Cats and the law

The Cats Protection League has published, for free distribution to cat owners, the following interpretation of CATS AND THE LAW. It is important to remember that, according to the Animal Protection Act 1911, THE CAT IS A DOMESTIC ANIMAL and therefore enjoys certain rights under the law.

1. At Common Law, cats and dogs formerly fell within the exception to the rule that domestic and tame animals were larcenable. The probable reason for this was the severity of the ancient punishments for felony. Now, however, owners are protected under statute. The Theft Act 1968 acknowledges that all domestic animals, including cats and dogs, are capable of being stolen if taken from their owners unlawfully. Successful prosecutions have been made in the past and, as an example, at Clerken-well, London, three men were fined on charges of having possession of nine cats knowing them to have been stolen and conveying them in such a manner as to cause them unnecessary suffering.

2 Whilst it is a very regrettable thing that cats are not covered by the Road Traffic Act, nor are subject to licensing like dogs, their exclusion from the Acts nowise detracts from the protection afforded them by the Cruelty to Animals Act 1876, The Protection of Animals Act 1911, The Abandonment of Animals Act 1960 and The Animals Act 1971.

3 The many Acts of Parliament dating back to 1822, passed with the object of protecting animals, are all aimed at the elimination of ‘unnecessary abuse of an animal’.

It is the law that:

a) Ill-treatment

Under The Protection of Animals Act 1911, any person commits an offence who:

ill-treats, beats, kicks, infuriates, terrifies;

carries or conveys in a manner to cause unnecessary suffering; commits any act that will cause unnecessary suffering to a cat or kitten; causes anyone to do any of these things: or, being a cat owner, allows someone else to do these things to his cat;

on conviction, such a person is liable to a fine or imprisonment or both.

The Court may also deprive the owner, if he be the offender, of ownership of the animal.

b) Cruelty

Similarly, any person commits an offence who, through cruelty, causes any damage or injury to a cat. The case of Nye ©Niblett 1918 brings cats within the ambit of property which may be protected from being ‘damaged’ or ‘destroyed’. Thus a person who, without lawful excuse, destroys or damages a cat belonging to another, intending to do so, or by being reckless, commits an offence under the Criminal Damage Act 1971. A threat to damage or destroy a cat belonging to a third party, is also an offence, if the threat is made without lawful excuse.

c) Painful experiments

Under The Cruelty to Animals Act 1876, any person who conducts painful

experiments on living animals, without the use of anaesthetics, commits an offence. Licences issued by The Home Secretary are required before any such experiments can be carried out. Penalties include fines and/or imprisonment.

d) Operations

Under the Protection of Animals Act 1911, any person commits an offence who performs an operation without ‘due care and humanity’. This includes the castration of any male kitten without an anaesthetic.

e) Abandonment

Under the Abandonment of Animals Act 1960, any person who, being the owner, or having control of an animal, abandons it such that the animal suffers, is guilty of cruelty and becomes liable to a fine and/or imprisonment as prescribed in the Act.

f) Poisons

Under the Protection of Animals Act 1911, any person who deliberately and intentionally administers any poison or injurious drug or substance to any animal, or causes this to be done by another, is guilty of an offence. Equally a person commits an offence if he knowingly puts poison down or causes another to do so in any building or place without taking reasonable precautions to avoid harming cats and kittens in the area.

4 Boarding Establishments

The Animal Boarding Establishments Act 1963 delegates to Local Authorities the control and licensing of all animal boarding establishments within their area. Licences are renewable annually on payment of a fee and the onus for regular inspection is placed on the Local Environmental Health Officer. Complaints regarding the conduct of such establishments should therefore be brought to the attention of this Department within the Local Authority concerned. The Act allows the Local Authority to refuse a licence or to withdraw a licence; in such cases appeal may be made to the Magistrates Court. A conviction of cruelty could result in the cancelling of a licence and the disqualification of a proprietor from having custody of animals.

5 Pet Shops

The Pet Animal Act 19S1 requires the licensing of Pet Shops by the Local Authority. Unsatisfactory premises, overcrowding and low standards of hygiene could result in the loss of a licence. A requirement of licensing is that kittens should not be sold at too early an age nor to children under the age of twelve years.

6 Trespass

The question of trespass by cats frequently arises and is often a matter of dispute between neighbours. Animals can trespass and certainly do so when they enter land or premises where they have no authority to be. However, the cat is different. It is special inasmuch as its owner is not liable for the consequence of its activities when it trespasses. The following extract from the press illustrates this adequately:

‘It was held by Judge Crosthwaite at Liverpool that the cat has a right to prowl. Jarrus Edwin Withers, tenant of a ground-floor flat in St. George’s Road, Hightown, Liverpool, sought an injunction against the tenant of the flat above to keep her cat under control and claimed damages. The offending cat, it was said, got into Withers’ flat, ate mince pies and fish, got on to a bed and scratched the bedpost. For the plaintiff, it was contended that a cat was in the same category as a dog and it was the owner’s duty to keep it under control. In reply, it was argued that an owner was not liable for a cat’s actions “when trespassing and following its natural propensities”.’ Judgement was given against Withers with costs.

Another case quoted from The Smallholder reaffirms the same point of law. An injury to poultry had been caused by the intrusion of a neighbour’s cat. In the ensuing case, it was ruled that for such an injury, however caused, the owner of the cat was not liable. It was said that no provision existed that required that the owner of the cat should take steps to prevent the recurrence of this happening. It was held that a cat is an animal which has a propensity to roam and do damage of this kind. The owner of the poultry was obliged to keep his poultry so that the cats could not have access to them. The owner of the cat needed to do nothing in the matter and could ignore any claim made for any loss caused by the cat.

7 Rabies

In order to reduce the possibility of rabies spreading from the Continent of Europe to the United Kingdom, the Rabies (Importation of Dogs, Cats and other Mammals) Order 1974, was issued. This controls the import of dogs, cats and other species and requires import licences to be obtained. Animals may only enter through one of the following ports or airports: Airports: Birmingham, Gatwick, Heathrow, Leeds, Manchester,

Edinburgh, Glasgow, Prestwick.

