Shad thinks about the kittens

My friend Tiffin is a charming 7 year old lady with smooth black fur and a few white flecks on her chest.  She lives with her sister Muffin at the house with the cat pen in the garden, the one where the waifs and strays live until they find their forever homes.  Tiffin is as scatty as they come, staring wide-eyed in the direction of any noise and running away from humans and animals she doesn’t know.  But this kind hearted soul is a good buddy of mine and we often meet up to philosophise about the meaning of life and put the world to rights.  I call it Tiffin time and it is usually accompanied by a few flakes of tuna which John always brings as a special treat for the cats in the foster pen.

As Tiffin and I sat on the low wall in the garden watching the rescue cats stretch out in the warmth of the evening sun, we washed our faces meticulously while the conversation moved on to a couple of kittens that had recently been brought into care called Smokey and Pickles.  These two little bundles of fun were given up by their owner 24 hours after she bought them because they had diarrhoea and had managed to infest her home with fleas.  The kittens had been bought from a woman selling them on the internet and like many kittens sold this way, they were sick with fleas and worms, malnourished and lacking in social skills.  Many people selling cats in shops, newspapers and online call themselves breeders but actually they are simply allowing their cats to get pregnant over and over, neglecting the needs of the mother cat and selling the kittens in an unacceptable condition to unsuspecting members of the public for a profit.

Tiffin and I are both rescue cats but we were lucky enough to have a better start in life than Smokey and Pickles.  It’s a shame the owner didn’t want to keep the kittens and take them to the vet for treatment but I guess some humans aren’t dedicated enough to support us cats through the good times and the bad.  You’ll be pleased to hear that the kittens have received lots of tender loving care and are now happy and healthy and living in a loving home.  Tiffin and I contemplated the fate of all the rescue cats sitting in foster homes and shelters right now across the UK waiting to find new homes and all health-checked, vaccinated, microchipped and neutered.  There are cute ones, scruffy ones, cheeky ones and bold ones, shy ones like Tiffin and grumpy ones like me!

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Shad goes behind the scenes at the National Cat Centre

There is no creature as curious as a cat.  And I have always been curious about what lies beyond the adoption pens at the National Cat Centre in Chelwood Gate.  The NCC is headquarters for Cats Protection and boasts the largest cat rehoming centre in the UK looking after anything up to 200 cats and kittens at any one time and rehoming over 1000 little cherubs every year.  John and I walked into the reception area excited to meet Danielle the Centre Manger for our exclusive behind the scenes tour.  John had brushed my coat before we left so I looked extra silky and I puffed out my chest fur as we were greeted by a smiling Danielle who started by introducing us to Poppy.  Poppy is a friendly black and white that has been in care for many months and now spends her days helping reception staff answer the phones and checking the corners for mice in the hopes of getting noticed by prospective owners as they wander through.  Just off reception is a meeting room specially designated for potential owners to sit and spend time with the cat they like before deciding if things could work between them.  It’s full of comfy chairs, ping pong balls and a window that lets you watch the birds land on the swaying branches of the trees outside.  Danielle told us about a cat called Marmite who lived at the Centre for a long time because he had FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus) and I smiled to myself as I imagined him in the meeting room greeting the lady that would later adopt him.

Reception

Reception

NCC Reception – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

As we moved through the double-doors into the adoption pen wing, Danielle showed us the Enrichment Room which we could not enter as 6 year old Tabitha was in there undertaking a desensitisation programme.  This involves carefully exposing the cat to various situations in a controlled manner such as the sound of a vacuum cleaner, meeting a stranger or hearing a doorbell to determine which triggers cause the cat to have behavioural issues.  Tabitha has been rehomed and returned 3 times because she becomes aggressive so the desensitisation programme will help her become accustomed to normal household noises in the hope that she will soon find her forever home.  I had a quick word with her through the door while the humans were talking and she said she gets angry when she is rehomed because she doesn’t know anyone there and it makes her feel scared.

