Taz the cat developed a limp

Taz the cat developed a limp

Taz is an independent creature, choosing to live in his own cat house outside Hilary’s back door. It’s a cosy place, lined with newspaper, blankets and a comfortable cushion. He comes into Hilary’s home from time to time, but the cat house has always been his favourite sleeping place. Hilary recently noticed that Taz had developed a limp. He was still as active and mobile as ever, but he was favouring his right foreleg, his head bobbing as he walked. She decided that a visit to the vet was in order, so she fetched the cat carrier in preparation for the trip. Taz must have had some distant memory of the significance of the blue plastic cage: when Hilary went looking for him, he’d vanished. He didn’t come back for the next four days. She looked everywhere, but there was no sign of him. Then one evening last week, she heard a miaow: Taz was at the back door. The lameness was now much worse, and he was holding his right foreleg up, unable to put any weight on it at all. It was as if he’d come back, looking for help. Hilary kept him indoors overnight, worried that if she let him sleep in his normal cat house, he’d disappear again. She brought him up to see me first thing the following morning. When I examined Taz, it was obvious that the focus of the lameness was in his right shoulder, which was swollen and painful. The poor cat was not at all happy as I gently felt the sore area. I admitted him for a short anaesthetic,...
Ginger the cat had toothache

Ginger the cat had toothache

Ginger lives the life of a typical modern Irish cat. He lives in a suburban house, and is fed on tinned food, supplemented by his own hunting expeditions. He has free access to the outdoors and enjoys going out and about. He’s sometimes gone for most of the day, and when he comes home, he’s prone to bringing back mice and, less commonly, small birds. Robert first noticed Ginger behaving strangely at meal times a couple of weeks ago. The cat normally has an excellent appetite; whenever food is put out in his bowl, he rushes towards it, lapping it up hungrily.  Now he paused as he approached his dinner. He’d stop, looking at the food bowl suspiciously, then move forward towards it hesitantly. He’d then take a few mouthfuls slowly, chewing cautiously. After a few moments, he’d shake his head violently from side to side, turn around, and bolt out of the room as if he was being chased by a dog. He’d then leave his food for a few hours, before coming back again. This strange behaviour meant that it was taking him all day to eat food that he’d normally scoff in five minutes. There was obviously something bothering him, which is why Robert brought him to see me. Ginger’s behaviour was typical of a cat with dental pain, and I expected to find an obvious abnormality when I opened his mouth to have an initial look. I was surprised to find that, in fact, his mouth seemed healthy: there were no broken teeth, and no evidence of periodontal disease or gingivitis. The second stage of...
Max the cat had a dislocated hip

Max the cat had a dislocated hip

Diana has two cats, both obtained at the same time from the DSPCA. Sophie was a young mother cat, aged just a year old, and Max was her kitten. When Diana saw them together at the sanctuary, she felt that she couldn’t separate them, and so she brought them both home. It was obvious from the start that the two cats had completely different personalities. Sophie soon became an indoor cat, only going outside for an hour every day. She loves the quiet life, sleeping on the most comfortable couch in the warmth of the sitting room. When she goes outside, she finds the sunniest spot in the garden, enjoying a little sunshine before returning indoors. She’s very happy with a calm, settled life. Max is the complete opposite of his mother. He heads off every morning at 6.30am, as soon as the humans in the house are stirring. If the weather is wet and windy, he’s waiting on the back doorstep for Diana when she gets back from work at 2pm. If the weather’s fine, he stays out till 6pm, when he returns for his supper. Max’s adventurous nature has got him into trouble before: a few years ago he fractured his lower back after being hit by a car. He made a full recovery, and it hasn’t slowed him down at all. Max’s routine has become very predictable, so Diana knew at once that there was something wrong when she came back from work one afternoon. It was a fine day, so Max should have been out and about. Instead, he was lying quietly on a pile...
Snowy  the cat suffered serious injuries

Snowy the cat suffered serious injuries

When Geraldine’s two kittens, Sooty and Snowy, were young, she made sure that she signed them both up for pet insurance. Her previous cat, Domino, had died of kidney failure at the age of thirteen, and during his illness, Geraldine had learned that vets’ bills could be expensive. She decided that in future she’d pay out the small monthly amount for pet insurance, so that if there was an accident or illness, her new cats would be able to have the best possible veterinary care without putting a strain on the family budget. Snowy and Sooty grew up as the best of friends. They did everything together – from sleeping in the same basket to playing around the home to hunting in the garden. Geraldine has two palm trees at the front of the house, and the two cats used to play a game where each of them dashed up a tree as fast as possible. When Geraldine came home, she would find one cat sitting at the top of each tree, as if they were keeping a lookout for her. Snowy has had to stop climbing trees for the past few months: he’s recovering from a nasty accident affecting his left hind leg. It happened on a Sunday afternoon. Geraldine knows her cats very well – they are creatures of habit. When she noticed Sooty moping about the house alone, with no sign of Snowy, she knew that something must be amiss. She went looking for him, and it didn’t take long to find him. He was skulking beneath one of the cars in the driveway, and he refused to come out when Geraldine called him. She eventually had...
Bowie ia an 8 week old pedigree Asian kitten

Bowie ia an 8 week old pedigree Asian kitten

The family had been considering getting a pet for some time. Hanna and Luke’s parents had heard that pet ownership was good for children. Studies have shown that people who grow up with pets in the household tend to be more socially adept and self-confident. Nobody knows why this happens, but it may be partly to do with the fact that animals are experts in non-verbal communication. A dog or a cat cannot talk to a child, so instead, they communicate with their bodies, and body language has aspects that are universal across the species barriers. If a dog wants to go outside, he will look at you, with pleading eyes. If a cat wants to play, she will come up to you with her head held to one side, and her body tense and alert, ready for the game. It is easy to forget that children need to learn body language, just as much as they need to learn to speak and write English. Pets give free daily lessons in how to use your body to communicate. Choosing the right pet is important. Dogs are more demanding than cats. They can’t be left alone for long stretches, and they need to be given regular walks. Cats are independent, intelligent creatures, but some people just don’t like them.  Rabbits – living free-range in the house – are increasingly popular. Other pets – like guinea pigs, gerbils or cage birds – don’t tend to interact with humans in the same personal way as the bigger pets.  When choosing a pet, you need to look at the facts about what is...
Feral cats overseas

Feral cats overseas

Elena Tabuada from Granada, Spain looks after group of around a dozen cats. She feeds them but she isn’t their “owner”. As the schools go back after the summer break, many people are looking back on enjoyable family summer holidays. My own family headed to southern Spain for a two week migration into sunshine. We were staying in a small mountain village near Granada, and as often happens when I am on holiday, the animals that I encountered made a strong impression on me The local dogs were not dissimilar to their Irish equivalents. There were pedigree dogs such as Boxers and Miniature Poodles, as well as cross bred terriers and collie-types. They lounged around in the shade during the day, coming out to stroll with their owners in the cooler evenings. I noticed that local pet shops had pedigree puppies for sale, displaying them in cages in their shop front windows in a way that would not happen in Ireland. There was no sign of cats or kittens for sale in this way. I didn’t come across any pet cats living pampered lives like many Irish cats in the twenty first century. But in one part of the village in particular, there seemed to be cats everywhere. When we walked through the area, they seemed to be all around us. They were on wall-tops and at street corners, or just relaxing in shady spots. When we stopped to watch them for a while, more cats emerged, coming up from underground aqueduct tunnels and from surrounding fields. There were cats of all ages, from young kittens to mature, strong...