Snowy suffered serious injuries after a nasty kick

Snowy suffered serious injuries after a nasty kick

When Geraldine’s two kittens, Sooty and Snowy, were young, she made sure that she signed them both up for pet insurance. Her previous cat, Domino, had died of kidney failure at the age of thirteen, and during his illness, Geraldine had learned that vets’ bills could be expensive. She decided that in future she’d pay out the small monthly amount for pet insurance, so that if there was an accident or illness, her new cats would be able to have the best possible veterinary care without putting a strain on the family budget. Snowy and Sooty grew up as the best of friends. They did everything together – from sleeping in the same basket to playing around the home to hunting in the garden. Geraldine has two palm trees at the front of the house, and the two cats used to play a game where each of them dashed up a tree as fast as possible. When Geraldine came home, she would find one cat sitting at the top of each tree, as if they were keeping a lookout for her. Snowy has had to stop climbing trees for the past few months: he’s recovering from a nasty accident affecting his left hind leg. It happened on a Sunday afternoon. Geraldine knows her cats very well – they are creatures of habit. When she noticed Sooty moping about the house alone, with no sign of Snowy, she knew that something must be amiss. She went looking for him, and it didn’t take long to find him. He was skulking beneath one of the cars in the driveway, and he...
Pasha the cat had dental disease

Pasha the cat had dental disease

Sheila visited Sharpes Hill Animal Sanctuary in County Wicklow shortly after reading a book about the First World War, featuring a soldier called Pasha. During her visit, she came across a particularly good-looking cat, who had been dumped and who had been rejected by every visitor so far. Sheila fell for him at once. She felt as if he had been through his own war, and so she christened him Pasha, after the soldier she had been reading about. He was two years old when she took him in. He settled in well with Sheila, and he soon had his own routine. Three years passed by, and soon it was as if Pasha had always been a part of her life. Last month, when Pasha didn’t come home one evening, Sheila knew that there was something odd going on. When there was no sign of him the next morning, she knew that something had gone wrong. She searched the locality, calling him, but there was no sign. She asked neighbours, but no-one had seen him. When a week had passed, Sheila was beginning to resign herself to his absence, and she presumed that he had either been killed in an accident, or he had simply decided to head off on his own. Then one evening, she heard a “miaow”, and there he was at the back door, hungrier than usual, but otherwise, behaving as if nothing had happened. As he sat in Sheila’s lap that evening, she realised that he had lost weight. It wasn’t a surprise, if he had been missing his meals for a full week. But...
Max suddenly began to sneeze violently

Max suddenly began to sneeze violently

Max was adopted from a local animal rescue group, and he has settled well into his new home. He is a smart, inquisitive and friendly cat. He is the only animal in the house, and he seems to enjoy his role as the centre of human attention. He was sleeping in the armchair in the living room, when he suddenly sat up, looking disturbed. He gulped a few times, made a coughing sound, then started to sneeze. It’s common for cats to sneeze from time to time (like humans), but this sneezing was not a mild one-off.  Max was sneezing loudly and violently, and he kept on doing it. He sneezed a dozen times, then stopped, then started to sneeze some more. Stephen went over to look at him, but there was nothing visibly wrong with his nose. Max sneezed a few more times, and then began to paw at his nose, as if there was something uncomfortable going on. Stephen knew that cats can suffer from cat flu, and that this can often make them sneeze. But he had an idea that cat flu caused other signs of illness too, like runny eyes and a discharge from the nose. Max had none of these things. He looked as healthy as ever, but simply, he had started to sneeze. Stephen and his wife had been having dinner when the sneezing started. Could the pepper that they had sprinkled onto their soup somehow have been inhaled by Max? He was some distance away from the dinner table so this hardly seemed likely. Max was now quite distressed, and the episodes...
Bowie is an 8 week old pedigree Asian kitten