Danielle

We strolled through the pen wing admiring the cats along the way until we reached another double-door and Danielle asked us to dip our feet in a tub of wet sponge.  I was mortified, as a cat who is fastidious about keeping his paws clean, soft and dry, but it was necessary as part of the infection control procedures.  So I dutifully placed each of my paws in the disinfectant goo and looked up at John who knew exactly what I wanted and fetched a paper towel to dab my tootsies dry.  The next section contained the Admissions Wing where cats first arrive and the Cat Care room where newcomers get their vet checks, vaccinations and flea treatments.  I shuddered at the thought and we moved on to the Isolation Wing for cats who have unfortunately been diagnosed with infectious diseases such as flu, FIV and ringworm.  We were not allowed into the isolation wing for obvious reasons not least of all that we would have had to dress up in multiple layers of unattractive plastic aprons and pull-up boots which you can see being modelled by Boris.  My heart went out to the cats in isolation who often spend weeks receiving veterinary treatment and wearing the cone of shame before their symptoms improve and they are well enough to be put up for adoption.  We didn’t go into the maternity wing either out of respect for the feeding mums and mums-to-be who need peace and quiet while they care for their babies.  We did take a look at the operating theatres and were impressed with the great facilities, especially when Danielle said that Tuesdays to Thursdays the onsite vet team perform  6 to 8 surgical procedures a day.

No trip to the NCC would be complete without talking to one of the many dedicated volunteers who give up their time to support the Centre and have essential roles to play including collecting cats, cleaning pens, making enrichment objects and raising funds.  I got talking to a nice young lady who had just been sitting quietly with a nervous cat called Anya.  Anya had been found in a bin and needed a dedicated volunteer to spend time with, bonding and slowly building her confidence, learning to trust humans again.  I am so full of respect for this wonderful work that I gave the volunteer an extra firm head butt behind her knee and she rubbed my back in return.  Marvellous!

360 View – Of the homing corridor

We came to the end of our tour and Danielle walked us back out to reception as we discussed some of the key welfare issues facing cats today.  The importance of early neutering is fundamental to controlling unwanted cat populations and Danielle said that Cats Protection vaccinate kittens against disease at 8 weeks and neuter at 9 weeks to ensure healthy moggies all round.  The other big concern is the lack of microchipping in cats and Danielle looked sad as she told us about the many cats who become separated from their owners and brought in to care but end up being rehomed because their owners cannot be traced.  I told Danielle how worried I am about the cats and kittens that are sold cheaply or given away through online auction and sales websites.  Sadly many of these animals are destined for terrible fates.  But I was encouraged to hear that the Cats Protection advocacy team are working with some of the main online marketing sites to raise awareness of the plight of these animals so that improvements can be made.  I saw Tabitha on my way out and told her to be brave when she goes to her next home because there are some very nice humans out there who love animals and will understand her needs if she just gave them a chance.

Cats Protection’s Manifesto for Cats

 

 

Shad ponders the life of a foster cat

As I walked in, Jenny cocked her head curiously before continuing across the floor to a small set of steps.  She climbed the steps and a glimpse of a smile came my way before she hopped on to a large round bed placed neatly in front of the window.  I watched her turn round 3 times before sinking into the soft fibre of the brown stripy cushion and curling up for her mid-morning nap.  I was intrigued to find out more about this modest moggy so I trotted merrily up to the reception desk at the National Cat Centre with John to ask a few questions and was greeted by a lovely lady with dangly earrings.  I managed to contain my urge to swing at the shiny swaying objects hanging from her ears and found out that Jenny was a 14 year old tabby and white cat currently residing at the National Cat Centre in Chelwood Gate while she waits for a new forever home.

