Louis came home battered and bruised

Louis came home battered and bruised

As a kitten, Louis used to stay around the family home all the time. He loved being in the house, and he enjoyed playing with humans. As he grew older, he gradually changed, becoming more of an outdoor animal. He had a cat flap, so he was able to come and go as he pleased. When he was around six months of age, Katrina noticed that he was beginning to mark his territory in the garden, piddling against fence posts and vegetation. She never saw other cats around, but she noticed that Louis behaved in a watchful, wary way sometimes, as if he sensed that there were other cats close by. When he reached the age of a year or so, Louis began to leave the garden. He would head off by himself, over the back fence, and would not come back for several hours. Katrina reckoned this was part of a cat’s enjoyment of life, and she left him to his adventures. When Louis started to come home with small cuts on his face, and tufts of fur missing from his body, she realised that he must be getting into fights with other cats somewhere. She hoped that the behaviour would settle down, but in fact, it gradually worsened. Louis began to stay out all night, and when he came home, he looked beat-up and exhausted. He would retire to his bed, licking his wounds, and he would sleep for hours. Last week, Louis stayed away for two full days. When he came home, he looked as if he had been through twelve rounds in a boxing ring....
TJ the cat had a red raw area on the back of his neck

TJ the cat had a red raw area on the back of his neck

Itchy skin is a common problem in pets. There are many causes, ranging from allergies to fleas, with dozens of other possible reasons. But there is one universal factor in all itchy pets: they always make themselves worse by itching themselves raw. There is nothing wrong with pets occasionally itching themselves. Most animals have an occasional scratch as part of their normal grooming routine. This is similar to some humans. When my brother wakes up, he looks in the mirror at his sleepy-headed reflection, and gives his own scalp a good rub and scratch. He finds that this has a stimulating, invigorating effect. Perhaps pets feel the same way. Dogs often scratch themselves occasionally for no particular reason. If you tickle a dog’s stomach when it rolls over onto its back, you will often find a “tickly bit”. The dog reacts to you petting this area by kicking their hind leg as if they are trying to itch themselves. This is a normal reflex and nothing to worry about. Cats are even more proficient at itching themselves during their normal grooming routines. They sit down, and in a yoga-like pose, they lift their hind leg and give themselves a good scratch under their chin and around their ears. Self-scratching only becomes a problem when pets begin to damage their own skin with their claws. This is what happened with TJ. Ivan was used to seeing TJ itch himself from time to time, but a few weeks ago, he noticed that he seemed to be doing it continually. And when Ivan watched TJ closely, he noticed that he was always scratching a particular area on the back of his neck. This...
Fluffy and Murphy are two indoor cats

Fluffy and Murphy are two indoor cats

Fluffy and Murphy came into the Yarrow household when they were young kittens. The family live in an urban area, and it was obvious that it would be hazardous for the cats to be allowed outside. The garden is too small to contain curious cats and there are busy roads all around. The sensible decision was made to keep the cats as indoor-only pets. It became one of the “house rules” that before any door or window was opened, a brief scout of the horizon was necessary to check for a cat in the room. The cats seemed to be well-balanced individuals, enjoying playing with each other, using litter trays and not showing any obvious signs of longing to be out-of-doors. When a visiting friend suggested that he was “cruel” to keep his cats indoors, Marcus contacted me. What was the truth? Was he being unfair to his pets? This is a debate that is argued across the world, and it is interesting that there are regional differences in the consensus of opinion that is reached. In Europe, perhaps because cats have been a free-ranging part of our society for so long, it is common for people to feel that cats have a right to range freely. There is this image of cats stalking in long grass, running up small trees and racing around the open space. Many Europeans feel uncomfortable with the idea of cats being kept indoors. They feel that it is almost as bad as keeping a rabbit in a small hutch or a hen in a battery cage. In North America and Australasia, the opposite view is taken. In these countries, cats are relative newcomers to...
Cheeky the cat had itchy skin

