How do I stop my cat from scratching?

When we talk about “cat scratching” we don’t mean this


What we mean is this


A question we get asked a lot is “how do I stop my cat from scratching?”  We have spoken to many owners over the years who have told us their cats have wrecked sofas, tables, curtains, wallpaper and even window and door frames.  It is a common problem and there could be many reasons for it.

So how do I stop my cat from scratching?

Well, the first thing you should NOT do is stop them from doing it.  Claw scratching is perfectly normal cat behaviour.  They scratch to keep their claws in tip top condition and also to leave a message to other cats.  When it drags its claws down a surface it will leave a smell which is unique to that cat.  The visual sign of scratching, any discarded claw husks and the smell will send a message to other cats.  Basically, they are marking their territory.  Also, cats love to scratch things as it feels good and they get to stretch their legs and muscles.

Another thing you should NOT do is punish your cat.  Whilst it can be frustrating to come home and find your brand new leather sofa scratched to pieces, your cat will not understand.  Shouting at your cat could even make their scratching habit worse. You need to be patient and teach them to scratch other things.

Scratching posts are a great idea.  They have a nice sturdy base so cats will be able to stretch and lean against it without it falling over, the cat will be able to keep it’s nails looking healthy and your house will not be covered in claw marks.  If you have space you could also consider a scratch tree as this will give your cat the opportunity to stretch, scratch, climb and perch.

If your cat is scratching wallpaper or furniture you should cover the scratched surface with thick plastic sheeting to prevent the cat scratching there.  Then place a scratch post directly next to the scratched area.  Whenever your cat uses the post make sure you praise them or you could even leave little treats on it.  In time your cat will learn to use the post rather than your wall or furniture. When this happens you will be able to remove the plastic and move the post to a more convenient place in your home.

What if that doesn’t work?

Under normal circumstances a cat will have one or two places it likes to scratch.  By trying the above you can make sure there are scratching posts available in those areas.  However, if your cat feels anxious or insecure it could scratch various places around the home.  If this happens you may need to look at what could be causing the anxiety and insecurity.

  • Is there more than one cat in the household?
  • Is there a large cat population in your area?
  • Is your cat not getting enough attention?
  • Is your cat under-stimulated?

By working out what’s causing your cats anxieties you can put things in place to ensure it feels more secure in its surroundings so it is less inclined to scratch everywhere.

If you have a serious problem with your cat scratching our vet will be able to talk through the issues and offer help and advice. They may also be able to prescribe something which could calm them down and alleviate some of the anxiety.  In some cases our vet may need to refer the cat to a behavioural specialist who will be able to give your cat a more in-depth review and find the root of the problem.

As we are not behavioural specialists there will be many questions we would not be able to answer. Each cat would have to be seen by the vet and advice would be given on a case by case basis.  However, if you have a general query regarding this subject please call the clinic and someone will be able to help you.  Alternatively, you can leave a post on our Facebook page and someone will respond



The Maisie Oliver Story

Maisie Oliver came in to us on 23rd November. Here is her story.

IMG_7177Maisie, an 18 month old cat, was brought in by her owner because she wasn’t eating very well and it was initally thought that her brother was bullying her from her food. Hayley examined her and felt a soft mass in her belly, which felt a little bit like a furball, and so gave her some katalax to help move it along, the owner would separate the two cats during feeding and she would come back in 2 weeks for a check.

Kim saw her because she still wasn’t eating and on examination, the mass had become very hard and felt approximately 20cm long and 5 cm diameter and she had lost 400g – dropping from 2.5 kg, to only 2.1kg – very underweight for her size! A scan was performed which confirmed the mass was within the small intestines and the decision was made to open her up immediately. She was very weak and there were risks associated with the surgery but without it, she would die. She was placed on a drip, given a strong pain killer and anaesthetised. On opening her abdomen, a part of the small intestine was seen to contain a foreign body and were massively distended beyond their normal size. The intestine was opened up and impacted straw, wood chip and grass was found within. It was so hard, the material would not come out as a single entity and had to be manually broken down intra-operatively. The intestines were sutured closed, the rest of the abdomen was explored but, thankfully, there were no other obstructions identified.

OrgansMaisie recovered very quickly from her surgery and wanted food within 20 minutes of waking up to make up for lost time! Danielle and Megan, our nurses on duty that day, cared for her, keeping her warm, feeding her littke and often and giving her lots of cuddles. She was able to go home next day and is doing well.

