all the help it can get to establish territory as the ‘new cat on the block'. 
     
  • Introduce your cat to the outdoors gradually by initially opening the door and going together into the garden. 
     
  • If your cat is used to a harness then it may be useful to walk it around the garden on a lead. 
     
  • Don't carry your cat outside, allow it to decide if it wants to explore. 
     
  • Always keep the door open initially so that it can escape indoors if something frightens it. 
     
  • Outdoor cats with a wider experience of change generally cope well; timid cats may take time to adapt to the new environment and should be accompanied outside until they build up their confidence. (see how to let your cat out for the first time

Preventing your cat from returning to his old home 

If your new home is nearby your cat may explore when it first goes out and find familiar routes that take it back to your old home. It is wise to warn the new occupiers that your cat may return and ask them to contact you if it is seen in the vicinity. It is important that they do not feed it or encourage it in any way, this will merely be confusing. If you have moved locally it would be beneficial to keep your cat indoors as long as possible. However, this is rarely a practical option since those cats likely to return to previous hunting grounds will not relish being confined for such a long period. Follow the advice above for settling your cat into its new home; this will help, together with the use of both synthetic and its own natural scents to make the environment seem as familiar as possible. It may take many months of retrieval from your old home before your cat eventually settles down. If this process appears to be distressing your cat, it persistently returns to your old home or traverses busy roads to get there, it may be kinder and safer if the new occupier or a friendly neighbour agrees to adopt it. 

Lifestyle changes 

It is never ideal to change your cat's lifestyle from outdoor to indoor but occasionally it is necessary and a house move takes place that requires it to be confined. If your cat spends most of its time outside anyway it may be kinder to re-home. If, however, your cat spends little time outside then it may be acceptable for it to be kept inside in the future. Indoor cats require extra effort from the owner to stimulate them to encourage exercise and avoid boredom. Suggestions to enhance an indoor cat's environment include:

  • Hiding dry food around the house to provide opportunities to 'hunt'
     
  • Providing plenty of high vantage points and scratching posts that your cat can climb 
     
  • Regular predatory play sessions at least once a day
     
  • Introducing novel items to explore, such as boxes and paper bags

Occasionally owners are fortunate enough to move to a property where they can let their cat outside for the first time. The transition from indoor to outdoor cat, if taken gently, will enhance your cat's emotional wellbeing and enable it to live a more natural life. Follow the guidelines for letting your cat outside but accept that the process should be gradual. Many cats, under these circumstances, may prefer to go outside only when you are there to provide reassurance.  

Moving to a smaller property

If you have a multi-cat household then your cats have become used to living with the available space of your previous home. Moving to a smaller property could potentially cause some tension between the individuals. Limit the risk of antagonism in the new home by providing sufficient resources, such as: 

  • Beds 
     
  • Litter trays 
     
  • Scratching posts 
     
  • Food bowls 
     
  • Water bowls 
     
  • High resting platforms (eg, wardrobes, cupboards, shelves) 
     
  • Private hiding places (eg, under the bed, bottom of wardrobe) 

Moving house is supposed to be one of life's most stressful experiences. By helping your cat to settle calmly and with minimum problems, the harmony of the new home can be established that bit more quickly. 

Multi-cat households and how to survive them

The UK cat population in 2012 was estimated to be around 8 million (source PFMA) with approximately 19% of all UK households owning at least one cat.

The trend of cat ownership shows increasing numbers generally and the proportion of those in multi-cat households is rising. While it is clear to see the benefits of this for us, as carers, is this necessarily a good thing for the cats?

The cat’s social life

Felidae (the biological family of cats) are solitary predators that, with the exception of lions, do not live in socially structured groups. However, while the wildcat ancestors of domestic cats are solitary animals, the social behaviour of domestic cats is more variable depending primarily on the density of cats in the area and availability of food sources. Felis catus (the species that is the domestic cat) has proved to be a remarkably adaptable species, and while retaining its roots as a solitary hunter, in a number of situations (both natural and artificial) will adapt to group living through the development of social structures.

For a species that is essentially a solitary hunter, it is important for cats to establish a territory (ie, hunting territory) and that this is defined in such a way as to generally avoid conflict with other cats (for the survival of the species). Cats therefore mark their territories using scent derived from facial glands, urine, faeces, and anal glands. This territorial marking, together with the extremely sensitive sense of smell in cats, helps them to communicate effectively and to minimise direct conflict. In the wild, territories may overlap with ‘neutral areas’ where cats may greet and interact with each other. If a strange cat encroaches into another cat’s territory, this will normally provoke an aggressive interaction to chase off the cat, firstly through staring, hissing and growling and, if that is ineffective, through a short, noisy violent attack.

Feral cats can and will form small colonies based around available food sources. This does not inevitably happen, as some will live singly, but it is not uncommon for small groups of co-operating females and kittens to develop. Relationships are complex, with stronger affiliative relationships between some cats and less affiliation with others – this may in part be influenced by how related they are, age, sex etc. However, they develop neither a social survival strategy nor a pack mentality and they continue to be solitary hunters. Thus cats are not ‘pack’ animals but have the ability to adapt to form social groups. Where social groups of cats do exist, they appear only to work well when the members of the group are familiar and when there is no competition over food or other resources. 

As cats have developed largely as solitary hunters without the need for complex social interactions, they appear to have a relatively limited ability for complex visual signaling that occurs in many other animals that do exist in social groups. Thus they are less able to signal appeasement to other cats which means that in situations of conflict there is a much higher probability of fighting.

The social life of the companion cat

Groups of companion cats form differently to those that occur naturally in the species. Humans select those cats that live together, they may or may not be related. They are routinely neutered (an appropriate measure for the companion cat) and they are then either confined within a property with no opportunity to put distance between them or allowed to roam in a wider territory that may contain numerous other unrelated cats, some in close proximity. This potentially puts the companion cat under a great deal of pressure but as an adaptable species it is fair to say that some cats choose social contact with their own species, many will avoid it (given the choice), all cats are capable of living alone, and most will adapt to a solitary existence.