Ports: Dover, Harwich, Hull, Liverpool, Southampton.

Hoverport: Pegwell Bay, Ramsgate.

Applications for licences may be made for arrivals in England or Wales to: Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Hook Rise South, Tolworth, Surbiton, Surrey KT6 7NF; and for Scotland:

Department of Agriculture and Fisheries for Scotland, Chesser House, 500 George Street, Edinburgh Ehll 3AW

After landing, the animal must be moved from the point of entry as soon as possible to a quarantine kennel licensed officially by the Ministry. The period of quarantine is laid down as six months and the expense of keeping the animal falls entirely on the owner. If an animal is brought into the country illegally, it may be put down and the owner prosecuted. A number of recent cases have resulted in heavy fines and/or terms of imprisonment of up to twelve months. Should an outbreak of rabies occur, the Minister may issue an order restricting the movement of animals, including cats, into or out of a specific area. He may also order the compulsory vaccination of animals against the disease and empower Veterinary Inspectors to take and destroy uncontrolled animals. There are no restrictions respecting cats under the Foot and Mouth Disease (Infected Areas Restriction Order) and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food does not require the slaughter of cats in the event of their being on, or near to, premises which are within an infected area.

8 Prosecutions

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals deals with a very large number of cases under the laws to which reference has been made in the preceding paragraphs. Cases of cruelty that come within the meaning of the various Acts, supported by reliable and irrefutable evidence, should be reported to the local inspectors or to the RSPCA Headquarters.

Cat shows and how to enter them

At cat shows pedigree exhibits are judged by a ‘standard’, that is, one hundred marks are given to an imaginary cat that would be a perfect example of the variety.

These marks are given for the right shape of head, the ears, body and fur. The standard is agreed and approved by the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy, under whose auspices all recognized cat shows are held.

Few cats are perfect, but if one comes very close to the ideal and beats all other cats of the same colour in a class at a show, it may be awarded a challenge certificate.

A cat that wins three certificates, under three different judges, could become a Champion.

A cat may become a Grand Champion by winning three champion challenge certificates, at three shows, under different judges, but before entering a Grand Champion Class the exhibit must, of course, be a full Champion.

Neutered cats can be exhibited in neuter classes and become what is known as a Premier by winning at three shows under different judges, and a Grand Premier under the same rules and conditions as those for Grand Champion.

Judges examine every entry to assess the condition; also the head, the shape and colour of the eyes, the ears, body, tail and colour pattern of the fur where this applies.

All pedigree varieties for which an official standard has been approved by the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy, have an allotted breed number.

Breeders often try to develop cats of a new colouring and/or coat and type, a practice which has, in the past, resulted in large entries at cat shows of exhibits for which no ‘standard’ existed, such cats being registered as 13a: Any other colour (long-hairs); 26: Any other colour (short-hairs); and 32x for new colours of Siamese. Nowadays these new varieties are placed on an experimental register and given a provisional standard. Provisional recognition, and a breed number, may follow as quantity and quality increase, but championship status is only granted when one hundred breed members have been bred to standard. The cats, meanwhile, are entered in what are known as Assessment Classes, being judged not against other exhibits but on individual merit. The number of merit certificates awarded help towards the recognition of the breed.

Types of shows and classes

The following are some of the abbreviations you will find in a cat show schedule: L.H. – Long-haired; S.H. – Short-haired; A.V. – Any Variety; A.C. – Any colour; M. – Male; F. – Female; A.O.C. – Any other colour; A.O.V. – Any other variety; S.P. – Seal-point; B.P. – Blue-point; C.P. – Chocolate-point; L.P. – Lilac-point; T.P. – Tabby-point; R.P. – Red-point; GCCF – Governing Council of the Cat Fancy.

Numerous cat shows are held throughout the year, ranging from the friendly exemption show, an ideal launching pad for for the novice exhibitor, to the sanction show, usually staged by a breed club or society who have not yet tackled the pinnacle, the organization of a championship show. However, all these events are held under the auspices of the GCCF and run according to their strict rules. Challenge certificates can only be awarded at Championship Shows, the best known of which is the National Cat Club Show, which one might be forgiven for referring to as the Cat Lovers’ ‘Crufts’!

There are often classes, even at Championship Shows, for non-pedigree exhibits. These give youngsters a chance to proudly show off their pets, and family moggies are groomed until they gleam. There is not a ‘standard’ for non-pedigree exhibits. They are judged on beauty of appearance and general condition; also on temperament, so an appealing cat with a tangled coat and spiteful nature would stand little chance of gaining an award.

There are many enthusiastic exhibitors among the non-pedigree fraternity and the holding of such classes for much-loved household moggies does much to foster pet owner education and care.

Cat shows are advertised in the newspaper, Fur and Feather. The GCCF publish a list and, of course, membership of breed and other cat clubs ensures receipt of advance information.

Breeding the show cat

How do you buy, or breed, a potential show winner? You might as well ask: “How long is a piece of string?” However, you will stand the best chance if you visit a recommended breeder and buy a kitten from proven winning stock. At the time of purchase you should receive a certificate of pedigree and you can, for a small fee, transfer registration of ownership into your name with the GCCF.

Many reputable breeders advertise kittens in Fur and Feather. You can locate the cat variety you wish through a breed club or, as previously suggested, by speaking to exhibitors at a show.

If it is your intention to show your kitten, say so; otherwise, you could end up with a charming, healthy kitten, which will make a decorative household pet but falls far below the show standard which you, the novice, cannot be expected to recognize.

A beginning breeder will probably choose to keep queens. Most stud toms have outside accommodation where noise and’ smell will not offend neighbours. Stud cats are generally of good temperament and require affection and care like any other. Indeed they are often kept as an indoor pet out of the mating season, although the risk of spraying persists. However, it is never a good idea to keep a queen and torn together. Familiarity can breed contempt, or the pair can develop a sister and brother relationship and somehow decide that it is wrong for them to mate.