It is unusual to find this type of material in a cat and it may have occurred due to a behavioural compulsion to eat strange objects but can also be seen in cats with inflammatory bowel diseases, so with dietary modification, and the owner keeping a close watch on her, we hope she will not try to do the same thing again. Due to the nature of cats spending so much of their time outside, Maisie was never seen to have any vomiting or diarrhoea, however, these are often noted in an animal with an intestinal obstruction, in addition to weight loss and loss of appetite.

One of the pictures shows Maisie all wrapped up nice & warm in the ‘bear hugger’ recovering after her operation. The other shows her intestines and you can see how distended one is.

A close call at Christmas

One of the joys of having a dog is their playfulness. When they are happy and bounding around it cannot fail to put a smile on your face. However there are rare occasions where their exuberance can result with an injury.

Just before Christmas we had had an incident where a dog was bought in with a Christmas decoration lodged in its eye.  We spoke to owner to find out what happened.

Ruby 4


My wife and I were preparing for Christmas by getting all of the decorations from storage in the garage. Our chocolate Labrador, Ruby (always inquisitive), also joined us in the garage. However, she just got in the way. We shooed her out but unfortunately she knocked against a crate holding decorations and a branch type decoration that had eye loops at the end caught her on the head as she was moving out and the end lodged into her left eye socket. She darted away yelping loudly through my wife’s legs and the free end of the decoration caught in her trousers causing the decoration to become firmly hooked into Ruby’s eye lid. I then grabbed Ruby securely holding her to prevent her paws from aggravating the injury, whilst my wife unhooked the decoration from her trousers. My wife ran to get the pliers from my tool box in the kitchen. I cut the decoration to remove the majority of it. We were unable to remove the wire that was firmly fixed in Ruby’s eye lid. We then got ourselves ready and departed to the vets.

Ruby 2When Ruby was bought in Kim Woods, the duty vet, could see the 2 inch piece of metal poking out from the dog’s eye. Kim quickly realised it was hooked under her upper eyelid. As Ruby was quite distressed she was sedated and Kim had to cut the metal piece further as it was so curved and manoeuvring it further would have risked damage to the eye. Kim managed to get the piece of metal out but it left a hole in the conjunctiva, however, this healed well with the aid of antibiotics and pain relief. Luckily and almost unbelievably the eye itself was undamaged and there should be no permanent effects from this close call.



Ruby 3Ruby 5Over Christmas and New Year we have had to deal with many different types of pet injuries. They have been bought in to us inside and outside of normal working hours. Luckily, as we offer a true 24 hour service, our own vets and in-house nurses have been able to help no matter what time of day or night it has been. We think this is an important service as the pets and owners deal with people they know and trust.  Remember, if you and your pet need us we will be here for you 24 hours a day 365 days a year.

The Urban Fox & the Lexi Reeves Story

There has been a lot of interest in the urban fox attack story of the Chihuahua Lexi Reeves being attacked by a fox in Basildon, Essex on 5th March. Some see the fox as vermin that should be destroyed, others as part of the natural landscape whose land we are invading with our housing. Whatever your view, urban foxes are among us and look to be set to stay.

Foxes have been in our cities since the 1940’s beginning with London and Bristol. Generally fox populations are now higher in urban areas than rural areas and they seem to be comfortably at home amongst us. With no predators, except perhaps for the car, they have little to fear and much to gain. There was an outbreak of sarcoptic mange in the 1990’s that drastically reduced their numbers, but they have bounced back. They are resilient, adaptable creatures able to eat a wide variety of food, and this is one of the main reasons for their success. In most areas, they have reached the sustainable population limit so numbers are not generally rising.

Foxes have been in our cities since the 1940’s beginning with London and Bristol. Generally fox populations are now higher in urban areas than rural areas and they seem to be comfortably at home amongst us. With no predators, except perhaps for the car, they have little to fear and much to gain. There was an outbreak of sarcoptic mange in the 1990’s that drastically reduced their numbers, but they have bounced back. They are resilient, adaptable creatures able to eat a wide variety of food, and this is one of the main reasons for their success. In most areas, they have reached the sustainable population limit so numbers are not generally rising.

Attacks on pets are rare, but as Lexi found out, they can happen.  Lexi Reeves is a 3 year old Chihuahua living in Basildon. On Monday night at around 9pm she was out in the back garden when her owner Vicky heard her bark. She went out and looked down the side alley to see Lexi cowering by the gate with an urban fox near her. The fox then jumped up onto the BBQ, over the side gate & started to try to drag Lexi through the gap in the gate. Poor Lexi was crying out & Vicky grabbed her & tried to stop her being pulled through. The fox, about the size of a small German Shepherd, finally let go so that Lexi could be scooped up and brought indoors. A quick examination revealed blood around her neck and she was rushed to Cherrydown. Fortunately we have a 24 hour emergency service and she was immediately seen by our vet Kevin. Lexi had a large laceration to the left side of her neck with damage around the jugular and other major structures. The wound was extremely deep and was virtually through to her trachea. Following surgery, Lexi was closely monitored around the clock and finally left to go home today.

