Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Keeping your cat happy and healthy in Autumn

I am really pleased to be able to introduce a guest blog to you this week.
Our kind contributor is Debbie who is the Feline Behaviour Advisor at Blackwater Valley Vets and a wonderful supporter of Cats Protection…

Well, autumn seems to be upon us and already the leaves are falling and turning colour.
With the changing season comes inclement weather especially more rain and wind so our cats may not want to venture outside as much due to the change in temperature. 

Providing an indoor litter tray will help enormously and give your cat a choice. Position it in a quiet private corner and fill with enough fine grain, soft litter as cats need to be able to dig and bury their deposits. If you have a multi cat household then it is important to provide a couple or more trays in order to accommodate each cat. When our cats are more reluctant to go outside in bad weather then they are more susceptible to retaining their urine and as a result this could trigger a urinary tract infection, another good reason to supply a litter tray indoors. Our elderly felines will really appreciate this valuable resource too as they often suffer with stiff joints and mobility problems which can be esca bated in the damper weather. Getting in and out of cat flaps can be challenging and they don’t always feel so confident outside as their younger counterparts so bear this in mind. 

Providing a handy shelter and bolt hole to retreat to near to the exit of the cat flap will allow your cat to survey the outside territory more securely. A piece of garden furniture works well. Look at your garden or outside space from a cat’s point of view and supply densely stocked flowerbeds, high vantage points, a suntrap for those odd warm days and a handy shelter in case of rainy weather. Providing a near to home private latrine site outside will be welcome so save your cat going too far in the rotten weather.

Our cats mark, spray and chin objects in their outside territory to leave behind scent messages and visual markers, if your cat is more reluctant to go outside when the weather is bad, provide resources within your home to allow for this important behaviour. Scratching posts and activity centres work well for this as scratching not only conditions the claws but the stropping leaves behind scent messages. Placing a post or activity centre near to French or patio doors will allow your cat to survey their outside patch and to watch the birds especially if you have a bird feeder in the garden. If you have a multi cat household then provide a few scratching posts to accommodate each cat.

Cats like to chew on grass to help their digestive system and to alleviate hair balls so in the autumn and winter you could provide a tub of grass on a kitchen windowsill. Cocksfoot grass seed is available from some garden centres and larger pet stores it is high in minerals and vitamin C and is easily grown. Catit Senses which have a good website sell a real growing grass garden which rests in a bowl and the Cat Gallery sell a grow your own cat grass in a ceramic bowl.

**Please take a look at the ISFM website as this gives a detailed and comprehensive list of poisonous plants that pose a risk to our felines in the home and outside. **

In the damper months your cat will feel the cold more, even more so if the your cat is elderly so providing a soft warm fleece in a basket, cardboard box or bed will help them snuggle up. You can get heat pads like the “Snugglesafe” one which you can warm in a microwave and place in the fleece or blanket. There are fleece lined radiator beds which attach to a radiator which some cats really enjoy. For older cats there are orthopaedic fleeces that have an inbuilt layer to conduct heat and help ease stiff joints.

Keeping our cats more mentally stimulated in the colder and damper months when they choose to stay indoors more, will help keep them be more active and a great way of doing this is by playing with them or giving them toys to investigate and to express their natural predatory behaviour. Popular and inexpensive toys are rolled up bits of paper or tinfoil or ping pong balls. Other fun toys for cats are laser pens just be careful not to shine the laser in their eyes, the Frolicat bolt laser toy from Pet Planet is one that is free standing and runs off batteries it fires a laser beam in different directions for 15 minutes at a time and then switches itself off. “Cat TV” which you can select from your laptop, phone or IPad shows birds chirping and jumping about or fish swimming on and off the screen this keeps cats entertained for ages. A sensory style toy from Catit Senses is available which is a food maze and a boredom beating game. ** Remember to never leave your cat or kitten unsupervised with any toys that can be eaten or shredded. Young children should be encouraged to play with the cat using fishing rod style toys so that their body parts can be out of reach from an exuberant cat who may get over excited when playing.

I hope that these tips help and may I wish you all a happy and enjoyable autumn.

Check out the Blackwater Valley Vets Facebook page for more updates and advice from Debbie.

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