Copyright 2003 Sarah Hartwell

This article is a look at views about cats and cat care in Britain during the 1960s and 1970s. The original "Retrospective" was written in 1996 (web version 1999) and split into separate documents with some overlapping areas. Each document is split into topics whose contents are ordered more-or-less chronologically with added "then and now" commentary or background. In this way I hope to keep it an ongoing work! It is interesting to note how attitudes have changed, as well as how our knowledge has increased.


Cats Protection League (various leaflets from 1960s & 1970s)
Mery, Fernand; "The Life, History and Magic of the Cat" (1966) (originally published in French)
Pedigree Petfoods/Peter Way Ltd; "Your Guide to Cats & Kittens" (1973)


Other parts in this series focussed mainly on the 1940s and 1950s, touching upon later decades to show how attitudes were evolving. This article focusses on the 1960s and 1970s onwards; there was more information available although some misconceptions remained. Feline health and diet were being scientifically studied and new breeds were appearing.

For me, the 1970s are not "history"; I grew up during this time. Some of my favourite childhood books included Molly Lefebure's "The Hunting of Wilberforce Pike" about resourceful cats battling a cat thief (sadly out of print, but well worth trying to find) and Doreen Tovey's books about her Siamese cats.

Major sources for this period were the English translation of Mery's "The Life, History and Magic of the Cat", pedigree Petfood's "Your Guide to Cats & Kittens" and literature produced by the then Slough-based Cats Protection League (CPL). Concerned with welfare, rehoming and population control rather than breeds, breeding or exhibiting, the CPL produced and distributed leaflets such as "Some Facts About Cats". Additional information is sourced from CPL member magazines of the time.


Mery mentioned some of the societies aiding cats in Britain: the RSPCA, PDSA and CPL. He quoted statistics that there were 4,250,000 pet cats compared to only 4,000,000 pet dogs in Britain in 1966. Yet recent statistics claim that the cat has only recently overtaken the dog as most common pet, with both having reached the 7,000,000 mark.

He wrote "[...] in 1927, there was founded a specialist organisation, 'The Cats Protection League' which has numerous affiliated bodies in England and Ireland. It is dedicated exclusively to providing medico-surgical help for cats." Which makes the CPL sound like the Red Cross rather than an organisation devoted to rescuing, rehabilitating and rehoming cats and encouraging neutering of pet cats.

Though much smaller than the modern CP, the CPL was very active in cat welfare: promoting neutering, educating the public in proper cat care and rehoming stray and unwanted cats. Their literature of the time, on topics ranging from collars through to feeding, is quoted in this article.


In their book, Pedigree Petfoods wrote that the best known of the cat protection organisations in Britain was the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) animal clinics. The People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) operated both fixed and mobile dispensaries and its main objective was to provide a medical service for animals whose owners could not afford veterinary fees. The Blue Cross and Dumb Friends’ League were two similar organisations. Some of the cat protection organisations, such as the Blue Cross, offered holiday boarding facilities.

The Cats Protection League (CPL) did the most for cats, being a society devoted solely to cats, and had 23 branches in Britain and one in Ireland. The CPL would take in strays, try to find good homes for them and, where necessary, neuter them to prevent the birth of unwanted kittens. Another cats-only organisation was the Feline Advisory Bureau which was dedicated to disseminating information to cat owners and to those working with cats (vets, cattery owners, cat rescue shelters etc). It supplied leaflets on topics ranging from breeding to nursing, established special funds for promoting investigation into feline disorders and had an accreditation scheme for catteries. FAB-approval is now the gold-standard for a British cattery.

"Your Guide to Cats & Kittens" also acknowledged the work of volunteers of those organisations and of those who worked independently; people who took in, cared for and found homes for strays: "These selfless and dedicated cat lovers seldom receive publicity and are usually heard of only by word of mouth."

All cat protection authorities agreed on many points: when answering an advertisement seeking a home for an unwanted cat, always check that the advertiser is the owner and that there is no possibility of its having been stolen; always keep cats in after dark "for this is the time when the cat stealers pursue their loathsome trade" and have the cat neutered by a qualified veterinary surgeon "if there is any likelihood of kittens being born which will not be wanted and for which it may be difficult or impossible to find good homes".


Rejected kittens (i.e. unwanted presents) were not the only recruits to the stray cat population. Cats sometimes strayed or were abandoned when their owners moved house. If a cat could no longer be kept, the owner was advised to seek assistance from one of the many animal welfare organisations.

"The stray cat’s overriding instinct is one of self-preservation, and to this end it avoids human contact as much as possible. Stray cats only rarely attempt to adopt new owners, and most rehabilitated strays are the result of the perseverance of some concerned human." This is actually arguable - unless they have been badly treated, short-term strays are usually approachable and may try to invite themselves into a new home.

The book's advice on strays seems to refer more to long-term strays or to cats which have gone feral since it went on to say that the best way to attempt to redomesticate a stray was to offer food, water and some form of outdoor shelter. A stray might be rehabilitated by the constant offering of tempting food, especially strong-smelling food such as sardines or cod-heads. Once tamed sufficiently, it should be taken to a vet for thorough examination and vaccination. If the stray approached near enough, it might be trapped in a blanket and transferred to an escape-proof carrier. It the person did not want to adopt the cat themselves, they were advised to take it to their nearest RSPCA centre. Unfortunately, the RSPCA tended to put high numbers of cats to sleep.

Would-be rescuers were warned that anyone who attempted to handle a stray was likely to suffer injuries such as bites and scratches which carried a risk of disease transmission. "Strays pose a serious threat to any domestic cats with which they come into contact, for strays are invariably infested with parasites and may be the carriers of infectious diseases. Strays’ territories are well mapped out and in the case of males are marked with their spray of urine. Any pet neuter that should chance to wander across the boundary of this territory will be in danger of attack. The stray itself also faces many dangers as it is perpetually threatened by disease, accident, hunger and cold."

This publication gave the poor old feral cat short shrift and is entirely misleading on the subject! "Feral cats are usually larger than their domestic counterparts and are built for survival. They are, of necessity, aggressive. The males fight among themselves for the right to mate the females and the females fight off any approaching cats who may harm their litters. The kittens hiss and snarl even before they can open their eyes, and they fight with each other over the scraps of food scavenged for them by their mother."

While fighting is most definitely a problem among 1970s ferals (there being little in the way of trap-neuter-release programs), ferals were not usually larger than domestic cats. In terms of size, feral cats are generally indistinguishable from domestic cats - if anything, they may be smaller due to poorer nutrition! In fact, much of what the authors had written about "strays" described feral cats. Far from hissing and snarling before they even open their eyes, the majority of feral kittens can be tamed and grow into entirely domesticated pets!


