Sunday, August 26, 2012


When we decided to adopt Tina, they told me in the shelter that it was hard to find homes for tortoiseshell cats. Tortoiseshell, or tortie, is not a specific breed, but refers to the colouring of the cat. It is like someone took a black cat, a paintbrush with orange paint and shook the paintbrush at the black cat leaving speckles of orange on the coat. There are variations in colour like the blue tortie where the base colour is grey (grey is often referred to as blue with cats) When the cat is mostly speckled but has a white patch, it’s called tortie with white and if the colours are patchy instead of speckled then it is called a calico. Are you still with me?
Even though it is all about the colouring, torties are said to have special tortie personalities that set them apart from cats with different colouring. They call it tortitude. Torties are said to be strong-willed, independent, a bit hot-tempered, moody, very vocal, and possessive of their humans. Hmm, that’s something a lot of cat owners with all sorts of different breeds and colours of cats will say about their cats too.
Now I personally believe that every cat is an individual with a specific personality, despite the colour. I do agree that there might be differences between the different breeds of cats as there is with dogs, but even within those breeds cats have their own individual personality.
Until there is some substantial research into this, I’m more inclined to think that tortitude is an urban myth and not a very helpful one at that. When people read about the moody, hot-tempered and vocal bit, they might think torties are “difficult” cats. Shelters might then have a hard time re-homing them.
Of course, tortie owners don’t mean to portray their cats as difficult as they love them for their personalities and like to think their cats are special. So do black cat owners, tabby owners and every other colour cat owners. To cut it short: all cats are special in their own way and have their own delightful personalities.
When I look at my two: Charlie, the tabby male, is the more vocal of the two. Tina, the tortie lady, was very quiet and insecure when she first arrived. Tina learned by observing Charlie that Charlie got attention and things done by being vocal. Tina is more vocal now too, but not like Charlie. He wins in decibels as well as frequency. He also vocalises more in grunt-type noises. They both have their distinct personalities. Charlie is a real boy who plonks himself down on the floor, belly exposed for a rub. He’s also very impatient and a bit rude at times, taking over when Tina is playing. She sometimes gives him a tap on the nose to show she’s annoyed with him but most of the time she waits patiently until he’s gone and then resumes playing.
Tina doesn’t really like to be handled much but shows love and affection in her own way. She loves being rubbed on top of her head, her neck and on the side of her head. She lies against us on the couch and she comes over to me when I’m working on the computer, stands up at the side of the chair and taps me on the arm for attention. She drags toys around to where we are when she wants to play and loves a good run. When she first came to live with us, she was very nervous and was constantly hiding but now she is relaxed around us and enjoys our company. She is a beautiful tortie. She is strong-willed but also an absolute sweetheart and very patient with Charlie and us. If cats can have a sense of humour, Tina certainly has it, the way she teases Charlie.
Does she have tortitude? Nah, she has Tinatude, and we love her for it. I also love her beautiful shiny coat with all the specks of orange.
So when you go to the shelter to pick a cat for adoption, please don’t overlook the torties. Colouring doesn’t make the difference in personality. Environment and experience does. Some cats have a lot of trust in humans from the start. Others need a bit more time. In a shelter some cats might feel vulnerable and may come across as standoffish or shy. When they come to a house where they can feel safe, where there are places for them to sit, climb and scratch like cat trees and where they get good quality food, then that will help immensely for them to feel at home and develop their own personalities. And don’t forget: cats need playtime, even when they go outside. Playtime also helps with the bonding. In the end it’s worth every bit of time you put in. We love our tortie but we love our ginger tabby with white just as much. They are family now.
Oh, and one thing that came up when I researched torties. In folklore they’re said to bring good luck. Maybe I should pet Tina while filling out my next lottery ticket. I’ll let you know if I win anything.


Saturday, August 18, 2012

Limerick Feral Cats

Today I was in Maxi Zoo to get some cat food. As often on a Saturday the people from Feral Cats Limerick were there with some beautiful kittens.
They do brilliant work in caring for feral cats that live around Limerick.
Feral cats need care as well. I will copy their statement here so you know what they are about. They have a website as well as a Facebook page. On the Facebook page you can read all about feral cats Limerick and feral cats in Ireland in the "about" section. You can also find a donate button on the Facebook page and if you ever see them in Maxi Zoo in the Ballysimon retail park (from September on every first Saturday of the month), or at the Clondrinagh car boot sale every Sunday, you can give them a donation there as well. The money is used to pay for neutering/spaying, medication, food and care. They also bring cats that need rehoming.
This is their Mission statement:

The distinction made between feral cats and pet cats is an artificial one. They are one species, identical in every way. Feral cats only differ in their fear of people. We believe feral cats deserve the same care and compassion granted to pet cats. The welfare of feral cats is no less important and they have the same right to life. Feral cats are not self-sufficient, and without human help, they can suffer greatly. We believe in TNR (trap, neuter and release) as the kindest and most effective solution to stop this cycle of suffering. The five rights listed below represent the basic principles that guide our efforts on behalf of feral cats.