Cheeky the cat had itchy skin

When Cheeky was brought in to see me, the main thing that her owners had noticed was a skin rash along her back and on her underside. The skin on her belly was particularly badly affected, with a raised blotchy red patch of sore skin. Itchy animals are very common, especially in the summer months. In dogs, itchy skin causes scratching. Dogs tend to stand on three legs, and have a good scratch all over with one of their hind legs. Cats are more likely to lick and nibble itchy skin, and it look as if they are simply grooming themselves extra carefully. It is very common for owners to notice a rash in cats, rather than to be aware of them itching at themselves. There are many possible causes of itchiness. Ideally, it is best if the vet can discover the precise cause of the itch. If you remove the cause, you can then be sure that the itch will not recur. Unfortunately, it is not always simple to find the cause. Many animals suffer from vague, multiple allergies in the summer months. Typically, they might start to itch in late June, and then carry on itching through July, August and September. Then in October, the itch settles down. There is obvious cause. A general anti-inflammatory treatment is given, in the form of tablets or long-acting injections. The medication keeps the animal comfortable, the skin rash clears up, and by the time autumn comes along, the pet is better. The best guess is that the animal is allergic to some of the vegetation and pollen’s that are present in the summer. Many animals have the same problem every summer...
Alfie the cat refuses to leave the house

Alfie the cat refuses to leave the house

Alfie was found one morning, as an adult cat, by Catriona’s daughter, Holly. He was huddled on the doorstep of the city centre shop where she worked, having squeezed through the security grill at the front of the shop doorway. Alfie was emaciated, with the bones of his spine and ribs protruding, and he was filthy, covered in grease and tar. Holly took him to the vet who told her that he was a male neutered cat, aged around three, and that it was likely that he had once been well looked after. From the state of him, it looked as if he had been fending for himself for several months. Holly put posters up around the city centre and posted messages on “lost and found” websites, but no-one  contacted her. Alfie was homeless. Holly already had three cats, so she couldn’t take another, so Alfie ended up going to stay with a colleague who only had two cats. She hoped they would welcome Alfie but they treated him like an annoying intruder, and he ended up hiding under furniture all the time, so scared that he refused even to come out to eat. At this stage, Holly called on her mum. Catriona liked cats, but after her previous one had died at the age of twenty, she had decided not to get another. When she was offered Alfie, she agreed at least to give him a try. He moved in, and the two of them discovered that they enjoyed each other’s company: two years later, they’re still living happily together. Catriona’s front door has a cat flap: her...
Lupas had something strange coming out of his ear

Lupas had something strange coming out of his ear

As one of Ireland’s most enthusiastic bird watchers, it may seem strange that Eric Dempsey is a cat lover. Cats are serious predators, and although Eric has four cats, he takes steps to minimise their impact on the local bird population. First, each of his cats have two bells on their collar, to warn birds that they are close by. Second, he controls the movements of his cats: they are kept indoors from an hour before dusk until an hour after dawn the following day, which includes the times when birds are most likely to be caught by cats. By taking these steps, bird fatalities in gardens can be reduced by 90%. Eric’s cats are generally healthy, but recently Lupus developed a sore right ear. She started to scratch it, and she held her head tilted to one side. When I peered inside her ear with an otoscope, I could see a red, fleshy growth inside her ear canal, like a small tumour. The first stage of helping Lupus was to find out more about the growth: was it cancerous, or was it something more benign? I took a biopsy by cutting off a small section of the lump, and sending it off to the laboratory for analysis. The result was surprising: the growth was something called a “nasopharyngeal polyp”. This is a rare condition which is a bit like a type of wart. Although the problem seemed to be in her ear, I now knew that the problem had started at the back of her throat, where there is a narrow tube (the Eustachian tube) that links the...
Wildy the 9 year old cat

Wildy the 9 year old cat

Wildy turned up on Nancy’s parents’ doorstep nine years ago. He was hungry, and they left out some food for him: they soon found that they were feeding him regularly and they realised that Wildy had adopted them as “his family”. Nancy’s father was allergic to cats – if he spent time close to Wildy, he would get runny eyes, and start to sneeze – so Wildy was kept as an outdoor pet at first: he wasn’t allowed indoors. As time passed, the allergy seemed to settle down, and Wildy gradually wheedled his way into the Collins home. First he was allowed into the garage overnight, then he started to creep into the house, and bit by bit, he started to spend more time indoors. By the time Nancy came along, Wildy had become a house pet. NANCY AND WILDY GET TO KNOW EACH OTHER When Nancy was a newborn baby, Wildy used to ignore her, but as she grew older, the two of them became more interested in each other. When she was just ten months old, she fed him for the first time, and she’s fascinated by his company. The two of them sometimes rub heads together, which is a classic friendly greeting in cat language. Nancy now takes out picture books and reads them to Wildy: he sits beside her on the bed so that she can do this. He doesn’t like his tail, back or belly to be touched, but as long as she just gently pets his head, he’s happy to be close to her, calmly purring as she shows him her favourite stories....
Fifi a 12 week old rescue tabby kitten