It would be some years before the first cat welfare body devoted to feral cat welfare would be formed. However the CPL recognised that there were many cats kept in semi-wild conditions on farms and they sought to improve their living conditions. They wrote that farm cats must serve some purpose, either as unofficial rodent destroyers or farm house companions. If they were purely utilitarian, and not pets, they must have a value as they contributed to the maintenance of the farm, Just as horses, cattle, tractors and other agricultural machinery were cared for, farm cats must also be maintained in good condition if they were to give their best and remain in working order.

"The requirements of the farm cats are seldom given a second thought, except perhaps when rats and mice become more than the usual nuisance, when no doubt, the cats are blamed for not doing their job. [...] Some farmers may consider the cats on their farms as servants. Then surely these servants are worthy of their board and lodging, and care and attention during illness."

The CPL suggested that farm horses would not do their jobs satisfactorily if they had to live on just what they could pick up whilst working. Nor would tractors function without proper fuel. Working cats therefore needed something more than milk if they were to be effective. "Rats and mice are merely stop-gap foods for hungry cats and far from palatable or wholesome." Hungry cats hunted only for food. Well fed cats would hunt for sport and have the stamina and vitality to do their jobs.

Many people living in the country or visiting farms were shocked by the condition of some of the cats they saw: starved-looking, diseased, and maimed adult cats and their scared, underfed and unwanted kittens were all too common on some farms. This indicated either a total disregard for the cats, or an inexcusable lack of knowledge of the farmers’ responsibility towards those cats. It was also against the law, constituting neglect likely to lead to suffering. It could also be cruelty, especially the way in which unwanted cats and kittens were likely to be dealt with.


In the 1960s and 1970s, the CPL provided extensive information to their readers about laws applying to cats. Pedigree Petfood's "Your Guide to Cats & Kittens" reiterated many of the same points. Detail is contained in A Very Brief History of Cats and the Law.


For those who intended to get a cat primarily to control vermin, the CPL had this to say in the 1960s " Cats are not intended to be animated mouse-traps. They hunt for the pleasure of hunting. Cats that are forced to hunt for their food will only kill to satisfy their hunger. Rat catching and killing calls for strength and energy, only maintained by good, clean food; the flesh of vermin is unclean and unwholesome. Keep Your Cat Fit to Fight the Rats that Ravage the Nation’s Food Stores."

In a 1960s copy of "Basic Care of Cats and Kittens", the CPL wrote that cats needed exercise and fresh air. If the cat had to be kept in a flat with no enclosed balcony, the owner was advised to fix a wire frame to the window, so that the air and sunshine can get in without exposing the cat to the risk of falling. It was not safe to let the cat out on to narrow window ledges, several floors above the street, or on to an open roof. Many cats had been seriously injured distracted by birds. However cats should never be shut out at night. They also risked getting caught in traps or simply straying. "Apart from the humane aspect, cats are far too valuable to be allowed to run such risks for the want of a little care." Cat thieves were believed to be prevalent, supplying stolen cats to experimental laboratories or for their fur.

Relatively few people made the effort to find a lost cat, usually assuming that cats were fickle and liable to leave home. Cats were, after all, easy to obtain and most were not considered valuable. For those who did make the effort, "Some Facts About Cats" offered general advice about searching for lost cats:

"Contact and report your loss to animal welfare organisations in your district or town. The addresses can usually be obtained from the Police who should also be informed. Sheds, garages, greenhouses etc., in the immediate vicinity of the cat’s home should be thoroughly examined with the consent and co-operation of the neighbours. Cats have been found in lofts, especially store rooms, warehouses, cellars, basements and empty houses; church boiler houses too and rooms that are seldom used at institutions. In the cat’s own home, cupboards, laundry baskets, the chimney, under the floor boards or an overturned box, behind a grating or even the "bottom drawer" should be inspected. A crate in a yard, the church organ loft or crypt, coal shoot in the middle of a pavement, the boot or bonnet of a car are all places in which a eat can hide or be trapped. Cavity walls can be entered through a broken air brick. A cat will squeeze through a small space such as a slightly opened skylight and become marooned on the roof. It can be chased by a dog or children up a tree, it can get into a van or a car and be driven away and not be found until the traveller reaches his destination. Road men and refuse collectors will sometimes be able to give information about a cat that has been killed on the road and taken away. The postman who delivers the morning mail may have seen such a cat here or there.

Advertising in the newspapers can be very successful but it can also be the means of cats that are not lost being picked up and brought to the advertiser. A full description is therefore advisable. The use of small advertisements outside shops or handbills in the windows of friends etc., will draw attention to the loss. [...] Searching is best done late in the evening when it is quiet. The cat should be called by name in the hope of it responding. Anything with which the cat is familiar should be tried in an effort to attract its attention and every possible clue as to its whereabouts should be investigated as quickly as possible."


During the 1960s, cats were frequently "put out at night". The CPL advised against this and a 1970s CPL leaflets said: "Cat thieves are prevalent, and most of their unfortunate victims end up in experimental laboratories." Modern Cats Protection leaflets mention that "cat stealing, unfortunately, does go on and mostly at night" but no longer mention laboratories or the trade in cat fur. Although night-time traffic is unarguably a hazard, the mysterious disappearance of many cats, often ones of the same colour, points to ongoing cat theft and owners should be aware of this danger.

In their leaflets throughout the 1960s and 1970s, the CPL gave owners an overview of laws applicable to cats. The following is from various issues of "Cat Care" throughout the 1960s and 1970s and from "Some Facts About Cats" in the 1960s. Under Common Law cats had been an exception to the rule that domestic and tame animals were larcenable (could be stolen). The probable reason for this was the severity of the ancient punishments for felony. By the 1960s, cat owners were protected by two pieces of larceny legislation:

The Larceny Act (1861, section. 21): "To steal any bird, beast, or other animal ordinarily kept in a state of confinement or for any domestic purpose, not being subject to larceny at Common Law, or to kill with intent to steal, is punishable on summary conviction with hard labour or fine."

And the Larceny Act (1916, sections 1, 2 and 4). Under section 1 "all the animals which have value and are the property of any person are larcenable. This section will include cats or dogs. which are stolen from a person who claims to be the owner". Section 2 laid down the penalties, which, "in the absence of any special punishment provided by act of Parliament, may be penal servitude for a term not exceeding five years" and Section 4 rendered felonious (a crime) "the wilful killing of any animal with intent to steal, provided the animal is larcenable under section 1".

