Quirky kitties: investigating your cat’s most curious behaviour!

By the RSPCA’s cat behaviour and welfare expert, Alice Potter.

Many of us share a home with a cat and even consider them to be an important part of the family but do we really understand them?

This blog will try to explain some of our cats’ curious and quirky behaviours, because the more we understand them, the better we can be at making sure our cats are happy and healthy.

Why does my cat… not drink from her water bowl?

Image: wabisabi2015It’s quite common for cats to ignore the water in their bowl and to opt for another source such as the glass of water you keep next to your bed or a running tap.

This isn’t about being fussy, this is actually a very sensible behaviour they are believed to have inherited from their wildcat ancestors. In the wild, cats wouldn’t drink and eat in the same place, because they may contaminate their drinking water with the entrails of their prey.

Instead, they drink away from where they eat, ideally where there’s running water which is more likely to be clean and fresh. This is why your cat may jump up and drink from the tap when you clean your teeth or the glass of water next to your bed – because it’s far away from their food bowl.

Top Tip: Always place your cat’s water bowl away from where they eat, ideally in a separate room. If your cat enjoys running water, consider getting them a pet drinking fountain.

Why does my cat… rub against me when I get home from work?

In part this is a greeting behaviour but there is more to it.

Your cat is depositing scent on you to make you smell more familiar. Cats have a number of different scent glands on their body including on their cheeks, tail and the sides of their mouth. These scent glands  produce pheromones which have a unique smell.

When you get home from work or being out you will have picked up all types of new smells so by rubbing themselves on you, your cat is making you smell more like them, more familiar and more safe.

Top Tip: Familiar smells can help your cat to feel more safe and secure. If you move home, take your cat to boarding, or even just visit the vets, make sure your cat travels with an item that smells of home such as a blanket or worn piece of clothing.

Why does my cat… roll over and show her tummy but not want it to be stroked?

Image: Elle Cayabyab GitlinIt’s easy to assume that if your cat exposes their tummy it’s because they want to have it rubbed but many cat owners who have tried may have had an unpleasant surprise!

When cats expose their tummy it makes them vulnerable, so when they greet us in this way it’s a sign that they feel safe and trusting. However, it isn’t a request for a belly rub.

When your cat rolls over and shows you her tummy it’s best just to acknowledge her with a gentle little head rub.

Why does my cat… love being stroked one minute then seem fed-up the next?

We often think of our cats as being unpredictable or just plain grumpy but with a little more understanding we soon learn that isn’t the case.

As humans, we tend to enjoy more intense and longer social interactions compared to cats who like them to be short and sweet. This means that we can easily overdo it when we are giving our cats a fuss and might miss the subtle signs telling us that they’ve had enough.

Top Tip: As well as only enjoying short social interactions, recent research has also confirmed that cat’s only like to be stroked on particular parts on their body too. When cats groom each other they focus on the head and neck and they prefer these areas when being stroked by people too.

Why does my cat… really love boxes?

Image: Bobbi BowersHiding is a natural behaviour for cats and boxes provide the ultimate opportunity. Research has shown that being able to hide can help cats feel less stressed so it’s important all cats have hidey-holes around the house to retreat to for some time out.

In addition, cats are highly intelligent animals who are naturally motivated to explore. They also have the physique to jump and climb – so why not find out what’s in the box?!

Why does my cat… seem to prefer people who don’t like cats?PR stock image

It’s believed that the body language of people who aren’t keen on cats actually makes cats want to be around them.

In contrast to some cat lovers, people who aren’t so keen tend to give the cat more space, less eye contact and can appear overall as less threatening.

If cats have the choice to approach somebody in their own time rather than have it forced upon them they will likely feel more relaxed and comfortable with the interaction.

We hope we’ve cleared up some of your cat’s more perplexing behaviour! 

Did you know that London currently has a “cat crisis”? Read about it in our recent news story and City Cats report.

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Lovecats! How nervous Patch found his purr-fect match

The tale of two star-crossed felines, with special thanks to Sarah Piggott from RSPCA Millbrook Animal Centre.

A rough patch

PatchPatch came into our care in May of last year. His owner had far too many cats to care for – they were all under-socialised and very timid. The household then suffered a house fire, which thankfully Patch managed to escape uninjured from.

He was utterly traumatised by his experiences and was one of the most nervous cats Southall Cattery had ever seen. He couldn’t be handled at all and would hide all day.

