If your cat is chewing non-stop household items around the home – edges of tables, shoelaces, sofas, objects – why is your cat doing this?
Destructive chewing inedible objects is called `pica’. There could be a number of reasons why your cat is chewing inedible objects including genetics, environmental triggers, stress, boredom or early weaning issues caused by diet. It is very dangerous if a cat ingests a non-edible object.
The first step is to take your cat to the vet to check whether there is a medical or behavioural issue that is causing your cat to chew. If your cat is healthy and there is nothing wrong with it, there are a few things that you can do at home.
If it’s down to boredom, you can provide your cat with additional stimulation and enrichment to occupy him/her. Have regular play times with your cat – try three daily 10 minute session so that your cat can play and be mentally stimulated daily. Interactive toys such as rotating balls and mouse games are very engaging. Interactive feeders are also a great way to entertain your cat. You can buy one or how about making a really simple and effective one out of reused plastic containers and toilet rolls. See the video below:
Toys with catnip are a great way to entertain your cat, so make sure you have a few catnip toys around that are extra strength to last a while. Creating places that are high to sit and chill are a great way to occupy your cat. Your cat may like to sit looking out of the windows too. We don’t have window sills where our cat can look out, so we put high stools by the front and back windows so that our cats can spectate the garden and outdoor goings on!
If you cat still persists in chewing, it may be worth giving him/her something safe to chew on, so for instance a softened hide stick that is large and not small that you cat could swallow it. Soften in water and keep an eye on your cat when they chew it. Remove any pieces that are small enough for your cat to swallow whole.
There is so much to tell about Leo, I had to write down his story to celebrate our wonderful boy’s life.
On the 8th April 2020, we took our beautiful boy, Leo, to the vets for the final time. He was a grand age of 20 1/2 years old, which is 98 in cat years. The amazing thing is he still looked like a young cat, a kitty. He looked so young, so serene. The most noticeable thing about Leo was the noble air he had about him. He was bold, stately and possessed almost a regal quality, so much so I called him Prince Leopoldo.
I first met him when he was around 6-8 months old, I can’t tell his age for sure as he had been rescued and they didn’t know his exact age. He had been dumped as a kitten on the Brecon Beacons in Wales and was infested with fleas and lice. He had been brought back by Last Chance Animal Rescue to Edenbridge in Kent, because, at that time, Wales euthanised homeless cats and dogs after one week. Hence he had a last chance offered to him by this wonderful charity.
In those days the charity housed all the cats in one `cat house’ where cats lived together until they were rehomed. I was off work and visited there with my sister one Thursday in October; she happened to be a home vetter with the shelter at the time. Of course I took my cat carrier just in case I found a suitable cat….not that I was looking (!) We took a donation of cat food and then wandered round the cat house browsing the cats, chatting to them and stroking the ones that would let us stroke them! There were a few hissers, usually the old ones who were probably fed up of strangers cooing at them and staring at them in the face.
A staff member came in to feed them all. My sister spotted a little black and white kitty running in the opposite direction, amongst this big group of cats. I hadn’t seen him. He was called Corky. Corky didn’t really want to know us, he didn’t come up to us and was skittishly running away. He was grabbed unceremoniously by the tail as it was the only way to get hold of him, and he was given to me. It was then I knew that this little bundle of Corkyness was coming home with me. He was perfect. We put him in the cat carrier and went to the office to sign the adoption documents. Suddenly a name came to me -`Leonardo’. It just flashed in my mind from nowhere and it was so apt for him. So his name became Leonardo Corky.
Bringing Leo home where he belonged
He was quiet in the car returning home, his carrier between my feet as my sister drove her two-seater sports car back to my place. I kept peering at him through the bars of the carrier, he was a bit bewildered but calm. I put him in the dining room alone, as I had to introduce him to my other cat, Luca. Luca had been the King Cat for a few months, so I wondered how they would get on. I went back into the room after an hour or so and couldn’t see him anywhere. I looked everywhere, even outside, and thought he had escaped, although I didn’t know how as the doors and window were shut. I was panicking and called my sister. She told me to look under the fire grate.
Sure enough, he was so tiny he had sneaked into the small hole under the Victorian fireplace grate as he must have been scared and overwhelmed. To go from a busy, crowded shelter with many cats to a large, empty room on his own must have been daunting and made him nervous. Bless him.
I remember the next morning I went down to see him and sat down on the floor with my back leaning on the radiator. He climbed onto my knees and started sneezing in my face as he had a cold. He had a cute sneeze, like a squeaky toy. And he was licking my chin area, something he would do for the rest of his life – always in the same place. We had bonded. I had a folding dining table and he would stand or sit under there when my friends and family came in to see him. He was shy and more wary than nervous, which was not surprising considering what he had been through at such a young age. He had travelled from Wales, lived in a communal cat house for a while and competed for food. He wouldn’t run and hide, he would stay somewhere where you couldn’t reach him! Cats are very good at doing that. It was a new world for him, nevertheless he settled in very quickly. He knew he was home and that I was his Mama.
Introducing Leo to Luca
The time came to introduce him to my other cat, Luca. Luca wasn’t impressed, and mostly remained like that with Leo. Although they did get on really, sometimes they would sleep and chill together. Leo was younger and playful. He would lie in front of Luca and start play fighting with him. Luca would just sit there looking down at him and tolerate it for a minute or two. Then suddenly they would be rolling around the floor with Luca really annoyed and miouwing and winning the play fight. They would thump each other with their back legs – no claws involved, thank goodness. Then Leo would start squealing and looking at me to rescue him! I would laugh and say, `You started it!’ They did that often, but it wasn’t real fighting so I wasn’t concerned.
When Leo was released from the dining room after a week, he wanted to sleep with me on the bed and be with me at night. It was Luca’s domain, however, Leo was so insistent and would continually miaouw and yowl loudly outside the door and claw the door until he could come in. This happened for a number of nights. Once I even blockaded the door with a pile of stuff so Leo couldn’t scratch at the door and try to open it. But his incessant miouwing until he got his own way meant that I would inevitably get out of bed and let him in. From then on he was a constant presence at night time, and I would wake up with him next to me with his head on the pillow! Luca didn’t want to share and stopped staying in the bedroom at night which was a shame as he wanted me all to himself.
