Saturday, 30 November 2013


Which do you prefer?

Please note that what follows is not intended as a criticism or dig at anyone. I'm merely looking at something which, as a cat rescuer, puzzles me a little.

People who want a cat or a kitten fall into one of three groups.

They just want a cat or a kitten.

They want a boy cat or kitten.

They want a girl cat or kitten.

It's the second and third groups which puzzle me. I've been a cat owner for over 60 years (if a 3 year old can own a cat that is) and there isn't really much difference between them, certainly not once they've neutered/spayed. I currently have four adult cats, two of each sex, plus 3 male kitten-cats and two female kitten-cats.

Aoife and Max and both big black cats who like people but aren't terribly fond of other cats.

Aelfric and Fifi look completely different but are very wary of people they don't know and both are fine with the kittens and other cats.

I can't say that over the years I haven't noticed any difference between cats on the basis of sex because I have. However, it's statistically a very small difference. Shall we say that there's a 53% chance that a neutered male is going to be more placid and even tempered than a female? Because that's really about it.

Here's a real statistic I can throw at you. Over the year the population of our cat rescue has been around 65% female to 35% male. In other words, female cats are more likely, on this small sample, to need a new home than male cats. It might be completely different for another rescue, I don't know.

All of which proves precisely nothing. I just thought I'd mention it. If you're thinking of coming to me for a cat, please don't feel embarrassed about expressing a preference. Recently I was asked if we had a long haired tortoiseshell female kitten. I suggested he might be better off approaching a breeder (the first time I've ever done that) than a rescue. 



Neutering is process of removing a male cat's testicles (balls to you, sir). Another term is castration. It is a simple procedure which many vets allow their veterinary nurses to do. The only risk, which is very small, is a reaction to the anaesthetic.

Within a couple of hours after the operation, the now neutered male will be back to normal and won't even notice something's missing.

Spaying is the term used to apply to the operation of which the human equivalent is a hysterectomy. This is only performed by vets. The stitches are usually (at least at our vets) internal and along the side and heal up very quickly.

The recovery time is a little longer than for males and the cat may want to be left alone for a few hours but that's all.

In the last several months I've had several females spayed and two males neutered. All of them were absolutely fine except for one exception which is mentioned in an earlier post. Some, as one did, may need a surgical collar to stop them scratching at the stitches.

Why Do We Do This?

All adult cats and dogs that have not been neutered/spayed already will be when they come into the care of Animal Krackers. Almost certainly, every other animal rescue in the UK will have the same policy. There many reasons for this.

Neutered male cats will never spray to mark their territory. The urine of unneutered males is highly pungent -in other words, it stinks to high heaven.

Unneutered males will have a much larger territory and thereby increase the risk of having an accident like getting hit by a car. They are more likely to catch diseases from other cats. They are much more likely to get into fights. They will have a shorter lifespan, particularly if they're feral.

Females will produce litter after litter of kittens, many of which never find a home because-

There are more unwanted cats and kittens than there are people that want them.

And that is because some people don't spay their cats. The more pregnancies a cat has, the shorter its life is likely to be. 

Reasons Not To Spay Or Neuter Cats.

There aren't any.

No, there really aren't. If you can't afford to pay a vet, a local rescue might be able to help. Or you could try the national charity Cats Protection. And there's always the PDSA.

Of course, there's always the old standby reason, the reason which can be applied to anything. You! Yes, you sir standing at the back with your arms folded. You were going to say..?

"It's not natural."

And congratulations sir, you have won the prize for making The World's Most Stupid Statement! What in this world dominated by humanity is natural these days? If we never did things as a species that weren't natural then we'd still primates living in the jungle.

Hang on! Hang on! Here's another. You'll love this one, trust me. "Why should we deprive an animal of the pleasure of sex?"

What pleasure? It has no more meaning for them than defecating (emptying their bowels to the man who made that statement). They don't know it's missing.

Okay, here's one that almost sounds sensible. "If every pet cat was neutered/spayed, the species would become extinct." No it wouldn't. There are always breeders, there are always 'accidents', there are always ferals. Cats are one of the most successful animals on the planet and will outlive us as species. They can certainly survive a few million domestic cats being deprived of the ability to reproduce. In this sadly unlikely event the only thing that might happen is that cats become more appreciated and more valued which would be no bad thing.

A neutered/spayed cat (or dog) lives a longer, healthier and happier life than one that isn't. It's as simple as that.