The show

If you see a show advertised and would like to enter your cat, note the address of the show secretary and write for a schedule/entry form, remembering to enclose a stamped addressed envelope.

The schedule will list the classes to be held and you must check in the Definition of Classes those for which your pet is eligible; for instance, a novice class is open to exhibits that have not won a first prize under GCCF Rules, a limit class to those that have not won more than four first prizes and so on. And there are special classes for kittens, adolescents and juniors.

Having sent off your completed entry form and fee you may eventually receive an entry, or tally number. Or you may not receive this until you arrive at the show. Don’t panic if an envelope fails to arrive, or hesitate to contact the secretary if you have any problems. Organizers are used to helping newcomers sort out any troubles, and to giving useful advice.

You, or your representative, must accompany the cat, placed in a suitable container, to the show. And be prepared for puss to be veterinarily examined before admission is granted.

Exhibits must have clean ears and their coats must be free from pests. No queen may be exhibited within two calendar months from the date of kittening. No exhibit that has been de-clawed will be accepted. The vets are within their right to ban any animal they consider unfit. Obviously this is a rule that is in all owners’ interests.

You must take to the show some food for your cat, a drinking and a sanitary tray and, of course, a clean blanket for it to lie on which MUST, like all the other items, be WHITE. None of this equipment must bear any distinguishing marks and blankets must be plain woven. A pretty coloured blanket to tone with pussy’s marking would be of no help at all. Judges are instructed to pass by any cat that is distinguishable in any manner by its equipment.

If you have visited a dog show you will have seen the exhibitors parading their dogs in the ring, much credit being due to the handler. It is debatable indeed whether some dogs would reach such dizzy heights were it not for the skill of the person on the end of the lead.

The cat owner, on the other hand, must rely on the presentation of the exhibit and the grooming it has received, for exhibitors are not allowed near the pen while judging takes place and may even be asked to leave the room. Award slips are later affixed on a board and award cards placed on the winning cats’ pens.

One of the things which cannot fail to impress the layman visiting a cat show, is the high standard of hygiene that is usually apparent. Exhibitors are advised to wipe the bars of the pen with a mild non-toxic disinfectant, and the judge, after handling each and every cat, dips his or her hands in a similar solution.

Cat shows not only offer the opportunity for friendly rivalry but provide a pleasant day out for exhibitors and visitors alike. There are usually stalls where one may purchase cat foods and accessories, as well as little knick-knacks, and there are breed club stands.

Judging and stewarding

How is the judge qualified to decide the best of exhibits which to you appear to have equal merit? Judging usually stems from years of successful cat breeding and the respect and acclaim of the breed clubs. Certainly it is not possible to become a judge overnight, or without years of stewarding, learning to make the task of the judge very much easier.

It is the steward’s job to see that the disinfectant spray on the judge’s trolley is full, that his Judge’s book is written up, before his arrival, with the numbers of the classes and exhibits to be judged, and that when each class is at an end, the judge signs the tear-off slips signifying the winners, which the steward then takes to the secretary’s table. A steward should be knowledge-able, but at times unobtrusive, unfailingly helpful, and extraordinarily efficient. Most of them are!

Useful facts and information about cats

Cats need grass

Most cats and kittens will eat grass when it is available to them, and cocksfoot grass seems to be favoured. The grass is a natural medicine for relieving bile and sourness. It also acts as an emetic and is the means of inducing the vomiting of hairballs. For those cat owners who live in accommodation without gardens, the grass can easily be grown in pots or boxes. Readers in Britain can obtain sufficient seed for six pots by sending a stamped addressed envelope to the Cats Protection League .

The close season for fleas

Although infestation by fleas and lice is most likely to occur in spring and summer, it can happen at any time during the year.

With the onset of winter and bird migration, and hibernation of squirrels and hedgehogs, fleas normally contracted from grass by cats and dogs tend to become less of a problem. However, fleas do have a remarkable ability to survive, particularly in centrally heated homes, for up to a year, or even longer. Therefore, animals showing evidence of fleas, or their droppings, in their coats, or who scratch persistently, may have become re-infested by fleas living in carpets, skirting boards or armchairs in the home. In such cases, effective treatment is essential; your vet can advise on the best medication.

Too many owners neglect to tackle the problem at once, for it can frequently be resolved by vacuuming all floors, coverings, washing all bedding and by the use of fly killers and insecticidal strips in the places where cats and dogs frequent, or rooms to which they have access.

Some organizations

But forgetting such shortcomings it is a happy thought that there are so many people concerned with the health and well-being of our friend, the Cat. In Britain, for instance, the Cat Action Trust (known as CAT) is exploring ways and means of limiting colonies of stray and semi-wild cats. In Denmark and Israel such cats are given ‘the pill’ in special medicated foods, but because of the risk of side effects and other practical difficulties, CAT has resorted to the more reliable method of trapping and surgical neutering, while another organization, Cats in Industry can be consulted where there is an indigenous wild cat population in foundries and workshops, which they will uplift, neuter and rehome. And there is FAB, not an abbreviation of ‘fabulous’ but of the Feline Advisory Bureau, a worldwide organization which cares entirely for the well-being of the domestic cat and propagates to its members information about illness, disease, and treatment in the feline which had, for many years, suffered as the poor relation of other domestic animal species. It has a comprehensive library relating to cat diseases and, being a registered charity, is happy to give free advice to all enquirers. With such help at their disposal there should be lots of healthy cats, and happy owners, in the future.

Some statistics Cats are increasing in popularity – (a ‘convenient pet’). Ownership: 19.1 per cent of all households in Britain included a cat in 1979 as against 18 per cent in 1975, and 17 per cent in 1966. Population: in 1979 there were 4,892,000 cats as against 4,714,000 in 1975 and

4,200,000 in 1966. Feeding: in 1979,90 per cent of owners fed tinned pet food some of the time.

How To Help Your Cat In An Emergency

Road accident

Cats involved in accidents do not always show external signs of injury. Cat skin is very resilient and may remain unbroken despite severe internal injuries. Cats which are found dead without cause have usually died from internal injuries sustained in accidents.