In February 1955 at Clerkenwell Court, three men were fined a total of £65 on charges of having possession of nine cats knowing them to be stolen and conveying cats in such a manner as to cause them unnecessary suffering.

Later on, The Theft Act 1968 acknowledges that all domestic animals, including cats and dogs, are capable of being stolen if taken from their owners unlawfully.


In early 1970s Britain there were an estimated million or so strays and unwanted cats. "Very large numbers" of these were destroyed annually. Many strays roamed British streets along with pet cats who were allowed to roam the streets at night. They risked being some of the "many thousands of cats stolen in the cities of the world each year." Cat thieves were seldom brought to court. The booked noted that the first such case ever heard at Britain’s Central Criminal Court at the Old Bailey in London was in 1969; two men were charged with cat stealing in Birmingham and they received suspended sentences.

It was extremely difficult to recover a stolen cat. The police should be immediately notified. The RSPCA and other charitable bodies should also be notified and adverts should be put in the local newspaper and on the local newsagent’s noticeboard. The onus was on cat owners to ensure that their cats were not stolen in the first place.

The golden rule was not to let a city cat roam outdoors at night. With a number of excellent and inexpensive cat litters available and a little training to ensure the cat used its litter tray, there was no excuse not to safely confine the cat at night. Cats which were reluctant to go in at night should be fed when they had returned from their daytime activities rather than being fed before they were allowed out in the evening i.e. when the cat got its evening meal, it was to be shut indoors until the next morning. Making sure the cat was active during the day would hopefully tire it out enough to reduce its desire to go outdoors at night.

A cat-collar engraved with your name and address might prove additional discouragement to a thief, according to the book. Other of the time suggested that a cat collar immediately told a would be thief that the cat was a pet and therefore probably easy to handle. Domestic cats were attractive targets for theft as they were generally docile and in good condition. "The country cat, when approached by a thief, is fortunate enough to have several avenues of escape and is generally agile and alert; but the town cat, used to the presence of humans in great numbers, is more likely to fall an easy prey to the thief." The main areas of Britain where cat thieves were known to thrive were stealers thrive were London and Birmingham. In the USA, Chicago, New York and Philadelphia (all centres of high population) were said to be danger spots. Molly Lefebure's children's book of the 1970s (The Hunting of Wilberforce Pike) featured a young London tomcat who fell foul of cat thieves.


"Your Guide to Cats & Kittens" wrote that although cats might seem aloof and self-sufficient, they had a real need for affection and companionship. While the cat's owner might love his cat, his neighbour might be a cat-hater. They advised "If you have a garden, make sure that it is securely fenced so that the cat is discouraged from invading the flower beds next door. A firm ‘no’ and gentle removal from the forbidden place may well be needed, but it should prove sufficient training. In a similar way, cats can be given elementary traffic training so that they do not endanger themselves or others."

It was often tempting to give kittens as presents - a kitten was many children’s dream of the perfect gift, and "for the giver there is nothing simpler and more sure to please. It is no wonder that friends and relatives give kittens as birthday and Christmas presents: yet if they stopped to think, they might realise that parents are the only people who should give a kitten to a child". In the 1970s, it was still permissible to offer animals as competition prizes and "children should be discouraged from entering competitions that offer kittens as prizes." Only the parents could judge if the child, or indeed the household, was responsible enough to care for a kitten.

Many old people found cats ideal companions; but the book again warned that it would be foolish to give an elderly friend or relative a kitten without first finding out whether they really wanted one. For some reason, the book never seemed to consider that fully grown cats might be given as gifts!

The book warned that and "unwanted kitten given as a present or won as a prize and then teased, bullied and neglected will probably, sooner or later, join the army of feral cats or strays which live wild as best they can managing fairly well in the summer, but hungry and cold and disease-prone in the winter. The pathetic waifs - the Christmas-present kittens, many of them loved for a few weeks and then cast out - are not likely to survive long."


The late 1960s CPL leaflet "Some Facts About Cats", wrote melodramatically about "Your Cat's New Home" (moving home with a cat). "The home, to a cat, is an essential part of his world; indeed, it is his world, not merely a place where he lives with a master, and he exercises his powers of discrimination in the choice of it, or of certain portions of it. Even quite tiny kittens have been known to reject a proffered home and adopt another.

Hence the cat's intense distaste and dismay on finding his world suddenly and inexplicably torn from him, without necessity, from his point of view - a new world to which he is generally forcibly taken by a companion suddenly turned tyrant. ... Hence the tragedy of the gaunt, sad-eyed cat found sitting outside and empty house waiting, waiting for the answer to a dreadful riddle that his brain is incapable of solving."

"With an understanding of what a home means to cats, such a tragedy can be prevented, in most cases, by making the new world, so far as possible, a replica of the old one, even in what may seem unimportant details [...] Don’t in your desire to have everything spick and span in the new home, throw away any of the things your cat considers his own personal property, such as baskets, boxes, rugs, cushions, feeding dishes, etc., however shabby they may be."

"Don’t send them away until the last minute, and, if possible, arrange that Puss shall not be moved until the bustle of furniture removal is over at either end of the journey. Let his favourite human companion be his carrier; if he has to be conveyed in a travelling-box introduce this to him several days before the journey, and tempt him to sleep in it once or twice. See to it that when he arrives he finds one completely furnished room, as far away as may be from noises and strange men, containing all his property and any favourite chair, rug, etc. Take him there at once, and stay with him as long as you can."

As well as advising the owner to temporarily restrict a cat to one room after moving house, it adds "at the usual time give him a specially nice meal and, before leaving him, butter his paws liberally. The object of this is to keep him busy with his toilet and give him no time for fretting. ... Continue the paw buttering daily." Meanwhile, the cat was to be confined to the one room, full of familiar objects for three to four days and escorted around the remainder of the house during quiet periods. Once he was calm, he could be given the run of the new house as long as the doors and windows were securely shut. As well as maintaining a familiar timetable for feeding and grooming, the owner was advised to arrange the cat's belongings in a familiar way.

"Arrange all his belongings as nearly as possible in the same relative positions they occupied in the old house. The idea of doing this is to establish a continuity of associations with his familiar surroundings, and to avoid adding to his bewilderment by having to learn new habits. Thus, supposing Puss has been used to turning to the left on leaving his bed to get food, try to arrange that his present bed and feeding place are in such a position that he does not have to turn to the right. If he was accustomed to go upstairs to bed, do not expect him to go downstairs, at any rate for the first week. You can gradually change these arrangements when he is quite settled; he will then adapt himself to slight changes without difficulty when he has recovered from the shock of the big upheaval."