Sharp-eyed regular readers will notice that isn't a Part 3. Well there is and there isn't. Thematically there is a Part 3 but it's under a different title. And I hope you all appreciate what a clever play on words the title is. You see if you replaced the K for an H you get... Oh never mind...wonder why I bother.mutter....

1. Another new kitten.

So, phone call to re-home a mother cat and ten week old kitten. Yes to kitten, No to cat. Yes, because I can always squeeze another kitten into my house. No, because the re-homing centre is fully booked up till the New Year, barring another 4-cat week that is.

When I actually get there, it's a nervous little tabby. I also meet the mother who is a friendly big tabby so I suggested that if the lady can have her spayed and vaccinated, at our expense, I might be able to get her in.

The kitten has gone into the conservatory partly to give it a chance to calm down and partly because it's used to doing its business outside and may have forgotten about litter trays. He's not aggressive but cringes away from me when I bend down to stroke him. Just noticed a few seconds ago that he's playing with his blanket which is a good sign. Think I'll call him Magnus. No, I don't know why either.

Update. 30 minutes later and he's a bit less nervous about me stroking him and he's used the litter tray. At this rate I'll try him with the others by the end of the day.

2.  Another new cat.

Max was one of our cats adopted five years ago by an oldish lady. A neighbour got in touch with me to see if we could take it in as the house would be cleared soon and none of her relatives... well, you know the story. As the conservatory would be free in a few days (that story comes next) I agreed and picked him up on Tuesday. 

He's very placid and friendly boy of uncertain age, though definitely not young and I'm taking him to be checked out at the vets on Tuesday where he'll get his first flu jab. Yesterday, at Susan's insistence, I moved him into the gen pop. So far he's stayed in the living room, mostly on the top of the settee out of the way of the other cats -Aoife in particular who prefers people to other members of her species. Just like Max really.

3. Two more for the re-homing centre.

One was a stray adult female being looked after a lady. I'd taken her to the vets where, much to vet Wendy's embarrassment when she asked me for a name, I named her Wendy, and had her vaccinated and spayed. I had to pick her up a day early and have her spend the night in the conservatory where she changed from an amenable pussy to the cat from the nether reaches of hell. I wore gloves the next morning when I put (wrestled) her into the cat carrier. If I hadn't she'd have bitten through my thumb.

Also going for his second flu jab was Arthur, the seven month old black and white kitten-cat, who loved snuggling up next to me when I went to bed. And then to the re-homing centre where I hope Wendy will calm down just like Tut who now seems remarkably placid and friendly.  (As usual, see previous posts for details).

4.  The adventures of Fifi.

Shortly after arriving, Fifi the first cat I adopted when I moved into my new house earlier this year, retired to my book room for a few months only tolerating the company of Aelfric. A couple of months ago she decided to occupy the kitchen where she was often joined by the big A. While there I caught her cuddling up to a kitten or two. She's now in the process of moving into the living room and, whenever possible, sitting on my knee.

Wonder what she's going to do next?

Sunday, 24 November 2013


1. Best re-homing week ever! 

I'll say it again. Louder.

Best Re-homing week ever!

Yes, four cats were re-homed from our centre at Ferry Farm Kennels in the same week. If that happened every week we could take in nearly every cat around. But of course it doesn't.

Last Sunday, Ellie the 8-month I'd fostered for a few weeks went to a lady and her son at Penshaw. They texted me a couple of days later to say how delighted they were with her. Two days later the nervous but friendly Ziggy, another cat I'd fostered, went with a father and teenage daughter. No news which I assume is good news.

I tell every person who adopts a cat from us, that I'm always available for advice or just to listen if there are any problems at all or if I can help in any way. Also that we'll always take a cat back if it's unsuitable -it does happen- and they can, if they wish, try another one.

Saturday (yesterday) I re-homed two cats in half an our. One of them was Leona our joint longest resident having arrived at the end of December last year. I'm so pleased. Also going to the mother of the lady who took Ellie was Edward the wandering (four family visiting for food) large thick furred black and brown stray who'd been hurt by some kids. We'd kept him in the shop for a while and got him treated at the vets before transferring him to Ferry Farm which was obviously the best thing. Despite being healthy and extremely friendly (he likes draping himself around your shoulders), he is around eight to ten years old and it isn't easy to re-home older cats so I'm delighted this lady has taken him. He'd actually been recommended to her by her grandson who also brought her here.

Best re-homing week ever! If only they were all like that. This is the best part of what I do and it makes it all worthwhile. "I'm h-a-p-p-y/ I'm h-a-p-p-y/ I know I am/ I'm sure I am/ I'm h-a-p-p-y."