Leo’s wake-up call
Leo was an extremely vocal cat. For the first two years living with me, he would miouw very loudly at 5 am for food and not stop until I rose out of bed and fulfilled his food need. He used to panic eat quite a lot. He would worry about running out of food and gulp it down quickly. I think it was probably because he went without food when he was dumped so young, and also had to eat his food quickly at the cat shelter, fearing that other cats would take his food.
So every morning I would get up like a barely-awake robot at 5 am to give him his food then go back to sleep. I did that for around 2 years and he grew out of it, but it restarted when he got older and ill.
Leo was a very lucky cat. He didn’t use any of his nine lives. His and Luca’s first home was my first floor Victorian apartment where he and Luca would come and go through the kitchen window, then down the slightly sloped roof, then onto the top of the fence then jumped down into the garden. That was their cat route. When I was out at work they would either be inside or outside and then come and go as they pleased when I was at home. There was a greenhouse in the garden below the kitchen window. It had a broken roof window and Luca had jumped down through the hole and had managed to exit without cutting himself. Leo, because he was younger and copying Luca to learn, copied Luca jumping into the greenhouse, but unfortunately cut his paw pad badly on the broken glass inside on the floor. I panicked and took him to a Sunday emergency vet in Streatham. He was absolutely fine.
Another time I was painting my flat just after I brought him home and he accidentally tipped a bottle of white spirit all over him when he was jumping around and exploring the kitchen. I immediately scooped him up, before he could lick himself clean, and put him in a bath of warm water and scrubbed and rubbed him for a good 20 minutes to get rid of the poisonous fluid on him. He didn’t like it and looked like a skinny, wet rat, but it was for his own good!
Apart from a slit ear through a fight with a persistent cat who occupied our garden, he was fit and healthy and didn’t suffer anything serious or accidental after that.
I have a phrase that I use: Leo Love. Because he really gave a lot of love. He had a lot of love inside of him and he showed dedicated love throughout his life. He came into my life when I didn’t have a lot of love, and didn’t feel very loved, although I had friends and family around me. And he showed me love and gave me love, which is exactly what I needed. He also showed me how to love, and I recognise that we both needed each other and we were together and connected for a reason. I will always be grateful to him for showing me such love and being a loving soul in my life. I kind of believe in reincarnation and perhaps our souls have always known each other and been connected in another life. That is how it feels.
Leo in life
Leo lived a very happy, fulfilled and peaceful life. In the early years with me when I was in my 30’s, I had a busy and social life, commuting to and working in London, long hours and going out with friends. He would be part of my parties at home with friends and family and took it all in his stride. I then worked from home for a number of years so I was lucky enough to spend a lot of time with my fur babies. Leo would be on my desk during the day. Luca would be there from 5 pm, before his dinner. They both had their desk routine!
Over 20 years he moved three times with me and when my partner, Mark, arrived on the scene he loved Mark dearly and Mark loved him. Mark was his Big Papa for 9 years. They were Big Papa and Little Papa. Leo was a huge part of our life throughout all the changes, ups and downs that life throws at you.
He would chill with us and our other cats in the living room in the evenings, and later in life, in front of the fire, just where he should be. He was like a Christmas card picture, him settled in front of the roaring fire. I would say he was warming his furry bones.
He had beautiful, smooth glossy fur, especially his white fur at the front was a beautiful, clean white. He would groom and keep himself clean. He had gorgeous green eyes, a bobble on the end of his tail and club-shaped paws. He had a lovely little black nose surrounded by white fuzz and with a small dot above it. He was a heavy and solid cat, probably because of the amount of food he ate, and a swinging furry tummy that never decreased in all his life. Our lovely vet, Phillip, said his bobble at the end of his tail was maybe because he was the runt of the litter and it had got squashed, so his delicate, kitten tail became slightly deformed. But we loved his special tail.
He was loyal and very close to me, like my attachment, and that happened from day two of bringing him home. He would love to rest his back leg on me when he was chilling, he loved me stroking him and was calm and still. I would take him up the stairs swinging him from side to side saying `swoop, swoop` as though he was flying through the air. He would hang around the bathroom. His tail was always upright in a straight, vertical line and when he jumped up, he would do it stylishly, crossing his legs in a sassy way and with a miouw. His hind legs were dainty and perfectly formed, and I called them his `chicken legs’. He would cross them regally.
He would lie with us or the other cats on the sofa, lie on my outstretched legs and just make himself comfortable. He was very good at stretching out and making himself comfortable, his back leg hanging down. I would turn his ears inside out. I couldn’t help myself as they used to stay inside out, the other cats’ ears didn’t. He would just let me do it and look at me as if to say, “Here we go again.” He would be still and let me pull him towards me and cuddle up lengthwise up against my arm or leg, a perfect fit. He would `surf’ against the heating vents and lie there getting nice and warm with the hot air. He would tolerate being picked up for probably one minute, then want to be put down. I would sometimes dance with him for about one minute before he had enough.
He had a very loud calling miouw, along with silent miouws and chirrups, and sometimes he would shake his head quickly, open his eyes wide looking at me and miouw, as though he was trying to tell me something. His little miouwing face would appear at the back door to be let in.
Leo’s pet names
I know I am not alone when I say pets pick up other pet names through their lives. Leo’s full name was Leonardo Corky. Leo because of my Italian heritage. His other main name was Boyo from a young age, because he came from Wales. Mark and I added to his names over the years. Prince Leopoldo because of his regal air. He even had his own cushion on the bed that I called his `throne’ as he loved to lie on it for years, until he became older and didn’t lie on it. I still have it on the bed. His other names are Bert (pub name), Paco (Spanish name), Pyewacket (witches’ cat name) and Little Papa. His military name was Private Corky as he would patrol the perimeter of the garden every night to warn off other cats.
Leo’s mouse game
He couldn’t really play well, he wasn’t co-ordinated enough. He would swipe at pieces of string or feather toys and bang his paw on the ground indiscriminately. I should have played with him a lot more to teach him co-ordination. He did play a game as a kitty though. He was very clever with this game. I would shake a toy mouse that rattled, say `mousey’ then throw it. Then Leo would run after the mouse, pick it up and put it somewhere for me to find! Then I would find it, pick it up, throw it and he would take it and put it somewhere else. How clever was he! He grew out of that game. I tried to reconvene his game a few years later but I think he had forgotten it or wasn’t as keen to play.
