Author: Leonie St Clair

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 …

Pets Corner- teaching a dog to settle

Getting the right balance between activity and rest is a tough call for many dog and puppy owners. Attempting to burn off energy by increasing exercise and activity only adds to the problem, creating an adrenalin junkie pet. What every dog and owner needs is an ‘off switch’ and one way is by teaching the dog to settle on cue. There are two phases to teaching settle. In the first part we use a mat to teach the dog to move to a specific place. In the second we teach the dog to lie down and relax while he is in that place, slowly increasing the duration. Teach your dog to settle in a specific place using a mat (always put the mat away after training). Put the mat down on the floor away from distractions. Now put a treat onto it and allow your dog to investigate the treat. As soon as he puts his paws on the mat say ‘yes’ give another, better treat. Now pick up the mat. Repeat, putting the mat …

Pets Corner: The benefits of pet ownership

The benefits of pet ownership An acquaintance once looked at my dog and said rather pointedly ‘what’s the point of you’? Her view was that domestic pets are a social and climate burden and have no place in the modern world because they serve no real function. It got me thinking are there real and justifiable benefits to modern pet ownership? Setting aside the continuing use of service dogs in policing, search and rescue and people assistance, it is true, we no longer need dogs to help us hunt and catch food or guard property; we don’t use cats to control vermin. There are no obvious functional benefits to owning rabbits, hamsters or budgies. Those against focus on the associated costs of pet ownership, citing a heavy carbon footprint, risks to wild animal populations and disease transmission to humans. Yet myriad studies suggest there are still very real benefits to pet ownership and that it would be a poorer world without them. The evidence that pets lead to health and happiness benefits in humans has …

Pets Corner: The problem with prey drive

Recently I have witnessed a variety of dogs whizzing around various local parks, off lead and in hot pursuit of some small furry- usually a squirrel. I’ve seen them repeatedly leap, baying and clawing at the nearest tree in an effort to reach the object of their blood lust, which is seeking refuge in the branches. Others adopt the classic ‘pointer pose’- a statue-like, motionless fixation on a furry object of desire, one paw up, nose and body pointed forward, and in this immoveable state, completely impervious to owner entreaty or command- that is if the owner is anywhere to be seen, and mostly they are not. It seems a proportion of dog owners feel this is excellent exercise and a great way for their pet to let off steam. Well, I must disagree. Is it instinctive? Yes, highly. Do some dogs want to do it more than others? Yes. Do some of us view squirrels and rats as pestilent and therefore fair game? Sadly, yes. However, those owners should think what they are encouraging …