The day Seraphina came to stay

Seraphina arrived in November, having been rescued from another multi-cat household. She was suffering from a flea allergy and had severe hair loss. However, Seraphina was the complete opposite of Patch – she made herself at home in the cattery from day one and loved everybody she met.

Seraphina would have been snapped up straight away but had to stay at Millbrook for a few weeks for treatment. This turned out to be a serendipitous stroke of luck as during this time, staff noticed that Patch was very, very keen on Seraphina!

Stolen glances and cat-calls!

Patch&SPatch had started sneaking out of his hidey bed to watch Seraphina play in the corridor and would meow as she walked by.

Staff knew they had to introduce the two. Patch’s shyness lifted immediately when he was around Seraphina. He’d headbutt and groom her for attention. But they also noticed it changed his mood towards them – for the first time he wasn’t running away when the cattery staff went near him!

Seraphina was perfectly happy to spend her days in Patch’s pen too – so they moved in together and officially became a pair.

Love at first miaow

With Seraphina by his side, Patch became one hundred times braver than he used to be. He’d come to staff for attention and started to enjoyed having his chin scratched. He became almost unrecognisable from the scaredy-cat he was before.

The pair’s lust for life was noticed by a local woman who fell for the two tabbies when she visited them in early January. Determined to help the two sweethearts land on their feet, she took them home just a couple of weeks later.

In it for the long-haul

Patch_Seraphina_HomeWe were thrilled to receive a recent update:

“Patch and Seraphina are settling in really well so far. Seraphina has been sleeping on our laps and Patch sits nearby, gradually moving closer each day, which is really good to see.

“His confidence is growing each day and it is very sweet to see how devoted they are to eachother!

“I think a lot of Patch’s progress is testament to the patience and understanding of the RSPCA who laid the groundwork…and we are fortunate to be getting the benefit.”

Can you offer a special animal their fur-ever home?

If you can offer a loving home to one (or two!) of the fantastic animals in our care, head to Find a Pet to track down your purr-fect match.

Cat Among the…Fleas?

I, personally, believe that all life on this planet is sacred, and go out of my way to share my livespace and its surrounding nature with all creatures that choose to inhabit it–be it spiders, ants, mice, skunks and the like. So, I tend to eschew toxic cleaners and pesticides/insecticides, and spend an inordinate amount of time rescuing bugs, insects, injured wildlife, and stray animals (or, people’s free-roaming pets, in actuality *laugh*).

My cat Cricket, however, gets flea allergy dermatitis very badly. Which usually isn’t a problem, as my cats are kept strictly indoors (for their health and safety, as well as that of the local wildlife and birds). But, I had to move into a place where my roommates let their cats in and out during the day. Naturally, a flea population had migrated indoors with the cats.


Usually the fleas are pretty manageable by conventional methods (Advantage and other flea control methods). That year, in my Florida neighbourhood, the flea population just seemed to explode. My neighbour and her dog had to go stay with her friend while her entire house had to be bombed. And it still didn’t work. Nothing did, in fact. I’m not usually a supporter of toxic flea elimination methods, but for Cricket’s sake, I tried everything. All kinds of topical flea stuff–Advantage, Frontline, Sentry, Bio-Star, Vectra–that oral Capstar pill, flea collars both natural and toxic, flea baths and so many other things. One of the vets said that fleas were adapting themselves to be immune to the insecticides as they came out, and very quickly, too. So, we were stuck as what to do next.

As the house had a lot of inherited antiques, we hesitated at having the house bombed like our neighbor’s, but, still, we were faced with a situation where nothing worked. And, though my cats were still indoor-only, my fellow pet owner was reluctant (at first) to make the transition to their pets being indoor-only. But necessity demanded we start keeping all the pets indoors (though they still allowed theirs access to the screen porch).

Still, the flea problem was out of control. I’m a little embarrassed to even relate how bad the infestation was–the fleas were just having a field day in the house with us, and the pets. My roommate was practically beside themselves with the flea problem.


We were out shopping at one of my favourite indie natural pet food places, when I had the bright idea to ask the staff if they had suggestions for how to get rid of fleas (My roommate was usually skeptical of natural products, unlike me). The staffer introduced us a company called Vet’s Best. They had a flea and tick home spray to use on the inside of the home, as well as an outdoor spray that attached to a garden hose that we used to treat the exterior of the home, especially the entry ways, and around the screened-in porch. And we went back to an old-fashioned practice we used growing up: regular baths with Packer’s pine tar soap.

