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Bay Magazine - May 2022

30 April 2022

Cats in our lives

Swansea Cats Protection with Lyn Gardner


Why do we keep cats? Why do we love them so much? I read some-where that ‘cats are like music, it’s foolish to try to explain their worth to people who don’t appreciate them’ and that’s true. Loving cats can sometimes be a tricky one to explain to a ‘non-believer’. I actually struggle to explain it to myself sometimes when my ‘butter wouldn’t melt’ cat Arlo sidles into the room and plops another dead mouse on the floor! But when he rolls on his back and paddles the air with his giant paws and slowly blinks at me, I can forgive him anything.

As volunteers we share stories about our own cats and hear lots from the wonderful people who adopt our rescue cats. And whilst often they’re tales of cuteness…sometimes they’re not! Possibly the most nerve-jangling tale I’ve heard so far was from Kelly, one of our brilliant volunteers who said she found a mouse head on her pillow one evening! Had her cats been watching The Godfather and getting a few ideas?

So why do we share our lives with cats? We love our cats, but do they love us? While non-cat owners might utter claims of ‘cupboard love’ many cat owners know that their cats really do enjoy the company of us humans – it’s not all about the cat treats!

Cats interact with people in a variety of ways; not every cat will sit on a lap and purr – or even go as far as dribbling with happiness and relaxation – but just as there are many different types of cat, there are also many different ways they can show they love you. Some may only be able to show the tiniest signs of appreciation and acknowledgment that your care means the world to them. Lily for example is such a cat, she gives little away to the volunteers who care for her, but we know she needs us. Goodness knows what she endured before coming into our care as an abandoned young stray, she has barely known love and security in her short life. It’s heartbreaking that Lily has been in our care for over a year now without finding a forever home. Found as a stray with her kittens, Lily was cared for by a kind fosterer, and brought into a cattery homing pen once they were adopted. She’s very shy and cautious and needs a home where she can just be. She’ll sit on the stairs and gently purr if you stroke her, but she’s not a lap sitter, she’s not a cat who enjoys a cuddle. But she does trust and she does show affection. She meows for food and enjoys a treat, she likes human company, but not to be swamped by it. You sit there and she sits here – content you’re around. Lily desperately needs a home where she can just be. We know someone out there is right for her, we just wish they’d get in touch soon. Lily could be fostered initially to see how things go.

Lily looking relaxed in her own space

Some cats just want to say hello. If a cat approaches you with his or her tail pointing up, this is a sign of greeting. This often happens when your cat is coming in from outside. You should acknowledge this with a bit of a fuss as it probably means puss is glad to be home. Another type of greeting occurs when a cat rubs against your legs. This typically occurs when you have been outside and your cat wants to cover you with its scent. Head butting is another way cats can transfer their scent on to you, affectionately marking you out as part of the family.

A cat rolling over and exposing its belly is a sign of greeting and trust. While some cats welcome a tummy tickle, not all do and may retaliate with a nip. Unless you are confident your cat enjoys a tummy rub, a better reward is to give a slight head rub.

Jimbob

One of the happiest sounds for a cat owner is purring – your cat is happy or is looking for attention. And this is just lovely isn’t it? It’s positive feedback from your beloved cat that they think you’re ok. Be aware, however, as cats will also purr if they are stressed. You may have noticed your cat purrs when they have to be seen by a vet. Recently I took rescue cats Jules and Jimbob to the vet for a thorough examination of their eyes. Tragically they’d been exposed to cat flu at an early age and this was left untreated by their breeder, resulting in significant scarring and sight loss. They behaved perfectly, but were clearly afraid and uncomfortable, yet purred loudly throughout the examination by the vet. I was reassured later that they were ok once returned to the familiarity of their cattery pen when they both purred with delight at some posh food we’d given them….and a big fluffy cuddle too. All was forgiven, and it melted my heart as I stroked their beautiful, furry faces.

Jules and Jimbob

Sadly, these stunning cats have been with us for more than a year and although they have some special needs, they’re so sweet-natured and loving and keep themselves looking gorgeous. We’d love to see them adopted (or fostered initially) so please get in touch if you think you might be the one for them. Take a look at their adoption profile on our website. Talking of furry faces, if your cat licks you, it might be because it sees you as part of its family and is happy to groom you. Another sign of affection is playful biting, particularly by kittens. This can be stopped by distracting the kitten with a toy or a game. My own cat Arlo is a bit of a biter, usually when he’s been thwarted whilst out hunting, so he takes it out on me for a second or two before composing himself and proceeds to snuggle down beside me. Cats eh?

Is your cat chatty? Adult cats rarely meow at other cats, so meowing at you when your cat is well fed and warm could be simply a sign of love and appreciation…if cats did appreciation, ha ha! But meowing is a way of getting human attention and communicating their needs and wants. Interestingly, feral cats cease to meow after very early kitten-hood, as they no longer have a need for it once they’re weaned and independent from their mother. So, if you meet a stray or free-roaming cat who meows at you, he or she has somewhere along the line had a dependent relationship with a human and is either lost or been abandoned. And sadly, a person has let them down, has stopped caring about their cat and abandoned them to their fate. Now doesn’t that break your heart? It does mine. I mentioned earlier that Arlo waves his giant paws in the air in a rhythmic kneading motion, but more usually cats do this onto soft surfaces such as your lap. There are many theories as to why cats knead but practising it on you is likely to be a sign that you are accepted as part of the family. If a cat is happy to fall asleep on you, it is a sign of great trust – cats do not like to feel vulnerable, particularly while asleep.

So, does it make any difference to know all this about cat behaviour to those of us who already love cats? Did we need explanations? Probably not. It just makes them even more interesting and wonderful. But will it convince the ‘non-believer’? Probably not.

As Swansea Cats Protection volunteers we have a responsibility to understand cat behaviour and a duty to see and respond to the needs of the cats in our care. Some of them have suffered terribly, like beautiful Jules and Jimbob, and we need to help them trust again, to heal and restore. So, if you see us slow blinking at the cats in our care and slightly shift our head to the side, we’re just communicating our love to them. And If we’re really lucky, the cats will do the same back, showing mutual trust and understanding. And that needs no explanation at all.

Thanks to Brighton Branch of Cats Protection for some of the useful information on cat behaviour.

If you’re interested in adopting or fostering one of our rescue cats or kittens please get in touch. IMPORTANT: we are keen to match the right cat to the right home, based on our knowledge of the cat and the information you provide. However, due to the high number of applications we’re sorry to be unable to respond to unsuccessful applicants. Please remember we are ALL UNPAID VOLUNTEERS trying to do our best for the rescue cats and kittens of Swansea.

We can be contacted via our Helpline 0345 2602 101 or email us at http://swanseacats@hotmail.co.uk. Please note our helpline is answered by a messaging service and we will respond as soon as we can.