Smaller pets such as rabbits are at most risk, but having them in a secure hutch will greatly reduce the risk. If you do have rabbits, then making sure there is no food left out that foxes might like as this will reduce the likelihood of them visiting your garden.  Other simple steps include using a strong mesh on cages/hutches rather than chicken wire, putting down a solid floor that they cannot dig under and using a secure lock rather than a latch that can be worked loose. Cats are at very low risk and are more than capable of outrunning & outmanoeuvring a fox. There is little evidence to suggest children are at risk of being bitten by a fox, despite the much publicised case in 2011. They are far more likely to be bitten by man’s best friend or a cat, rather than a fox. The only time they are really likely to attack is if they are cornered and feel they have no option.   

Basildon Council supply the large green wheelie bins for food & garden waste. Foxes are not large enough to knock these over, but they are more than happy to rip into a black bin liner for a tasty snack. Ensuring food waste is in the wheelie bins will stop them visiting when your rubbish is put out. A study in Bristol showed that there is more than enough food available for foxes, but if you want to watch them in your garden, then leaving food out will encourage them to visit.

For most people, the worst nuisance caused by foxes is either the sound of them screaming & barking at night or the pungent odour they leave. If however they make a den under a shed, there are ways to deter them. Loosely blocking entrances entrance(s) until there is no sign of disturbance will then allow them to be properly blocked up without killing the fox. After a few days of these not being disturbed, it will be possible to block up the entrances fully without killing the fox or cubs. Alternatively soaking rags or straw with a deterrent & leaving these at the entrance until they are no longer disturbed will allow the holes to then be securely filled. Only approved repellants are allowed to be used and these can be found at garden centres and DIY stores.

Reducing fox numbers would be difficult & expensive. Most foxes have a litter of 5 and it would mean killing at least 4 of each litter to reduce the number of mating couples. In most areas, the numbers are stable and if there were to be a cull, foxes would reproduce more again and very quickly numbers would be back to what they were. Killing foxes in one area will lead to foxes from another area moving in to replace them, causing fights with more noise and disturbance plus scent marking.

For those that do like foxes and want them to visit, consideration should be given to other local residents. Getting to the stage where a fox is so tame that it will eat from your hand means it will likely approach other people to do the same. Such an approach may well be distressing to other people. Similarly allowing them to enter your home will encourage them to think this is acceptable at other homes. Foxes burrowing under a house to create a den can be a huge problem with the associated noise and smell that will come from them. Prevention is better than cure so make sure all blockwork and airbricks are firmly secured. A pest control company can be called in to help remove them, but this can be expensive.

Basildon Council provide the following information:


  • Most fox nuisance consists of: digging flower beds, lawn fouling, scent marking and creating an earth (home) under garden sheds. They seldom attack livestock but may attack rabbits and guinea pigs. We do not provide any services in relation to foxes however the following link may be useful

The fox is part of our urban society whether we like it or not. To some a nuisance, to others a source of delight. They are not generally a great danger to our pets or us, but taking the right measures can help reduce any risks and the annoying features of their presence. At Cherrydown we hate to see any animal that has been injured by whatever cause and we would just ask the public to follow the steps outlined to reduce risk, nuisance and the small chance of further suffering by any pets.

To learn more about the urban fox, keep an eye out on channel 4 in May for a documentary series that charts its routine and movement. Part of the documentary may feature Lexi & her emergency treatment at Cherrydown Vets in Basildon (they were here filming yesterday) so why not give it a look and see what they have to say.

The Vets Says – Elbow Dysplasia


Elbow dysplasia is another developmental problem some dogs can be prone to. German Shepherds, Labrador Retreivers,Rottweilers and Bassett Hounds are some of the breeds we see most commonly with this condition.

Normal Elbow Anatomy
The elbow joint is formed where the 3 long bones of the foreleg meet; namely the humerus (runs from shoulder to elbow) and radius and ulna (run from elbow to carpus or wrist). All bone ends are covered in smooth articular cartilage and the joint is surrounded by a tough joint capsule. The synovial membrane lines the joint and produces the lubricating synovial fluid.
The ulna has a number of bony prominences on it.These include the anconeal process and the coronoid process.

