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Dr Sarah Elliott answers questions from cat owners, with topics including why cats roam, and why a cat might be howling and pacing at night.

In our recent live Facebook Q&A, vet Dr Sarah Elliott answered cat owners’ veterinary questions. If you missed it, here’s a roundup of some of the topics discussed:

Why does my cat roam for days on end?

My 18-month-old cat often goes on long, four or five day expeditions. He's neutered. Is this normal for a young male cat or should I be worried?

This could be normal – at 18 months he's reached what is known as 'social maturity' and at this point cats start wanting to maintain a territory. Territory size can vary from cat to cat, ranging from just the house where they live to miles of space outside of the house. Cats will spend a large portion of their time patrolling their territory, and as your cat is young, he'll be trying to establish himself.

Please make sure that he is microchipped and wearing a safety quick-release collar so that he can be identified. It’s great that he is neutered. For his own safety, it might be worth keeping him in at night.

tabby cat walking along garden fence



Why does my cat have a bald patch?

My female neutered kitty of six years old has a bald patch on her lower belly where the milk ducts are. She is treated with a flea product prescribed by the vet, worm tablets and is slightly overweight. What is causing this bald patch?

It may be worth getting this checked by the vet. It may be that the fur has naturally thinned here due to contact with her bed or floor, and this could be exacerbated by her being a little overweight. This is also a common area for cats to overgroom, causing the fur to thin. Overgrooming can occur as a response to an itch or allergy, stress or pain in this area. For these reasons, it would be worth getting her checked over, and the vet can also give you some tips on how to get her trimmed down as being in good shape will really benefit her health.


Why does my cat scratch her ears excessively?

Our cat scratches her ears a lot (around four or five times a day) but she doesn’t seem to have mites and she isn’t anxious. Could there be another reason why she is doing it? We got her from Cats Protection three months ago and she has always done it.

The scratching sounds a little excessive, and it might be wise to have a vet take a look down the ear canal with an otoscope. The ear canals can look clean on the outside, but cats may have ear mites that are not visible outwardly, deeper infections, ear polyps or even foreign bodies down there, so it is worth ruling anything more sinister out with your vet first. Cats can also get sunburnt or bitten by insects on the tips of the ears, especially at this time of year which can cause some irritation.


My cat's coat is matted – what can I do?

My newly adopted long-haired cat, aged 10 years old, is really well settled but his coat is matted so I cannot groom him properly. He is shedding everywhere. What is the best thing to do without upsetting him?

It's lovely to hear you have recently adopted a cat in need. If his coat is very matted, then it may be too painful for him to be groomed. The best thing to do may be to take him to your local vets, where they might be able to shave away the mats with safety clippers. Again, this may be too painful for him if he is very matted, so the vet may need to give him a little sedation to facilitate the process. Once the mats are gone, you can start daily pain-free grooming and hopefully prevent him from getting matted again. I hope that helps and best of luck!

ginger cat being groomed by owner



Why is my cat howling and pacing?

My cat is 10 years old and she is on thyroid medication for a condition. She howls every night and paces around. She seems to sleep ok during the day and urinates a lot in her litter tray. Could the howling be a side effect of her medication?

I'm sorry to hear your cat has been unwell with her thyroid condition.

Yowling and pacing could be a sign that her medication needs adjusting, so I would certainly mention this to your vet. Cats can also develop a form of dementia as they age, which can present as restlessness and increased vocalisation. Any change in her thirst or urination could be a sign of an early kidney problem, and it is unlikely that what you describe is a side effect of her medication.

It would certainly be worth taking her along to a vet appointment and having a discussion about all the things you have highlighted.


Veterinary note: Please note that we are unable to give specific advice on your cat's health or any change in behaviour observed. For more advice, please check our veterinary guides.

Consult your vet if you have a specific concern about your cat.

Would you like to ask one of Cats Protection's experts a question? Don't miss the next live Facebook Q&A sessions: speak to Behaviourist Nicky Trevorrow on 29 June; or vet Dr Sarah Elliott on 13 July. All Q&As are held on Cats Protection's national Facebook page from 2pm. See you there!

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