Injured cats should be picked up in the manner previously described and gently placed in a suitable container. Broken limbs should be kept in as natural a position as possible and any external wounds protected from dirt during journey to vet. Try to keep the cat’s airway clear by holding its tongue forward and clearing away any fluids.

Influenza (feline viral rhinotracheitis orFVR)

A very infectious virus disease of cats. Outbreaks occur every summer. The first signs are sneezing, moist or running eyes and nose, sometimes with profuse salivation.

This disease is very infectious, so isolate your cat and keep him warm and dry. He will usually eat until his nasal passages are congested. Nowadays prompt treatment will save the great majority of cases.

Do not take your cat with ‘flu into a crowded vet’s waiting room; leave him outside in the car, if that is possible, until called in for attention. It is particularly important to ensure the cat drinks fluids, even spoonfeeding if necessary.

Emergency situations Symptoms


Acute diarrhoea

Loose or soft motions and a cat which is obviously ill. Diarrhoea in the young kitten can be very dangerous.

Withhold food and give only fluids. Withhold milk temporarily. If diarrhoea is severe or if it persists more than twenty-four hours, seek help from the vet.


Pet cats are often bitten by other cats. The bites are usually small puncture wounds rather than tears in skin. Sudden lameness or swelling of one leg is often caused by a bite.

Bites are always infected wounds, and when they are puncture wounds they do not drain easily. Antibiotics should only be given professionally; the next condition, an abscess, may develop if the condition is untreated.

Keep in a darkened, quiet room until seen by a vet. Never give aspirin to cats.


An abscess is an infected pus-filled swelling which is frequently the result of failing to treat a bite. Sometimes a large tense lump is noticed; usually the abscess is only noticed after it has burst and produces a large, smelly wound. Abscesses often occur around the head and at the root of the tail.

An intact abscess should be drained and cleaned by your vet. He will give appropriate treatment and tell you how to keep the wound clean. Veterinary treatment will probably still be necessary even after an abscess has burst. It is essential in either case that the wound is kept open until the infection has been eliminated.

Feline infectious enteritis (FIE or panleucopaenia)

This is a specific virus infection which often, but not invariably, involves acute diarrhoea. Young kittens contracting it may die before the owner notices any symptoms.

This disease is easily prevented by vaccination, and is so serious that all kittens should be vaccinated between six and twelve weeks.

Treatment of the unvaccinated cat with FIE must be undertaken very quickly, but may still be unsuccessful. Prevention is better than cure.

Ear infections

The cat will shake its head or scratch at its ears. On closer examination the ear(s) will be found to contain foreign matter which may smell. Often tiny white mites may be seen crawling in the ear.

Pending proper treatment, some relief may be given by putting warm olive oil or medicinal liquid paraffin in the ears. Gently remove any debris which is softened and will come away easily. Do not probe down into the ear or use any spirit preparation.

Emergency situations Symptoms Action

Bone or needle in the mouth or throat

The cat will show sudden and extreme discomfort, will paw at its mouth and may cough or choke. An acute throat infection can produce similar symptoms.

Open the mouth and see if any foreign body is obviously present which can be removed easily with tweezers. Do not risk doing further damage. Do not offer food, as an anaesthetic may be necessary. Contact vet as soon as possible.

Stomatitis (sore mouth)

Very sore mouth, usually with scale (tartar) on the teeth. The gums are reddened and ulceration may be present. The cat is reluctant to eat or drink, or may do so with its head on one side. There may be loose teeth.

Proper dental treatment under an anaesthetic is usually necessary. This may be accompanied by treatment for the mouth infection. In emergency, as a temporary measure, bathe the mouth with warm, very dilute salt solution.


Usually very obvious and dramatic with a marked hypersensitivity to all stimuli, such as sound, touch and light. (Slug bait is particularly dangerous; made up in bran, it can be attractive even to cats.)

Put animal into a quiet, dark room and contact vet for advice. If possible, take a sample of what has been eaten when you visit the surgery.

Transporting your cat to the vet

It is not always possible for a vet to come to see your cat; in fact, it is often better to take him to the surgery, where there is specialized equipment to deal with emergencies. If there is any possibility that your cat may have to be given an anaesthetic, for example to open an abscess, or to take an X-ray, do not give him anything to eat or drink.

A container is essential to transport a cat in a car. If a proper cat basket is not available, a stout cardboard box, such as those used to contain twelve wine or spirit bottles, makes a good substitute. Cut or punch some small holes for ventilation, and tie the box firmly with string or adhesive tape.

Do not make the common error of half-filling the box with a cushion, as this will leave inadequate room for the cat. A few layers of newspaper or an old woollen garment are ideal. Pick up an injured cat by holding the scruff of its neck firmly with one hand, and either tucking the cat under the other arm, or placing the hand under the cat’s abdomen.

If a cat is very vicious, the best method is to drop an old thick coat or blanket over it. Tuck the edges towards, and under, the cat and pick up the whole bundle and put it in the box taking care not to suffocate the patient.

Telephone the surgery to say that you are on your way with an emergency.

The following schedule is a useful guide for seeing at a glance how to deal with the most common emergency situations.

Cat Health and Cat Diseases

The loved, cared-for cat may, if it is lucky, live out its lifespan, free of illness, a visit to the veterinary surgery proving necessary only for routine inoculations and/or attention to minor injuries, like the paw that gets trapped in a door, or a bite sustained in a cat fight.

Cats are, however, prone to a number of serious diseases and being the resilient creatures that they are, such conditions may go undetected if the owner does not watch for symptoms of unusual behaviour. Does our cat’s coat look other than glossy and shining? Is there discharge from the eyes and nose, and have we heard the occasional sneeze? A sure sign of trouble is when we find the cat maybe hiding in a corner, or sitting facing, and gazing at, the wall.