What happens when it goes wrong?

If there is tension between members of a household group or the resources available within the territory is perceived as limited or scarce, cats will either learn to avoid each other, using communication geared towards increasing distance between each other, or adapt to the situation by suppressing natural behaviour to avoid conflict. In cases where the individual is unable to adapt it may develop chronic stress leading to behaviour that represents a problem for the owner, such as urine spraying or inappropriate urination, or stress-related disease such as idiopathic cystitis. Some cats may indulge in those normal behaviours that are deemed safe, such as grooming, sleeping and eating, but to an excessive level as a means to self-sooth in stressful circumstances. If a cat has access to the outdoors, and is a confident individual, then it may choose to ‘leave home’ and establish territory where it perceives the resources to be more plentiful and constantly available to fulfil its needs.

The key to success

Multi-cat households can work well under the right circumstances. There are three important factors that influence success: 

1. Compatibility of the cats within the group

2. Availability and accessibility of resources

3. Population density of the cats in the territory

Compatibility 

Siblings that have been brought up together often represent the best pairings, particularly if there was evidence of sociability with each other as kittens and their temperaments remain complementary, for example, probably not one very confident kitten with one very shy one. 

If the multi-cat household is established with a number of cats within it then it is possible that they do not form one single cohesive group. Once cats mature they can form sub-groups – pairs, factions of three or more and singletons. These individual groups then cohabit within the territory making every effort to avoid other groups and remain at a distance.

If these social groupings can be identified then, in theory, an optimum environment can be provided that distributes cat resources within the home to take into consideration the need of each individual group not to share with another. 

Identifying social groups

This can be achieved by observation: which cats spend time together, grooming each other, sleeping in close proximity or touching, playing together and greeting each other nose to nose? Conversely, which cats show active aggression towards each other, which cats leave the room when another enters and which cat stares at others? The easiest way to do this is to write the names of the cats in the household and show colour-coded arrows from one cat’s name to the other in the direction that accurately describes the behaviour observed, eg, cat A grooms cat B therefore an arrow indicating social, friendly behaviour points from A towards B on the diagram. Once all the interaction observed has been shown on the diagram then it should be possible to establish which cats group together and which work alone.

House Maps

Two-dimensional plans of the property layout are useful at this stage to show how each cat or group of cats use the ‘territory’ within it. This can be achieved by observing the cats over a period of time and establishing which rooms they frequent regularly and which they avoid. If the cat resources are located in a minimum number of locations then each group will have to cross over common areas to get to the essential provisions and these ‘potential areas of conflict’ can also be noted.

Availability/accessibility of resources

Cats don’t share important resources with other social groups. These resources include everything a cat may need to survive and thrive, ie, food bowls, water bowls, litter trays, beds, high resting places, private areas, scratching posts, entry/exit points and toys.

If these resources are provided in sufficient numbers and distributed so that the locations chosen are accessible for each cat or social group’s core area (where they spend most of their time) then tension and conflict can often be avoided. Various suggestions have been made regarding appropriate numbers but a commonly used resource formula is: one resource per cat, plus one extra, positioned in different locations. For example, in a four cat household the owner would be recommended to provide five of everything.

Feeding areas

Cats are solitary hunters and feeders yet they will suppress behaviour in order to obtain vital nutrition and adapt their eating patterns to avoid hostility, eg, eating large amounts at a time or making frequent visits to avoid eating with others. Therefore a strategy to minimise conflict may be:

  • Measured amounts of dry food left throughout the day so that cats can choose when to eat
  • Measured more frequent mealtimes if wet food is given
  • Bowls positioned to allow the cat to face any direction when eating to observe any approaching adversary

Water bowls 

Cats prefer to drink away from feeding areas and may avoid drinking altogether if challenged by another cat. Therefore a strategy to minimise conflict may be:

  • Locate water bowls in different areas away from food.
  • Provide large ceramic, glass or stainless steel bowls, filled to the brim so that the cat can remain vigilant while drinking.
  • Position the bowl to allow the cat to face any direction when drinking to scan for any adversary.

Litter trays

Cats will eliminate when and where they feel safe, away from feeding and hunting areas. Some cats prefer to eliminate outside but many, given the choice, would use indoor facilities. To exhibit silent, passive aggression cats may block or guard access to litter trays to prevent others using this limited and essential resource. If cats do not feel safe eliminating then it can lead to stress-related problems such as urinary retention, constipation, bladder or bowel disease or inappropriate urination or defecation in quiet corners, for example. Therefore a strategy to avoid conflict may be:

  • Position litter trays away from full length windows, cat flaps, noisy appliances, external doors, thoroughfares and busy areas.
  • Covered trays may make a cat feel vulnerable or trapped.
  • Open trays allow the cat to have a full view of its surroundings.
  • If in doubt, provide choice of facilities and litter substrate and keep a record of their use.
  • The litter substrate that seems to appeal to the majority of cats are the fine, sand-like clumping products that are easily cleaned.