About a month into this flea-ridding process, Cricket’s flea allergy dermatitis cleared up, and the flea population was greatly reduced. After about two months, the flea population was mostly gone. We kept up the monthly routine of spraying inside and, though, (skipping the baths after about three months, to the cats’ great relief) and never had a flea problem after that.

I was so relieved–after months of trying toxic products I didn’t feel comfortable using–I had now found a safe and effective way to eliminate fleas. I would recommend both Vet’s Best flea & tick products, as well as pine tar soap, to help with any flea problems you might have in your home and on your pets. Unfortunately, Vet’s Best is only shipped in the U.S. mainland. I’m not sure about Packer’s pine tar soap: here’s a list of places to buy it (from the website).


(Disclaimer: I didn’t receive any free products from Vet’s Best or Packer’s pine tar soap in exchange for this review. Bought it and used it as a consumer. From a brick-and-mortar store.)

Pets and antifreeze

Hi everyone,

Today we’ve got some important tips for you all from Andrew Bucher, Chief Veterinary Officer, MedicAnimal:

Pets and antifreeze

Let’s face it, most pets dislike the cold weather. Whether it’s freezing, windy or wet, it’s not a pleasant experience for pets or their owners!

However, severe cold weather adds another problem that many owners simply do not think about – antifreeze. It’s important for many motorists heading to work and additionally for gardeners who wish to keep fountains frost free. What they may be unaware of is that chemicals in antifreeze can prove lethal to pets.

Firstly, antifreeze is typically 95 per cent ethylene glycol (EG) and diluted 1:2 or 1:3 with water when added to the car’s radiator or washer fluid container. The real problem relates to taste. Antifreeze, as well as car screen wash and brake fluid, are all very sweet tasting, meaning cats and dogs tend to lick it readily. If you consider the number of motorists who will use such a product in winter, leading to run off into puddles, then you can see why it becomes a problem.


Even a relatively small amount can prove lethal, one teaspoon (1.4ml) is enough to kill a cat.

It also acts very fast, in many cases your pet can die within 24 hours and if you are not treating it within a few hours of ingestion, there is a serious chance of permanent kidney damage, usually fatal.

Animal charity, Cat Protection reported 1,197 cases of anti-freeze poisoning between November 2012 and December 2014, an average of 50 deaths per month.

So what do you need to know?

The main signs to look out for within 30 minutes to 12 hours after ingestion:

  • May drool saliva and look depressed initially and possibly vomiting
  • They may then appear to recover, but a day later are unwilling to eat (kidneys now have physical crystal damage)
  • Any evidence of green fluid (a fluorescent dye is usually added) around the muzzle/paws/base of tail (use a black light if you have one)
  • Seeming wobbly, uncoordinated gait or seeming ‘drunk’
  • Head tremors, increased urination and thirst (kidney damage)

If you suspect a poisoning, see your vet immediately.

These tragedies can only be avoided by people being more cautious day-to-day, but there of course things companies and politicians can do. For example, Switzerland banned ethylene glycol based coolants in supermarkets and general shops for the public in 1972. Instead, Propylene Glycol is used instead which is far less lethal to pets.

In the UK, there is an online petition to add a bittering agent (commonly known as Bitrex or Aversion) to ethylene glycol anti-freeze products to make it unpalatable to pets and humans, as well as adding a clear warning on the external packaging.

I’d urge people to be mindful when using and storing these products and in future think long term to what they can do to help all pets!


We hope you found these tips useful and don’t forget to sign-up for our Newsletter to never miss a post again. 😀



Cats teeth and why cleaning your cats’ teeth is so important

Hi everyone,

Today we’ve got some important tips for you all from Andrew Bucher – Chief Veterinary Officer at MedicAnimal:

We’re all reminded from an early age that too much sugar and junk food will rot our teeth. I’m certain there are very few people out there who enjoy going to the dentist too! However, what about our pets? While we’re unlikely to be indulging our pets with fizzy drinks and chocolate, we still need to think about their dental hygiene and where necessary, taking to them to the dentist.

As we enter the festive season, with lots of treats around, we thought it would be an opportunity to put together some thoughts on how to look after your pet’s teeth.