A healthy cat is a contented, bright-eyed, playful cat, with a healthy appetite. Remember, it cannot tell us when it is feeling out of sorts, so it is up to us to take heed of warning signs and seek veterinary attention immediately.

The following A – Z is intended as a guide to symptoms and their treatment. It is, however, essential that the diagnosis of a vet is sought in every case and that the owner does not resort to home remedies; for, while most of the veterinary preparations on sale from retail outlets are first class, only a vet is qualified to correctly diagnose our pet’s condition, and the tablets and creams purchased with good intent may, if not professionally prescribed, be quite the wrong treatment for the ailing pet.


An abscess can result from a bite, scratch, sting, or even a swelling as the result of an inoculation. The abscess may cause restlessness, be painful to the touch and, indeed, cause a rise in temperature making the animal go off its food. A cold cloth could help the condition but, if it persists, seek the advice of your vet who may need to drain the fluid. If you do not brush your cat regularly a wound such as this might go undetected.


With advances in veterinary science, pets are undoubtedly living longer, and whereas twelve years was once considered the life span of a cat, many are now living for fifteen or even twenty years. As with all domestic animals the care they have received in earlier life will often determine their living to a healthy, ripe old age. The cat from six years of age onwards will sleep more. It may, in its latter years, have failing eyesight and sense of smell. This is the time when it will need more care and affection than ever before, being kept away from draughts and receiving veterinary attention at the first sign of discomfort. Don’t make the mistake of introducing another cat, thinking that a kitten will put fresh hfe into your old pet; rather let him live out his final years with dignity in his accustomed number one place by the hearth.


This means fear of cats. Presumably someone with such a fear is an ailurophobic! The opposite of an ailurophobic is an ailurophile, a lover of cats. Ailurophilia means love of cats.


Just as some people develop an allergy to cats, which can be helped by a series of desensitization injections, so the cat itself may be allergic to certain foods and substances which can cause various skin complaints. Applications of soothing lotions are of little avail without correct diagnosis, which must be undertaken to trace the cause, often by a series of tests.


This is another word for baldness. The condition may be caused by dietary deficiency, kidney ailments and other causes. Alopecia, while unsightly, is not really harmful to the cat, but consult your vet as to treatment and cure.


Anaemia is common in cats, symptoms including lack of appetite and general lethargy, the animal often becoming disinterested in food. Can be treated with antibiotics and other drugs but sometimes a blood transfusion is necessary.

Anal glands

I was once horrified to receive a letter from a cat owner who, conscious of the need for regular worming, and having noticed that her cat continued to rub its bottom on the ground, had tried no less than twenty-six worm tablets to relieve a condition which was caused, not by worm infestation, but by irritation from the anal glands, the two small sacs on each side of the anus. These glands often, in both cats and dogs, become impacted with the yellow somewhat evil-smelling liquid which is secreted in the sacs. It is possible for the owner to empty the sacs of this liquid with the fingers and a handy piece of cotton wool. It is, however, something which they are strongly advised to have done by the vet initially, after which they may take the decision to carry out this operation themselves.

Anorexia nervosa

This is the complaint more often associated with teenage girls and in effect means refusal to eat. It is doubtful that the queen cat gives up eating to retain a sylph-like figure; more likely the condition is brought about by an emotional disturbance.

Ascarids (roundworms)

See Worms.


Under no circumstances give your cat aspirin. This is toxic for most cats. A cat’s reaction to aspirin is similar to that of a youngster having an overdose.

Bad breath

This can be caused by the aftermath of a strong smelling food such as fish, or could be a sign of worm infestation. Animal Amplex are effective but if the condition persists seek veterinary advice.


Cats loathe water so don’t bath unless absolutely necessary; water temperature should not exceed 26°C (80’F) and care should be taken to rub a little Vaseline round the eyes so that the water does not penetrate this area. Much better, though, to obtain a good dry shampoo which can be brushed through the cat’s coat.


Even a small bite could cause an abscess. Consult your vet who will doubtless prescribe antibiotics. Meanwhile you can gently cleanse the area with germicidal soap and water.

Blood disorders

More common in the older cat. Best to obtain veterinary diagnosis.


The cat which habitually lingers in the kitchen may at some time get in the way of a hot liquid, or even receive an electric shock. Best treatment, as with humans, is to apply a grease, such as Vaseline, or even butter if that is not available.

Don’t under any circumstances use an antiseptic; and if the burn is at all serious consult a vet.


Usually suspected because of the foul smell emanating from the cat’s ears and characteristic pawing of the head, or the cat rubbing its head on the ground. Can be caused by parasite infestation. Owners tend, however, to treat all ear ailments with canker remedies, which could do more harm than good. Best, therefore, to consult the vet for diagnosis and prescription.


See Neutering.

Cat distemper

This is similar to dog distemper but it is not the same disease; cats and dogs can’t infect one another with distemper. Symptoms are runny eyes and nose, with sneezing. Later, digestion and lungs may be affected. The cat should be kept quiet and warm and immediate veterinary help sought. Although not so deadly as enteritis, many cats die of this disease, and can only be saved by immediate treatment and careful nursing. Loss of appetite makes feeding difficult and glucose injections may be needed to maintain strength. The addition of something strong smelling, such as fish paste, to the invalid diet, may encourage a sick cat to take food. As in the case of human influenza, there are some years when the disease is not much worse than a bad cold, and in others it becomes dangerously virulent. Cats of all ages are liable to catch it; usually in catteries, or pet shops, where cats live in crowded conditions.


If the cat has access to the great outdoors it will wear its own claws down on trees, fences and other convenient surfaces. However, the indoor cat must be provided with a scratching post for this purpose. If your cat’s claws have reached dangerous proportions you can carry out the operation yourself with a pair of pet nail clippers, wrapping the cat firmly in a towel leaving the forefeet out if it is apt to struggle. Make sure you do not cut other than the ‘quick’. If in any doubt on where, and how to clip, your vet will not think you are wasting his time if you seek his help.


