Activity centre Also known as an aerobic centre or cat tree. A form of modular scratching post (see below) that consists of numerous platforms, beds and perches at various levels. Calling it an aerobic centre is a misnomer, as a cat will rarely do more than sleep on it.
Adoption The acquisition of second-hand, pre-owned or unwanted cats or kittens.
Bath Somewhere to drink from or in which to torment spiders. NEVER to be used for the more conventional purpose where the average cat is concerned.
Breeder Someone who breeds specific cats (usually pedigrees) for financial gain, prestige or as a hobby. Considered by lay persons to be experts, as determined by the length of time they have been doing it or the number of kittens they produce at any one time. Neither are particularly good indicators of whether or not they know ‘diddly squat’ about cats.
Castrate To neuter a male cat by removing the testes via two small incisions in the scrotum and tying the remaining blood and semen carrying vessels in a knot (don’t try this at home). Also known as ‘fixed’, ‘knackered’, or ‘de-nutted’.
Cat basket Also known as cat carrier or box. This is made of wire, plastic, wicker or, rather foolishly, cardboard, and used to transport the cat securely from one location to another. Usually from home to vet’s, and therefore deeply disliked.
Cat flap A small opening cut out of the bottom of the back door, enabling the cat to come and go without the owner acting as unpaid doorman. Usually results in every other cat in the neighbourhood coming and going too.
Catnip A dry form of the herb Nepeta cataria, which when eaten, inhaled or rolled in causes a euphoric state in many cats. Non-addictive and non-harmful, but can cause excessive drooling.
Diarrhoea Common in cats who eat too many treats or scavenge from bins. Often deposited in inappropriate places such as the owner’s duvet or the hall carpet. Also referred to as ‘intestinal hurry’.
Drinking fountain A commercial product that pumps water from a reservoir through a ‘tap’ to give a cat a source of running water. This is preferred by some and ignored by others in favour of the glass of water on the owner’s bedside table.
Feral A domestic cat that lives in the wild. You may also hear the common malapropism ‘febrile’ and the just plain wrong ‘ferile’ when people talk about this subject, so don’t get confused.
Fleas Small brown parasites that live in a cat’s fur and lay eggs in the owner’s carpet. Almost invisible to the naked eye, but detected if small black ‘commas’ are found in a cat’s bedding. (Bluffers will know that if you place these on a piece of white paper and add a drop of water, they will turn red. This is the ingested blood of their host.)
Flehmen The ‘faraway’ look, involving a gaping mouth and vacant expression, that cats indulge in when ‘tasting’ smells with their vomeronasal organ.
Hairball Also known as a furball, this is a furry, sausage-shaped ‘gift’ vomited up by a cat, consisting of a compressed cocktail of ingested hair, food and spit. Usually found under the dining room table shortly before a dinner party.
Harness A leather device that fits around the cat’s stomach and neck facilitating the attachment of a lead for walking in the park. It rarely results in a happy experience for owners or cats. The latter don’t ‘do’ leads.
Kibble Also known as biscuits, nuggets, pellets, nuts. The small, dry, brown balls that pass for cat food; available in flavours of meat (beef, lamb, etc.) and bearing little resemblance to a cat’s natural diet.
Litter The name given to a variety of commercially manufactured substrates designed to encourage a cat to deposit urine and faeces in an indoor tray. It can be made from wood, paper, corn, silica or Fuller’s earth – all from sustainable sources, naturally.
Litter tray Also known as litter box or pan, this is traditionally a rectangular receptacle that contains litter (see above). There are now advanced self-cleaning and motorised models, both of which will guarantee that the cat will perform on the carpet instead.
Microchip A small rice-grain-sized chip inserted under the skin on the back of a cat’s neck that, when scanned, provides information regarding the cat and its owner. Its principal purpose is to identify lost cats, but some even provide information about body temperature, thus eliminating the need to insert a thermometer rectally. Most cats are profoundly grateful for this function.
Obese A word not recognised by cat owners, who prefer to use the terms ‘well loved’, ‘thick-furred’ or ‘big-boned’.
Predation The food chain in action. Otherwise known as inter-species murder.
Rescue A blanket term referring to organisations or individuals that rehome second-hand cats and unwanted kittens. It is also what cat counsellors can do for owners at the end of their tether.
Scooting The act of rubbing the bottom on the carpet with the back legs in the air while moving forward via a pulling action with the forelegs. Usually the consequence of an irritable anus due to worms or blocked anal glands.
Scratching post An object consisting of a post covered in sisal twine and a base covered in carpet provided for cats to scratch; generally ignored in favour of the sofa arm.
Scruff The loose skin at the back of a cat’s neck that is grabbed by some misguided individuals to restrain an unwilling cat. The cat may be stilled for the moment, but it will harbour a grudge and undoubtedly act up if it ever meets the perpetrator again.
Spay To neuter (de-sex) a female cat by removing the ovaries and uterus; not always appreciated, but is said to extend a cat’s life and obviate the ghastly process of going into ‘heat’.
Spot-on The application of flea or worming treatment that requires the hair to be parted at the back of the cat’s neck and a liquid deposited on the skin. Should really be called ‘Splat-on’ as in practice most of it ends up being applied randomly.
Tabby A common coat colour involving stripes, blotches or spots, and in various shades of brown, grey or ginger. In other words, a bit of a melange.
Tortoiseshell Also known as ‘tortie’, the tortoiseshell coat pattern is splashes of white, ginger and black or a dark mix of ginger and black flecks. Tortoiseshells are often referred to as ‘naughty torties’.
Vaccination Something a cat needs yearly or (there is some debate over this) every three years. It protects the cat against some of the major infectious diseases but is rarely appreciated.
Valerian The root of the valerian plant, which has a catnip-like effect on some cats when added to toys, with the bonus of a jolly good snooze afterwards.
Vomiting Something cats do with great regularity after eating too much food, grass or their own fur. It is also a common symptom of many common cat illnesses. It is no coincidence that many cat owners opt for vomit-coloured carpets.
Worms Parasites that can be either round (long, thin and white) or tape (white and segmented), both infesting the cat’s digestive tract and requiring regular worming treatment.
Zoonosis Any disease that can pass between human and animal. If in doubt, don’t snog the cat.