Leo loved his food, although he would panic eat from time to time. He didn’t have to, he had plenty of food and treats throughout his life. His favourite human foods were prawns, tuna, steak, chicken curry, raw beef mince. He absolutely loved his food and would sometimes sit there for a morsel or two at dinner time. We would chill together on a Saturday night and I would make a lovely dinner for myself, steak or curry. And we would share it, me feeding him and Luca tasty morsels. I have fond memories of those Saturday and Sunday evenings that we shared together. He became known as `Beefy Boy’ because of his love for steak and mince!
Leo’s social side
Leo was a social cat indeed. From a shy and wary cat, he became a social and friendly boy. He wasn’t a nervous cat, he had an underlying courage and stoicism. He would greet visitors coolly and casually. He knew who he liked. He would make himself at home on Mark’s mum’s knees when she visited, and he loved her making a fuss of him. He’d come and say hello to Mark’s dad, my mum and dad and visitors. He would go for an early evening walk and sit under the street light by the next row of houses. He would then stroll to my neighbour, Mel’s, French windows and sit looking at Popsy, her cat. They would make noises at each other and have a chat. Popsy passed and I like to think that they are taking a stroll with each other in the early evening, at around 7 pm.
I remember, when he was a kitty and first with me, my neighbour told me that he would sit on their patio and come into their kitchen during the day. At the time I was surprised as he was wary, but now I can see him doing that as he was cool and sociable.
Leo’s lack of hunting skills
As every cat owner knows, your cat is probably going to bring in prey, dead or alive. Leo didn’t have honed hunting skills, like Luca or Dolly has. I remember hearing a faint cheeping under the bed one warm afternoon and, looking underneath, saw a beautiful baby robin bird. It was just sitting there. Leo had brought it in and luckily it had survived, his teeth hadn’t harmed the bird at all. I stretched underneath the bed, gently held the robin and put it in a shoe box with holes in it.
I drove to our local wildlife hospital, 30 minutes away, looking at this robin who was looking at me from the box on the front car seat. I had opened the box in the car as the bird was still and seemed quite happy to just sit there. It was quite a surreal but lovely experience. The bird was checked out by the hospital and successfully released. So much for Leo’s hunting ability!
Leo and Dolly
We adopted our beautiful Dolly when she was five months old. We had been looking for a kitten and luckily Dolly was available for rehoming via a friend. At first, we separated her from Luca, Leo and Alfie for two weeks so we could introduce them gradually. When we gave Leo a preview, he came into the room, looked at her and immediately chased her, as she looked like a little ferret running from him and just like prey! We didn’t think it was going to go well and Leo was going to accept her. But how wrong we were. They became buddies and friends, sharing the beds and sleeping together like two furry bed mates. Very often I would have one each side of my legs snuggled right up against me so I couldn’t move! They would chill together in the garden and Dolly loved Leo very much. She would always want to be near him and reach out to play with him or swipe him, and he was very calm with her. Occasionally Leo would groom her tail and got a mouthful of fluff.
Leo’s health was excellent through his life. The only thing that Leo suffered with was his poor teeth. He had really bad teeth and gums which must have been painful for him throughout his life. He had a tooth extraction and one tooth came out at the vets. I tried to brush his teeth with cat toothpaste but it didn’t work. He didn’t eat much dry food which helps with descaling cats’ teeth. The kibble would fly out of the side of his mouth through his teeth gaps, so that didn’t help his dental health. It was funny when food flew out from his mouth. He would tend to suck in his food rather than eat it with his teeth and chew; just like a hoover!
Leo had a funny and cute twitch. He would twitch his head backwards suddenly and blink. It started to happen when he was around 12. The vet said it was neurological and nothing to worry about.
When he was around 17 1/2 he developed hyperthyroidism which is quite common in cats. The vets spent months trying to ascertain the right dosage for him. He started to eat more and was on medication for the rest of his life. One thing with giving Leo’s medication – he always managed to avoid it in his food! He just would not eat the patch of food that had the meds `hidden’ in it. He was way too smart for that. So any meds I would have to give to him orally, which meant me unceremoniously tilting his head back and popping the tablet or liquid into the back of his throat. It was the only way to medicate him.
We moved to the South Coast in 2018 to the beautiful house we live in now. He made the most of our house and he mainly stayed in the bedroom lying on the bed. He was happy and comfortable. Luckily our vet, Phillip, found the right dosage for him after months of trials and blood tests. But Phillip found another problem, a growth or mass internally. Leo went for a scan and his kidneys were enlarging and there was a lump. We had the choice of surgery to find out what it was, but because of his age we decided not to put him through that. Phillip said that was fine, and he wouldn’t know about it anyway.
Leo was with us for another 18 months, which is amazing. His health did deteriorate over time, but not drastically so. His hyperthyroidism remained stable, however in time his kidneys weren’t functioning well. I would often wonder how much longer we had with him, and we are so grateful for the two Christmases we spent together.
He would lay on the bed all day and night with the exception of getting up for food and to go outside to toilet. That was his daily routine. Mark would escort him outside, even at 10 pm, midnight or 5 am. He started to yowl 2-3 times a night for food, so our sleep was broken and we had to bring his bowl and cat food into our bedroom in the end so that Leo and we didn’t have to keep going downstairs to feed him. It was like having a baby. He would then eat, go outside on the landing and yowl then come back onto the bed. He found it difficult using the cat flap with his arthritic limbs, but sometimes he would slip out of the cat flap at 5 am, yowl outside to come in or then come inside and yowl very loudly. He was so loud when he yowled, like a baby crying, and even our neighbours heard him! Mark said when he came back in from outside and yowled, he was announcing his arrival.
He had dementia too, so he would forget he had food, and a full food bowl, and cry for more. The vet said we could give him treatment for his dementia, but we didn’t like the thought of giving him more drugs, and he seemed happy enough. We think he was deaf as his ears stopped twitching and turning round for sounds and he wouldn’t hear us come in or speak to him. He always looked surprised if we crept up on him! I would say Boyo in my voice to him near his ears and onto his head so he could feel the vibration. He would also drink a lot and regularly because of his kidneys; there was always a full glass by the bed. He would position himself and his legs to drink it, sometimes clawing the bedside table to stabilise himself as he leaned forward slightly with straight legs. I put the glass on a book so it was the right height for him to drink from. I did try the glass of water on the floor, but he wouldn’t drink from it on the floor! Not once did he knock or spill this glass that teetered on the side of the table on a book. Not once. In fact, the night before we went to the vets for the final time, I brushed the glass and spilled it! I thought, how ironic. He was a clever boy.
