ANIMAL MAGIC: A weekly column from Alder Veterinary Practice, of Spalding and Bourne
What a difference a week makes. A week past Thursday I was walking in the woods at -4C and there was not a sound. The deep snow muffled all noises, no traffic noises or the voices of other people nor any sound of wildlife.
Seven days later and a 12C rise in temperature and the wood was alive with songs of birds claiming their territories and calling for mates, ready for spring nesting.
So, if birds are doing it, it won’t be long before bees are doing it and cats are already most definitely falling in love.
Spring and Autumn are the breeding seasons for cats. If you have a queen (a young female cat) and she has not yet been neutered, she may have started calling.
Many owners worry about their cat when it is rolling around the floor and crying, but this is normal behaviour. They don’t name it calling for nothing. Sensibly, most owners keep their queens in until they have been spayed to prevent unwanted litters of kittens.
So, what about the tom (male) cats? Recently, a large unneutered tom cat we’ve named Arnie has been handed into the practice. As far as we know, he is without a home, certainly no-one has phoned in to report him missing, but he exemplifies entire toms and their worlds.
He was knocked down by a car and has suffered injuries but is a lovely cat. He has the very typical broad face of the tom cat and is well muscled throughout. The skin around his neck is as thick as leather.
This is where male cats attack each other when fighting for territory and helps to protect him from wounds and abscesses.
Even so, his face shows the scars of a hundred fights and he has an arthritic hip from a previously fractured hip that has had to self-heal. He’s injured the nerves in his foreleg and only time will tell if this will heal fully. All this, and we estimate his age at less than two-years-old.
When defending or claiming territory, most toms will avoid actual fighting. Initially, there will be a face-off and posturing to intimidate each other. This will escalate to the yowling and threats before there is full scale fighting. Injuries are common and nasty. Many an old tom has torn ears, damaged eyes and old war wounds.
Once a male cat has been neutered, he will lose the urge to roam and fight. The stench of entire tom cat urine is overpowering, and fortunately, this will also disappear.
Most tom cats become the home-loving, affectionate and fun pets we want them to be.
Neutering tom cats is also a social responsibility. As the song goes, “it takes two to tango” and by neutering toms and therefore, preventing unplanned cat pregnancies, we can help to deal with problem of 4.3million unwanted kittens that are born each year in the UK.
So, what will happen to Arnie? If no-one claims him, we will neuter him and find him a new home. But, for now, he is enjoying his cuddles, a lovely warm bed and delicious food for the first time in his life.