After the move, the cat should also be granted a few privileges! " Don’t let him feel in the way. If he settles in the very corner where you want to put a chair, don’t move him away, the chair can wait; it is better to have one piece of furniture in the wrong place for a few hours than a lost cat."

Why did the CPL include the old wives' tale of paw-buttering? I can only assume that it helped make the rest of their information more acceptable and less radical. In the 1960s cats were still viewed as largely self-sufficient. Though the leaflet advised owners to keep their cat indoors until settled after moving house, it added "This advice is intended for owners of cats that have been treated with great consideration, what most people would call - stupidly - "pampered". For cats that have been used to "roughing it" ... the paw buttering, the presence of [familiar objects and address collar] should suffice." Nowadays it is recommended that all cats, pampered or otherwise, should be kept in for at least two weeks after moving home and there is no mention of the paw buttering; although even in the 2000s some cat adopters still ask whether this should be done when they let their new cat outdoors for the first time!

Recognising the unpopularity of collars and ID tags and that, in spite of all those precautions the cat might still escape after a house move, the CPL advised an owner in that predicament to contact friends near the old address in case the cat returned there and also to "get in touch with the local inspector and the police immediately on your arrival at the new house, to give them full description of the cat, and ask them to be on the watch for him." Should the cat run off before the move, the owner was advised to "Ask a friendly neighbour, a tradesman, or a policeman, to keep a sharp look-out for any cat resembling yours, with instruction to let you know at once should one be seen around the place."


During the 1970s, people became more likely to move house because their job required them to relocate to a different branch of the company or in search of suitable employment. "Your Guide to Cats & Kittens" noted that although many cats tolerated travel and coped with short stays in catteries at holiday time, they do not always take kindly to moving to a new home. "many cats - especially Siamese - definitely prefer to be with their owners wherever they are rather than being left in their own homes with strangers."

Other cats often needed fairly long settling-in periods, but given a reasonable period of settling-in time, most would adjust to new surroundings and even to a completely different environment. Town cats would apparently readily adapt to country life while country cats could adapt to being "the most staid of flat-dwellers". Kittens and young cats between 10 weeks to 8 months old were said to be easiest to acclimatise to new surroundings, often settling into new homes and families (i.e. being rehomed) within a few days. Elderly or spoiled cats were said to be less easy and often resented the move, refusing to eat and even becoming neurotic. Neutered cats, being less territorial, were easier to move than unneutered cats.

Some advice was given on how to make the more. It must be kept in for several days beforehand and provided with a "toilet tray" as well as being given plenty of fuss, attention and a comfortable sleeping place. It should be confined to a safe box during the actual move and not let out of the box until it is in the new house. At first it should be kept in a room with closed windows and doors and with some familiar furniture as well as its bed and toilet tray. After several days, when it has become familiar with the layout of the house and with mealtimes "The cat can then be taken outside for short walks in the garden and then accompanied back indoors. Repeat this procedure several times over the next few days, taking longer and longer walks, until the cat has its bearings and can be safely let out alone."

This should always be done before a main meal and it should be fed immediately it goes back indoors to encourage it not to wander away and become lost. "A wise precaution is to equip the cat with a collar bearing your name and address in ease it strays."


During the 1960s, there was some opposition to putting collars on cats, more-so than now. It was recommended that the cat's collar be removed at night when the cat is in, as it should be - a subtle message to keep cats in at night! Until the later leaflet (1970s) there was little said about keeping cats in at night and the majority were still being put out for the night. The CPL wrote to counter the adverse opinions expressed in connection with putting collars on cats. Their views were that the chief objections to collars appeared to be that any form of collars caused discomfort to the cat; that there was the possibility of strangulation should the collar be snagged and that the hair around the neck would become thin and thus spoil the appearance of the coat (this latter applied mainly to longhairs).

Before dealing with those objections, the society raised the issue of "taxation" i.e. that if cats were to be licensed and taxed the same way as dogs, collars and name tags would become compulsory and enforceable as a method of identification.

Cat lovers were reminded that, apart from the possibility of compulsory wearing of collars, having some method of identification helped in reuniting lost cats with their owners: "Every day stray cats and kittens are taken to Shelters and destroyed. If they had collars, with their owners’ names and addresses, their lives would be spared." Although owners and shelters did their best to minimise the appalling waste of life, they admitted that the success rate was not very high. The discomfort of wearing a collar "is but a small item in comparison with the suffering of the stray cat; starvation, disease, and finally the Lethal Chamber."

The cat need only bear the discomfort during the daytime when it was allowed out and the collar could be removed at night when the cat was kept indoors (in accordance with CPL guidelines on cat care). An elasticated collar would prevent strangulation and allow a cat to free itself if caught up. At the time, the issue of cats with their legs caught in elasticated collars was evidently unknown.

The majority of the "vast army of strays" were from urban environments. In such areas there was no excuse for not wearing a collar since cats were at greater risk of being killed crossing the roads than of being caught up in trees.

Finally, they advised, although a long-haired cat's perfect ppearance might be marred by a gap in its ruff where the collar was worn, this unsightliness would be minimised by removing the collar at night. Careful adjustment when putting the collar on would reduce the wearing away of fur. "Much better, from the cat’s point of view, to be a live cat with a ruffled ruff, than a stray, half-starved one with prospects of an early death."

An adjustable collar made of elastic and bearing a name tag was recommended and readers were referred to a work called "Contented Cat" by Mary Collier.

To emphasise the condition of strays, an illustration showed an unkempt stray beyond help to hammer home the twin messages of caring properly for cats and supporting the CPL. Nowadays, CPL literature uses similar photos in a totally different way - the "before and after" where the "befores" often appear to be in a far worse state than that depicted in the leaflet.


According to the Pedigree Petfoods book, once the decision to acquire a kitten has been taken, the next step is to determine whether the kitten should be a mongrel (a crossbred) or a purebred. A shorthaired crossbred was recommended as an excellent choice for a family pet and mouser. Crossbreds were considered were considered robust, disease resistant and easy to feed. Shorthaired cats required much less grooming than that of longhaired breeds and the most common colours were black, white, black-and-white, tortoiseshell, tortoiseshell-and-white, tabby, silver tabby, red tabby (ginger or "marmalade") and ginger-and-white.