Common in cats and debatable as to whether the condition is more prevalent in the neutered animal. Blame has been attached to complete dry foods but this can probably be discounted. The cat with this ailment will frequently try to pass urine without success. This complaint is caused by stones blocking the urethral passage. Don’t delay in contacting the vet, who can remove the stones surgically, otherwise the condition could prove fatal.


Poisonous to cats. Do not use to combat fleas.


Not unusual in white cats and odd-eyed varieties. Might be attributable to an accumulation of wax. If your cat is irretrievably deaf, remember that it will be unable to hear approaching traffic so best to resort to a litter-tray and keep it indoors always, if you live in a built-up area.


Every pet owner wishes that their animal companion would, one day, pass away peacefully in its sleep, sparing them having to act out the role of judge and executioner. Heartbreaking though it is to have the life of a pet terminated, this should be done when the animal’s life has become a burden rather than a pleasure to it; for, in keeping a suffering pet alive, we are thinking of ourselves, rather than its well-being. When the time comes, take your pet to the vet and pluck up courage to stay with it while a tranquillizing injection is given. This will make your pet sleepy and contented prior to being put quickly and painlessly to its final rest.


Resorted to by some houseproud owners, but generally deplored. If you must have this operation performed, make sure it is done professionally.


See Skin diseases. However this is a particularly unpleasant irritation with loss of hair and scaling. Can be caused by an allergy to household detergents – in both animal and human, and other causes such as diet, bites, and even excessive temperatures. Curable with soothing lotions.


A condition more usual in the old, or overweight, cat, which will be constantly hungry while shedding weight, drinking a great deal and having a continual need to urinate. The cat with diabetes can live on quite happily provided daily injections of insulin are administered. Tablets could be an alternative.


Could be caused by feeding sloppy foods. Add more starch to diet but if condition persists seek veterinary diagnosis without delay.

Digestive system

Similar to man’s except for the mouth, the cat swallowing its food after a much shorter period in the mouth. The cat will, however, retain the nutritious parts of meat, or other substances, in its stomach, regurgitating the remainder and/or that which is difficult to digest.


See Cat distemper.

Ear trouble

See Canker. There are different causes for what is commonly called canker of the ear, and only the vet, using a special instrument, can diagnose and, therefore, treat correctly. There could be a foreign body, such as a grass seed, in the ear though the commonest cause is the presence of a mite, which lives and breeds in the wax deep down in the ear. Delay in seeking help may cause great suffering, the cat shaking his head with pain and scratching the inflamed ear. Temporary relief may be given by pouring in a few drops of warm, not hot, olive or castor oil, and discharging wax may be gently swabbed out with cotton wool soaked in one part of methylated spirits to three parts of water. Great care must be taken, since the ear is very delicate, and the vet or clinic must be visited as soon as possible.


See Dermatitis and Skin diseases. Could be caused by anything from a blood disorder to wrong diet. Do seek correct veterinary diagnosis and do not experiment with a selection of creams and ointments.

Enteritis (infectious enteritis/feline enteritis)

The most serious of the diseases is infectious enteritis which, as previously stated, spreads so quickly in the neighbourhood, with such a high mortality rate, that people often imagine there has been malicious poisoning. The illness

comes on suddenly with a rise of temperature to 39°C (103°F). The cat refuses food, sits huddled up, often near a water bowl or sink, but without taking water. It vomits occasionally, cries faintly when picked up, and passes blood-stained motions. Death is likely to occur within forty-eight hours, often much sooner. Any cats which survive are immune for life. A vaccine is available which gives good protection. To withold such protection is, to my mind, criminally negligent.

Eyes, care of

Cats are prone to a number of eye diseases ranging from conjunctivitis to keratitis, which is inflammation of the cornea, to cataract, which is more prevalent in older cats and has to be treated by operation. Relief for eye diseases can be given by bathing with a warm solution of boric acid, and Golden Eye Ointment will give relief. However, don’t delay more than a day or two, if the trouble does not clear, in seeking veterinary diagnosis.

First aid

Prevention is always better than cure so make sure that you have a carrying basket in case your cat needs to be rushed to the vet, a supply of bandages, cotton wool, Elastoplast, surgical scissors, Milk of Magnesia, which is a mild laxative, Vaseline and a thermometer. The average normal body temperature of the cat is 38.6°C (101.5°F). This can vary a little according to the age of the cat and, for instance, whether it has been snoozing outside in a high temperature, but 32°C (90°F) is considered the danger level. A temperature above 38.9°C (102°F) indicates that the cat is unwell, and 40°C (KMT) indicates that it is seriously ill.


An infestation of fleas, if left unchecked, can cause skin disease; and as they can be carriers of parasites it is essential that the insects be removed. Don’t use DDT which is toxic to cats but obtain a suitable aerosol spray which can be brushed through your cat’s coat. Fleas are transmittable from animal to man and, indeed, other animals, so must be nipped in the bud in the early stages. Scratching, particularly around the ears, and poor coat are an indication of a flea burden.


Nowadays fractures can usually be dealt with skilfully, and effectively, by vets, but obviously the sooner the animal is taken to the surgery the better.

Furballs (hairball/digestive complaint)

In slight cases of these troubles, the cat will provide his own remedy by eating grass. Town cats should be provided with a patch of grass, growing in a window box or in the yard. Constipation may be relieved by a tablespoon (15 ml) of medicinal liquid paraffin which can be repeated twice daily for two days. For any more serious digestive upset veterinary advice should immediately be sought. Furballs are caused by the cat swallowing hair while grooming, particularly the long-haired varieties.


See Furballs.


Like the dog the queen can mate only when in season, also, like the dog, it can nowadays be given an injection or tablet to delay season, though spaying is more sensible if the queen is not required for breeding.


See Worms.

Hip dysplasia

This is malformation of the ball-and-socket joint of the hip, and although sometimes found in cats is more prevalent in dogs, causing the animal to be crippled often before middle age.

Breeders are conscientiously endeavouring to breed only from registered HD free stock and similarly cats with hip dysplasia in their ancestry should never be bred from. This is a congenital disorder which can manifest itself after skipping one or two generations.