Occasionally he would go outside into the garden and stay in the sun for a while, but not for as long as he used to. When we lived in our second home he loved to be outside in the garden that backed onto woods and our cats could freely roam around. It was heaven for them. He would lie on the large, bottom step of our wooden pergola or the broad sleeper in the raised bed, or under a shrub bush with our other cat, Dolly. Those were his favourite garden spots. When he went into our current garden, Dolly would run towards him and lift her paws; she wanted to play. But Leo was past playing and any over-physical activity and simply plodded on through the garden. He wasn’t allowed in our front garden because we didn’t want him to escape onto the street and get lost. It was such a shame as it is lovely and quite large and he would have loved it if he had got to know the area better.
Leo was still physically good in later years, although he was stiff. He half-jumped down the stairs in bunny hops and slowly and methodically made his way up them. He would jump on the bed in a two-step approach. After he passed I found his small claw marks under the covers on the bed frame where he would get a grip with his back legs to push himself up.
The end came when Leo only ate a small amount of his food. It happened really quickly, over 2-3 days at the weekend. We knew that something was wrong as Leo never left his food uneaten, he was listless and he had an infected smell about him. We also knew because he did not want to toilet outside, looking inside for somewhere to go. That was another big sign as he was so steadfast and fastidious about doing his business routine. So I took him to the vet on Tuesday 7th April and it was sad news. The blood test had revealed his kidneys were off the scale and could not process the toxins in his blood and body. He had lost a kilo in weight. We had two choices: the vets rehydrate him for two days or put him to sleep. Phillip, our vet, said the rehydration treatment may not work, or it may take longer. Because of his age, we didn’t want to put him through that, and it was a temporary measure anyway, as his kidneys were not good. So we made the sad and traumatising decision. It had to be within 24 hours because he was going to get worse and it wasn’t fair on him. The additional pressure was that the kind vet whom he knew was on leave the day after, and we wanted Phillip to be with him.
That last night with him was so awful. I woke up in the middle of the night with a heavy and dark feeling. He didn’t want food at 3 am which was not like him at all. To know that you are putting your beloved pet to sleep, and they don’t know and you can’t tell them, is the worse thing. To know that you have a finite number of hours left after all your years together is heartbreaking. It was like an invisible countdown clock ticking away, looming ever nearer with each second and minute. I understand the Grim Reaper now. We made the appointment at 5 pm on Wednesday 8th April, the latest time so that we could spend the day with him. He was very still on the bed. We spoiled him with his favourite foods, mince beef and tuna, and even then he couldn’t finish it. I hand fed him some of it. We talked to him and cuddled him. I photographed and video’d him a last message telling him how much we loved him and to come back and see us.
His beautiful green eyes looked at me. It was like he was there in body, but not in spirit. He was disinterested and a shell of his former self. His skin had started to sag and his tail fur was looking bedraggled. But the strange thing is he looked well until the end, he didn’t look sick, weak or ill. His fur was beautiful and smooth and his face looked the same as it always did. I felt sick as I cut small chunks of his fur so I could keep a part of him.
He spent 20 minutes in the garden. The sun was shining and it was quite warm. It was lovely to see him sunning himself on his favourite spot on the patio and settle in the shade. He shut his eyes in the sun and sniffed the air. It was almost as though he was having a last moment in the garden and in the sunshine, feeling warmth and light on his furry bones. We took him to the front garden where He got into there once and I had to chase him to take him back through the side gate and into the back garden. But he wasn’t really interested, had enough and we took him inside.
Because of this wretched coronavirus situation, we couldn’t be with him and hold him until the end. We would have chosen to have him go to sleep at our home, however that choice was taken away from us. So we were comforted that Phillip would be putting him to sleep. Phillip had been his vet since we moved and he was kind and gentle with Leo and Leo felt comfortable with him. It was the worst thing going to the vets in the car. There were many tears and I held him on my lap, holding his head to steady him, as he disliked being in the cat carrier. At the vets, he was miouwing loudly as he wasn’t feeling good and hated the travelling. We put him in the cat carrier and set him down and he was still miouwing and unhappy. We spoke to Phillip through the window and I was bawling my eyes out. It was horrible. We said goodbye to Leo for the final time. Mark had picked and placed our garden primroses into his carrier so he had a bit of the garden with him. The last I saw of him was him miouwing on the concrete ground in his carrier, next to the vet nurse. It wasn’t dignified enough for Leo, he deserved far better than this.
The vet said they could sedate him and bring him out and we could have our last moments in the car with him. But that, again, wasn’t dignified enough for our Leo. We had said our goodbyes and we left distraught and in tears.
It should have been us carrying him in and being with him to the last second of his life on earth, but that couldn’t be and we were resigned to that. It is strange because I, like every pet owner, dreaded those last final moments with Leo. However, I have been told by an animal welfare expert that it is the best thing you can do for your pet, to be with them at the end. And that will always hurt us knowing that. But in a way, because I dreaded it so much and had thought about it for many years before, maybe Leo had a hand in that. Because he was stoic and brave and he would have been fine.
He had been so stoic and beautiful right until the end. What a clever and amazing boy he was.
We came back and sat in the garden in the late afternoon sun and talked about Leo knowing the deed was probably done by then. We both felt numb. Then Mark went upstairs to his office for 10 minutes and came back to the garden. He said that a small bird had flown to the window, landed on a broadband cable that hung outside the window and had looked straight at him, then flew back to the laurel bush. I was watching the bird flit backwards and forwards in the garden. The bird did this four or five times, and it hasn’t happened before or since. We believe it is a sign from Leo that he is free.
During the days after, I felt a brush of his fur on my finger in bed and heard his claws scratching on the bedside table as they did when he drunk his water from his glass. Mark sees flashes of a moving shadow from the corner of his eye, and we have experienced that with Luca who passed in 2016. They say that your pets come back with signs, and Leo has come back. We believe he and Luca are all around us, and we talk to them all the time.
I miss Leo terribly, we both do. Mostly when I wake up and go to bed as he was always with me on the bed. I reach out to stroke his lovely, furry body and solid ears and he isn’t there. He leaves an emptiness that you cannot fill ever again. Our Dolly missed him for the first week, she didn’t eat and was looking for him. She looked lost and sad. Alfie, our other cat, couldn’t care less! We have left his food bowl and mat where it is and his medicine spoon unwashed.