Fifi a 12 week old rescue tabby kitten

Claudette used to live in London with three cats. When she came across to Ireland, she was initially only planning a short stay, so she left her cats with her mother. That was twelve years ago, and she has long since accepted that her cats have become her mother’s cats.  She had never got around to getting her own cat in this country, but she now has a two year old son, and she felt that it was time to introduce him to the world of animals. Claudette was clear about what she wanted: a kitten would be best, so that her new pet would learn to know her young son from an early age. The two of them could then grow up together, hopefully getting on well with one another.  She didn’t want to buy a pedigree kitten.  If possible, she wanted to rescue a kitten that was in trouble and in need of a good home. SEARCHING FOR A KITTEN She searched on the internet, and came across Cats Aid, a cat rescue group in the Dublin area. When she contacted them, they told her that, at that time, they had no kittens looking for a home. Cats are seasonal breeders, with the result that the supply of kittens is like a feast or a famine. At some times of year, rescue groups like Cats Aid are inundated with hundreds of unwanted kittens. Then at other times, there are no kittens available for people looking for them. Cats Aid always have a high number of adult cats that need a home, but Claudette wanted a kitten. She was...
Kat the cat broke his jaw

Kat the cat broke his jaw

Jennie has two cats – Kat and Kit. She took them both on as kittens in the hope that they’d grow up to be friends. It’s worked out well so far: the two young cats spend much of their day keeping one another entertained, with endless games of chase, tumble and pounce. A few weeks ago, Jennie let both cats outside after breakfast: they were in good form, and they scampered out to enjoy the fresh air of the countryside. An hour later, Kat appeared at the back door in distress. His face and chest were covered in blood, and he was panting breathlessly. The bright red blood was stark against his pure white fur, and Jennie was shocked. It was obvious that Kat had suffered from a dreadful accident and he needed urgent veterinary help.. She rushed him down to our clinic, and I saw him at once. I immediately took him into our treatment room, giving him pain relief by injection and extra oxygen via a mask. At first, I thought that he must have been hit by a car, but Jennie explained that she lived some distance away from a road. After analysing the precise nature of his injuries, a different cause began to seem likely. Kat had a classic combination of signs that were typical of so-called “high-rise syndrome”. This is a condition that’s often seen in cities when cats fall from apartment windows or balconies.  In Kat’s case, he must have been playing with his brother in a tree or on a wall; after losing his balance, he must have tumbled, falling onto a...
Arthur developed a red bald patch above his eye

Arthur developed a red bald patch above his eye

Arthur is a cool cat: he’s a good advertisement for rescued animals. Harry and his family took him in from a local cat rescue centre a year ago. He was a young adult cat who was a victim of Ireland’s economic recession. His owner was from overseas: she had moved to Ireland during the boom years, with the hope of staying for the long term. As it turned out, she lost her job, and had to go back home. She had owned Arthur since he was a kitten, and he had become a close companion for herself and her young children. Sadly, she realised that she would not be able to take Arthur with her back to her home country, so she reluctantly handed him over to the rescue centre. The Lews were looking for a new cat, and they were clear that they didn’t want a kitten. They have young grandchildren who often visit their home, and there were two reasons why a kitten would not suit. First, a small kitten can be vulnerable when active children get carried away with the idea of a kitten as a play object. And second, an older kitten has the potential to be a liability, with sharp claws that can swipe a child’s arm or face. A kitten was not the right choice for their situation. When they heard about Arthur, they were cautious at first: adult cats can also be a challenge. They can be nervous, stand-offish or even just grumpy. But when they heard that Arthur was already used to young children, they decided to give him a chance....