Tag: United Kingdom

Cat Lovers And Soccer Fans Pitch In To Help Severely Injured Kitty Who Ran Onto Field

Running onto the field in the middle of a professional soccer game is probably the best thing Topsey the cat ever did.

The nine-year-old tortoiseshell went missing in June of 2021 when her human, Alison Jubb of Sheffield (UK) was going on vacation and taking Topsey to a cattery. Topsey got spooked, bolted from her carrier, and after months of fruitless efforts to find her, Jubb thought she’d never see her cat again.

Then in the 94th minute of a Feb. 8 match between Sheffield and Wigan Athletic, a familiar-looking tortoiseshell dashed onto the field. Wigan’s Jason Kerr risked a penalty to catch and calm the clearly distressed cat while the crowd erupted in cheers.

“My daughter-in-law rang me last night and said, ‘Are you watching the football match?'” Jubb said. “I said ‘No,’ and she said ‘There’s a cat that ran on the football pitch and it just looks like Topsey.’ And I sort of laughed it off because I thought it won’t be.”

But the veterinarian rang the next day and, to Jubb’s surprise and delight, said the Sheffield woman’s cat had been identified via a microchip scan.

One of Sheffield’s season ticket holders happened to be a veterinarian, and when he offered to examine the terrified feline at the stadium, he realized she had serious injuries and brought her to a nearby clinic.

Topsey the Cat
Topsey in better times before she went missing. Credit: Alison Jubb

Topsey had survived her harrowing eight-months away and her bloodwork was okay, but the veterinarian said the tough little kitty had endured an attack by a dog or another larger animal, who picked her by her neck and shook her in its jaws. Topsey suffered broken bones, a damaged spine and had teeth marks on her neck.

The veterinary bill is hefty: Jubb was told she’s looking at about £10,000, or more than $13,000 in US dollars, to cover the exams, scans, surgeries and other necessities to relieve Topsey’s pain and mend her little body.

Generous cat lovers and soccer fans helped Jubb and Topsey reach that goal in just a few days. The campaign’s donations sit at £11,585 as of Feb. 19, and any money left over from Topsey’s veterinary care will be donated to a local rescue.

Topsey can’t walk properly because of her injuries, and in the 11 days since she was rescued, she’s been in veterinary care, recovering and scarfing down food after so many lean months left her malnourished.

Topsey Recovering
Topsey’s swaddled up in the care of a veterinarian. Credit: Alison Jubb

Despite the severity of her injuries, Topsey is “very comfy and she’s doing really well,” Jubb told the BBC.

Jubb says Topsey is constantly purring and is no doubt thrilled to be reunited with her humans and on the mend.

“Everybody has been brilliant, – my phone’s not stopped all day, it’s amazing,” Jubb said after Topsey was recovered. “And the players, I’d just like to say ‘thank you’ for being so gentle and kind with her and everybody who looked after her [on Feb. 8] because they’ve all been so nice with her and that’s lovely.”

Knighted By The Queen, Buddy Becomes Sir Buddy

LONDON – Call him sir!

Buddy the Cat was officially knighted on Friday during a ceremony at Buckingham Palace, granting him the title Knight of the British Empire and making him the most-honored cat in the Anglosphere since Able Seaman Simon, the decorated ship’s cat who was injured aboard the HMS Amethyst in 1949.

It’s unusual for an American to be knighted and unprecedented for a cat to be elevated to knighthood, but Buddy was honored “for his innumerable contributions to human-feline understanding, unprecedented innovations in the art of napping, and status as tastemaker supreme in the world of delicious snacks,” according to the Central Chancery of the Orders of Knighthood at St James’s Palace.

Buddy has become a trusted confidante of Queen Elizabeth II, royal insiders noted, and the two speak by telephone for at least 15 minutes each week.

“Her Majesty grew to appreciate Sir Buddy’s counsel in trying times,” a palace insider said. “In return, she advised Sir Buddy to keep a stiff upper lip during the Great Turkey Shortage of early 2021.”

Palace sources say the queen refers to her feline friend as “my dearest Buddington,” and often addresses him by the familiar “Bud-Bud.” Sir Buddy is also said to be close with Prince William.

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Official portrait of Sir Buddy, KBE. Credit: Royal portraitist Eldar Zakirov.

In addition to the knighthood, which entitles the American cat to refer to himself as Sir Buddy, KBE, the Crown gifted holdings including a cat-size palace on Buckingham grounds, as well as a country estate in Oxfordshire.

The estate’s central manor, Budsworth House, has 32 rooms, 86 couches, a dozen fireplaces and at least 16 antique litter boxes. The grounds are home to sprawling gardens featuring feline-centric statuary and boxes made of stone, as well as guest cottages for human and feline visitors.