I looked around for another peek at gentle Jenny snoozing in the corner when another shiny object caught my eye.  Mesmerised, I wandered involuntarily towards the brightly decorated Christmas tree intent on claiming the string of glistening baubles as mine.  Thankfully John recognised the hypnotic look on my face and scooped me up before any tinsel-related incidents could occur.  As we ambled through the Centre I met many other cats waiting to be re-homed, like Duke a young ginger boy who pranced in front of the viewing window and gleefully played with the toy snake suspended in his pen.  It got me thinking about the life of a foster cat and I decided to find out more about their experiences.

To my delight, one cat inhabiting the pen was a fantastic fellow by the name of Marshall.  As you can see his long fluffy black and white fur and handsome set of whiskers are a joy to behold.  But this was not always the case.  When he arrived in the pen he was covered in fleas and his previous owner had sadly done nothing to help him with his flea allergy which left him itchy from nose to paw and covered in scabs and sore bits.  Now that he was safe and warm in the pen, the fosterer’s first job was to provide good food and fresh water and a dollop of flea treatment to get rid of those pesky biters.  The next morning there were dead fleas all over the shelves and the bedding and even floating in the water bowl so the fosterer got the mop out again and gave everything a freshen up.  Over the next couple of weeks Marshall got to meet the vet a few times and following a course of steroids and antibiotics, his dull patchy fur transformed into soft touchable goodness.  He had become more outgoing and friendly since the scratching had stopped and he was so grateful about feeling better that he had started hopping on to his fosterer’s lap to say thank you.

 

The charity pay for any veterinary treatment required as well as the cost of food, housing, heating, medication, blankets, bowls, baskets and toys.  Fosterers and other volunteers dedicate their time interacting with the cats, talking, stroking and playing as well as arranging appointments, providing transport, fund-raising, cleaning, arranging adoptions and seeking expert advice where necessary.  It’s easy to care for a cat like Marshall who is relaxed and confident but it’s more challenging with a cat like Mia the tabby and white who was previously teased by children leaving her unpredictable and defensive.  It takes an enormous amount of patience and understanding to care for a cat that hisses and scratches you.  But every good fosterer knows that each cat is the product of what the world has made it and even the nervous or angry ones given time and space can learn to trust and show affection, even if it is in their own funny way.   I show my affection to John every day with a rub and a purr and the occasional whack on the leg as he walks by.  He thinks it’s annoying but I see it as quirky!  Cat Protection never give up on any of the cats in their care and firmly believe that there is a home for each and every one.  By the way, Mia is settling well in her pen and has calmed down considerably now that she knows no one will bother her and Marshall has found a new owner who adores him and will no doubt cater for his every need.  Well done Marsh!

Shad pays homage to ginger cats

John and I recently bought a book called ‘Tigger – Memoirs of a Cosmopolitan Cat’ written by Tigger himself, an old chum of mine.  The book depicts the story of Tigger’s life and the adventurous years he spent in the forests and fields of America and Australia before coming to live in England’s green and pleasant land.  Tigger the tomcat was bold and brave, kind and funny, and he tells a great tale about his exploits like the day he met the kangaroos and the first time he saw snow.  Sadly Tigger is no longer with us, but his spirit lives on in the hearts of those who knew him and in the book he wrote.  Tigger was optimistic and unstoppable despite his shaky start in life and his mum describes him as clever and resourceful, a much loved member of the family.  He had a bright orange coat with a white face, chest and paws and remembering him has inspired me to talk to you about ginger cats.

