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Tough Care for Tender Felines [06/09/2000]

'Tough and Tender' is the theme for Cats Protection annual promotional week, held 9-16 September. 'Tender' refers to the volunteer side of things: 5000 volunteers throughout the country are responsible for 90 per cent of the charityís 165,000 cats helped, and 70,000 rehomed each year.

But, what's tough about the little, cuddly bundles of warm fur that are cats? The cat care is what. Cats Protection, the UKs largest and oldest feline charity, implemented a strict set of cat care standards for its 250 branches and 20 shelters two years ago. This now provides a benchmark for small animal care throughout the animal welfare community.

These cat care guidelines ensure that the two thousand voluntary homes within the organisation toe the line of every facet of feline welfare. These range from such hygiene matters as cleaning and disinfecting to the ins and outs of litter, bedding and food containers. Rhona Simms, CP Veterinary Officer, asserts "We feel that we can never bee too careful on hygiene. Animals can fall ill or catch diseases the same as people, so we are sure to minimise any risk to the ones in our care as much as possible."

The cat care standards manual recommends that accommodation be thoroughly cleaned every day, and ideally should be disinfected every day.

All cats must be free from worms, fleas, ear mites and so on before they are released, and owners adopting cats with ongoing non-life-threatening conditions are given plenty of advice and support. Health imperatives are firmly regulated, but not just the physical ones: there are even guidelines for providing toys for cats to play with for their mental wellbeing.

Tough standards also determine the number of cats allowed per facility, and the policy on long-stay cats. Cats Protection abhors overcrowding and inadequate accommodation, asserting that 'long-term confinement is a form of cruelty.'

That's where tender comes back into play: Cats Protection has a tough no-kill policy that will not allow a cat to be euthanased except on the advice of a vet.

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