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One of 14 statues of Sir Buddy that decorate the grounds and gardens of Budsworth House.

Rumors that Sir Buddy would be created Buddy, Earl of Buddington, did not come to fruition, although royal experts say an earldom is not off the table for the Queen’s favorite feline.

“Her Majesty is quite fond of Bud-Bud and was delighted when a parcel arrived with a Christmas card and a framed photograph of the two of them together,” a palace sources said. “In fact, Prince George and Princess Charlotte refer to Sir Buddy as ‘Uncle Bud-Bud.’ So in a sense, Sir Buddy is already part of the family.”

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With A Three-Fold Increase in Cat Thefts, UK Chooses Microchip Mandate

Mandates in the wake of COVID-19 haven’t been especially popular with a weary public, but surveys show one proposed directive has almost universal support in the UK: Requiring all cat owners get their pets microchipped.

Cat thefts in the UK have tripled in the last five years, with the pandemic contributing to the increase since early 2020, police say. Authorities say they hope compulsory microchipping — and consolidating the many chip ID databases into one — will help discourage people from stealing while making it easier to reunite felines with their families.

Thieves mostly target pedigreed kitties over moggies, with Bengals as the most commonly-stolen cats, followed by British Shorthairs and Persians, according to police statistics. Thieves try for breed cats because of resale value, police say.

Dog thefts have skyrocketed as well, with thieves targeting Chihuahuas, Jack Russell Terriers and German Shepards, among other popular breeds. The price of breed dogs has ballooned by as much as 89 percent since the beginning of the pandemic, when demand for new pets and a slowdown in breeding created a boom market.

For context, an estimated 3.2 million British families welcomed new pets, mostly cats and dogs, into their homes since the first lockdowns in late winter and spring of 2020, the BBC reported. Like their counterparts here in the States, UK shelters experienced unprecedented adoption rates as people battled loneliness and depression during the initial COVID waves and last year’s long winter when the virus came back with a vengeance.

“The number one reason behind pet theft is because the prices for pets have gone up drastically,” Becky Thwaites, spokeswoman for UK pet charity Blue Cross, told SWLondoner. “This happened exponentially over lockdown, as responsible breeders stopped breeding due to social distancing guidance, but more people were wanting pets.”

Despite the spike in animal thefts, only about one percent of all such crimes have led to an arrest, according to a public information request by a UK animal welfare group. 

Police have been reluctant to pour resources into those cases, partly because the law lacks serious consequences for people who steal animals. While the maximum sentence for stealing a pet is seven years in jail, under current UK law sentences are pegged to the value of the stolen item. (Unlike the US, the UK does not make a distinction between prison and jail.)

But for people who love their cats, it’s not about the monetary value — it’s about sentiment, love and the distress to human and animal when they’re separated.

Abductions instead of thefts

To change that, a new pet theft task force — set up earlier this year to study the growing problem — recommended a change in the law. Instead of treating pet thefts as property thefts, under the proposal they would be treated as abductions, with all the increased charges and consequences that come with the classification.

Treating animal thefts as abductions “acknowledges that animals are far more than just property and will give police an additional tool to bring these sickening individuals to justice,” UK Home Secretary Priti Patel told the BBC.

Advocates say treating pet thefts as abductions makes sense not just as a legal adjustment, but also as a reflection of the way cats and dogs are stolen. While some thieves stalk dog parks and lure pets away with treats, others have taken to more brazen and violent means like taking animals by force and jumping people while they’re walking their dogs.

The change would require owners to have their kittens chipped by 20 weeks and adult cats chipped upon adoption from a shelter or rescue.  Failure to microchip a pet would result in a warning and a three-week grace period. After that, cat owners would face a steep fine of £500, equal to $660 in USD.

Consolidating chip databases

There are about 10.8 million pet cats in the UK, although widespread chipping alone won’t solve the problem of pet thefts and lost pets flooding shelters. There are currently 16 different microchip databases in the UK. They don’t always share information and scans don’t cover each of the databases, so even if a cat is recovered, brought to a shelter and scanned, there’s no guarantee the kitty will be returned home.

The existence of so many non-cooperating databases operated by private companies “can pose a huge barrier to successful reunification of pets” said the British Veterinary Association’s Malcolm Morley.

UK authorities and the animal welfare groups pushing for the change are cognizant of the problem and want to streamline the 16 existing database into one central repository of cat microchip registration. That will take time and will have to include compromise on the part of the various private companies running the existing fractured databases.

“Every day, we see how important microchipping is for cats and for the people who love them,” said Pet Protection’s Jacqui Cuff, “whether it’s reuniting a lost cat with their owner, identifying an injured cat, or helping to ensure an owner can be informed in the sad event that their cat has been hit and killed by a car.”