Bowie is an 8 week old pedigree Asian kitten

The family had been considering getting a pet for some time. Hanna and Luke’s parents had heard that pet ownership was good for children. Studies have shown that people who grow up with pets in the household tend to be more socially adept and self-confident. Nobody knows why this happens, but it may be partly to do with the fact that animals are experts in non-verbal communication. A dog or a cat cannot talk to a child, so instead, they communicate with their bodies, and body language has aspects that are universal across the species barriers. If a dog wants to go outside, he will look at you, with pleading eyes. If a cat wants to play, she will come up to you with her head held to one side, and her body tense and alert, ready for the game. It is easy to forget that children need to learn body language, just as much as they need to learn to speak and write English. Pets give free daily lessons in how to use your body to communicate. Choosing the right pet is important. Dogs are more demanding than cats. They can’t be left alone for long stretches, and they need to be given regular walks. Cats are independent, intelligent creatures, but some people just don’t like them.  Rabbits – living free-range in the house – are increasingly popular. Other pets – like guinea pigs, gerbils or cage birds – don’t tend to interact with humans in the same personal way as the bigger pets.  When choosing a pet, you need to look at the facts about what is...
Freddie the feral cat who was tamed

Freddie the feral cat who was tamed

Justine’s parents were walking through Rathfarnham when they noticed a colony of feral cats at the back of a garage. Most of the cats scattered as they drew close to them, but there was one black and white individual who appeared sickly. As the Whittakers approached, the cat stood his ground, looking at them and miaowing, despite the fact that the rest of the cats had bolted. They tried to get close enough to the cat to pet him, but he was too shy to let them do this, and he moved away. But he continued to miaow at them, as if he was trying to talk to them. When the family went home that evening, they could not put the miaowing cat out of their thoughts. The cat looked as if he needed help, and without an owner, who was going to help him? Colonies of feral, unowned cats are common all over Ireland. They develop directly because owners of pet cats refuse to have their own pets neutered or spayed. Unwanted kittens become ‘wild’ animals (so-called “feral cats”)  because they have to fend for themselves, without close human contact. Cat colonies usually live close to humans, because they need a regular food source, but they do not allow themselves to be handled, and are very wary when approached.  They are never aggressive to passers-by,  but they are highly defensive of their own freedom, and will bite and scratch in an effort to get away if efforts are made to restrain them. There are positive aspects to feral cat colonies. They are highly effective at controlling local populations of...
Jasper is a Siamese cat with dental problems

Jasper is a Siamese cat with dental problems

Jasper has always been a healthy cat. I see him every April for his booster vaccination, and I always enjoy his distinctive Siamese personality. This year, as I checked him all over prior to his shot, there was one part of his body that was not quite right: his mouth. Jasper has been having mild dental problems since he was a two year old cat, and his owners have been doing their best to keep his teeth healthy. This year, for the first time, it was clear that he finally needs some serious attention from his dentist. He has a series of cavities along the sides of his back teeth, and as I examined these with a probe, he flinched. If he could talk, I know that he would tell me that these areas are often painful when he eats. Dental problems are a normal part of aging for animals. Young dogs and cats nearly always have healthy mouths, with white, perfectly aligned teeth, and pink healthy gums. Over the years, the wear-and-tear of daily eating begins to have a marked effect. Dark brown tartar accumulates at the base of the teeth. The gums recede and bacterial infection moves in. Halitosis and painful teeth are very common. Ken and his wife have done their best to keep Jasper’s teeth healthy. They have paid particular attention to his oral hygiene ever since he first had a bout of gingivitis at two years of age. Way back then, I had explained the different options of pet dental care to them. Ideally, a pet’s teeth should be brushed several times a week....
Snowy the cat was drenched in oil

Snowy the cat was drenched in oil

Snowy, like most Irish cats, is allowed to come and go from his own home as he pleases. A few weeks ago, Snowy was unlucky enough to encounter a danger that took everyone by surprise – she was attacked by human beings. Snowy is a friendly creature who likes attention. He likes to be petted behind her ears, and he purrs loudly. Nobody saw exactly what happened that day, but the consequences were very serious. One morning, Ciara’s mother heard a commotion of some kind, with the sound of raised voices. She went out into the street, and she saw a group of three youths running away from her, which immediately raised her suspicion that they might have been up to something. At the same time, Snowy rushed into the house from the same direction. He was obviously distressed, and he looked soaking wet. At first, the family thought that the youths had thrown a bucket of water at their cat. They coaxed Snowy out of the corner where he had hidden, and it was only then that they realised that something much more sinister had happened. Snowy had been drenched not in water, but in diesel fuel. It seemed that something horrific had almost happened that morning: the youths had thrown fuel onto him, then had tried to set him alight. Snowy had been very lucky. Diesel fuel is not as inflammable as many people believe, and he had not suffered the awful fate of being burnt alive. Instead, he had simply been terrified, and he was now coated with dark brown, greasy, foul-smelling diesel. The family tried to remove...
Kitty a 6 week old stray kitten

