As the UK's leading feline welfare charity, the good folk at Cats Protection are passionate about cats. They also know more than a thing or two about rescuing and rehoming, and what they need to provide the best support possible for vulnerable cats up and down the country. We picked their brains to bring you the best advice and information on everything from identifying strays to volunteering and adoption.
Why do you work with a cat rescue charity?
"I love helping the cats get a new home and helping them feel better if they are poorly when they come in to us. I came to the role originally as my work experience placement from college. I knew that I wanted to work with animals and love them all, but I have four cats of my own so this seemed a perfect match. I have learned more and more since being here, working up to my role as Cat Care Assistant.
"I'd advise anyone wanting to get into a similar role that loving animals is a must, you need to be caring and understanding but also emotionally resilient because cats can come into our care in many different states and it can be touch-and-go whether they will survive. Confidence also helps because you're chatting with the public every day.
"My favourite part of the role is socialising the cats and fostering the kittens. When we have kittens that need hand-rearing and 24-hour care, I'm qualified to do bottle feeds every two hours, which is exhausting but worth it when you see tiny kittens thrive. I particularly love working with cats because they're loving and great to be around every day, when they purr to let you know they're happy, there's nothing better."
Emily Thrower, Cat Care Assistant at Cats Protection's Dereham Adoption Centre
What's your favourite thing about volunteering at a cat adoption centre?
"With five cats of my own you may wonder why I volunteer at the Bredhurst Adoption Centre but every time I go there I learn something new about cat behaviour. Each cat I meet during the socialisation sessions reacts differently and I have to learn to read them, interpret their needs and really use my imagination when it comes to play. I try to see life through their eyes and I know that the time I spend with them makes a positive difference to their time in the Centre. The thing I love, something my own cats benefit from, is that I'm constantly learning new techniques to enrich the lives of every cat I meet."
Sue Holness, Volunteer at Cats Protection's Bredhurst Adoption Centre
What can People's Postcode Lottery players do to support Cats Protection?
"Here at Birmingham Adoption Centre we are always grateful for donations. Wet and dry cat food is always really useful, we usually use Felix wet pouches but all varieties are gratefully received as we have cats with many different dietary needs at different times. We also have an Amazon wish list which is a great place to see what our centre needs, as depending on the time of year our centre requests might vary for example our needs during kitten season are different from those in the middle of winter.
"If players have time, it's always worth looking on our website to see if we have any volunteering opportunities, we offer full training in a variety of roles and love our volunteers to share the skills they already have and many volunteers love being part of a fabulous team"
Clara Youden, Volunteering Team Leader at Cats Protection's Birmingham Adoption Centre
What's the best way to rehome a cat?
"There are a number of reasons why someone may not be able to keep their cat. We know it can be a heart-breaking decision and would encourage anyone looking to rehome their cat to come to a charity like Cats Protection. We ensure cats are in their best possible health before they go to their new home and match them to their new owners to make sure they settle and are homed in the most appropriate setting.
"Once you make the decision that you would like a furry feline in your life, coming to a charity like Cats Protection ensures you are getting a cat that has been vet-checked, treated for any known ailments and is neutered, microchipped and up-to-date with their vaccinations by the time they are ready to home. In addition there is four weeks of free PetPlan insurance provided with every adoption. Our Cat Care Assistants will also have a good idea of a cat's personality, likes and dislikes as well as the kind of home which would suit them most, so you will be matched with the cat best-suited to you and your circumstances.
"The best place to start is often the Find-a-Cat feature on our website which showcases all the cats currently available for adoption in your local area. Once you have narrowed down your choice, it's time to visit us and check that you and your potential cat-companion get on. We will check where you live on Google Maps so that we know what the locality is like and whether it will suit the cat you have chosen then once all checks are complete we will arrange a date for you to take your newest addition home. We are on-hand throughout the process to ensure your journey to cat adoption is as smooth as possible."
James Vallance, Volunteering Team Leader at Cats Protection's Glasgow Adoption Centre
What challenges do cat charities face?
"One of our ongoing challenges is a lack of understanding about cat behaviour. We find cats are still given up for behavioural reasons such as inappropriate toileting, not getting on with other pets or not coping with living with children and if more people understood feline behaviour, it is likely fewer cats would be relinquished. This is why education is so vitally important, for us to be able to help more cats, we need to ensure more people understand cat behaviour.
"Awareness of the importance of neutering, vaccinations and appropriate flea and worm treatments would help minimise the number of cats that are unwell when they first come into our centres. As a result of regularly needing to ensure cats have these basic measures in place before they are homed, our adoption fees rarely cover the amount spent on each cat during their stay.
"We also still see a lot of stray cats who have not been microchipped which makes it difficult, or in some cases impossible, to reunite cats with their owners. Such a simple procedure and a commitment to keeping microchip details up to date would help us ensure straying cats can be returned to their owners as quickly as possible."
Joel Scott, Volunteer Team Leader at Cats Protection's Eastbourne Adoption Centre and National Cat Adoption Centre
What donations do you need at your centre?
"Here at Glasgow Adoption Centre we have wonderful supporters who donate everything from money to cat toys – all of which make a huge difference to the lives of cats in our care. Everything we receive ensures we can keep our centre open throughout the year, caring for the 800 or more cats and kittens that come through our pens annually. Clean or new cat toys mean we can keep cats and kittens entertained while they are with us but they can also take those toys with them to their new homes to help them feel settled. Fleece blankets, with no embellishments like bows or bells, and cat beds are especially useful during the winter months to keep our cats and kittens warm. Donations of food are also gratefully received as we have cats with a variety of dietary needs in care so we can use most varieties – wet or dry!"
Lynsey Anderson, Senior Cat Care Assistant at Glasgow Adoption Centre
What should people think about before adopting a cat?
"Welcoming a cat into your home is a big decision and there are a few things to consider before adopting.
"Choosing the right cat for you and your lifestyle is important. Each cat's character is different. For example, if you have a busy household with a young family and a canine friend then we would suggest a confident cat/ kitten that could become part of your family life. Experienced Cat Care Assistants at our centres can offer advice and help you make the right decision in choosing the most suitable cat for you.
"We should remember that all cats are individuals some might embrace the outdoor life, others may be more homely and just wish to potter with you in the garden and another may be quite content with an indoor life. Kittens, for example, are likely to require more energy and attention than older cats, long haired cats would need daily grooming. In each instance, you need to think about how you are going to meet the cat's specific needs and how they can express their natural behaviours. Are you able to offer the environment, enrichment and time that suits that individual cat?
"We would also encourage you to think about the affordability of owning a cat. Your cat will require regular treatment such as flea, worming and yearly vaccines. They may also need veterinary assistance if they become ill, injured, or are just coping with old age. Perhaps you are thinking of adopting a cat with special needs such as diabetes; in each situation you would want the best possible care for your cat plus peace of mind that your cat is safe and well cared for.
"Matching you with a cat is our speciality and we encourage everyone looking to adopt a cat to really take the time to think about the feline addition to your family. How will the cat will fit in with you and how you will fit with them?
"Our Cat Care Assistants are always ready and happy to offer advice and help you find your perfect feline companion."
Avril Fuller, Senior Cat Care Assistant at Cats Protection's National Cat Adoption Centre
How do you identify a stray cat, and what should you do if you find one?