 

Tigger

Tigger

Today I have decided that ginger cats rule and I have included a selection of pictures to demonstrate this!  Most ginger cats are male but not all of them are, like one of my old Cat Protection foster cat buddies who got picked up as a stray and named Garfield because she was ginger.  Everyone assumed she was a boy until a visit to the vet proved otherwise and she had a quick name change to Fluffy before being re-homed to a nice family.   Amongst the pictures are several of the ginger cats that have come through the adoption process like little princess Ellie, and 2 tiny kittens called Neelix and Marmelade who arrived to the fosterer full of worms and covered in fleas.  They were obviously given treatment and lots of love once in the care of the fosterer and have hopefully grown up to be happy healthy cats.  I only knew Mustard for a few days before she was taken to a different fosterer after she had an argument with her sister.  The fluffy one with his chest puffed out is Harry who lived in the pen last year for a few weeks before being re-homed with his brother Bertie.  Louis came into care with his sister Tilly and they were both re-homed last week to a lovely lady who has since informed Cat Protection that the cats are settling in well and getting spoilt every day.

 

Blacks ones, blue ones, silver ones and white ones, tabby, solid, smoke or point, we cats come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colours.   Tabbies can have narrow stripes that run parallel down their sides (called mackerel tabby) or a classic tabby pattern that has big blotches or swirls of colour.  Single colour cats are generally the result of a recessive gene that suppresses the tabby markings but sometimes you might see indistinct shadows of tabby patterns even on a solid black cat like me whose coat tends to ‘rust’ in the sunlight and turn a lighter brownish shade.  Then you’ve got the ‘black and whites’ like my mate Basil who is a bi-colour (half black and half white), while a mitted cat has just white paws and a cat with a white spot on its chest has a locket.

 

Contrary to popular belief, the colour of a cat’s coat is not linked to their personality traits and the perpetuation of this misconception has led to concern that feline ‘stereotyping’ is affecting adoption rates at animal shelters.  Research has shown that ginger moggies are the favourites, being perceived as friendly and loveable.  Some of my ginger mates are super affectionate like Rusty Lee who is my latest Cat Protection foster buddy (and is currently available for adoption).  On the other hand, my old chum Ginger is independent and aloof and prefers a dignified chat in the garden to rolling around on the floor gathering dust and rubbing cheeks.  Black cats are apparently still seen as mysterious and unlucky but I’m a black cat and I think I’m really rather lovely.  I’m sure John would agree although he might not have done this morning when I tried to steal his fried egg sandwich after he left it unattended!

 

Shad does the Cat Protection annual summer fête

I just love days like this, waking up to the sound of birds singing and the early morning sun warming the air, I felt an optimism that you feel when spring is just around the corner.  Overcome with an urge to share the moment with my John, I hopped on to the bed and stood on his chest as he lay there pretending to be asleep.  I started kneading the duvet and purring which is usually an effective way of getting the old fella to stir.  Failing that, a good chomp on a big toe does the trick!  Today we had plans that I was looking forward to – a hearty breakfast followed by a jaunt to Clapham Village Hall to show our support for the Cat Protection summer fête.

 

I had that Sunday morning feeling and was taken by the desire to appreciate the wondrous complexity of my environment.   Like the beauty of the flock of Canadian geese that flew overhead just as John was putting me in the car, the scent of the honey-suckle bush that grows underneath the lounge window, the simplicity of the life of the bumble-bee that buzzed happily across it’s flowers and the comfort of the motor vehicle that allowed us to travel several miles in a short space of time.  As I enjoyed my philosophical ponderings, I looked up at the sky and hoped that the dark clouds would clear in the time for the afternoon.

 

By the time John and I reached the Linga Longa Café in Findon, the rain was bucketing down and we both got wet just dashing from the car to the door.  They wouldn’t let me sit at the table due to health and safety regulations (although really I think it was because there were other customers there) so I had to eat from a plate on the floor which I’m not used to.  Nevertheless, I had a delicious cooked breakfast (which consisted of a fried egg, a rasher of bacon and some baked beans) which filled my tummy up a treat.

