Three Things you Think you Know About Cats – but got Completely Wrong! By Anna Pickering

By Anna Pickering

It’s my fourth week as foster care for Cole, my black and white, male foster cat.

I’m loving being his foster carer and I am really learning from my experience and want to share a few of the things I have learned about cats with you.

It is thanks to the excellent expert advice and support I have received from the cattery team at Mayhew before, and during fostering, that I have felt fully informed with correct information about cat care and welfare from the outset.

  1. Ensure your cat has access to plenty of clean fresh water

Please ensure water is always available for your cat If they’re not a big drinker, some cats like drinking from pet water fountains, or if your cat is a big foodie, remember you can also put a small amount of water in with their food.

As I learned from the team at Mayhew, the vast majority of cats are lactose intolerant because they don’t have the enzyme (lactase) in their intestines to digest the sugar in milk (lactose), meaning that milk which contains lactose risks making them very poorly, so it is better not to risk it!

As I also learned from Mayhew, the only time a cat may need you to give them milk is if you need to hand-rear a kitten and you should only give them specific kitten milk, as other types of milk won’t have the right balance of nutrients. Just like any kitten, they’ll also need weaning off this and as an adult will be perfectly healthy on a complete food and water.

2. Know when NO really means NO – and understand the cat’s body language

I love to play with Cole and give him a stroke when he’s curled up next to me on the sofa. But I also know when he’s had enough. Often cats will flick their tail to warn you that you’re getting on their nerves and it’s best to stop, or the claws might come out! There are many tell-tale signs that a cat’s becoming overstimulated, and when you start notice them just give them their space. It’s so important not to aggravate any animal.

I’m also learning to read Cole’s body language to understand his mood. When he’s relaxed, his eyes are closed or slit, and he purrs away loudly. This is most often as he’s such a lovely boy – he’ll even lay flat out with his tummy to the sky when he’s sleeping – when he does this, I know he’s at his most comfortable and happy. If his ears are back but not flat, he’s feeling agitated, and may jump or run away. If his ears are flat back on his head, he is not happy about something – so I know to leave him be!

3. Play time is serious business!

Cats need just as much interactive play as dogs, and I speak from experience, having been around dogs for many years. Playtime is serious business for cats from kittenhood to their senior years and is a vital part of their health and development. It’s so important to find a toy your cat enjoys playing with safely (Cole loves anything that spins!). You will get such a joy watching your cat play and discover new toys. I do!

If you are interested in fostering a cat from Mayhew, please visit


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