Kitty a 6 week old stray kitten

Ciara often drives along the road between Knockananna and Tinahealy in County Wicklow. It is a typical Irish country road, with small hills and bends to negotiate. In recent years, it has become busier with commuter traffic from Dublin.  Last week, as Ciara rounded a corner, she noticed a large silver 4×4 vehicle driving towards her on the opposite side of the road. She saw the driver throw something out of his window, and  it landed in the road directly in the path of her own car, thirty yards ahead of her. At first she presumed it was a small bag of rubbish, but as she approached, she noticed that the small object was moving. She braked heavily, skidding to a halt just in time to avoid hitting the object. It was only then that she realised that the “rubbish” was in fact a small kitten, now lying sprawled and badly injured on the road in front of her. Ciara immediately felt utterly outraged. How could a fellow human treat an innocent living creature in this way? She felt like turning around and pursuing the vehicle, in the hope of getting a registration number so that the driver could be made to face the consequences of his cruelty.  But even as she thought this, the kitten in front of her was struggling to stand up, and if she left it there, it would be unlikely to survive. The next car on the road would be certain to finish it off. She rushed over to the little animal, and carefully lifted it up. It was a small tabby kitten, no...
Lily the cat came home injured

Lily the cat came home injured

Lily is a home loving cat, but she does enjoy spending time in the back garden and surrounding area. She doesn’t venture far, and if Lydia ever goes out to call her, she soon comes scampering back inside. She is very happy to spend her time within shouting distance of the Tobin home. For Lily, the world does not need to be a bigger place. Lily has a habit of greeting everyone as they return home at the end of the day. A few weeks ago, Lydia saw her when she came back from work, at around six in the evening. A few minutes later, the cat slipped out into the garden through the cat flap. Half an hour later, there was a clatter at the back door as Lily crashed in through the cat flap before bolting to her favourite hideaway spot. It was immediately obvious that something had happened – Lily was normally a graceful creature, moving in and out through the cat flap slowly and silently.   Lydia went over to check her, and she could see that she had been injured. There was a blood stain on Lily’s lower back, and she could make out the vague outline of a wound beneath the matted fur. Lydia phoned our vet practice at once, and fifteen minutes later, Lily was being examined on my consulting table. It is always difficult to make an immediate assessment of wounds in animals, because of their dense fur coats. Lydia held Lily still, and reassured her, while I used electric clippers to trim away the hair from the blood stained area....
Sophie the cat suffered a broken pelvis

Sophie the cat suffered a broken pelvis

Sophie is a home-loving cat, and when there was no sign of her for three days, her family knew that there was something very wrong. They searched everywhere for her, and had almost given up hope. Then one morning, she appeared at the back door. She was very hungry, and she was delighted to be back, but she was unable to stand on her hind legs. She was brought in to see me at once. When I examined her, she seemed weakened and traumatised, but in good health generally, with no life threatening injuries. However, it was obvious that she had suffered a crushing-type injury to her pelvic area. I could feel that the bones of her pelvis were out of the normal alignment.  I admitted her for the day so that we could take x-ray pictures of her spine, pelvis and back legs. The x-rays revealed what had happened. There were multiple fractures of the bones of her pelvis, which is the large bone that links the spine to the back legs. The normal rectangular box shape of the pelvis had been squashed, and it was now shaped like a half-collapsed house of cards. Luckily, the most critical parts of the pelvis had not been damaged. The connection between the pelvis and the spine was unharmed, and both of her hip joints were intact. I knew from looking at the fractures that Sophie would be able to walk again, but there were some risks along the way, and her recovery was going to take several months. Sophie was sent home with pain relief and instructions for strict rest,...