It reassured the would-be cat owner that cats were not prone to many hereditary defects although some anatomical or temperament faults could be inherited and might not show up until the maturity. "A few physical idiosyncrasies exist which can be inherited by kittens but which are not harmful to their health. These include extra toes on the forepaws and, in Siamese, kinked tail and squinting."

The alternative to a mongrel kitten was a purebred and one could see kittens at cat shows. Some kittens might be marked "for sale" in the show catalogue, but it is not advisable to take a kitten home from a show in case it had picked up an infection at the show. Its potential as an adult could be assessed to some extent by any awards it won at the show and it would usually be possible to pay a deposit for the kitten and make arrangements to collect it from the breeder a few weeks after the show. The purchaser should expect to be asked pertinent cat-care questions by the breeder.

In previous decades most cats had had to "ask" to be let in or out, used an open window or been "put out" for most of the day and all of the night. The advice reflects the growing hazard of Britain's increasingly busy roads. A "cat-flap" incorporated into one of the outside doors of the house was now considered a good idea if the owner had a large garden or easy access to fields. A kitten would soon learn to operate this and come and go at will. However, there was the possibility of dogs and other animals to be injured in these devices and for other cats to enter the house. Another important consideration was that cats and kittens seemed to have little road sense, making cat-flaps inadvisable for houses near busy roads unless the garden can be cat-proofed: "an operation which is extraordinarily difficult." If a kitten could not be allowed unlimited outdoor access, the owner was advised to escort it outside once or twice a day, on a lead if necessary.

If a cat could not be permitted to go outdoors to do its business, then facilities had to be provided indoors. The term "litter tray" was still not in general use and most people knew these as "sanitary trays" and had to improvise. Although there were several brands of cat litter, it was still common to use earth or peat in a cat's "dirt tray".

"The minimum size for an effective sanitary tray is 15 ins by 12 ins. In a smaller tray the kitten would be forced to walk in its own excreta, which is alien to its nature. A gardener’s plastic seed tray, a plastic bowl or an enamelled or galvanised baking tin with sides 3 ins high but without perforations in the base are all ideal. Put the chosen tray in a secluded corner of the room where the kitten can become familiar with it. [...]The many proprietary brands of cat litter are suitable for all kinds of kittens, and some have the advantage of being deodorised. Peat moss, sand, earth or ashes may also be used, but they become soaked and unwholesome very quickly and are thus unhygienic."

Because cats "resent harsh treatment", there were words of caution on correcting or chastising messy cats. "Too much punishment for unhygienic behaviour may well make matters worse, for a kitten scared to excrete through fear is unlikely to make use of its litter tray." Otherwise, some discipline was considered necessary to ensure the kitten’s continued safety. "If a kitten jumps on a table or stove or steals food, check it with a harsh word or a gentle slap on the flanks with a folded newspaper, but only at the time of the offence."

Scratching posts were another essential for the caring cat owner who wanted to avoid punishing a cat while keeping their furniture intact. A sawn timber post on a heavy base was one suggestion. Other scratching posts could be purchased from pet-shops e.g. cat-nip impregnated board or a carpet-covered block, although carpet-covered blocks had the disadvantage of encouraging cats to scratch on all carpeted areas. Instead of punishing the cat or kitten, the owner was advised "When the kitten starts scratching at a table or chair, which it will inevitably do, pick it up and put it by the post. Given perseverance , this should (though it may not) make the kitten less destructive."


The advice on the keeping of female cats had changed greatly since the 1940s and 1950s. The CPL wrote "Though we do not recommend people to keep female cats, unless they are prepared to look after them and their kittens ... we give a few hints on their general treatment." It goes on to describe calling, pregnancy and kittening and dwells on the thorny topic of removing and destroying litters of kittens.

"It is very difficult to make any hard-and-fast rules on the vexed question of when and how to remove unwanted kittens ... It is generally though best to remove them singly after each new arrival. If none are to be kept, a fresh bed should be prepared in another room, and the mother-cat should be coaxed into this as soon as it is certain the whole family has arrived. She should be given some warm milk, Benger's food etc., to induce her to move, but she should not be handled. The old bed must be taken away so that nothing is left to remind her of her missing family. Extra fuss and petting will help her to forget."

"If the owner wishes for one kitten a tom should be chosen. It is easier to find homes for one or two kittens than four or five. So unless it is absolutely necessary for the mother's sake please do not keep more than two kittens from each litter and be sure they are males. The queen should not be deprived altogether of families - one kitten might be kept once in two years say but here again each case must be judged by the particular cat’s temperament. Some fret for a long time after the loss of their kittens, whilst others seem quite indifferent. [...] for several days after the arrival of a family, if no kittens are kept, the queen needs an extra nourishing diet, but less milk should be given."

It went on to discuss physical problems which lactating, but kittenless, queens might suffer and advised veterinary treatment in case of serious trouble. At that time, birth control by spaying was risky and uncommon and owners of queens were begged " In conclusion, let us beg of those owners who keep queens to think of the many homeless cats living in misery owing to the actions of their owners, who, rather than take the responsibility of having kittens humanely put to sleep prefer to give them away indiscriminately, without troubling to inquire what their future is likely to be. Fully two-thirds of the cats destroyed at shelters are queen, not wanted because they are 'too much trouble'." In "Basic Care of Cats and Kittens", the CPL wrote: "Among the "unwanteds" the Female Cat is a very close second to the Stray Cat, so when your cat has her kittens please keep only one or two and be sure they are males." Perhaps this, then, is the origin of the still common belief that male cats make better pets.

Though this advice sounds callous by modern standards, it was geared to the prevailing attitudes of the times. Another 1960s leaflet, had the heading "Too many kittens too few homes" and wrote of the three ways in which owners could keep the cat population within limits:

The first was the humane disposal of all unwanted kittens at birth, either by a Vet or by a "fully experienced accredited representative of an Animal Welfare Society". Wavering owners were told that it was kinder to have kittens put to sleep at birth than when they were a few months old.

The second was castration of male kittens neutered between the ages of 3 and 5. The operation must be done by a Veterinary Surgeon. Fully grown male cats could also be castrated with the minimum amount of risk. A neutered tom would be more contented, less liable to stray, a better pet and, provided he was well fed, he would remain a good mouser if required for that purpose.

Finally "By having Female kittens made neuter (spayed) (by a Veterinary Surgeon) skilled in this operation. Present-day methods ensure almost a hundred per cent. success. Between three and five months is the age recommended for the operation but, as in the case of the male cat, it can be done at almost any age. The fact that a female cat has kittens is no deterrent. The value of the cat as a pet is rather enhanced than otherwise after the operation. It should be borne in mind that a spayed queen (female) has a far greater chance of finding a home than one that may constantly be having kittens."