Often occurs prior to, or after giving birth, and in times of emotional disturbance. The vet will advise treatment ranging probably from use of tranquillizers to spaying and other remedies.


Every kitten should be inoculated against infectious (feline) enteritis. Thereafter a booster injection should be given every two years. Better to be safe than sorry! A reputable cattery will not admit your pet without proof of inoculation.

Kidney disease

Kidney failure is common in the old animal and usually detected by frequent urination. Kidney failure is irretrievable but your vet may be able to prolong your cat’s active life.


Try to find cause. If it lasts over two hours or so consult vet.


See Skin diseases.


See Ageing.

Mange (sarcoptic and demodectic)

Mange is a most unpleasant skin disease caused by parasitic mites. Sarcoptic mange* is, in fact, the commonly known disease scabies or red mange.

Sarcoptic mange, the more common variety is highly infectious and can be transmitted not only from dog to cat and vice versa but also from pet to man. Demodectic mange, the more serious variety which at one time was almost impossible to cure, is rarely transmittable. Briefly, the mites lay eggs under the skin and cause the cat to scratch its body continuously. The disease is first detected by loss of hair around the infected area and crustation of the skin. It is not difficult to cure but does require early veterinary attention. Demodectic or follicular mange is caused by mites invading the hair follicles and sebaceous glands and usually manifests itself in the area around head and ears. Again it is detected by scaliness, dry skin, loss of hair and red sores which may secrete blood.


Often a disease of older cats, metritis is acute inflammation of the uterus. A common cause is infection following kittening. Metritis is generally detected by a discharge of blood from the vagina and increased thirst and vomiting. There may also be lack of appetite. Veterinary attention should immediately be sought.


A monorchid is a cat, or dog, which has only one testicle descended into the scrotum. Monorchids can reproduce but the condition would preclude the cat from a show career. Whether the affliction is congenital is subject to debate.


A kidney complaint prevalent in old cats. Can be checked by a veterinarily prescribed diet.

Nervous system

The cat is a highly nervous animal equipped to move at lightning speed at the slightest sound. It is, therefore, as adept at avoiding danger as it is at hunting its prey.


Also called doctoring and castration. It is a kindness to neuter the torn cat not required for stud purposes. Unneutered, he will not only have a lemming-like urge to do battle but will also spray an unpleasant odour. It is also a kindness to spay the queen which is not required for breeding.

Non-parasitic skin diseases

See Skin diseases. Allergy, alopecia, dandruff, dermatitis, eczema and impetigo all come under the heading of non-parasitic skin conditions and require veterinary advice as to cause and treatment. (Parasitic skin conditions include demodectic mange, sarcoptic mange, ringworm and favus which is caused by a fungus.)

Old age

See Ageing.



Rabies is a truly dreadful disease. It almost always leads to a pitiable death, preceded by severe discomfort, paralysis and convulsion. It is usually passed on in saliva through a bite, and all mammals are thought to be susceptible to it. The biggest danger to humans is the risk of being bitten by an infected domestic pet, particularly a dog or cat. Apart from two cases, in 1969 and 1970, Britain has been free from rabies outside quarantine since 1922. Everyone taking holidays abroad is urged to make sure that this record of freedom from the disease is maintained, not only accepting the need to abide by the necessary animal control measures themselves, but also by doing their best to see that other people do the same. Do not attempt to take your cat out of Britain and remember that should you do so, the animal will be required to spend six months in a quarantine kennel approved by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, on its return. Penalties for smuggling pets into Britain are very severe indeed.

Respiratory system

The respiratory system of the cat is similar to other mammals, the cat breathing through nose and mouth. There is a tube extending from the cat’s throat into its chest which branches to two other tubes which are known as the bronchial tubes, one of these being attached to each lung.


See Skin diseases.


See Worms.

Scratching post

See Claws and De-clawing.

Skin diseases

I have already categorized parasitic and non-parasitic skin diseases. If sore or bald patches, or pimples, appear on the skin, veterinary help is needed. It is dangerous for the owner to apply ointments, since the cat may be poisoned by licking them off. Also, there are many different causes for similar-looking conditions. There may be mange, or ringworm, serious if neglected, but easily cured by the right treatment. The skin trouble may be caused merely by fleas or lice, or it may be due to some internal complaint such as kidney trouble obviously needing skilled treatment. If, therefore, you detect sore places, or loss of hair, on your cat, or if the animal is scratching unduly, do not delay in visiting the veterinary surgery.


See Worms.

Toilet training


Make up your mind (see Rabies) that if you wish to take a holiday abroad your cat cannot accompany you. It is sometimes possible to take your cat to a caravan or seaside holiday site, addresses of which can, in Britain, be located in a booklet entitled Pets Welcome published by Herald Advisory Services. There is, however, always the fear of a loved pet getting lost, so if you do not have a neighbour willing to call and feed the cat during your absence, it is better to make a reservation at a recommended cattery where you can be sure that your pet will be safe, and well looked after, during your absence. Addresses of catteries can easily be located in the telephone book Yellow pages. However, sensible owners usually book their pet’s holiday at the same time as their own, so do not forget about puss until a week or two before you set off and be surprised if there isn’t a vacancy. If you must travel with your cat do make sure that it is in a strong cardboard box. You can obtain cat-carrying cases from an RSPCA centre. Don’t let your cat loose in a car as he is likely to be nervous and may cause an accident by leaping about in the car and distracting the driver; also be prepared for a noisy ride!


Unusual in cats who cannot contract the disease from humans but strangely enough can do so from cows and other animals. It is suggested that Siamese cats may be more susceptible.


The cat may vomit to get rid of hairballs, to dispel worms, through excitement, or any number of other reasons. Omit a meal but if the vomiting persists do not delay in seeking veterinary advice. Possibly your cat has been poisoned!


This is a rat poison and supposed to be non-toxic. Repeated doses could, however, be dangerous. Frankly, I am against putting down rat poison, of any type, in areas frequented by domestic pets. If your pet has been poisoned, don’t delay in reaching the veterinary surgery with a sample of vomit if possible, so that your vet can analyse the cause. There is, alas, no antidote for the weed poison, Paraquat.