Elbow dysplasia is an abnormal development of the elbow joint. Elbow dysplasia is a group of diseases that include osteochondrosis, fragmented coronoid process (FCP) and united anconeal process(UAP). Basically, some of the normal bony prominences that develop in the elbow are diseased.  There is strong evidence of a hereditary component in the German Shepherd dog and FCP and UAP are particularly common. As with hip dysplasia Xrays of potential breeding stock is recommended to screen for the disease. This appears to be done very infrequently despite the fact that like hip dysplasia mildly affected dogs can appear normal most of the time.

Dogs with elbow dysplasia show signs of front leg lameness. This may be in one or both legs as the disease often affects both elbows. Often there are signs of stiffness after rest. The lameness often gets worse with exercise. Often a relatively minor trauma to the elbow can flare up clinical signs.

On examination the vet may feel thickening of the elbow joints and pain on movement. Assessment of foreleg lameness can be very difficult if both legs are affected.
Xrays are the next step. They usually need to be done under general anaesthetic as perfectly positioned xrays are needed to recognise characteristic changes that are often very subtle.
Even then, a definite diagnosis may not be possible from xrays. Often the only changes visible are those caused by arthritis that usually occurs in dysplastic elbows very early on in the disease. Immature dogs with evidence of elbow arthritis often have elbow dysplasia.
Sometimes arthroscopy (looking directly into the joint with a special piece of equipment) is needed to diagnose elbow dysplasia. With this equipment the cartilage surfaces and bony prominences can be directly viewed.

The major part of the decision making process in treating elbow dysplasia is whether to operate or not. Due to the abnormal development of the joint and so abnormal forces going through the bones osteoarthritis is an envitable sequel to elbow dysplasia. The decision is whether osteoarthritic change will happen faster with or without surgery.
Medical treatment is aimed at managing the secondary osteoarthritis.Often surgery is needed. Surgical removal of diseased bone and cartilage usually results in improvement in the lameness. This may be done via the arthroscope or by opening the joint up surgically. Arthroscopy (sometimes called keyhole surgery) is less traumatic than opening the joint up completely but it is more difficult to view all the areas of concern. Ultimately it is the surgeon’s choice.

Despite surgery, arthritis will tend to continue and ongoing medical treatment is likely.

Elbow dysplasia is a common and serious disease affecting many dogs. Radiographic screening programmes are becoming more widely available to detect affected dogs. Dogs affected with elbow dysplasia should not be bred from.


Vets shocked by abuse

This is the shocking story of an all too common occurrence.  Cherrydown vet Catherine treated a dog at the end of May who was incredibly malnourished and nervous. The dog’s name is Tilly, and this is her story. “On Friday 27th May 2011 our son Andrew was aware of a 4×4 vehicle rushing down the street with a brown coloured dog chasing after it.  He managed to get hold of the dog and brought it to us. As you can see by the photos she was really underweight and very timid. “We managed to get some food inside her, but it took 2-3 hours before she would drink any water. We have had her for two weeks now and she is putting on some weight but is still very thin. Although the photos don’t show it clearly she had cuts to her leg and it looked like she had been just thrown from the vehicle. “We are not very happy with people who dump dogs like this and hope this might help to stop this sort of thing happening.” Mr & Mrs J. We work closely with the RSPCA at Cherrydown Vets and hear about this far too often.  Please, if you know of this happening in your area, contact the police and/or the RSPCA, and give them as much info as possible.  The mistreatment of dogs needs to stop.

Paws, the Vet’s story

Paws back for a check-up

Continuing from our last post, vet Kevin Wood tells us more about Paws’ emergency visit to the clinic. Paws presented out of hours as an emergency after vomiting for the previous 24 hours. He had managed to bring up two small balls of what appeared to be part of a toy, although it was difficult to be sure what they were. In kittens, both diarrhoea and vomiting are potentially very serious conditions, just as they are in human babies and infants, due to rapid dehydration and changes in blood chemistry.

After feeling his belly, I was unable to find any obvious obstruction and so admitted Paws for x-rays and to put him on a drip to reverse the dehydration. The x-ray showed a very strange pattern in his stomach, and at this point I suspected that he had swallowed string. I decided to pass a camera into his stomach to retrieve the string but, whilst carrying out the procedure, felt a small mass in his intestines.

It seems that another of the small balls had become lodged in his guts, initially too far up for me to feel, but now within easy reach. I immediately took Paws to surgery where I removed the foreign body and stitched him up. He recovered well and was eating that night!

After another few nights in the hospital, it was decided that he was ready to go home where he continues to make a good recovery.

Kevin Wood