Their advice remained largely unchanged for over a decade though later editions omitted "skilled in this operation" as spaying become more common and also changed the recommended age to "five months".

"Cat Care", another CPL leaflet of around the 1960s had a brief section on removing kittens from mother cats, this advice now being secondary to that on neutering and spaying. While almost any veterinary surgeon would undertake the neutering operations recommended by the CPL, some evidently didn't as the leaflet added that if there was any doubt, the owner should contact to CPL for advice since ""Spaying (neutering) is one of our hopes of curbing the great increase of unwanted cats and kittens and is therefore, of vital importance."

Spaying was still not routine and advice was given on how to console the female after some, or all, of her kittens were removed. They were advised that "If no kittens are to be kept, remove them, directly after the last one is born and give the mother about two teaspoonfuls of salad oil mixed with sardine oil, which she will probably lap up herself. This can be repeated the following day, but she must be given milk and water now and again as the oil makes the cat thirsty. Give a light diet with NO meat for the first four or five days, and afterwards a nourishing diet to build up her strength. If kittens are kept the mother needs extra food, etc"

"If cat owners will co-operate with us in this matter they will be helping to solve the unwanted cat problem, and until the above methods [neutering and spaying, I assume] are universally adopted the number of homeless and starving cats and kittens will not be diminished ... It is the thoughtless, though kindly people who will not try to learn simple facts about cats, who are responsible, for the misery of thousands of homeless animals. "


As anaesthetics and surgical techniques continued to improve, spaying became a routine operation and a female cat became less of a liability. Many owners still failed to get their cats, male or female, neutered and I recall that many female dogs were not spayed either. One myth was that a cat should have a litter of kittens before being spayed and many other owners ignored or forgot the necessity of spaying until their cat showed unmistakable signs of pregnancy.

Later CPL leaflets on "Cat Care" and "Basic Care of Cats and Kittens" reduced the emphasis on destroying unwanted kittens, instead suggesting aborting and spaying females who are less than half way through their pregnancy, while at the same time amending the neutering age to "over five months" for spaying. It is interesting to note that current leaflets generally omit the suggestion of aborting pregnant females, possibly because this is a rather emotive point. Though it is considered distasteful by many cat owners, cat workers find feline abortion an unpleasant necessity, the alternative being euthanasia of adult cats.

"Spaying prevents the birth of unwanted kittens adding to the already huge population of homeless, sick and starving strays. A female cat can, in 5 years, be responsible for some 20,000 descendants, many of which can only expect a life of misery, hunger, disease and terror."

The age given for castration remained at three to five months until relatively recently, and the CPL's advice reflected the fact that cats were moving indoors "castration stops the male cat spraying about the house and leaving an unpleasant smell; it also curtails a tendency to wander and to fight".

To underline the importance of neutering, the CPL were, by this time, helping owners in dire financial need with the cost of neutering and were pushing home the message that spaying and neutering made cats much better pet.


The Pedigree Petfoods book has this to say on unwanted kittens: "Soon after birth, the kittens should be examined to determine their sex and any weak kittens removed. The problem of unwanted kittens may be a difficult one to face. when you have just been presented with a fine litter; but if no homes are guaranteed for the young, it is more humane to remove them from the mother shortly after birth than to let them develop into homeless cats. Your veterinary surgeon or local RSPCA clinic will destroy any unwanted animals humanely."

The neutering message is repeated elsewhere in the book. The growing number of cars on the road (although nothing like modern numbers) meant cats were more at risk from traffic accidents. Unneutered and unspayed cats were at greater risk of road accidents because they tended to wander in search of mates. Keeping cats from wandering onto or across increasingly busy roads was one more reason for neutering pet cats.


The advice of the 1960s and 1970s seems callous and wordy by modern standards, but during the 1980s, the pace of life increased and people wanted concise information. These changes are reflected in a leaflet from 1991. Under the heading "Control the Cat Race", the CPL wrote of the necessity of keeping the cat population within limits and also wrote that neutering led to the cats being more contented and less likely to roam, but not decrease their value as mousers.

The humane disposal of newborn kittens was still sadly necessary and the queen could be aborted if she was not more than half way through her pregnancy. If the kittens were put to sleep at birth, the queen should have a veterinary check up to ensure that all is well and that her milk is dispersing naturally. All kittens kept as pets should be neutered at puberty. Castration and spaying was "generally performed at the age of 5 months, although some veterinary surgeons prefer a slightly earlier or later time" and owners were now advised to discuss this matter with their vet. The operations were, by then, described as routine.

" Although it is best if neutering is carried out before puberty, the operations are possible at any time thereafter. However, unless kittens are being kept for breeding, there is no purpose in postponing the neutering until a tom has grown into an aggressive fighter with a powerfully-smelling urine or until a female has produced a litter of kittens. When this occurs, spaying has to be delayed until the kittens are weaned (about 7 weeks) and, in the meantime, the queen may well be pregnant again! Some veterinary surgeons consider that spaying a female cat who has had a litter of kittens is, in any event, a more serious operation because the organs are larger and the incision needs to be bigger."

The philosophy could now be summed up in one simple sentence: "Better to spay than add a stray".

By the end of the 20th century, the vast majority of pet cats in Britain were neuters, though the unspayed female's ability to have several litters each year means there is no shortage of kittens at cat shelter. Another benefit of neutering is to reduce the spread of fatal cat viruses which can be spread through fight wounds. Neutering has contributed to many cats living almost twice as long as they did in the 1940s. Far from being the barbarous act it was considered early in the 20th century, it is now the refuse-to-neuter owner who is considered barbarous by the responsible majority.


There is little doubt that cats were living longer by the 1970s and this was reflected in "Your Guide to Cats & Kittens" comments on elderly cats; primarily about dental problems and the importance of preventing them to avoid the necessity of anaesthesia in elderly cats. Constipation was also common in old cats because of reduced bowel activity and the "accumulation of hair in the alimentary tract." The older cat was said to be prone to the development of a variety of tumours, particularly in the digestive tract. Although many owners "commonly and mistakenly" believed that this automatically meant euthanasia, many tumours could be treated surgically if diagnosed early enough.

Kidney disorders also developed as the cat aged and the symptoms of this were noted. However, there was progress towards managing kidney disease through controlling the cat's protein intake and dry cat food was considered an acceptable method. Owners were warned to treat the cat only under veterinary supervision since diabetes produced similar symptoms.