Life’s full circle
The day before he passed, I gave him a bath because his fur was in poor condition and it needed it as he had stopped grooming himself. I wanted him to be clean again and didn’t want him to go to the Rainbow Bridge with mucky fur. It was like he was a tiny kitten again with me washing the white spirit off him in the bath with warm water. It is strange how life can be a full circle and repeats itself. Of course he didn’t like it, like the first time, and I dried him off with my hairdryer on a low heat, and he sat in the afternoon sun.
For the last three months he had a cold and was sneezing. When I first brought him home from the animal sanctuary, he had a cold. He would sneeze exactly the same as when he was a little kitty, like a squeaky toy and so cutely. That sneezing was our bonding on our first day together, and it was part of our last weeks too. He gave me a weak lick on the chin on his last day, just like he did on the first day of our lives together, albeit his kitty lick was a lot more energetic.
I had been ill with bad viruses three times and had surgery on my foot. When I was sick and bed-ridden, Leo had always been there by my side, lying with me in bed and being a significant comfort to me. I had hoped that Mark and I had done the same for him when he needed us and his health was failing.
When you lose a pet, some people may think `so what, it’s only a cat.’ But pet bereavement is a very real and valid experience to go through, as a pet is part of your family. They give you unconditional love and are always with you, through every moment, life phases and changes, sharing your life for many years. So when Leo passed, it left a huge black and white, furry hole in our lives. We miss his traits, quirks and characteristics. We miss his yowling and sounds, we miss talking to him and his gentle and calm ways. Most of all we miss his physical presence in our family and home. It is remarkable how much that presence is missed and deprived from you, because he was always with us.
In the first few days I felt anxiety and a panic at the thoughts I would never see him again or touch or stroke him. We collated and looked through all of our photos and videos of him and we have hundreds, so that gave some comfort, although it isn’t the same of course.
Leo was stoic to the very end and we will always love him. He is always in our hearts, with Luca, and is always a part of our family. We will come to celebrate him more when the pain subsides, but the grief is always there. It comes in pangs and waves, creeping up and overtaking your emotions and thoughts. Then it goes, then it comes. You learn to accept death, but you never get over it. You live with it.
We know that Leo is in a `better place’ as they say. Phillip, our vet, sent a lovely card saying that we did the right thing and it stopped him suffering. He said that Leo’s end had been peaceful, he hadn’t struggled or shown distress. That gave me great comfort because you always wonder. Was it too soon, was it too late, did I do the right thing? I joined pet bereavement Facebook Groups after Leo’s death to make sense of it and be part of an empathetic group who understands what you are going through, because we are all going through the same emotions and thoughts. And guilt comes up time and again. You question your actions and the impact it has on your pet. I wanted to have him for another week, but that was my selfishness taking over, and to make that huge decision on Leo’s final end within 24 hours seemed rushed. But it was the right choice for Leo, because he was not going to get any better. He deserved his dignity. We have to do what is right for our pet, rather than what is right for us as their guardian. We believe that it was Leo’s time and that was what Leo wanted.
Leo’s ashes arrived a week later in a box. Strangely, the box has a shadowy, sunlit woodland image on it, similar to the woods that he used to wander through for 15 years. I peered inside and was fascinated that it was Leo. The dust and ashes, the finality of it all in a small plastic bag, in a box. But I know Leo is not in that box. He is a free spirit, a young kitty again without suffering and pain. And it brings tears to my eyes to write this tribute, but I know he will always be our Leo and around us. He is free like a bright, beautiful butterfly emerged from a cocoon, in the sunlight, happy and vibrant. That is all that matters for our beautiful Boyo, and what he deserves.
We love you, Boyo. And we miss you terribly. When the primroses come out every year we will think of you in the garden, in the sun. Thank you for being such an important and special part of our lives. All our love forever, and ever.
Getting a pet can seem like such an exciting idea that it can often be easy to overlook the responsibilities and costs which ultimately come with owning any animal. Without properly considering whether a cat is suitable for you, your lifestyle and your purse an impulse decision can lead to cats (and any pet) ending up at a rescue shelter when the realities have sunk in.
I have worked in animal rescue and have seen first-hand when kittens and cats get dumped and the heartbreak of it all.
There are many reasons why a kitten or cat will get dumped and end up in rescue shelters. Reasons include:
Cat grows up and isn’t a cute kitten anymore
Lack of adequate space
Lack of money for food and vet bills
Not realising that a cat is not a toy and needs responsible looking after and feeding, vaccinations, worming and de-fleaing
Older cats get dumped when they develop health issues and the regular vet bills are too expensive
Cats not being neutered, ending up in fights and ending up with high vet bills
Cats not being neutered, getting pregnant from 6 months of age and ending up with unwanted kittens
Owners move away and leave the cat behind
Owners cannot take cats to a new rental property that doesn’t allow pets
Owners get new dog (after the cat) and the cat is offloaded somewhere else. Some cats can get very stressed living with dogs if they are not used to them.
Owner becomes old, moves to a care home and the cat cannot be taken with them
Lack of time to spend with the cat
Cat sheds too much hair
Cat scratches the furniture and around the home
Cat has fleas (the owners don’t de-flea or look after their cats then don’t want them when fleas appear)
All of the above are real reasons for cats and kittens ending up dumped. If they are lucky enough, they end up in a rescue centre so at least they have a second chance to find a new home.
So with all the potential problems of having a cat or kitten and it not working out, I thought it may be useful to list what you will need to think about to help decide whether a pet cat or kitten is going to be suitable for you, your family and your home. This is a realistic checklist with top tips on what to consider.
The most important question is…
1. Are you prepared to care for a pet for its whole life?
When you adopt a cat/kitten you’re committed to caring for it for its entire life, and if you get a cat when they’re young this can be for an average of 15 years! Cats can live until 20 + years, our cat Leo is now 19 years old!
You and your family should be in complete agreement that you are committed to loving and looking after your cat for life. If you’re considering getting a cat you should also think about where and what you’ll be doing in 2028. For instance, what are the chances of you moving house that will continue to be suitable? Are your hours changing at work? Are you planning more children? Are you going to get a dog? If your situation is likely to change, make sure that you have a solid plan of who will be taking care of your pet if you aren’t able to.
