Author: Leonie St Clair

Pets Corner: Introducing new pets in the home

New Year is a time many of you will choose to introduce a new pet to your family group and quite often that involves an existing pet cat or dog. In this article I want to give some quick tips on how to make introductions and settling in as smooth as possible. I am focussing on cats and dogs. Clearly pet prey animals like mice, rabbits and hamsters will need a different approach and unless you have an unusually laid back cat or a dog with zero prey drive, physical introductions are best avoided.  Controlled, slow introductions It is advisable that animals are not simply placed together in the hope they will sort things out between them. Some get away with this strategy but it is risky and could lead to injured pets or worse. A negative experience on first meeting can lead to long-term fears and damage a potentially good pet relationship forever. Try not to rush introductions. Over a week plan brief but positive meetings at a controlled distance, perhaps using a glass …

Pets Corner: Possessive behaviour in dogs

One of the most difficult issues I see in behaviour work is the dog that has become aggressive about guarding food, objects, space, other dogs or even people. The resource guarding dog does not want to share the stuff he values with anyone. Occasionally these dogs become so anxious about a perceived need to compete for possession, that they use serious aggression to take control. The instinct to control resources is strong in all of us because it is necessary for survival. However sharing our home with a pet dog that has started to guard proximity to something as innocuous as paper tissues as though his life depended on it, or that lunges and bites anyone near his empty food bowl, is a recipe for disaster. We do not know why some dogs become resource guarders. The most likely explanation is that some dogs have a genetic predisposition triggered by events in the course of development. Litters of pups fed from the same food bowl may learn to compete for food early on but while …

Pets corner: Living with a bossy cat

Most of us are familiar with the horrendous yowls and screams that are the soundtrack to fighting felines. Cats will occasionally scrap for territory or access to resources they value but especially bossy cats will rule other cats in the neighbourhood (aka “Topcat’s Yard”) with an iron paw. Having established itself as the cat ‘in charge’ it takes only a hard stare to warn other cats what follows if they do not defer. These are the cats that can also turn the desire to control with violence onto their human owners. In an earlier article I explored how inappropriate handling in kittenhood can lead to inappropriate play induced aggression. But these cats are different and for want of a better word literally terrorise their owners. This type of puss is very clear about its own boundaries, its likes and dislikes, and it is not scared to impose its wishes onto human owners, with force. Living with a truly aggressive cat is frightening and cats can cause serious injury through bites and scratches- cat scratch disease …

Pets Corner: What if my cat becomes deaf?

People are reasonably familiar with the idea that deaf dogs can be trained with a range of non-verbal signals but cats that lose their hearing can also be taught to respond to hand, light and vibration cues. Cats that are born deaf naturally compensate to some degree as they learn about the world through the other senses that become heightened as a result. However, it is those cats that experience hearing loss in midlife or later that is the focus of this article. Surprisingly this apparently sudden partial or total deafness is not uncommon. It is also one of the reasons why older cats are more likely to get run over. Recently, while my sister was in hospital, I was tasked with caring for her handsome but elderly tabby cat. Until this point he had always come running up the garden if he was called, letting him know it was feeding time. But now there was no sign of him and often he would only turn up after I had been in my sister’s house …

Pets Corner – Park Petiquette

Summer seems finally to have arrived and as the mercury rises so do the numbers of visitors to our glorious public spaces. The majority of responsible dog owners make daily, even twice daily forays to the park come rain or shine and in colder months the range of park users is fewer. However, warmer weather brings out other visitors in force: families and picnickers, those wishing to sunbathe or play games with the kids, learner cyclists, skateboarders and even Nordic pole walkers. All of these present major temptations to dogs, always on the lookout for new and exciting opportunities to scavenge or chase things that don’t belong to them. In the face of such ‘novelties’ many owners lose control and with it the respect of other park users. Recently Southwark Council implemented Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOS), with a view to cracking down on irresponsible dog owners in local parks and cemeteries. These supersede and replace any existing Dog Control Orders. According to Southwark, members of the community are tired of their children being jumped …