Feline Q&A – Ask a Cat Expert

Eric McCarrison of Carrick Vet Group winner of the 2007 Petplan Vet of the Year award, answers your feline questions.

Name: Neil, Cardiff
Cat’s Age 3
Question: I suspect that our cat is getting food from somewhere else. She often doesn’t eat more than one pack of food a day and this morning after I fed her, she was ill. However the vomit contained a lot more food than she had just eaten, and included lumps of cooked meat. How do I stop our cat from obtaining food from elsewhere? Is this bad for her? 

Neil, this is a very common problem that a lot of cat owners have to deal with. Essentially it is impossible to control what your cat eats once it goes outside. It is most likely that a neighbour is feeding your cat, although we regularly hear of cats getting through others cat flaps and stealing other cats food. If there is someone that you think may be responsible than it may be worth asking them to stop. Alternatively you can get small tags if your cat has a collar and putting a message on asking for the cat not to be fed.

Name: Katy
Cat’s Name Smokey & Bandit
Cat’s Age 5 months
Question: My kittens are 5 & half months old and I’m going to have them neutered & microchipped when they reach 6 months. I was initially loathed to let them outdoors as 1 of them is a bit of an idiot & I wouldn’t want anything to happen to them. I am also saving up to buy a flat in which case they would no longer have access to the outside so I thought it would be unfair to let them experience it & then take it away. Unfortunately, 1 of them is absolutely desperate to get outside. He has escaped to the garden & although he has only had a couple of minutes out there, it is now his life’s goal to have more time out there. I am still very worried about allowing them outside. Can you recommend what I should do? Should I let them out once they’ve been neutered? Or should I stick with what I’ve been doing & not let them out? I don’t want my fears for them to mean they have to live against a cat’s nature. Any advice you can offer would be most appreciated! 

Katy. Many more cats these days are living indoors and not going outside at all but this does not suit all cats. It sounds like yours may be one of these which will not be happy being kept in. There will always be a risk of an accident but these can be minimised by ensuring that your cat has been neutered and therefore less likely to get into fights. Also, only let your cat out during daytime and keeping it in at night. If you confine a cat indoors that really wants to go out you can cause quite serious behavioural problems which can lead to messing in inappropriate places, damage to furniture and even skin problems due to over grooming. On balance, unless you live directly on a busy main road, I suggest you let your cat out.

Cat’s Name Salem
Cat’s Age 10 years
Question: She is urinating on every piece of material (clothes, towels what ever) left on the floor in any room She is not spayed or an outdoor cat. I have 2 cats (the other a Persian I have had for 13 years) and I have 2 litter boxes cleaned EVERY day at least once. There is only me and my husband @ home and have been no changes in the home. I do not know if this was always a problem that I am just noticing or what. It has now been going on about 6 months or so that I am aware of. I am ready to take her to the pound knowing that they will probably put her to sleep. I do love her but do not know what to do? Please help me so that I can keep her. My house is starting to smell like cat urine and I do not know how to get it out. How to fix my cat that the vet said nothing is physically wrong with. 

This is unlikely to be a long standing problem or you would have noticed before. Have you had here checked at the vets to make sure there is no evidence of cystitis?  That is the first thing I would do.

Inappropriate urination is usually a sign of stress and cats will get stressed over things that we may not even be aware of. There are now several cat behaviourists around the country and your local vet should be able to put you in touch with one near you. There is also a product on the market called FELIWAY which releases a chemical called a pheromone. This has no smell and we cannot detect it but it basically says to the cat ‘relax and chill out, everything is OK’.  It comes either as a spray or a plug-in very similar to a room air freshener.

Also, be careful what cleaners to use to clean up after your cat since many contain a chemical called ammonia which can smell to a cat as if another cat has marked the area and they will then mark it again. I would also suggest that the litter trays should be cleaned immediately after they are used every time.

Cat’s Name pumpkin
Cat’s Age 4
Question: I have 2 cats. Brother and sister. They have got on fine up until the last 2 months. We have moved house 3 times and they have always been fine. I moved almost 2 years ago and for the first time got them a cat flap. Things were fine until I went on holiday for a week in July. A friend looked after the cats. She has done this 3 – 4 times a year since the cats were born so nothing new there. Pumpkin seems frightened of me since I have been back. I rarely see her now. She has completely changed. She also doesn’t get on very well with her brother. I kept her in for a week a while ago and she got better but since opening the cat flap she’s gone back to her strange ways. I had noticed a strange cat coming in the flap a few times. Could she feel unsafe here because another cat has invaded her space? Has she got a new family and just comes back here for occasional food? It’s very strange as she was so loving up until I went on holiday. I have closed the cat flap again to keep her in again tonight in the hope I can build up her trust again. Am I doing the right thing? Should I leave her to do as she pleases and just come home occasionally and have no interaction with me? Any advice will be helpful.

It is very difficult to know what is going on here. It sounds as if something has certainly frightened her and you may be right about the strange cat invading her space and she no longer feels safe in the house. I assume you have had her checked at your local vets and there was no problems found?  This is an avenue you should definitely pursue.

There are several things that you could try such as using Feliway which releases a chemical called a pheromone. This helps to de-stress cats. It comes as a plug in or a spray. You could also perhaps change your cat flap so that it will only let your cats in although this means you have to put collars on your own cats with a tag which opens the flap when they try to come in. It is very difficult to keep a cat confined indoors if it wants to go and is probably counter productive. Unfortunately the saying that ‘you never own a cat, it just decides whether it wants to live with you or not’ can be very true. It sounds like it will take a lot of patience and perseverance on your part but when it works it is very satisfying.