2. Will a kitten/cat fit into your lifestyle?
Your little, playful kitten will need a lot of attention and shouldn’t be left alone for long periods of time. All kittens need to be socialised and interact with humans so that they grow up being confident cats that are used to human touch and interaction. Unsocialised cats can be aggressive, scared and even on the feral spectrum if they don’t interact regularly with humans.
Cats, although they are independent, do need lots of attention and care. They still need feeding and fresh water and if they use a litter tray, their litter tray will need to be kept clean etc.
So if you work long hours, are out and about for long periods of time, go away a lot on holidays, a cat/kitten won’t be the best choice for you to fit into your busy life. It isn’t fair for any pet to be left alone without their human owners for long periods.
3. Do you like a pristine home?
Make sure you consider the extra house work that comes with owning a pet, and if you’re house proud think about the amount of hair that a cat can shed. There are some great pet vacuum cleaners on the market that work really well. However your cat can also cough up unattractive fur balls and be sick over the carpet and floor, so be aware! You will also get pet hair on your clothes. I have one of those sticky clothes hair removers that I use everywhere – on bed linen, sofas and clothes!
Cats will usually shed more hair with the onset of summer and warmer weather. However if the heating is on during winter, they will still shed hair all-year-round. Regular grooming does help to remove cat hair, however doesn’t stop malting altogether.
4. Do you have enough space for a cat?
A cat likes its own space and territory and will require special, safe places in your home where they can retreat to and sleep. If you have more than one cat/kitten you will need some space for both cats to have their own spaces and areas in the house so there is no competition that can lead to fighting and stress.
We have three cats (we did have four) and a large house where they could all have their own bedroom/area to sleep and chill. Two cats in a one bedroom home isn’t going to work very well and can lead to territorial problems and stress for both cats – even fighting and aggression. Remember that you will also need to share yourspace with the cat. So that will mean living areas and/or sleeping areas if you allow your pet into the bedroom.
5. Do you have outdoor access?
Although there are indoor cats for a good reason – i.e. FIV infected cats – we believe that ALL cats should have access to the outdoors. It isn’t fair to keep a cat indoors as they are naturally inquisitive and curious and love to roam, wander, venture and even sleep outside. It’s in their nature to be outdoors and they live a more fulfilled life.
So, do you have outdoor access that is safe and secure? A garden or yard is perfect, or some people install “Catios” which are secure and enclosed and still give outdoor access to a cat.
Cat flaps should be installed so that the cat can come and go as it pleases. Some owners prefer to lock cat flaps at night. We tried locking our cat flap, however with our four cats it was difficult, as they all came and went at different times so we gave up! Also Dolly is extremely clever and actually unlocks the cat flap. Can you believe that!!!
6. Are you on or near a busy road?
Busy roads are a real threat to a cat and believe me when I tell you about the amount of fatalities I have heard about cats being run over, including my niece’s cat which was found in the middle of the road by my sister. A neighbour’s cat got clipped by a car and had horrendous injuries including a broken jaw. The vet bill came to over £5000. Heartbreaking.
If you live on a busy road, think seriously about getting a cat. A cat can be injured or killed by traffic. There are rollers that you can get to put on top of a fence to prevent them getting over a fence and these could be installed. However with a cat’s tendency to roam and be free, it’s never guaranteed that they wouldn’t reach a busy main road via another route, perhaps via a neighbour’s garden and hopping over other fencing or going through hedge and fence holes.
So please think twice if you live on a busy main road.
7. Can you afford the expense of having a cat?
In 2015 12% of pet owners admitted that they thought their pet would only cost £500 over their entire lifetime, whilst actually a cat can cost £17,000 in its lifetime. That’s a huge commitment for anyone.
Having and looking after any pet is going to be expensive. A cat/kitten is no exception. You will have to pay for:
Cattery charges when you are on holiday. On average, catteries or cat feeding can cost between £5 to £30 a night
All of these costs add up and in order to keep your pet happy, healthy and fulfilled and are quite an expense. Be aware that pet insurance increases in costs as your pet gets older. Some people do not take out pet insurance at all or stop paying insurance when their cat gets older because the premiums are too high. This means that if their pet is involved in an accident or becomes ill, the cost will be high in vet bills.
Insurance for a cat can range from £10 to £30-plus depending on the age and condition of the cat. You will also need to factor in insurance excess payments which don’t usually cover treatment or consultation under £80-£100. There are also many exemptions when it comes to pet insurance that aren’t covered by a policy, such as dental care and pre-existing conditions. Some conditions that arise may only be covered for one year and capped. Always read the fine-print so you know exactly what your pet policy covers.
A main factor when cats – or any pet – ends up at a rescue centre is the realisation of the costs involved when owning and looking after a pet.
A big reason for the sad dumping and neglect of older cats is because insurance premiums sky rocket and get too expensive or cat owners don’t take out insurance at all because of the cost. So these poor cats are dumped and left when they become ill or develop ongoing conditions associated with old age, including kidney and thyroid problems. Cats are very prone to conditions when they are older, so be aware that you may need ongoing veterinary treatment for them should they develop an illness or condition.
8. Do you understand what’s involved in caring for a pet cat?
Every owner should look after their pet properly and consider the 5 Key Welfare Needs that are:
Place: a suitable environment, clear of any poisonous or hazardous items and with access to their own bed where they can rest.
Diet: a suitable healthy diet and access to clean water.
Behaviour: the ability to exhibit normal behaviour patterns.
Love: care, attention and companionship. You should also consider whether your pet will need to be housed with or apart from other animals.
Health: protection from pain, suffering, injury and disease.
This responsibility forms part of the UK’s Animal Welfare Act 2006. Section 9 of the Animal Welfare Act places a duty of care on people to ensure they take reasonable steps in all the circumstances to meet the welfare needs of their animals to the extent required by good practice. Read more on RSPCA’s website here
Of course with new cat and pet owners, you can very much learn on the job. However, it is worth considering all of these questions before entering into getting a cat so that you are fully prepared with the information you need to make the best decision for you and a cat.
9. Would you mind a cat scratching?
A cat’s claws can scratch furniture and scratch into rugs, carpets and sofas. Cats have a natural tendency to mark their territory around the home and also condition their claws, although this can be done outside in the garden. An ideal solution is to make sure they have a scratching post from the outset so they can scratch to their heart’s content. Be aware though that a cat may still decide to go off-piste on the scratching front!