2. Little lost kitten.

And elderly couple with four dogs found a small kitten on their doorstep. They lived on South Hylton bank. It was dark. It was rush hour. I got there when the clouds opened and rain, sleet, and snow crashed down and the god of thunder and lightning smote his anvil with a hammer and lightning split the sky and thunder burst ear drums and I was walking up and down the steep bank trying to identify the house, hoping I wouldn't slip (as I had earlier that day at the bus station when I crash-landed on my right leg).

But I found it. I took the kitten (3-4 months old). Put it in the conservatory with Tut. It had a collar on and was very friendly and affectionate, pretty too, with a soft coat and thick bushy tail. I expected someone to have contacted me about it by now but they haven't. She's now in gen pop though not too happy about it.

3. Animal Krackers Christmas Fayre.

I had nothing to do with this. Any credit for its success should go to Susan Hardy who worked her arse off and herself into the ground getting it ready and properly organised. Thanks to the many helpers also. Raised over £400 for the charity. 

It was held in the function room at the Alexandra pub just a couple of hundred yards from where I live. I popped in for about half an hour to chat to people and there was a nice buzz. Good one, Susan.

4. A sad note.

A couple of posts ago I mentioned Max, a rescued older cat who had developed diabetes and had taken to be put to sleep. Wendy the vet decided to see if he would be suitable as a practice cat (that is: live in the practice, not to be practiced on). Alas, I received a call yesterday to say that, while he'd won the hearts of the staff there, he'd been deteriorating and that Wendy believed there was more seriously wrong with him than just diabetes. I don't need to state the rest.

Ah well.

Sunday, 17 November 2013


Nah, it's just an update.

Last weekend I re-homed Milo, a three year old grey and white cat. A couple of days later I learned that he was barely eating and drinking and the new owner was very worried. I took them both to the vets and, after a thorough check, Louise couldn't find anything wrong. As it was probably stress at the move, despite being very friendly to his new owner, Louise gave him a steroid shot to increase his appetite. Tonight I contacted his owner for an update. He is eating but only small snacks. I think as long as he's maintaining his body weight -like all housecats, he has a sedentary lifestyle- he'll be fine.

Today I re-homed Ellie the 8 month old kitten-cat who'd spent a few weeks with me. I knew it wouldn't be long before she was re-homed as she's a very affectionate and pretty little thing. Ziggy, a cat who was very nervous in the short time she was at my house, has come on a lot and has nearly been picked twice recently. 

As for the cats I've got-

It won't be long before Tut (no longer Growler) is off to the re-homing centre. I've stroked him three times to day without the slightest aggressive reaction so I'm very pleased. It just confirms what I thought in that he's a nervous cat who takes time to settle. I now believe he is re-homeable but with an experience owner without either cats or kids.

Frankie the little kitten settled in within a couple of days. He plays happily with the other cats and loves curling up on my knee whether I want him there or not. Whoever gets him will be very lucky.
Here he is with one of his friends and they aren't looking at me but at the stranger, the 6 month old kitten cat with the undescended (and since removed along with the descended) testicle. He's an odd one. Runs a mile from me when I'm walking around but if I coax him into letting me stroke him, he turns into a total softy. He also loves snuggling up to me on the bed at night.

Three not so little kittens.

Aelfric the Irresistible (I mean, how cute is that?) and Tiger the Titan.

Sunday, 10 November 2013


(Or: Breakfast With Cats)

Despite being a single person living alone, actually having my breakfast is a very complicated affair which could probably stand comparison, in terms of preparation, with Downton Abbey except for the fact that it patently couldn't and Downton Abbey isn't real.

The first stage is actually getting up which isn't always easy. On weekdays I try to do it around six o'clock but usually wake up half an hour earlier and then go back to sleep. At this point, cats play no part in the routine. I only allow two in my bedroom overnight -Aoife of the short black fur, who sleeps at the foot of the bed and sometimes on top of me, and Tiger of the long dense tabby coat (who, given his size, should really be named Goliath) who likes to cuddle up next to me to be stroked and when I stop because I'm falling asleep he moves over and goes to sleep himself. If I let the kittens in I'd never sleep at all.