Reason #488 To Keep Your Cats Indoors: They Hunt Whether They’re Hungry Or Not

A new study from the UK debunks the claim that cats need access to the outdoors to supplement their diets with wild kills.

Cats who spend a significant amount of time outdoors and regularly kill local wildlife still get 96 percent of their nutrition from meals provided by their humans, according to research by a team at the University of Exeter.

The scientists connected with cat owners through ads on social media, TV and in print publications, specifically seeking out “cat owners living throughout southwest England whose cats regularly captured wild animals and brought them back to the house,” the study’s authors said.

They gave the owners a questionnaire to collect some basic information on the kitties — age, sex, breed, whether they had unrestricted access to the outdoors, and how much time they spend outside — then split the 90 participating cats into six groups.

Cat hunting
A domestic tabby cat stalking in the grass. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

To set a baseline, the scientists trimmed small sections of whisker from each of the cats, then trimmed a second sample at the end of the study.

By comparing stable isotope ratios in the whisker samples, they were able to determine what the cats were eating. Despite regular access to the outdoors and successful hunts, pet food accounted for the vast majority of their diets.

As a result, the researchers concluded, outdoor cats hunt because they’re driven by predatory instinct, not hunger.

“When food from owners is available, our study shows that cats rely almost entirely on this for nutrition,” said Martina Cecchetti, the study’s lead author.

“Some owners may worry about restricting hunting because cats need nutrition from wild prey, but in fact, it seems even prolific hunters don’t actually eat much of the prey they catch,” Cecchetti said. “As predators, some cats may hunt instinctively even if they are not hungry – so-called ‘surplus killing’ – to capture and store prey to eat later.”

A second component of the study was designed to find the best mitigation strategy to change the behavior of outdoor cats.

Each group was given a different strategy: In one group, cats were outfitted with bells on their collars, while another group wore reflective break-away collars and cats from a third group were fitted with BirdBeSafe collars. The other groups were told to make habit changes inside the home. For example, one set of cats was fed a higher-protein diet without grain filler, another group was fed with puzzle feeders, and the last group was given extra interactive play time.

While high-protein diets and play time helped cut down on hunting, the BirdBeSafe collars had the biggest impact on hunting success. The collars come in bright colors designed to stand out to avian eyes, taking away stealth and the element of surprise from cats.

The study was sponsored by Songbird Survival, a British non-profit that funds bird conservation research and looks for ways to mitigate the dwindling numbers of many avian species.

Susan Morgan, Songbird Survival’s executive director, said her group hopes cat owners will do their part to help: “Pet owners can help us reverse the shocking decline in songbirds via three simple, ‘win-win’ steps: fit collars with a Birdsbesafe cover; feed cats a premium meaty diet; play with cats for five to ten minutes a day to ‘scratch that itch’ to hunt.”

Of course there’s an obvious solution the study didn’t include: Keeping cats indoors. While keeping cats indoors is common in the US, cat ownership culture in the UK is different — another subject for another post.

Read the full text of the study here. Header image credit Pexels. Body images credit BeSafeCollar.

Previously:

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A pair of young mountain lions in Florida. Credit: Wikimedia Commons/WOConservation

Sanctuary Jaguar Gives Birth To Beautiful Melanistic Baby, You Can Help Name Her

The Big Cat Sanctuary of Kent, UK — not to be confused with Florida’s Big Cat Rescue — is welcoming a newborn melanistic jaguar, and everyone from the vet staff to the caretakers are fussing over her.

The as-yet-unnamed baby was born to mom Keira and dad Neron in a big-cat breeding program designed to ensure the species survives as wild populations plummet due to habitat reduction and poaching. Staff at the UK sanctuary say the baby opened her eyes the day she was born and was walking by two weeks. That’s an unusually quick development for most cats, but apparently not for jaguars, who live in the deepest jungles of the Amazon.

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The Big Cat Sanctuary’s newest addition. / Credit: Alma Leaper

The sanctuary is allowing the public to pick the baby’s name from among three choices as part of a fund-raiser.

The choices are Inka (Inca) after the Inca people and their empire, Inti, a Quechuan (pre-modern Peruvian) word meaning “Sunshine,” or Killari, a word from the same language that means “Moonlight.” I’m partial to the latter, especially for the image it evokes of the world’s largest black panther — and the largest cat in the Americas — stalking the jungle on a moon-lit night.

The term “black panther” is a catch-all for any felid with melanism. Both jaguars and leopards can have the black color morph, as can domestic cats. Cats with melanism retain their spots, and if you look closely you can see they’re a shade darker than the rest of the cats’ black fur.

Check out the video below to see the little one behaving just like any other kitten.