Friday, 15 April 2011

One in a Million

We often use the phrase "one in a million" to describe something rare or even something we just hapen to like very much.

In Jasper's case though, he really is a cat in a million - or according to some statistics - a cat in four million.

Jasper is a very rare thing, a male tortoise shell cat.  Genetics demonstrate that male cats cannot exist (see notes below), but our little Jasper is very much alive and male.

He was found living in the garden of an empty house.  The kind people who found him fed him for several months and brought him to our centre recently.  He will be advertised and then neutered (he is likely to be sterile) and he has been reserved in the event that no one claims him, so he has a new home waiting.

It is such a shame that someone saw fit to abandon him.  In our looks-obsessed culture, we are amazed that something so rare and beautiful isn't prized, and yet, from our point of view, although Jasper's appearance has caused a stir, we would consider any cat to be "one in a million" as they are all unique with different personalities, habits and characteristics.

In cats the colour gene is carried on the X chromosome. Female cats have two X chromosomes so can have colour from both chromosmes, whereas male cats have an X and a Y chromosome, so only one (the X) has the colour gene. So in a female cat, black can be inherited from one parent and ginger (red) from the other which results in a tortoise shell cat (sometimes called calico or chintz). A male cat from the same parentage, having only one X chromosome, would be either ginger or black. Male tortoise shell cats are found to have a mutation giving an XXY chromosome set-up and are usually sterile.

Thursday, 31 March 2011

I'll have chips with mine ....

Hello everyone

My name's Harriet, or maybe Harry, or actually maybe it's Tigger.  You see, being a cat I can't speak so I can't tell you.

Here's my story...I was found straying in a Bradford suburb in a pretty poor condition.  Thin, hungry and dirty.  The kind lady who found me made enquiries, but no one knew where I'd come from, so she took me in and offered me a home.

Because she didn't know my name, and because she thought I was a boy cat (perish the thought!), she called me Harry.  A few weeks later, I went along to the vets for "the snip".  They took one look under my tail and realised that I am a girl.

My kind friend tried very hard to keep me, but she had been rescuing quite a few stray cats and we were all getting on top of each other, so she asked Haworth Cat Rescue to find me a place at their centre with a view to rehoming me.  When I got to their lovely centre, they decided to change my name from Harry to Harriet to reduce confusion about whether I am a girl or a boy.

Another thing they did was to check me for a microchip to see if anyone had owned me in the past, and yes, their machine went beep-beep (which made us all jump!) because just under my skin on the back of my neck is a little piece of fantastic technology no bigger than a grain of rice.  This little microchip (or chip) has a number which is readable by the little magic machine which cat rescues and vets have, and the number is registered on a database alongside my owners' name and address.

Haworth Cat Rescue wrote to my owners to tell them I was at their centre, and they were thrilled to bits as I had been missing for over two years.  They hotfooted it to the Centre and recognised me straight away - and told the staff and volunteers that my real name is Tigger!

So I am now back at home and very happy to be here.

There is a moral to my story (well, three, actually).
1. Get your cat (and dog and any animal you can) microchipped - it doesn't cost a great deal.
2. If you move house, make sure you update the details - had my owners moved and not updated the details I would never have been reunited.
3. If you find a cat who appears to have no owner, take him or her to a vet to be scanned.  A vet won't charge you and it will only take a minute or two.  Although I will always be grateful to the lady who found me and helped me, had she had me scanned, I would have been reunited with my owners many months earlier.

And a little plea to any vet reading this - please scan any animals that you haven't seen before, particularly if the person bringing it in doesn't know where it lived previously - microchips only work if the animal is scanned!

Friday, 11 March 2011

A Tale of Two Kitties

Kittens are so cute - we all love their little faces peering hopefully at us as they wait for new homes.  And we love to snuggle them close, play little games with them and laugh at their antics as, safe in the knowledge that they will come to no harm, they jump and pounce and chase.
But what of their less fortunate cousins?  Those baby cats who are born away from loving homes, out in the wild in old dilapidated buildings, under bushes, behind broken fence panels.  Cats are such a hardy species that their survival rates are high, and their mums are such good hunters, catching mice and other rodents that usually most of the litter will survive.
The main issue with kittens born away from homes, is domestication.  It is essential that kittens are handled in the first months of their lives so that they quickly learn that human hands are  kind.  Because kittens born in the wild are hidden by their mothers until they are able to walk out of the nest, around 5-7 weeks old, people are often not even aware of their existence until they are big enough to run away.  And that makes taming them much much harder.
Whenever possible we would encourage people who notice such kittens to catch them, handle them and play with them - the earlier they are caught, the sooner they learn to trust, in fact in some cases it can be as little as four or five days. If they are left until they are bigger - they take much much longer to tame.
Take Nessa and Hettie, pictured above.  They were noticed at about eight weeks of age by a kind lady who started to feed them.  Because their mum was tame and friendly, the lady assumed that the kittens would learn by example - but this isn't the case with cats - they let their instinct drive them, and their instinct says "DANGER!".  
Nessa and Hettie were about four months old when they came to us, and they were absolutely terrified.  We had to put them in indoor cages for a few weeks to get them used to being handled, and gradually teach them to trust.  At the time of writing, Nessa is almost ready for rehoming (to an experienced owner), whereas Hettie will be some time before she is confident enough.
The person feeding them did well, and meant well, but had she caught them and handled them, they would have been far tamer.
Contrast this with Mary, who came from a similar background.  In her case, the lady feeding her mum knew that Mary had to be caught and handled.  When Mary came to us for rehoming she was used to being handled, and used to people being around, and although she was nervous in crowds of people, we were able to rehome her to a relatively quiet home very soon after she came to us.
If you spot tiny kittens playing in your garden, don't be afraid to catch them and play with them - the few weeks of handling you can give them at the start of their lives will make a huge difference to all their remaining years.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Botox for cats? No, not really!

Aslan is a big hunk of a cat who came to us in the wintertime after being spotted hanging around a local housing estate for several months.  He was a big lad, with an enormous head, and rather jumpy and nervous if approached, although not unfriendly.
It was immediately apparent that there was something wrong with his eyes - cat flu was suspected by the person who brought him in, but the eye discharge was not accompanied by any sneezing or other symptoms.

An examination by our vets revealed that Aslan had ingrowing eyelids, which were rubbing on the surfaces of his eyes, causing them constant irritation and making them sticky.

An operation was called for, and duly carried out.  Tiny strips of skin were removed to open his eyes a little more and to remove the excess skin which was folding in and causing him such irritation. ("Botox for cats", as one of our volunteers called it!).  He was also neutered and had several teeth removed or cleaned.  

Aslan has a very large head which is normally caused by a build up of testosterone due to him being un-neutered until we got him - by which time he was already middle aged. 

The transformation from a squinting, smelling, sniffing scared lad to a big clearsighted, sweet-smelling, clean-breathing softy has been a joy to behold.  The nerves which caused the aggression disappeared quite quickly and we believe that they were simply due to the poor vision that his condition caused.

It is easy to fall prey to the belief that any cat with runny eyes has cat flu - and indeed this may often be the case - but Aslan demonstrates that other conditions may be the cause.  Any cat with runny eyes should be examined by a vet who will be able to advise the best option.