See Worms.


Regular worming is an absolute must for pet owners and, although many proprietary brands of treatment are widely available, it is best to have tablets prescribed by your vet which can easily be administered in your pet’s food. Worming is particularly important in kittenhood, and before and after the queen cat gives birth. Thereafter it should be a six-monthly occurrence. There are various types of worms which often confuse the cat owner. There are ascarids or roundworms which are those most commonly found and for which kittens and puppies are commonly treated. Roundworm infestation is generally detected by a plump tummy, a staring coat with lack of gloss, bad breath, diarrhoea, maybe vomit in which worms are expelled, and rubbing of the posterior along the ground. Tapeworms are also common in cats and kittens and look rather like an expulsion of spaghetti. Additionally, there are bladder worms which cause inflammation of the bladder and are not so frequent; whipworms which are more common in the USA than in Britain; and hookworms which inhabit the cat’s intestinal tract. Publicity given in recent years to diseases transmittable from animal to man through lack of worming has caused considerable alarm. It must be remembered that even man is not worm-free and that with a sensible programme of pet owner education and regular worming there is absolutely no reason why anyone keeping a pet should contract disease.

Pedigree or moggy

Most folk who have set their heart on buying a pedigree cat know exactly what they want, so that they may pursue the hobby of cat showing and/or breeding or merely cherish a specimen of what they believe to be the most beautiful variety of cat.

Many cat shows, however, have classes for pet cats which do not have pedigrees. These are not judged by a breed standard though they must be used to being handled by strangers and be in good health. Many children’s cats, if well looked after, win prizes at shows.

Pedigree cats can, of course, command high prices, whereas it is possible to obtain a ‘pet’ cat in return for little or no charge or by making a donation to an animal charity.

The oldest animal charity in Britain devoted solely to cats, is The Cats Protection League based in Horsham, West Sussex. This organization whose work is carried out through fifty branches in Britain, staffed by voluntary workers, rescues strays, unwanted, and sick cats, and rehabilitates, and rehomes them where possible. It informs the public on the care of cats and kittens and, because there are so many unwanted cats in their care, encourages the neutering of cats not required for breeding.

Discipline and house-training your cat

The cat is a naturally clean animal who, in adult life, tends to almost ‘bust’ rather than displease. If it makes a mess for any reason other than enforced confinement, don’t delay in consulting your veterinary surgeon.

A kitten may be quickly house-trained by providing a Utter-tray filled with sand, dry earth or, better still, specially prepared cat litter available from most pet shops and chemists. Put kitty on the litter-tray after each meal and/or mistake and it will soon adopt the tray as its special toilet. But you must clean it out every day; otherwise, puss won’t use it; and, when disinfecting, don’t use carbolic, which is dangerous for cats. When puss is old enough to go out of doors the tray can be discarded. However, many flat dwellers have a litter-tray as a permanent fixture. You don’t have to have a garden to keep a cat!

Your pet must be trained not to sharpen its claws on the furniture by shouting a loud ‘NO each time it starts to do so. If it is able to get into the garden it will most likely use a tree. If you are an apartment dweller, a scratching post may be bought from a pet shop.

Incidentally, you must never, ever, smack a cat – not to be confused with a playful pat in fun. Punishment of this type may cause the pet serious injury. And it won’t serve your purpose. The cat will merely be resentful.

Pros and Cons of Neutering Cats

Sadly, many thousands of unwanted cats and Kittens have to be put down every year, because with the queen coming into season every three or four weeks in summer, there are just not enough homes to go round.

Luckily, much is being done to halt the birth of unwanted kittens by encouraging the neutering and spaying of cats not kept for breeding.

Neutering a torn cat is doing him a kindness, for undoctored he is a compulsive fighter, vulnerable to torn ears and other wounds and, in later years, as he finds himself in combat with younger partners, his injuries could be grave. After neutering, he loses the desire to fight, does not smell anti-social and prefers the comfort of his own fireside to a night on the tiles. The operation is such a simple one that it is possible to take torn to the surgery for neutering and bring him home with you a few minutes later.

Spaying a queen (female) cat entails a bigger, but routine operation, and a few days stay at the surgery. Between three and five months is the age recommended for the operation but, as in the case of the male cat, it can be done at almost any age. The fact that a female cat has had kittens is no deterrent.

Holidays and Leaving Your Cat

One does come across folk who habitually take their pet with them for an annual holiday by the seaside, particularly if they stay in a caravan or holiday chalet. However, there is always the risk of puss getting lost, so it is safer to leave your pet at home where it can use its cat flap, and entrust a reliable neighbour with a key and feeding instructions. Or leave him at a well-run cattery.

What you mustn’t do is leave an enormous quantity of opened food in the hope that this will last puss until you return. He will eat on the first day, then starve for the rest of your holiday.

There are excellent catteries in all parts of the country. The better they are, the more likely they are to be fully booked in summertime, so do make your cat’s booking when you finalize your own holiday plans. Many catteries have outside runs adjoining each cat-house so that the cat may stroll out and enjoy the sun on a pleasant day. A proprietress I know even enlists the help of her family as ‘strokers’ so that the cats feel at home!

What you will discover is that any cattery worth its salt will insist on seeing a certificate of inoculation against infectious enteritis. This is the most deadly of cat diseases and when it appears in a neighbourhood, it spreads so quickly, and so many cats die within a few days, that people start imagining that there has been malicious poisoning. Young cats, Persians and Siamese are particularly susceptible, and the disease is most common in summer. So have your cat inoculated well in advance of your holiday – it needs a booster every two years – and don’t get uptight if you think that the kennel owner is being fussy. You wouldn’t want your puss, or anyone else’s, to die because of your negligence.

Very important, when planning your holiday, is to remember that you cannot take your cat out of Britain and bring it back again without puss facing six months quarantine in Ministry approved kennels. This is expensive for you and no fun for your cat either.