High resting places

High perches are used as part of avoidance strategy and cats will gravitate towards high places when threatened. They can then observe without risk of attack. Therefore a strategy to avoid conflict may be:

  • Providing high perches throughout the house, for example:
    • Tall modular scratching centres
    • Wardrobes
    • Cupboards
    • Shelving/bookcases
  • Two access points to each perch, if appropriate, to avoid the risk of being trapped by another cat
  • These are places where a cat observes without drawing attention to itself so owners are best advised to not acknowledge the cat when it’s there

Private areas

Cats need ‘time out’ from each other and from humans too. This is usually a dark, warm place that they perceive as safe. Therefore a strategy to avoid conflict may be:

  • Provide soft bedding, for example:
    • Under beds
    • Remove a divan drawer, if appropriate
    • Inside wardrobes
    • Cardboard boxes
    • Cat carriers or covered beds
  • Do not disturb or interfere
  • Minimal cleaning disruption

Beds

Cats need somewhere safe to rest, free from danger and interference, preferably off the ground, warm and free from draughts. The master bed is ideal as it has a strong scent of the owner and the security that this person represents. Cats may block or ‘defend’ beds or ‘steal’ them from other cats to demonstrate their ability to control resources. Cats also use sleep or feigned sleep as a coping strategy at times of conflict so safe beds are important. Therefore a strategy to avoid conflict may be:

  • Consider access to master bedroom; is this an area of conflict?
  • Provide soft, warm, raised beds
  • Provide beds with a source of heat, eg, heated pads to encourage use in separate locations
  • Scent of owner (clothing, towels) if preferred

Scratching posts

Scratching posts provide a visual and olfactory mark, as a means of territorial communication. They are also necessary for claw maintenance and exercise. Excessive scratching in a particularly significant conflict zone can be found and may also be used as an alternative marking strategy to urine spraying. Therefore a strategy to avoid conflict may be:

  • Provide vertical and horizontal surfaces
  • Tall enough posts or panels for full stretch
  • Vertical striations on the scratching surface
  • Rigid structures so they resist the scratching and don’t move
  • Emphasis on locations near thoroughfares, beds, entrances to core areas

Entry/exit points

Cats may guard, block or intimidate other cats at an entry and exit point as this may be the only possible access to the only available latrine site. Therefore a strategy to avoid conflict may be: 

  • Provide 2 entry/exit points on different aspects of the house:
    • Windows
    • Access from upper floor to flat roof
    • Front/back doors, side entrances
  • Provide indoor litter facilities in some cases

Toys/play

Play is considered a leisure activity by cats and insecure individuals will not play in front of a more confident cat. It is however an important and positive behaviour but in multi-cat households play, particularly play fighting, can escalate into something more antagonistic. Therefore a strategy to avoid conflict may be: 

  • Follow the resource formula (if toys provided for object play)
  • Play separately without another cat present
  • Inter-cat play:
    • Provide high perches to avoid play fighting from escalating
    • Provide objects for cats to play around

Owners are important too!

Cats will withdraw from owners if other cats are more assertive and contact can be location and time specific. To avoid conflict, allow the cats to dictate quality and quantity of interaction and avoid the desire to be equitable by ‘sharing’ affection.

Population density in the area

Cat population densities vary between 1-2000 per km², with densities above 50 cats per km² only found in urban areas. Domestic pet cat population densities exceed those that occur naturally, particularly as each cat household contains separate social group/s. The external population of cats has an impact with a high population density creating high stress factor, irrespective in many cases whether or not the resident cats have an indoor or outdoor lifestyle, as cats can be observed through windows and odours come through draughts in doors and windows. Therefore a strategy to avoid conflict may be:

  • Avoid multi-cat households (or limit to 2 cats) in areas of high population density
  • Consider a secure garden to exclude other cats
  • Use safe deterrents in the garden if cats are coming into the garden and bothering indoor cats

In conclusion, multi-cat households are not all bad but the choice of individuals involved matters and they need careful management and resource provision to ensure that each cat has what it needs. Following these simple guidelines will help towards reducing stress and making a multi-cat household a positive experience for owners and cats alike.

Elderly cats – special considerations

Cats are living much longer now than was the case 20 years ago, thanks to better nutrition, veterinary and home care.

In recent years, feline ages and life-stages have been redefined, cats are considered to be elderly once they reach 11 years with senior cats defined as those aged between 11-14 years and geriatric cats 15 years and upwards. When caring for older cats it sometimes helps to appreciate their age in human terms.

The formula for calculating the equivalent age is fairly simple:

the first two years of a cat’s life equate to 24 human years and every year thereafter is equivalent to 4 human years. For example, a 16 year old cat would be equivalent to an 80 year old human.

See our information on how to tell your cat’s age in human years

The effects of ageing

With increasing age there are many changes to a cat’s physiology, behaviour and vulnerability to particular illnesses. Physiological changes include reduced ability to smell and taste food, reduced ability to digest fat and protein, reduced hearing, immune function, skin elasticity and stress tolerance. 

Behavioural changes

As cats age their behaviour alters too, often as a direct result of the physiological changes taking place. The elderly cat adapts gradually to these changes and it may not be apparent unless you are specifically looking for signs of ageing. Older cats hunt less, spend less time outside, are generally less active and sleep for longer periods. They can have a reduced or fussy appetite, be less keen to play or groom and be more vocal. They also tend to become more insecure and therefore potentially more dependent on you.

Other behavioural changes can be seen as a direct result of disease, for example, increased thirst or appetite or aggression associated with pain.

Home care for the elderly

This is the time, more than any other, when your cat needs some essential care. As cats get older they will find it more difficult to maintain their own cleanliness and checking your cat regularly will enable you to detect problems that need to be tackled straight away. 

Claw trimming

For example, check your cat’s nails weekly. Elderly cats are less able to retract their claws and they may get caught in furniture and carpets. They can also overgrow and stick into their pads. Regular trimming will be necessary and with the right advice and training from your veterinarian it may be straightforward for you to perform this routine task and therefore avoid the need for a potentially stressful journey to the surgery. 