So, I rise, put on my glasses and tentatively open the door to allow the three kittens to rush in and hurtle all over the place. I pause in the doorway and look on the floor. Against the wall on my right is a 30kg sack of cat litter, a waste bin which is a receptacle for used litter, then a covered in triangular litter tray in the corner. But I'm not looking at them. I'm looking for faecal deposits. If I find any they go in the bin and I then check the bathroom. The floor (lino) is always clear. Whichever one of them it is who doesn't use the 11 litter trays in the house won't use (or rarely uses) a hard surface like lino or laminate but does use the carpet (though never on the stairs).

And downstairs I go where I empty and clean the litter trays there.

That done, it's time to feed the little felines which are clustering around my feet like animated woolly slippers. At the time of writing, I have five adults ranging in age from two to five and four kittens age seven weeks to six and a half months. They all get the same food except Tiger who won't eat moist food so gets dried stuff and fresh (cheap) chicken (four legs boiled in a saucepan) de-boned and with jellied stock, mmm. 

It works out like this: three sachets at my feet in the kitchen, two in the living room, one in the isolation wing (the conservatory), one plus the chicken in my bedroom, dried food in all, plus water if needed.

Great! I'm done! Now I can get on with the complicated procedure of preparing my own breakfast. Fill and switch on kettle, put heaped spoonful of Nescafe Azera Intenso coffee in a mug which is emblazoned with the words IDLE OLD GIT, and then put a bowl containing Quaker Oats two minute porridge in the microwave. While the porridge is heating up I switch on my computer. Porridge ready, coffee ready (black no sugar if I'm ever at your house), I sit down-

-and get jumped on by two kittens trying to get at the evaporated milk. It's my fault. In milder weather I have cold cereal with I top up with semi-skimmed milk and evaporated and always leave some in the bowl for the cats. Except they can't wait so I eat while simultaneously fending them off.

But it doesn't matter as I have to get up anyway. At least once, usually twice, someone (not me) decides to have a smelly poo in one of the litter trays in the living room which needs cleaning up immediately. Well, I suppose it doesn't  matter if I don't mind eating my breakfast in a smelly room, but I do. The porridge goes somewhere out of reach of kittens, and, and and... And I finally get to finish eating. As long as I ignore the kittens which are hurtling around the room like, well, kittens.

So to the computer with coffee to check emails and news websites. And a kitten claws its way up my legs with its sharp little claws and Aoife jumps on my shoulders.

Is there anything else you'd like to know? Not that I think you wanted to know any of this in the first place but it's all part of the rich life of being a cat re-homer and fosterer.

I love my life.

Anyone want a kitten? Please.

Post Script.

In the 45 minutes I've spent writing this I've had to get up three times to empty smelly cat litter. This is par for the course.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013


Got back from the vets after taking a cat from the re-homing centre to be checked and got a call from Carole about a disabled lady who couldn't cope with a stray young cat she'd taken in. I rang her and arranged to call and check out the cat. By a coincidence I'd been booked to collect a load of vinyl albums from a house only a couple of streets away from the lady with the cat.

As soon as I got there I could see that the situation was genuine. The cat was about 6 months old, maybe a little less, male and quiet. Curled up on a settee, he didn't protest when I picked him up and stroked him. Okay, another one for the conservatory, at least at first.

I had to call in at the shop to drop off the heavy boxful of albums and took the opportunity to show the kitten-cat around. Unusually for me I managed to ingratiate myself with a new volunteer by telling her she didn't look old enough to have a four year old son. When she told how old she was I just laughed said that anyone under 40 looks like a bairn to me. The truth is that I'm just crap at guessing people's ages. When I first met Susan I couldn't tell whether she was 35 or 45 (actually 40, same age as me).

I took the cat home and popped him in the conservatory with Growler. Then Susan called round for the van, told me the house was mess. It was. And told me to get the kitten-cat out of solitary. I did and after a while he disappeared behind the freezer where he currently (20.35) remains. I'm taking him to the vets tomorrow for his first flu jab and and to be checked out.

Okay, here he is.

As for his brief room-mate, Growler aka Tut, I can stroke him for much longer than when he first arrived before he attacks. I think he likes me as as he comes to me when I enter the conservatory and purrs when I stroke him. All the same, I wasn't looking forward to getting him in a cat carrier for his trip to the vets.

Luckily, and wearing gloves, I took him by surprise and he was in before he knew it so off to the vets he went. As for what he'd be like when put on the examination table, the question was simply how much of a bloodbath it would be.

Instead he behaved like an angel. Not a growl, not swipe with his claws, not a squirm. He patiently allowed Wendy to do anything he wanted to him, including give him a flu jab.

To finish, some photos of Frankie, Tilly, and Tod cuddling up together.