Feral Cats’ Bill Of Rights

The right to have their individual lives cherished and protected.

The right to live free from cruelty and abuse.

The right to aid and comfort, including food, water, shelter, and medical care.

The right to a fair share of the welfare resources available for the care and treatment of companion animals.

The right to be represented accurately and humanely by those who speak on their behalf.

Limerick Feral Cats support Limerick communities and individuals who wish to help feral cats in their area, primarily through TNR - the trap, neuter and return of feral cats to their home location. We work hard to find good farm homes for neutered, healthy feral cats if they are unwanted. We also take the young kittens of feral cats into our homes to tame them and give them all the veterinary treatment they need before finding new homes for them.

Limerick Feral Cats want to bring together and coordinate people like us who live around Limerick and who are already doing something similar. Together we can raise awareness of the plight of feral cats living amongst us here in Limerick. One of our core aims is to promote TNR as a humane, effective solution to feral cat over-population.

Our TNR programs require fundraising, volunteers to help trap the cats and volunteers to help transport the cats. Donations of money, time, transport and traps are most welcome."

Two-and-a-half months as a family.

Two-and-a-half months, I can’t believe it. It seems like a lifetime. I wonder if the helpers in the Limerick Animal Welfare shelter would recognise them. Especially Charlie has grown. From a thin ferret-like tomcat he has grown into a muscly filled-out fella. After the first few weeks with us he developed a little pouch from eating well but being inside. Now he roams around in the garden, climbs trees and hunts flies, mice and whatever else moves.
Tina has developed a nice muscle tone too but is leaner than Charlie, even though she eats like a trooper. She does a lot more running around though, even when in the house. She also climbs the cat trees a few times a day.
Her ringworm seems to have cleared up completely. The bald patches have disappeared and her coat is beautiful and shiny. So is Charlie’s.
The house is now completely theirs. Tina loves the hammocks in the cat trees. Charlie lies in them from time to time too but he prefers to plunk himself down on the floor or lie on one of his favourite chairs. They both lie on the couch and love our bed. During the day, while we’re home, they wander in and out. They are so comfortable in our company and in the house.
When I’m working behind the computer, Tina calls in to me from time to time to stand up on her hind legs at the side of the chair, pat me on the arm and meow to let me know she’s there. I pet her on the head then and sometimes she goes into the windowsill or walks around and rubs my legs and then walks away again. When she wants to play though, she drags a toy from the sitting room to the bedroom, opposite from the room where I sit and then does the arm patting. If I still keep working, she will drag the toy into the office space to make it even clearer. “Come on, I want to play”. Of course I can’t resist her charm and play with her for a while.
They own us and they know it. 
It’s been such a good time so far with the two. I do miss Cato a lot. I would have loved to have seen the three of them together.