Grooming

Your old cat is less able to groom efficiently so you may need to wipe away any discharge around its eyes, nose or anus using separate pieces of cotton wool for each area moistened in warm water. You may also need to brush your cat using a soft brush and fine comb but care should be taken to ensure you are gentle, as older cats tend to be thin with very little padding over their bones so vigorous combing can be painful. At this time you can also check for lumps, bumps, sores or anything else that merits attention from the vet. Grooming shorthaired cats only needs to be completed thoroughly if there is any matting. This can often occur on the lower spine and hindquarters as your cat may be less flexible and therefore unable to reach these areas to self-groom. 

If your cat is longhaired and is having difficulties keeping itself clean it may be helpful to trim the coat around its anus, underside of the tail and back legs to avoid soiling or matting. If you find any matts then they should be teased out rather than cut with scissors as this can so easily damage the skin. If you have any concerns, consult your veterinarian as severe matts can be very uncomfortable for your cat. 

For more information, see how to groom your cat

Hairballs

Hairballs are a common problem in older cats as they often have sluggish digestions and hair ingested during grooming may cause complications such as chronic vomiting or constipation. Special supplements or foods can be purchased to assist with hairballs should this become a problem for your cat.

Toilet habits

Even if your elderly cat has access outdoors it is wise to provide an indoor litter facility as there will inevitably come a time when your cat just doesn’t feel inclined to toilet in cold, damp conditions outside. If you provide a litter tray you then have the opportunity to check your cat’s elimination habits for blood in the urine or stools, change in consistency of stools or other indicators of disease. 

See how to choose the right litter tray for your cat

Dental checks

Old teeth and mouths can cause problems so check your cat regularly for signs of any growths, reddening of the gums or evidence of dental disease. Halitosis (bad breath), drooling, a ‘chattering’ jaw, loss of appetite and pawing at the mouth may all be signs of dental disease, if in doubt, consult your veterinarian.

Regular health checks

Your veterinarian will advise the frequency of health checks that would best suit your cat, taking into consideration its age and general health. Although it’s good to know your cat will be regularly examined it shouldn’t prevent you from being a little more vigilant at home to spot the first signs that all is not well. There are a number of general warning signs that merit attention from your veterinarian, namely:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Drinking more often or drinking a larger amount per day 
  • Stiffness, lameness or difficulty in jumping up
  • Lethargy
  • Lumps or bumps anywhere on the body
  • Balance problems
  • Toilet accidents or difficulty passing urine or faeces
  • Disorientation or distress
  • Uncharacteristic behaviour, such as hiding, aggression, excessive vocalisation

Encouraging appetite

Your cat may have less of an appetite as it gets older as its sense of smell and taste diminishes or there may be occasions when your cat needs a little encouragement. There are various ways that you can stimulate appetite, for example:

  • Offer food little and often – for example four to six meals per day as a starting point - and choose a quiet area so that your cat isn’t distracted by noise and activity. Experiment with both familiar and unfamiliar food to tempt appetite
  • Consider the type of bowl used to offer food: your cat may prefer a wide, shallow bowl or one with a rim, for example.
  • Offer food at room temperature, gently warming food to just below body temperature can increase palatability
  • Experiment with the consistency of the food offered. Some elderly cats, especially those with dental problems, prefer soft food to lumps or dry biscuits. You could try adding a small amount of water to the food and mashing with a fork 
  • Raise the food bowl onto a box, for example, as this may offer more comfortable eating to a cat with osteoarthritis affecting the neck. 
  • Avoid leaving uneaten wet food out for more than an hour and don’t be tempted to leave a range of different foods out as this can be overwhelming.
  • Sitting with your cat whilst talking and stroking can increase appetite, you may even want to try hand feeding

Drinking

Elderly cats are more vulnerable to becoming dehydrated, especially if suffering from medical conditions such as chronic kidney disease, so always make sure that a variety of water bowls are available in the home in accessible areas away from the normal places where food is eaten. You may need to experiment with the type of container, for example, ceramic bowl, glass or drinking fountain and even the type of water, such as tap water, boiled water, filtered, spring etc. It may even be helpful to add a small amount of water to your elderly cat’s wet food. Water bowls, like food bowls, may be more comfortably used by the older cat if you raise it off the ground.

Elderly cat friendly home

All the recommendations for a cat friendly home will work as well for the elderly with a little modification. There is rarely the need to make drastic changes to the home to accommodate your cat as it gets older but small adaptations to the existing cat resources can make a significant difference to the quality of life. If your cat is finding stairs difficult to negotiate, for example, then it may be spending prolonged periods on one level, either up or down stairs. Ensuring that all your cat’s needs are met on that one level will avoid any risk of being unable to access important resources.

In order to make activity and movement in general easier for your older cat it is important that it feels comfortable walking. Laminate, tiled or wooden flooring can be slippery and old cats can become unstable on slippery surfaces making them less inclined to be active. Equally, carpet can catch on your cat’s claws that overgrow easily without regular stropping and remain protracted as the muscles weaken. Cut pile carpets are more comfortable for your cat than loop pile so if your flooring is the latter you can compromise by providing cut pile runners throughout the home to enable your cat to walk in comfort. This is also the ideal surface on which to play, particularly if your cat likes to lie down in the process.

Play

If your cat has a favourite toy there is no reason to discard it as he gets older. The larger toys can be useful to encourage your elderly cat to lie on its side, grab the toy with the front paws and kick with the back legs. This gives great exercise for stiff hind limbs and is a type of play enjoyed by many. The ideal ‘kick toy’ is rectangular or cylindrical, between 6 and 8 inches long (15-20cm) and made of a durable fabric such as drill cotton or towelling.  

The cardboard box is a real favourite for the cat but the principle may need adapting for the elderly. Older cats may like the idea of investigating but lack the flexibility to jump in and move around. Placing a large box on its side with the opening facing your cat will enable it to walk in and investigate. Carrier bags and paper bags can also provide opportunities for exploration, particularly if they crinkle, but handles should be removed to avoid any accidents as cats can easily get them caught round their necks.