NEVER EVER declaw a cat. This is not a solution to scratching and is extremely cruel and painful for the cat: declawing has been banned in some countries. To give you an analogy, declawing if performed on a human being, would be like cutting off each finger at the last knuckle. It will cause physical harm and back pain to your cat and also change their behaviour such as when using a litter box, aggression or biting. There is an informative article on the Humane Society website – the facts about declawing a cat.
Some suggest to clip the sharp very top points off the cat claws; however this could still mean that the claws will catch fabrics and materials and the cat can still scratch, so personally I don’t see much point in that. The key thing here is if you don’t want a pet that may scratch furniture, the sofa, the carpet etc then don’t get a cat!
10. Do you have pets already? Is it a good idea to introduce a new animal?
If you do already own other pets you should think carefully about whether it’s a good idea to introduce a new cat to the mix. If you aren’t sure how it will work out, then seek advice from your vet or a professional animal behaviourist.
A cat may take exception to a dog being introduced to ‘their’ home if they are not used to a dog and have been the only cat in the house, or are already living with another cat. I have known where two cats have been rehomed because they became stressed and anxious when the owner decided to get two new Labradors. This is really common because an owner doesn’t consider the cat and how it will react. So please think carefully.
If you have an older cat, think about whether it’s fair to introduce a new kitten to the household as some cats prefer to have you all to themselves. In fact, a cat at any age may take exception to another cat being introduced to the household and may hate it. If you are thinking about getting a pair of cats it generally does make sense to adopt two cats from the same litter.
I know a family who introduced a younger 6 month old cat to the household and they already had a quiet, older cat. The younger cat took over and became territorial and aggressive to the older, passive cat, attacking her and the owners. It was so bad they considered rehoming one of their cats.
So please think carefully when thinking of adding to your cat household as living with a consequence that doesn’t work well will turn out stressful for you and your cat.
I hope this helps with your cat decisions. If you do decide to bring a cat into your home, I thoroughly recommend it. It’s also worth remembering that there are many, many kittens and cats that haven’t had the best start or time in life, so please think about adopting rather than buying a cat. Get in contact with your local cat rescue centre who will be pleased to match you with your puuurfect cat friend.
Cats unfortunately cannot sweat like humans can and will feel the heat in hot weather. Here are our top tips for keeping your cat a cool cat!
Because cats don’t sweat like humans do, they find it hard to regulate their temperature. Heatstroke in cats results from a sudden rise in body temperature. This is called hyperthermia and occurs when an animal is no longer able to self-regulate their temperature. Heat stroke can be fatal for a pet, so it is important to recognise the early signs in order to seek medical help as soon as possible. Signs of heatstroke can include the following symptoms:
rapid and heavy panting
weakness or collapse
loss of appetite
increased temperature and feeling hot to the touch
drooling and dribbling
dark red or purple gums and tongue
Other symptoms can include distress, which could be vocalisation or miowing, restlessness, excessive thirst and drinking, glassy eyes, a racing heart, unconsciousness or seizure.
If you suspect that your pet is suffering from heatstroke, you should move them immediately to a cool and shaded area and contact your vet immediately. You can also cool your pet’s body with a fan. Cool their body and head by wetting with tepid water and if you are travelling to the vet, continue to do this. Do not use or immerse your pet in very cold water as this can cause their body temperature to drop rapidly which is harmful. Offer your pet a small amount of cool water to drink. Be careful that they do not gulp down excessive amounts as this can cause vomiting which leads to further dehydration.
Most insect bits cause minor irritation and can be treated by you at home. Cats can play with insects and bees, our Dolly certainly chases them round the garden!
If an insect bites your cat, apply either a cold, damp towel or ice pack wrapped in a clean towel to the bite area. This reduces pain and swelling. It is best that you monitor your cat for any signs of an allergic reaction to the bite or sting. An allergic reaction/s can include swelling, difficulty in breathing, disorientation, collapse and/or sickness. If any of these symptoms occur, contact your vet straight away.
If a bee stings your cat you can remove the stinger by scraping a credit card edge or similar plastic card over the affected area. Avoid using tweezers as this can result in more venom being released into the body. Wasps don’t leave stingers behind. You can then then wash and bathe the area to neutralise the sting with bicarbonate of soda mixed with a small amount of water.
For wasp stings, use vinegar and apply with cotton wool as well as apply an ice pack or cold, damp towel to the affected area.
If your pet has been stung in the throat or mouth, multiple times and/or is showing signs of an allergic reaction after being stung, then contact your vet immediately. If you cat is stung, monitor your cat for 24 hours after as reactions can be delayed. Do not give your cat antihistamines unless your vet has prescribed them and has instructed you to do so.
Indoors or outdoors?
There is some advice out there to keep your cat indoors between 11am – 3pm, but you try keeping a cat indoors, especially when it is hot and humid! A cat will rarely sit in the blazing sun anyhow and will find a cool spot to snooze and rest. As long as your cat can keep cool and has access to shady and cool places out of the sun, that is all that matters. On hot days, keep an eye on your cat to ensure they are not being affected by the heat.
Make sure that there is plenty of fresh drinking water for your cat so that your cat can have a drink when he/she needs to. Keep plenty of bowls of water indoors and outdoors in the garden. Cat fountains are great because it keeps the water flowing to give fresher water and encourages cats to drink more. It’s important to leave water for your cat at all times during the year, not just in hot weather. Older cats can be vulnerable to dehydration, so make sure you cat is drinking regularly.
Dehydration in cats
It’s worth finding out a bit more about keeping cats hydrated. Cats are made up of approximately 80% water and a loss of 10% of a cat body’s water can have serious consequences in hotter weather. According to a PetSafe® survey where 500 dogs and cats were surveyed, 60% of cat owners are unsure of the amount of water to give their cats to drink. It also hilights that owners would not necessarily know the signs of hydration. For instance, the survey revealed that 40% thought that panting was a sign of dehydration when it is actually a sign that a cat is anxious and may have an underlying health issue. Signs of dehydration include lethargy, dry and sticky gums, depression, appetite loss and sunken eyes. Dehydration in cats can cause serious health issues such as urinary tract infections and kidney disease. Do not give your cat milk to drink as this can cause diarrhoea and stomach problems. When it is warm and hot, keep an eye on your cat or kitten and if you are in any doubt, contact your vet immediately.
Provide shady areas
Cats will often disappear in hot weather and heatwaves to find a nice, cool and shady spot outside or inside.