Human teeth are very different to animals’. Carnivores need teeth for catching and slicing, whereas omnivores need large flat grinding teeth. In humans, a typical adult human has 20 baby teeth and 32 permanent adult teeth. Incisors, canines, premolars and molars all have a different role to play when we eat.

Cats only have sharp teeth in their mouth and whilst they also have two sets, the molars only come out once they are between 5 and 6 months of age.



Pets get gum disease in the same way that humans do, with bacteria and trapped food particles collecting along the gum line and forming plaque. If this is plaque is not removed (and yes, only mechanical abrasion works here so regular teeth cleaning is key), minerals in the saliva then combine with the plaque and form tartar (or calculus), which is firmly attached to the tooth.

This tartar then causes local irritation resulting in gum inflammation (gingivitis). Unfortunately prior to gingivitis, the owner will see absolutely nothing. If the calculus is not then removed (and the only way to do this is to give a general anaesthetic to your pet), then the calculus begins to actually separate the gum from the teeth, allowing even more bacteria to enter! This is called periodontal disease.

It can be extremely painful to your pet at this point but owners may not even notice this pain, as animals will often mask pain in order not to appear weak. They also learn to eat with the non-painful part of their mouth if possible. Pets can get bad breath, so at this stage, you may be able to smell their bad breath from across the room.

The biggest issue actually is not necessarily the pain that this causes but more the fact that this allows bacteria to enter the bloodstream that could end up causing direct infection of the heart valves, or disease of the kidneys and liver.

Root canal treatment is commonly performed on our pets to save discoloured, fractured or abscessed teeth. The alternative is full extraction.

Other clinical signs that may accompany periodontal disease are increased drooling (may be blood stained), pawing at the mouth, loss of appetite, nasal discharge (if extreme), loose or missing teeth or typically increased sensitivity around the mouth.


Luckily periodontal disease is preventable (as in humans) and ideally involves daily brushing (or at least twice weekly) using a specific dog/cat toothbrush and toothpaste (available in chicken, seafood or even malt flavours). Do not ever use human toothpaste as this contains fluoride which is toxic to pets.

You can also use mouth rinses that target plaque bacteria on a weekly basis. There are dental diets and dental sticks that contribute to mechanical abrasion and hence keep plaque and tartar formation to a minimum.


Costs do vary according to breed, age and level of periodontal disease present. Average cost for a ‘scale and polish’, which for some dogs may need to be done once to twice yearly, ranges from £150-£350 including a general anaesthetic. The large majority of pet insurance providers do NOT cover preventative health care (i.e.: a scale and polish) but will cover it if the teeth were damaged in an accident.


In brief:

The main message for pet owners is that the best (and cheapest) method to avoid these high costs is to brush their teeth and/or use appropriate diet/treats.

Also, even though the pet needs to have a general anaesthetic for any dental procedure, in the vast majority of cases the benefits far outweigh the risks associated with an anaesthetic.

We hope you found these tips useful and don’t forget to sign-up for our Newsletter to never miss a post again. 😀



Cat Adoption

Hi everyone,

Today we’ve got some important tips for you all from Andrew Bucher Chief Veterinary Officer at MedicAnimal:

There are couple of things which make this blog relevant to readers. Firstly, in November we begin to think about Christmas and what presents we can potentially buy for friends and family. There is also ‘National Animal Shelter Appreciation Week’, an opportunity to support the wonderful work that local shelters provide to unloved and uncared for animals. Finally, this November also saw the launch of the film release of ‘A Street Cat Named Bob’, a heart-warming and true story about homeless busker James Bowen and the relationship he strikes up with Bob, a stray cat.

There is an opportunity to adopt a pet at any time of year, but as a trained vet, I’m cautious to remind readers of the commitment and costs of buying or adopting around Christmas. I thought it would be good to note things you should consider if you are considering adopting a cat. There’s many things you need to consider and not just costs. Owning a cat is a 10 to 15 commitment, it is not a decision to be taken lightly!


Here’s what to know:

  • Affordability: Firstly, can you afford to have a cat? Research shows that depending on size and breed, a cat can cost up to £17,000 in its lifetime. Owners need to consider everything from food, medical care and insurance.
  • Housing: Do you live in an appropriate surroundings? Cats may not need as much space as a large dog but they do like safe spots and hiding places, as well as access to outside space. A top floor flat may not be suitable.
  • Lifestyle: What does the family think? It’s a big decision and everyone needs to be involved. Also, remember that cats are sociable animals. Will there be someone around to play with your new pet regularly?
  • Type: Kittens can be adorable but require an owner who’s prepared to look after them from an early age. Adult and mature cats are great alternatives for people who wish to have a cat who is toilet trained, well-behaved and already has a routine.
  • Where do I adopt? Check online to find your local pet shelter. They are a great place to find a cat to re-home. Be cautious of kitten and puppy farms, whether it be an individual or kennels, however, as the animals may have been illegally trafficked and therefore may have health issues that owners will be unaware of.