Scratching

Elderly cats are less likely to use the tall activity and scratching posts as the stropping action on vertical surfaces can put strain on arthritic joints. Offering similar horizontal surfaces can satisfy those that still enjoy scratching and the action provides important exercise for the muscles of the forelimbs. 

Look-outs

Cats love to view outdoors and most enjoy sitting on high windowsills but jumping up can prove difficult if not impossible for some elderly cats, so provision should be made for easy access up to and down from these favourite look-outs. A series of shallow steps offer the best solution, ramps can be used but comfortably only if they are angled to represent a slight incline rather than a steep slope.

Puzzle feeding

Your older cat may enjoy the challenge of puzzle feeders but it’s important to monitor food consumption to ensure that the extra effort doesn’t dissuade your cat from eating. If this is the case, stick to bowls that are placed in your cat’s favoured spot.

Litter trays

Litter trays should normally be located well away from other resources, such as food and water but for the very elderly or those cats suffering from cognitive dysfunction it is appropriate for all its resources to be located in easy reach to avoid confusion. 

The trays should probably not be the covered variety as these can be difficult to negotiate. Open trays with low sides are ideal and they should be firmly fixed to prevent them from being tipped up if your cat is clumsy when using a tray. Polythene litter liners should be avoided as they can catch in your cat’s claws and any indoor trays should be cleaned regularly. If your cat is suffering from a condition that causes increased thirst and urination you may need to fill the tray to a depth exceeding the recommendation of 3cm – probably as much as 5cm in some cases. Trial and error is required as your cat may prefer a more shallow litter that is cleaned more frequently.

Beds

Many favoured locations for sleep are on raised surfaces, such as your bed or a window sill, so it may become difficult with time for your elderly cat to access these special places. The positioning of ramps, steps and platforms will enable it to reach the area in gentle stages rather than giving up due to stiffness or weakness in the joints. 

If your cat uses your bed, chair or sofa you may wish to provide a thermal blanket that is warm and washable. If your cat likes to sleep on window sills or other narrow platforms it is advisable to place a soft padded object underneath to prevent injury as many older cats have impaired balance and could easily fall. Ideally elderly cats should be encouraged to use secure or wider surfaces for sleep.

Private places

Your cat needs to be able to have uninterrupted rest so any areas chosen should be kept accessible and new ones created if lack of mobility prevents your cat from using those previously favoured. 

Cat flaps

Some elderly cats will reduce the frequency of excursions outside as a result of difficulty negotiating the cat flap. It may be helpful to build a step, inside and outside, to make it easier to use but eventually it is almost inevitable that the cat flap will be replaced by escorted trips into the garden via the back door. When this occurs, if no other cats in the household are using the flap, it would be advisable to block up or remove the flap to prevent invasion from other cats outside which would be distressing for your cat. 

Garden

There are a number of reasons why your cat may stop going outside as it gets older. A significant influence is undoubtedly going to be the presence of other cats in the territory and a sense that your cat is no longer able to actively defend its patch. If you are able to secure your garden (for more information see fencing in your garden) you can exclude other cats and contain your own cat within the safety of your own property. 

Holidays and celebrations

If your cat has always gone into a cattery when you are on holiday then there is no particular reason to change the routine. However older cats don’t cope particularly well with changes to their routine so there may come a time when your cat may prefer to stay at home with someone visiting, or staying over, to provide the necessary care. Ideally the cat-sitter should be someone with whom your cat is familiar. 

Older cats can find parties and general festivities at home a little overwhelming so you may find your cat benefits from a secure and quiet place to retreat to, where it has everything it needs, while the activity is happening in another part of the house.

Interactions with your cat

The modern owner/cat relationship is a complex one. Many people see their pets as members of the family and decisions about holidays and moving house have the cat's wellbeing at their very centre. As far back as 1985 a survey revealed that 99% of both dog and cat owners considered their pets to be members of the family and 97% talked to their pet at least once a day. 

Substitute children?

Many studies over the years have also classified pet cats and dogs as 'substitute children'. Some owners describe their relationship with their cat as being closest to 'mother', some occasionally talked to their cat in the same way as they would talk to a child, others talk to it exclusively in this way.

However, to describe the relationship as substituting for a child simply on these grounds overlooks many other important factors and is a gross over-simplification. Owners are merely stating how their cat fulfils particular needs for them. To be 'a child' to its owner means that a cat satisfies a need in that owner to look after a dependent. Dogs and cats are perhaps more commonly seen by their owners as 'close friends' and most of us would say that they are aware of our moods. 

While it isn't a bad thing that owners should care so greatly it is important to maintain a healthy balance. Pet ownership should be about benefit and pleasure for both parties – it shouldn’t be about fulfilling an emotional need in the owner. Factors which contribute to very high levels of owner attachment to cats are many and varied, but being single or childless or being in need of emotional support are significant ones. Usually, the greater a person's state of anxiety and conflict, the greater will be their demands of the relationship. If, under these circumstances, the cat's emotional needs are suppressed or ignored, in favour of the emotional requirements of the owner, then this tends to produce a less satisfactory relationship for human and cat. Expecting the cat to be able to fulfil human psychological demands lies at the heart of many feline behaviour problems.

How does your cat see you?

When it comes to viewing the relationship from a cat's perspective it is probably right to assume that cats see us as equals, socially, rather than anything to be revered or obeyed! Your cat's behaviour however will change depending on its mood or the circumstances and it will oscillate between kitten, juvenile and adult responses during interaction with you. You may also observe, if you have more than one cat, that they can be competitive over you and view you more as a resource than a companion when it comes to allowing other cats to have access.

Unfortunately not all cats respond to emotional demands as robustly as others. Too much attention and too much time in each other's company can create a dependency where a cat feels unable to do anything without the emotional support of the owner. These cats can become deeply distressed when their owners are absent and this kind of intensity doesn't make anyone truly happy. 