Saturday, August 4, 2012


Tina and Charlie came to live with us on the 5th of June. At the time there was an outbreak of ringworm in the other housing unit of the shelter, separated through a few doors from where they were. The cats were on medication for it and it was under control. For those who don’t know what ringworm is, it’s not a worm but a fungal infection that causes round patches on the skin. It’s not life-threatening and in a healthy cat it will probably disappear within 3 months anyway. It is contagious and can be passed on from animals to humans. On humans it is very easily treatable with creams.
After collecting the two felines, our first visit was to the vet to get them microchipped and when we mentioned the ringworm in the shelter and the thin hair over Tina and Charlie’s eyes, the vet recommended treating them both preventively with an oral solution, one week on, one week off for 5 weeks. This was well meant, but that medication can cause vomiting and diarrhoea (diarrhea in the USA but it’s the same shit. Sorry, couldn’t help myself.)
We would also have to restrict them to only the one room in the house for the 5 weeks.
Both cats were already a bit stressed out from being out of their usual surroundings and they were going into a new living environment. It wasn’t even certain that they had ringworm.
At the time Tina was a very nervous cat who didn’t like to be handled. Because of being a bit stressed, she already had some diarrhoea. Administering the medication to her would be a nightmare and would stress her out even more. We decided to wait and see.
They settled in nicely and we got them into a routine of play time and set meals. Charlie was relaxed from the start and Tina slowly got out of her run-and-hide routine and started enjoying the house and the cat trees in our house. She also started to trust us and treat us like family by grooming us. Things were going well.
Four weeks ago I noticed two small, round balding patches on Tina’s head so I knew that at least Tina now had it. She might not even have had it when she came into the house but I volunteered in the shelter a few times and Orla goes there every Sunday. The spores are airborne and we may have carried them back from the shelter.
Anyway, I still didn’t like the thought of the oral solution so I went on-line and did some research. I was looking for topical treatments on the skin. One vet from the USA suggested rubbing apple cider vinegar on and around the spots and using antifungal creams. We had apple cider vinegar in the house so I started straight away rubbing diluted vinegar on and around the area and on Charlie on the thinner hair over his eyes and on his head as well. The idea behind it is that it creates an unfriendly environment for the fungus.
Treating Tina wasn’t always easy. She was a devil for hiding. I soon learned to close the doors to the sitting room and bedroom as there are fewer hiding places in the kitchen and it is very easy to get her when she’s in the hall. She soon learned that I wasn’t going to hurt her and relaxed more during treatment. Charlie was a piece of cake. He didn’t hide at all.
When I looked on-line for what creams to use, it was suggested to use something with Clotrimazole 1% w/w in it. Here in Ireland you can buy Canesten cream over the counter and that contains Clotrimazole 1% w/w. It is used for athlete’s foot and also for baby nappy rash. In the health food shop they sell HNZ gel, which is a gel that has Manuka honey in it. It has antifungal properties and is quite harmless as regards side effects.
As soon as I knew which creams I wanted to use, I got the creams, stopped the vinegar and started applying the Canesten cream on Tina and the HNZ gel on the skin over Charlie’s eyes and on the head as a preventive measure. The Canesten cream looks and feels a bit messy and restricted Tina’s grooming. That’s why I helped her with a fine comb to get the loose hairs out carefully. She enjoyed that and seemed to understand straight away that I was helping her with the grooming. The HNZ gel hardens a bit on the longer hair and looks like hair gel once applied. On the thinner patches over Charlie’s eyes it was easier to rub in and it didn’t seem to bother him.
In the meantime I had ordered antibacterial/antifungal wipes from that can also be used on the more sensitive areas around the eyes and in the ears. The wipes arrived by post a week later. I treated Tina with the Canesten cream three times a day for the first week, then twice a day for the next week-and-a-half. It seemed to have cleared up so I stopped using the cream and started using the wipes to wipe the whole head and in the ears as well with one wipe, ending with the areas that were affected. Then I get a clean wipe and give her a full body rub with that one, including the paws. I do that twice a day. She actually enjoys it. I do the same thing with Charlie. I know that there are probably still spores all over the house, even though we vacuum a lot more and do more intensive cleaning in the house. The spores can live up to 18 months to my knowledge so they might get it again. A lot of cats carry the spores but are never affected. It all depends on their immune system. Our cats are fed well and seem very healthy. So hopefully they will be able to keep it at bay from now on. So far, the topical treatment seems to be working. The patches on her head have cleared up.
I will use the wipes for at least a week. I do realise that the antibacterial working might affect good bacteria as well so I don’t want to be using it all over their body for too long.
Ringworm is quite common on cats. They can pick it up when they go outside, from other cats in a shelter or cat hotel, from humans who’ve been in contact with animals etc. It needs to be treated, but if it can be done with less aggressive on the spot treatment it would be preferable to the aggressive oral solutions and is also cheaper. The oral solution cost about €50 a bottle. Two bottles would be needed to treat both cats, so that’s €100. The Canesten cream is about €8 and the same goes for the HNZ gel. A package with 20 Savic Refresh'r Wipes Sensitive is €2.99. I’m using two wipes for Tina and one for Charlie twice a day, so that’s six wipes a day which is about €7 for a week. The tube of Canesten cream is still not finished after two-and-a-half weeks. The HNZ gel is.
Charlie hasn’t shown any signs of the fungus so far, so fingers crossed.

PS: There is no more ringworm in the shelter.