Every pet deserves a loving home and unfortunately owners can sometimes fail to understand the costs and commitment of owning a pet, which can result in them being abandoned or placed with already pressurised animal shelters.


Adopting a pet is a commitment for life and should not be underestimated. If you’re considering doing this, speak to friends and family who already have a pet, consult online and seek advice from your local vet. If you decide to go ahead, please visit your local animal shelter, do your homework beforehand and make sure you ask the right questions about the cat’s heritage and background, and any particular needs it might have.

Andrew Bucher is the Chief Veterinary Officer at MedicAnimal

We hope you found these tips useful and don’t forget to sign-up for our Newsletter to never miss a post again. 😀



The Purrfect Move

Hi everyone,

Today we’ve got some important tips for you all from our friends over at MedicAnimal:

The Purrfect Move

While no one likes to think about the stress of packing up your house, moving home is an exciting time for most people. A new place to lay down one’s roots, a new community and new challenges.

Cat 1

However, moving house is not always the easiest for our pets. While there may be new sights and smells, as well as different roads to roam, there are also the stresses of a new environment, both indoors and outdoors, as well as the potential threat of other neighbourhood animals. This is particularly important for cats who are likely to be out and about on their own, exploring their new territory.

Andrew Bucher, co-founder and Chief Veterinary Officer at MedicAnimal says:

“While our attention may be on the packing, the admin and the finances, it is important to think of your cat. It can be a stressful time for them too and it’s important to take into consideration their fears and what you can do to help them settle in, just as much as you and the family.”

If you’re in the process or planning a move, here are some things to consider both before and after the move.

  • Planning: Cats will be aware of changes happening around the house. Former hiding places may not be as calming as they once were or favourite chairs may have been moved. It’s important to keep your cat de-stressed. Set aside a separate room during the move with plenty of toys, food and water. They’ll also expect lots of attention, so make sure you continue to play and interact as much as you can. It also means they’re unlikely to escape. The last thing one needs to be doing on the day is searching for kitty!
  • Moving: It may sound obvious, but remember not to pack away your cat in the removal van or the boot of your car. Your cat should come with you in the family car and if it’s a long journey, make sure to take stops and bring water.
  • Alternative: If your cat is particularly nervous, has recently been unwell or is a bit older, then perhaps look into booking them into a cattery for a couple of days. It will allow you to get on with the work of packing and then unpacking, while your cat can have time away from the uncertainties around moving day. However, make sure it’s a cattery you know and trust.
  • Arrival: We understand there will be priorities and that the process of unpacking can take weeks, however, it will be important to get your cat/s settled too. As we recommended doing before the move, set aside a room with familiar toys, as well as food and drink. One thing to consider is products such as catnip or sprays with artificial pheromones that will help calm your cat/s.
  • Settling in: It’s all very dependent on your cat’s character, however, you should try and approach this as steadily as possible. Preferably, try to keep your cat indoors for up to two weeks and then introduce it to the garden to take in the new sights and sounds. If you’re concerned it may escape, then try a lead or harness.
  • Safety: We can all get a bit lost when exploring a new neighbourhood, so make sure you invest in a new collar with your new address. You should also visit your vet and get your cat microchipped. If they’re already microchipped, remember to inform the vet about your new details. If you’ve moved locally, it is worth letting the occupants of your old house know about your cat. Cats tend to follow similar trails and may well head back to your old house.
  • Instincts: We all love watching our cats, particularly as their natural instincts take shape. If you’re downsizing or moving to a house with a smaller garden or no garden at all, why not introduce new things for them to explore such as boxes, toys and dry food to hunt.
  • Playtime: No matter where you are, cats need love and attention, so make sure you set aside time to play.

By Andrew Bucher, Chief Veterinary Officer at MedicAnimal

Cat 2

We hope you found these tips useful and don’t forget to sign-up for our Newsletter to never miss a post again. 😀