Put your cat in the driving seat

Cats should be allowed to be cats and, to a great extent, to dictate the quality and quantity of interaction with their owners. Spending at least part of the day in normal cat activity keeps the feline spirit alive so encouraging your cat to play, explore, patrol, climb and jump on a daily basis is a great routine to adopt.

Do you speak ‘cat’?

We all feel we have a special insight into our own cat's mind but are we really communicating with them? Do they understand what we are saying to them and vice versa?

The beauty of the owner/cat relationship is that it can function fairly well without a common language. Cats may signal a specific demand and the owner will misinterpret the communication as a request for something completely different and respond accordingly, yet it never really seems to matter. If owners appear compliant then the cats will keep trying until they get their message across. They are very tolerant of our lack of understanding! 

Cats will also learn new behaviour in this 'trial and error' sort of way when they communicate with their owners. Learning takes place when certain actions have positive consequences, for example, if a cat miaows when it enter the kitchen (with the true intent of alerting the owner to an intruder in the garden) the owner may think that the cat wants to be fed. If this happens a few times then the cat will learn that if it miaows in the kitchen, it receives food and this then becomes a regular demand. The risk then is overfeeding and weight gain with all the ensuing health implications.

So, the moral of this story is, every miaow is not a cry for food . . . at the beginning anyway!

Don’t fake it!

When cats watch us they appear to be very adept at reading non-verbal cues, particularly if they represent a change in our normal behaviour or in any way signal danger. As solitary survivalists cats need to be ahead of the game when it comes to identifying a threat in close proximity.

Somehow, if you communicate something to your cat and you don't, in your heart of hearts, really mean it then your cat will know when you are faking it. Cats will always know when you are scared or angry no matter how hard you try to hide it, because subtle changes in your body language will give your true feelings away. 

This leads to, arguably, the first rule of communication with your cat: your cat will always know your true intentions and mood so don’t even bother to pretend. Remember this the next time you approach your cat, just like normal, with a worming pill hidden in your pocket. Your cat will know because you will reveal your intentions in the way you behave. The secret is to convince yourself that all is well and you will appear relaxed and much less threatening.

Cat speak

Cats communicate with each other when they are face to face by using combinations of body posture, movement, ear, head and tail carriage. Some body language is very descriptive but others show such subtle changes that humans can easily miss them, so you need to learn how to recognise and interpret your cat’s behaviour. Cats do everything for a reason; every move and posture is there for a purpose no matter how nonchalant they appear at first sight. Next time your cat approaches you, or draws your attention towards it, try to 'think cat' before you assume you know what’s on its mind.

Cats will use vocalisation for a number of reasons: to greet their owners after a period of absence, communicate mood, alert their owner to danger or to request something. Sound can also be used as a warning to deter owners from doing something that the cat doesn't like. When a cat returns from outdoors then it may use a particular cry to indicate that it has brought prey back to the den. A chirruped greeting is used if the owner has been out or the cat has returned from a garden excursion. If you hear this brief sound it requires an equally short acknowledgement that, depending on your cat’s personality can be anything from a quick verbal 'reply' to a 'pick up and cuddle'. If you are unclear which your cat would choose then a struggling cat that pushes away from you is a good indication it didn't want to be picked up!

The use of vocalisation is a learned behaviour as sound is almost always reinforced by attentive owners so is likely to be repeated. Some cats use very similar sounds for all demands but give some intention of their desires by standing near the object in question, for example a door or food cupboard, whilst staring directly at the owner or the object. An alert to danger, for example, is often accompanied by pacing, particularly from one window to another as the perceived threat has been detected outside.

Rubbing is a marking behaviour that is often performed on the owner’s legs during the process of greeting or awaiting the provision of food. This does not require acknowledgement specifically and owners often find it confusing that their cat appears to solicit attention and then reject it when they bend down to stroke.

If your cat falls over in front of you to expose its belly, you may make a common misinterpretation that your cat wants its stomach rubbed. What this behaviour probably indicates is one of two things: a sense of security in your presence or a signal that is seen in cat to cat communication that means "I want to play fight". Either way, an outstretched hand at this point towards your cat's most vulnerable area will often be greeted with a grab, kick and bite.

Showing love through play

Owners tend to feel that love is only expressed by showing tactile affection through holding and caressing. Unfortunately holding and caressing, for all but the most socialised and tolerant cats, is often perceived as restrictive and controlling. 

If you want to create a positive feeling in your cat when you walk into a room then playtime is a good tool to increase the bond (see playing with your cat). It mimics the behaviour associated with hunting and predatory sequences that are hard-wired in your cat’s brain and naturally rewarding. It is also exercise that seems to have a cumulative effect: the more your cat has, the more it enjoys it and the more it wants!

Busy owners often include play into their schedule at random times when the thought and inclination arise. This will not be the ideal time for the cat as, being creatures that thrive on routine, they will undoubtedly have patterns of activity that span a twenty-four hour period with little major deviation. It is unlikely that your cat will have any desire to play in the mid-afternoon if this period is normally set aside for sleep or rest. However if your cat has a mad-half-hour dashing round the house at nine o’clock at night this would be the time to consider a scheduled game or two.

Playtime doesn’t have to be prolonged and actually has the most beneficial effects if it is provided relatively frequently in short energetic bursts of activity. Six exciting five-minute sessions with a toy on the end of a rod and string is worth much more than a solid half hour waggling a fabric mouse in front of a bored cat’s nose! 

Cat etiquette

Finally, if you want to really please your cat here are a few simple rules:

• Let your cat dictate the pace of the relationship; always let your cat make the first move.

• Don’t disturb your cat when it is asleep or resting.