Make sure that there are cool, shady areas in the garden where your cat can rest out of the sun. You can rearrange plants and pots to create a cool spot, or move garden ornaments around to create shady parts. Cats prefer cool earth, wood or grass to lie on rather than tarmac, stone or cement which heats up and can get very hot in the sun.
For an indoor cool space, you can draw the curtains in your coolest room in the house to make the room more cool and block out the sun. Cats like a breeze, so open a window, but please read our paragraph below about open windows that are high up. You could also place a small fan in the room to create a gentle breeze, if you cat doesn’t mind a fan blowing!
Replace any blankets or warm material bedding with a cool sheet, preferably cotton, so that their bedding is not too hot. Some cats like a wet towel to lie on, but check what your cat prefers. One of our cats loves to lie on paper or newspaper in hot weather, so you could even try that!
You can put a small fan on for your cats with a wet towel near to the fan that will help to cool the air down as it blows. You can also buy cooling pads for cats (they are also available for dogs). A cooling mat has an inner gel lining that keeps the mat surface temperature cool in hot weather and is an ideal way to reduce your cat’s body temperature. Make sure that you buy a large enough cool pad for your cat to sit and lie down on and wipe it clean regularly.
Grooming is important for cats, especially for those with long hair and extra fur. A cat will groom itself to keep itself cool, although this isn’t a very efficient cooling mechanism. A cat’s fur acts as insulation and keeps him or her from overheating. A coat that is smooth and tangle-free will help to protect your cat’s delicate skin and keep them cool. Give your cat a regular daily groom with a grooming brush so that their fur is smooth during the hot weather.
Pale and white cats and sun damage
Cats that are pale and white in colour are extremely vulnerable to sunburn, particularly on their noses, ears and where they don’t have much fur to protect them. Other cats may have lighter and white parts, such as on their ears and snouts. Sun burn can lead to skin cancer in cats which may result in surgery, or in extreme cases, amputation. When your cat is outdoors, use a non-toxic, pet specific sun block on your cat’s areas that are exposed to sun burn and check and apply regularly. Do not use human sun creams as some include ingredients such as salicylates, propylene glycol and zinc oxide which are toxic to pets.
If you cat does get burned, then use a cold flannel to soothe the burned area. If your cat’s skin looks burned, sore, crusty or with pus, then contact your vet immediately for advice.
Kittens are active most times during the day, but it’s best not to over-exert your kitten in the hot weather. Rather than play with them during the day when it is hotter, play with them in the early morning and evening when cool.
Cats and open windows
Cats love a cool breeze and fresh air. If you have an indoor cat, then be very careful when opening windows in hot weather. Cats will jump from high windows and can seriously hurt themselves and in fact this is quite common during hot weather. Thousands of cats with serious injuries are treated every year after falling from heights when their owners open the windows. Sadly some do not survive their injuries.
To prevent cats from danger and jumping from open windows you can consider installing tip and tilt windows that allow air into a room but not cats to get out. Alternatively a cheaper option is to secure a screen across the windows when they are open to prevent cats escaping. Make sure that the screen is properly fixed and secure. When windows are open, you should regularly check your cat is not trying to get out and paw at the screen or window. Avoid netting or any material as a window screen as this could cause your cat to get their claws stuck.
When opening windows and doors in summer, make sure that you wedge something in to keep it open, as if there is a cool breeze or wind, the window or door could quickly snap shut and potentially harm your cat or kitten if it gets caught when walking or stepping through.
There are a few winter hazards that may harm or threaten your pet. So we’ve put together an easy checklist so that you can ensure that your cat (and dog) is safe and protected through the winter months.
Grit or rock salt on paws
In wintry, icy conditions very often road/street grit or rock salt is spread on roads, pavements and paths. This grit and rock salt is toxic to cats and dogs and could cause diarrhoea, skin irritations, vomiting, kidney failure and, in extreme cases, brain damage.
Dogs and cats could become ill after walking through the grit on the ground and then licking the substance off their irritated paws. The grit when ingested will develop an irritation of the gastro-intestinal tract leading diarrhoea and vomiting and, in extreme cases, the grit salt could also affect the kidneys and brain.
So when walking your dog or letting your cat out, please be vigilant and examine their paws to make sure that they have no grit on their paws or between their toes. To be on the safe side, during winter and icy conditions wash your pet’s feet and wipe them clean immediately after they go outside and come back in.
The smell and taste of anti-freeze products is extremely attractive to cats and dogs. However anti-freeze is toxic and poisonous and potentially fatal. If you cat or dog is vomiting, walking strangely/to one side or stumbling and is unsteady on their feet it could be that they have licked up or ingested anti-freeze. Don’t delay as you must take your pet to your vet immediately. The quicker you act and get your pet examined the faster you may be saving their life.
In cold weather, pets can suffer from hypothermia just as humans can. If your cat or dog is shivering and appears to be suffering from the cold in any way, take them to your vet immediately. Limit their time outdoors, especially in very cold conditions, although cats tend to stay in the warm anyhow. If you don’t have a cat flap, check regularly to see if you cat wants to come back inside, and never leave them shut outside for long periods of time. It is always worth installnig a cat flap if you don’t have one so that your cat can enter and exit your home as it pleases and doesn’t have to wait to be let into its home.
Items that are toxic to pets during the festive season….
– Take care with various foods during Christmas such as chocolate, sultanas, raisins, graps and Christmas pudding.
– Ensure that your dog does not drink any alcohol as it is toxic to pets and can lead to brain damage.
– Meat and chicken bones can be very damaging and fatal to your pet, getting stuck in their throat and digestive tract, and sharp bones cutting or scraping internally when swallowed. Don’t leave meat or bones lying around and ask your guests to not feed your pets scraps or food.
– Decorations such as tinsel can also be ingested by pets, so keep your decorations away from pets and high up out of reach.
– Poinsetta plants are popular at Christmas, however they are very toxic to cats and dogs. The milky, white sap contains harmful chemicals that can cause conjunctivitis to the eyes. If your cat or dog is showing signs of vomiting, itchiness, swelling or unusual irritation, then please see a vet immediately.
Fireworks and pets
The fireworks and Diwali season, beginning from October every year, can be extremely frightening and stressful for your cats and dogs, and all pets. You can read how to protect your pets during the fireworks and make things as stress-free as possible for them. Read our fireworks and cats article here.