 

As we arrived at Clapham Village Hall for the fête, there were no marquees in sight, only the vibrant green grass of the rain-soaked fields that framed the venue.   Apparently the volunteers had tried to put the tents up but the strong winds had defeated them so all the action was to be held inside.  John carried me in (as I don’t like getting my paws wet) and I was greeted by lots of smiles and friendly caresses from many of the volunteers who know me and/or John from previous events as well as our photos.  I was in my element, surrounded by cats, cat people, cat pictures, cat paraphernalia and all things cat!  There was a lovely assortment of cats looking for new homes, like Widget (a cheeky 6 month old who charmed everyone with his playfulness) and Posh (an attractive black girl who had her eye on me).

 

Incidentally, do you remember Teddy and Tinks, the kittens I told you about a few weeks ago who came into care in a poor condition?  Well you’ll be pleased to hear that they have found a great new family to look after them.  And so has Jasmine, the shy black and white lady I befriended at my mate Ginger’s house.  Since Jasmine moved on, two brothers called Harry and Bertie (the fluffy ginger and black cats pictured here) took up residence in the pen but were soon re-homed to a nice family, which left a space for a lovely cat called Milly who I am hoping to meet next weekend.  You’ll also be pleased to hear that a few hundred pounds were raised at the fête which will go towards caring for the cats and cheeky Widget found a new home that day too.  The money was raised through generous donations, sales of cakes and drinks and cat related bric-a-brac.  But it wouldn’t surprise me if a large portion of the money came from John and a fosterer called Penny who went mad on the tombola, buying tickets galore.  Penny ended up with a bag full of goodies she could hardly carry and John won 3 cuddly toys, 2 bottles of beer, 2 bottles of wine, 1 bottle of coffee liqueur, a cat calendar and a bottle of mouthwash.  I guess we all know what to expect for our birthday presents this year!!

Shad and his mates

Here are some pictures of two very cute kittens that are currently residing in one of the Cat Protection’s pens in West Sussex.  Some of you may know that John takes photos of the cats for his friend who is a fosterer.  These two poppets came into care from a lady who had lots of cats that were breeding willy-nilly and had never received any veterinary treatment.  Unfortunately this type of situation has a terrible impact on the lives of the cats and the litters born to the females in the household, so these two cuties arrived in the pen with fleas, anaemia, cat flu and conjunctivitis.  Apparently many humans think cats that are related don’t mate but this is not true.  Nature has taught us cats not to be too fussy and it only takes an un-neutered male and female a few seconds alone to make the babies!  You’ll be pleased to hear that Teddy and Tinks are now flea-free, infection-free and feeling much healthier and happier.

 

The pretty black and white girl is a 2 year old domestic short hair called Jasmine who was surrendered by her owner because she was unhappy and refusing to come indoors, probably due to the noise levels in the house and the unruly children that were causing her stress.  She is friendly, gentle and playful, although a bit shy until she gets to know you.  She has a potential new owner coming to visit her next weekend so let’s hope she is lucky enough to find her forever home soon.

 

While John and I were in the garden, my mate Ginger came along to check out my photography equipment.  It was good to see my old buddy Ginge and he was very curious about my cameras.  So I started telling him about the importance of using light as a medium and how I store my digital image files, but he cheeky rascal fell asleep on my bag.

 

I also caught up with my good pal Muffin, the haughty black 5 year old who kept looking through my new binoculars last time I came to visit.  Muffin told me some bad news about my old chum Monty, a blue British Short Hair who was in the pen last year for about 10 weeks.  He was difficult to re-home because he has irritable bowel syndrome and can poop for England!  Fortunately, a nice lady saw past his dodgy tummy and fell for his charming and debonair personality.  Poor Monty was hit by a car a week ago and suffered some serious injuries.  To make matters worse, his owner who loves him very much did not have him insured.  Surgery, stitches, bandages, pain-killers, antibiotics and £2,600 later, he is now home but still not out of the woods.  His recovery will be slow and uncomfortable and his dedicated owner is caring for him while he is on cage-rest as well as working extra hours and taking in foreign students to pay off her credit card bills.  I’m sure you’ll join me in wishing Monty every bit of luck and I hope he pulls through.