• Ignore your cat if it is perched on a high place, like a shelf or cupboard; this respects its desire at that time to watch without being seen.

• A private spot for rest isn’t private if you disturb your cat whilst there, so respect these places of sanctuary.

• Less is more in the cat world; don’t overdo the petting.

• Don’t automatically stare at your cat when it comes into the room – most cats like to feel they can move around without always being the centre of attention.

Introduction

The silver color was introduced into the Bengal breed in the late 1990’s by Judy Sugden (Eeyaa) by breeding an American Shorthair (ASH) to a Bengal. It was from this early cross that a handful of breeders (Linda Evans of Silvergene, and the late Earl Shropshire of Starbengal) began to pioneer the color into what it has developed into today. However since these early days, there has been much confusion amongst the Bengal community as to how the silver color should be bred. Though there have been many articles written, there has not been a strong doctrine in which breeders can rely upon to help teach each other how to improve the silver. Despite silver is a dominant trait, there are more factors involved in breeding silver than simple inheritance. To this end, we could take a few moments in the hopes of bettering our understanding of the silver and how they should be bred. When breeding silvers, there are three basic rules we should follow:

  1. Always select away from tarnish;
  2. Always breed silver to silver;
  3. Always select for contrast.

To further understand why each of these rules are important, let’s go over them and explain a bit about each.

1. Tarnish: What is it and what causes it?

Genetically, the silver isn’t an actual color as much as it can be considered a color modifier. The silver’s inhibitor gene filters the production of warm pigment on a cats’ coat while leaving black pigment. With only black pigment present on the coat, the end result is often creates a cooler tone or monochromatic version of the same color. But the inhibitor gene isn’t always 2 able to filter out all warm pigment. These trace amounts of warm pigment are what we refer to as “tarnish”, yellow/red pigment on the face, back, legs and throughout the coat. As example of both tarnished and untarnished silvers, please compare the photos of a tarnished silver marble (CH Rowan Valhalla - picture 1) and untarnished silver spotted (QGC Rowan Valkyrie – picture 2).

But now that we know what tarnish is, we now have to ask ourselves what causes it and how to do we prevent it?

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1.2. Causes of Tarnish and how to prevent it:

From the start of the Bengal breed, many breeders sought to lock in deep red pigmentation into the breed and they were successful. These warm tones were a result of rufous polygenes which are thought to have been carried over from the Abyssinians used early on. But beautiful as these warm tones are in browns, they have a negative impact on the silver coloration. The increase in warm pigment present in a cat’s coat results in the inhibitor gene not being able to filter out all warm tones and so more is present on the coat.

Nevertherless, with so much of the Bengal breed being warm toned, eliminating tarnish from the silver is no easy task. To do this, the silver Bengal must be bred silver to silver for generations on all sides of the pedigree while selecting away from warm tones. Through this process we eliminate residual rufous polygenes and ultimately lock in two copies of the 3 inhibitor gene. Yet the silver color is still relatively new and undeveloped in the breed so there are only a handful of silver breeders and bloodlines that have been able to accomplish this so far. In the coming years, we all must educate ourselves and work to change this if we are to improve the Silver Bengal.

1.2.1. Breeding silvers to non sivers:

Breeding silver-to-silver is always going to be the best option, but there are times when we’re left with no alternatives but to breed to non-silvers. Still, over time there have been several misconceptions created which have perpetuated even now. Let’s go over each issue now to clear up some of this confusion.

1.2.2. Breeding silvers to cool browns or snows:

Given that there are no other silvers to breed to, choosing to breed to a cooler toned brown can be a viable alternative, but only in the short term. The same is true for a good snow bloodline, as most are bred for cooler tones and higher contrast. Below are examples of each: a cool brown marbled (FelisLudens Laris – pic. 3) and a constrasted mink marbled (RW SGC SouthLynn Vanilla Fudge Ripple – pic. 4).

These types of combinations are more common than silver-to-silver pairings in the breed. Even though these crosses do prove helpful at adding genetic diversity and other desired traits, they also introduce negative traits such as poorer coat quality and tarnish. This can ultimately degrade the silver color and even more so in successive generations of silver to non-silver pairings. For this reason, we should always plan to pair offspring from silver to non-silver pairings back to other silver lines to breed out whatever negative traits may have been introduced.

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1.3. Can the charcoal and the snow can get rid of tarnish?

This is actually a relatively common misconception and quite an easy one to clear up. Just ask yourself, if you were to take a tarnished silver (pic. 5a) and put either a white mask (pic. 5b) or black mask (pic. 5c) on them would they still be tarnished under the mask?

The charcoal and snow colors may mask the tarnish from being visible, but it does not actually make the tarnish go away, as both can still produce tarnished silver offspring. Although there is great beauty in both the silver charcoal and silver-snow, we should always strive to improve the silver color by continuing to lock these colors while breeding out undesirable traits such as rufous polygenes and weaker inhibitor genes.

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1.4. The tarnish issue when breeding silver to silver:

When breeding silvers, the one thing we often forget is that there is more to a silver than just what we see on the surface. Parentage and background play important roles in the offspring produced. If you are choosing to breed two silvers together who both have generations of silver to brown pairings, it should be expected that you will see traits of their browns parents in their kittens. By choosing to work with established silver lines with generations of silver pairings will help eliminate much of these undesired traits.

2. Contrast: it’s key to the continued success of the silver, but why?

Another incredibly important and often misunderstood aspect of the silver is contrast. Unlike that of their brown counterparts, contrast is essential to maintaining the desired appearance in silvers and should always be prioritized. However unlike many of the features in the breed which are attributed to the Asian Leopard Cat, this specific kind of contrast is not wild in origin.

In order to better to understand the importance of contrast, you can compare a contrasted silver (Rowan Sargent Argentum of LaMancha – pic. 6) from that of a faded silver (Rowan Everybody Has a Dark Side – pic.7).