In his section on health and medical care, Mery noted that sometimes euthanasia was the only remaining option. "Finally, when there is no hope of cure, when the practitioner thinks that it would be more humane to bring useless suffering to an end, the science of today places at his disposal methods of euthanasia that are as numerous as they are diverse, and all equally painless and effective." I wonder how many of those "diverse" methods would be considered true euthanasia by today's standards? Mery does not elaborate on the numerous methods at the vet's disposal although some of his contemporaries mentioned the use of neck-breaking or chloroform, followed by immersing the dead or unconscious cat in a pail of water to make sure.

In the UK, the primary means of affordable euthanasia appeared to be the "lethal box", a sealed box into which the cat or kitten(s) could be put along with a chloroform soaked rag. Although the choice and means of euthanasia was not a topic for cat care leaflets at the time, the lethal box was often mentioned in CPL newsletters of the time. Although many cats initially became agitated by the chloroform smell and the enclosed box, they were quickly overcome by the fumes, lost consciousness and ultimately stopped breathing. There was the risk that the apparently dead cat might be removed from the lethal box too soon and might be comatose rather than dead. This would necessitate a second attempt. A few unwanted but healthy cats were apparently actually reprieved and rehomed after regaining consciousness!

The chloroforming of cats at home by the owners, detailed in was becoming increasingly rare. Most preferred a vet to perform the humane destruction. Despite the drawbacks, the lethal box was preferable to the still common method of drowning unwanted fully conscious cats and kittens in water-filled pails or dustbins.

Cats are now part of the family and the decision to euthanize is not taken lightly. Where once a cat might be drowned simply because it was unwanted, it is now illegal for anyone other than a vet or other trained individual to humanely destroy a cat. These days, Cats Protection provides a whole leaflet about on the topic and on and on coping with pet bereavement. With cats living longer (and with the greater risk of traffic accidents), it more and more often falls to owners to provide a painless end instead of allowing prolonged or painful deterioration or simply hoping the cat will find a place to die.


"Your Guide to Cats & Kittens" advised the worried owner on how to decide when a cat had reached the end of its life and euthanasia was advisable. The main method of putting cats to sleep was no longer the lethal box, but be an injected overdose of anaesthetic. While many earlier owners might simply let a cat deteriorate or "wander off to die", the 1970s cat was part of the family. As well as the responsibility of food, shelter, health care and birth control, the 1970s cat owner now had the responsibility of deciding whether to end a cat's life. Home euthanasia was no longer permitted. According to Pedigree:

"Cat owners are often very reluctant to seek veterinary advice when their animals seem unwell because they fear that euthanasia will be advised. For this reason, many conditions which could be treated are left to progress to an irretrievable situation. On the other hand, animals should never be destroyed simply because they are old or because they look a little decrepit. Great skill is required to make the fine judgement necessary to decide when the time has come to release a pet from a life which is without any enjoyment, and this must always be done by a veterinary surgeon. The main guide lines on which this judgement is based are:

If the answer to any of these questions is ‘yes’, and treatment is unsuccessful, there are probably good grounds for euthanasia. Euthanasia is usually carried out painlessly by injection of a very high dosage of anaesthetic in a concentrated solution. The cat literally goes ‘off to sleep’, but the level of consciousness is progressively lowered to the point of oblivion. The cat knows little about the whole procedure, which should never be attempted by any untrained person."

These are the earliest detailed guidelines for owners I have come across and the guidance today is almost unchanged.


By the 1970s there was growing interest in why cats behaved as they did. As cats moved into the home, rather than the barn, there was greater need to understand not only their physiology, but also their behaviour and how to accommodate (or modify) it. It was still a far cry from the animal behaviourists ("pet shrinks") of today. The 1973 book mentions animal behaviourists, but these tended to be laboratory scientists as opposed to modern pet shrinks.

People and cats were now living much closer together - cats were inside the house more of the time so there was far more interest in how a cat behaved and how it perceived the world. As well as a whole illustrated section dedicated to anatomy and physiology, the authors included some paragraphs on feline behaviour, intelligence and ability to learn.

Different breeds were noted as having different characters; Siamese, Burmese and Abyssinians being more "dog-like" in their relationship with owners, however there had been no scientific comparisons of the breeds. The different vocalisations of different breeds was described in some depth, for example the Siamese was noted to be especially talkative with a wide vocabulary to suit different situations. Burmese also being vocal, but with a narrower range of pitch than the Siamese and thus relying on variations in length and volume. The more reserved British Shorthairs spoke little and spoke only briefly and politely Longhaired breeds in general were described as speaking very quietly in rather high-pitched voices.

Understanding Feline Behaviour

"A cat’s life is largely a continuous sequence of reflexes, some inherent at birth, some developing as a normal part of maturing and some learned or conditioned." However the book was not saying that cats were simple stimulus-response machines. It listed the simple reflexes as including salivation, coughing, sneezing, suckling and vomiting and being controlled by the brain-stem. "Some of the most complex reflexes are those by which the cat keeps itself upright on four legs and walks in a balanced way. A constant stream of stimuli, particularly from sensory receptors in the muscles and other deep tissues, are continuously monitored by the central nervous system and reflex muscle movements are carried out."

Learning played an important role in a kitten's development; its instincts were continuously being modified or superseded by learning. "The ability of cats to learn cannot be disputed, for any owner will notice how cats quickly come to recognise household sounds such as the approach of the family car, the opening of cupboard doors and the clatter of dishes. Most cats also learn to recognise their names, though the intonation is probably far more significant than the name itself."

Conditioned reflexes (the sort studied in Pavlov's famous experiments with dogs) was another form of learning - one we use when training cats to do (or not do) something. Cats were motivated by food and could quickly learn the layouts of mazes in order to reach a food reward. It was difficult to assess feline learning abilities in the laboratory. Comparative psychologists and animal behaviourists had devised tests for the ability to learn such as puzzle boxes where the cat had to push a lever to open the exit. At first the cat loses interest in opening the door by pawing at it, investigates the box and discovers the lever by accident. The test is repeated several times. Trial and error gives way to the cat associating pushing the lever with the door opening. Not only that, but some cats learnt this trick by observing other cats!