Fading is something that is relatively common in many silver lines and many of us struggle to figure out the reason why. To accomplish this, we’ll need to look back over the breed history.

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2.1. Where does fading come from?

The Bengal breed was established by taking the Asian Leopard Cat and pairing them to various domestic cats for generations. The list of domestic cats that were used in these early days included a handful of moggies, Abyssinians, many Egyptian Maus, Burmese and Ocicats. Through these domestic cats used, they sought to ultimately breed out the negative traits introduced from the domestic cats such as ticking and unwanted domestic color genes while seeking to further lock in desired traits from the ALC such as pattern and body structure. Even with many of the negative traits bred out, this hodgepodge of different breeds and domestic traits caused variants in appearance which we still see in today’s Bengal lines. Study over a photo (pic. 8) of the Egyptian Mau (TouchOKatz Marino Goes Long).

Although the ticking brought in from Egyptian Maus has largely been bred out from the Bengal breed, there are many Bengal lines today that possess a similar coat quality that tends to fade at maturity. The amount of fading varies between individual cats and lines. In browns, this quality of coat can often give the coat a tawny coloration or for those heavily rufoused a more pumpkin colored appeared.

2.2. Okay, we know where fading comes from…but what about contrast?

Though contrast has long since existed in the breed, it was the American Shorthair which introduced a new quality of coat that had a lasting impact on the breed. To help illustrate, take a few moments to study over this example of the American Shorthair (DGC Russeller’s Silver Dynasty of Rowan – pics. 9 and 10).

As demonstrated by this example, the American Shorthair’s deep black markings and silvery white ground color create a very vivid expression. It was through the American Shorthair that the Bengal breed would later create cooler toned browns, a clear ground color, high degrees of contrast and black expression, and what many breeders today refer to as “goldens”. Picture 11 is an example of a Brown Spotted with this coat type (QGC Sakura Midnight Sun).

 

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2.3. How do we breed for contrast and how we identify the right kind of contrast?

Contrast itself is caused by many different factors, so it can be determined to be polygenetic. But for the contrast we are seeking to lock in for our silvers, it has proven to be a dominant trait in how it’s inherited. Once contrast is lost, it cannot be produced again unless bred to another cat which possesses it.

How this specific kind of contrast is identified is by looking at the fur. On a contrasted silver, if we were to look at the darkest parts of the fur we would see a single band of black pigment covering 2/3 of the hair shaft 1 giving the markings a vivid black coloration (pic. 11a and 11b) On a faded silver we see a different kind of banding, at the darkest parts of the fur we see two bands of black pigment covering less than 1/4 of the hair shaft giving the overall coat a less black and more faded gray appearance (pic 12).

 

2.4 Fade x Contrast:

Though there are breeders out there who find these softer colored silvers visually appealing, these kinds of silvers have proven to be more difficult and less predictable to breed often producing even lighter markings or “muddy” colors. But more importantly, the Bengal standard writes that “contrast with ground color must be extreme, giving distinct pattern and sharp edges” indicating that these kinds of silvers are less desirable than contrasted silvers.

2.5. The impact of ticking in the silvers contrast:

While in faded silvers ticking causes a “salt-and-pepper” look to the overall coat which is considered undesirable, the same is not true for contrasted silvers. Due to the broader band of pigment the ticking causes a darker ground color without drowning out the black expression in their markings. In years past many have referred to these kinds of silvers as “cold silvers” (pic. 13), their darker ground color proves to be more forgiving of trace amounts of tarnish which can be beneficial. It can be seen at Spotselotica Leora of FelisLudens.

3. Outcrossing: Is there a purpose?

Due to both the restrictive nature of the silver color and only having one major silver outcross support the color in the breed’s short history, today’s silvers are facing the challenge of an ever-shrinking gene pool. A diminished gene pool will result in higher occurrences of health issues and defects. Though some breeders have chosen to outcross their silvers to other colors within the breed, too many generations of these pairings result in an increasing amount 1 1 of tarnish and fading so they often prove a less desirable choice to pair developed silver lines to. It is for this reason that many breeders have started to consider outcrossing to established silver breeds as well as other sources.

Whilst as much of the Bengal breed has not outcrossed since the 1990’s, there is much for today’s breeders to learn about what all is involved. In TICA, just like when crossing a Bengal to an Asian Leopard Cat, it takes four generations (A0N, B0N, C0N & SBT) before the line is once again eligible for championship status. However one thing that many have realized is that two of the same generation (A0N x A0N) can be paired together and produce the next generation (B0N) so with a guided and educated hand we may be able to create new silver outcrosses that will have much genetic diversity that the breed can benefit from.

3.1. Which breed should we use to outcross and bring in new silver bloodlines?

The first instinct of many is to choose the silver breed which has the most similar body and head-type to the Bengal, but there is often more to consider about an outcross than type alone. As many silver Bengals struggle with locking in contrast, choosing to breed to a contrasted silver classic tabby American Shorthair or British Shorthair would prove more beneficial than that of a ticked or faded silver in another breed. For this reason, some have chosen to strategically pair two separate outcrosses together. Here are two examples of A0N outcrosses: ASH Outcross - Rowan Gallifrey Dynasty of Felis Ludens (pic. 14) and Egyptian Mau Outcross - Amazonbengals Silver Aeon of Rowan (pic 15).

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3.2. What about using the Asian Leopard Cat as an outcross for silvers?

Since many of the features which we are wanting to further lock into the silver are domestic in origin, the Asian Leopard Cat alone is not the most ideal outcross. Breeding a faded and tarnished silver to an ALC will not yield untarnished and contrasted silver kittens. But the ALC can be used strategically to improve type and structure on an early outcross if capable breeders have access to both an outcross line and ALC or EG line.