Although it had been proven that cats could learn how to open doors and memorise mazes, actual learning capacity or feline intelligence was far harder to study or measure according to Pedigree's book. Curiosity was consider one of the hallmarks of intelligence in animals - the cat was renowned for its curiosity. While lower animals were governed by survival responses (Fight, Flight, Feed, Breed), higher animals, such as the cat, exhibited exploration behaviour when encountering something new or interesting. "The delicate, hesitant manner in which cats approach an unfamiliar object or situation, the tentative cuff with a paw to see if the object is alive or dead, and the careful lowering of a wary head to bring all the well-developed senses of smell, taste and touch to bear on the problem is a familiar sight. This seems not immediately related to survival but may provide some intellectual stimulus."

"Intelligence is a difficult characteristic to define, but cats can obviously arrive at intelligent solutions to problems. The cat that knocks over a cup of milk in order to have access to its contents is solving a problem intelligently rather than by random behaviour. The first occasion nbay he an accident, hut on all subsequent occasions the animal has learned the trick and will adapt it to the appropriate circumstances: that is, it will not knock over other receptacles or even empty milk jugs."

Due to its individuality and independence, the cat was a less ready participantin intelligence tests than animals such as the monkey, rat or pigeon. "For any evidence of intellectual capability to be acceptable it must he possible to repeat the observation on several occasions, and it is in this respect that the cat is not a ready collaborator. It is a lengthy and difficult process to train a cat to be a reliable participant in an intelligence test."

"Cats, through their self-sufficiency, are less influenced by the basic drives of hunger, thirst and fear than are other animals, and this behaviour must certainly improve their candidature for the higher echelons of intelligence One particularly annoying characteristic is the ‘mind-over-matter’ refusal of food by a cat which is experiencing some kind of disturbance to its daily routine, such as moving to a new house or being boarded in a cattery. Even the arrival of a new baby or another animal in the household may so offend feline dignity that the natural drive to eat is entirely subjugated."

The cat's poor trainability did not imply low intelligence - it was a problem of finding a reward suitably attractive to the cat! In other words a special treat, rather than a spoonful of normal food. "It seems that the cat is sufficiently intelligent to make its trainers pay dearly for the privilege of collaboration."

"Whilst trainability is not necessarily a sign of intelligence, most of the objective measures of intelligence do depend on some form of training. For instance, cats can demonstrate their ability to distinguish, visually, an inverted triangle from an upright triangle, or horizontal lines from vertical lines, with a high degree of accuracy and reliability. As one would expect from watching the patient cat waiting in the long grass for its prey, the faculties of auditory and visual discrimination are also developed to a high degree, though these, too, are difficult to measure because of the cat’s reluctance to display its undoubted talents merely to satisfy man’s whim for objective assessments."

Having acknowledged the cats were trainable and intelligent, the authors warn the owner against attributing too much intelligence to their pets: "Only the higher animals, in general, are capable of the advanced form of learning known as insight. Insight implies a sudden perception of relations that allow solution of a problem. Although many cats may seem to show insight, in scientific terms it is thought to be beyond their capacity. Keeping in mind what is known about the scientific basis of feline behaviour, it is interesting to look at some of the activities of cats in more detail and to show what marks them out as typical of the feline species."

In addition, some aspects of feline behaviour defied explanation e.g. the homing instinct which allowed some cats to return home over tens or hundreds of miles. Even wild cats are "home-orientated" or territorial, marking their territories with scent and always returning to their home territory after forays. "This sensitivity to scents may also explain the ability of cats to trail a lost companion, either human or feline. However, the homing ability recorded when cats, having been moved to new homes, return of their own accord to their old homes many miles away is quite unexplained."

The purr was described as conveying pleasure or placation. Cats restrained for veterinary procedures frequently purred and the authors suggested this indicated that they are tractable and co-operative and will not require to be forcible handling. This was likened to the obsequious behaviour of a submissive cat when confronted by a more dominant animal. The low "growl-purr" was described as a warning noise used by both male and female cats when a stranger enters their territory.

Abnormal Behaviour

Behavioural abnormalities were covered in some detail in 1970s texts. When cats behaved abnormally, relative to their normal behaviour patterns, it could cause their owners much concern. Owners were advised that some of the cat's unusual behaviours were natural, but misdirected e.g. "catching behaviour" directed towards substitute or imaginary objects. Any abnormal behaviour which persisted should be referred to a vet.

While cats and dogs were usually regarded as sworn enemies, this was because cats cannot instinctively read a dog's facial expressions. Cats which were on friendly terms with dogs in their own household might display a fatal trustfulness towards strange dogs. "Your Guide to Cats & Kittens" cited the case of a female cat which was so friendly with a weak and cowardly male dog that she accompanied it on walks and on one occasion successfully defended it against attack by a strange dog!

Abnormally aggressive behaviour was attacking without warning and such animals were seen as ‘unreliable or mentally deficient psychopaths’ (Konrad Lorenz). Nowadays we are more likely to label such cats as stressed out or poorly socialised. Certain "abnormal" sexual behaviour was misdirected instinctive behaviour. For example, while timely neutering prevented normal development of sexual behaviour, some neutered males would "ride" objects in an imitation of mating behaviour (my late neutered cat, Scrapper, maintained a longstanding affair with one of my sweaters!). Homosexual behaviour might be seen in cats kept in same-sex groups.

Cats were considered more susceptible to shock than were dogs. Many cases of apparent shell-shock had been encountered by vets during the Second World War. Some cats were so shocked that they could not be extricated from dark corners where they had taken refuge and had to be destroyed on humanitarian grounds. Following Britain’s East Coast flooding of the 1950s (affecting the Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk coastal areas), many cats developed abnormal behaviour, particularly the so-called ‘fly-catching syndrome’.

Abnormal behaviour could also be due to poisoning, disease or injury, however cats were considered prone to mental trauma such as nervous anorexia. Mental shock, especially in timid, non-aggressive cats could be due to an altercation with a dog or another cat. Although there is no physical injury, such animals frequently required veterinary treatment of their nervous systems before they are restored to normal. A distinguished vet described a case in which a cat was given an enema and was manipulated to relieve it of a bowel impaction without an anaesthetic. The cat recovered quickly from the impaction, but refused to eat for some two months afterwards. Normal behaviour was restored using tranquillisers, sedatives and vitamins.

Clawing furniture, loss of house cleanliness or loss of feline personal hygiene could all be disturbing to the owner. A loss of good toilet habits was often due to shock or a lack of co-operation on the owner’s part since cats normally had excellent hygiene. However "it must not be forgotten that urination - in younger animals especially - may be an act of submission." (i.e. it had wet itself in fear) . Fail to groom or clean itself was a more difficult problem and required a vets opinion. In recent times, two common reasons for failure to groom are dental problems and senility, while senility and territorial marking are both causes of house soiling behaviour.


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