Bowie ia an 8 week old pedigree Asian kitten

Bowie ia 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...
Feral cats overseas

Feral cats overseas

Elena Tabuada from Granada, Spain looks after group of around a dozen cats. She feeds them but she isn’t their “owner”. As the schools go back after the summer break, many people are looking back on enjoyable family summer holidays. My own family headed to southern Spain for a two week migration into sunshine. We were staying in a small mountain village near Granada, and as often happens when I am on holiday, the animals that I encountered made a strong impression on me The local dogs were not dissimilar to their Irish equivalents. There were pedigree dogs such as Boxers and Miniature Poodles, as well as cross bred terriers and collie-types. They lounged around in the shade during the day, coming out to stroll with their owners in the cooler evenings. I noticed that local pet shops had pedigree puppies for sale, displaying them in cages in their shop front windows in a way that would not happen in Ireland. There was no sign of cats or kittens for sale in this way. I didn’t come across any pet cats living pampered lives like many Irish cats in the twenty first century. But in one part of the village in particular, there seemed to be cats everywhere. When we walked through the area, they seemed to be all around us. They were on wall-tops and at street corners, or just relaxing in shady spots. When we stopped to watch them for a while, more cats emerged, coming up from underground aqueduct tunnels and from surrounding fields. There were cats of all ages, from young kittens to mature, strong...
Sparkles died after a short illness

Sparkles died after a short illness

Alex had always wanted a cat. When a neighbour’s cat had a litter of kittens, he visited the household every day, watching the tiny newborn sausage-like creatures grow into playful handfuls of kittenhood. He kept asking his mother if he could, please, please, please, keep one of the kittens as his own pet. When the kittens were old enough to be sent to their new homes, his mother finally agreed. Alex picked out the kitten of his choice, and he named her Sparkles. Sparkles grew up to be a fine looking black and white cat. She had everything done for her, including vaccinations, spaying, and regular worm and flea doses. She was well-named – she did seem to sparkle with good health. She also turned out to have a very sparky temperament. She was always out and about, and was not a cat who liked to sit in a human’s lap to be petted. Sparkles was more likely to chase Alex’s feet than to lie beside him purring, but Alex loved her anyway. She became a part of his life, and he enjoyed her company. Alex had classmates who had dogs, but he preferred the companionship of a cat. She did not depend on him: she was her own creature, doing her own thing. Alex liked to think that she was a bit like himself: he is a football-playing, sport-loving person, not somebody who hangs onto his mother’s coat-tails. If Alex had been a cat, he felt that he would have been just like Sparkles. Sparkles was a creature of habit. Twice a day, without fail, she would turn...
Striker the cat had ear mites

Striker the cat had ear mites

Tanya had been looking for a cat for some time, and as soon as she saw Striker in the animal rescue centre, she knew that he was the one. He had a certain presence about him, and it was obvious that he loved people. He purred, pressing his head against her hand. He was a young adult, and although she’d been looking for a kitten, she brought him home with her that day. Like many rescue cats, he had a few health problems in the beginning, and Tanya brought him in to see me soon after she’d taken him in. His runny eyes and occasional sneeze told me that he had cat flu. This is a viral infection that can be fatal in young, unvaccinated cats. In other cases, like Striker, cats have some immunity, and they end up with a milder version of the disease that can be difficult to shake off. The initial signs of cat flu soon resolved, but it’s likely that Striker is carrying the virus, in the same way as a human can carry the Herpes virus. If he gets stressed in the future, he may show mild signs of cat flu again, just as humans with Herpes can develop cold sores on their lips when they are under stress. As well as the respiratory signs, Striker was shaking his head and scratching his ears. When I used a scope to look into his ear canals, I could see dozens of tiny insect-like creatures milling around, almost as if I was looking into an anthill. Striker had a classic case of ear mites, another...
Ginger the 3 year old cat was being bullied

Ginger the 3 year old cat was being bullied

When Maoiliosa decided to get a cat, she wanted one that had already passed the kitten stage. She was delighted when she came across this handsome young adult cat, looking for a home because his owners were emigrating. Ginger had been an apartment cat all his life, but Maoiliosa felt that he’d enjoy life more if he had access to her back garden. She knew that he had never been outside, so she introduced him very gradually to the experience. She started by taking him out for only an hour a day, accompanying him to make sure he was all right. It was funny to watch his first forays into the outdoors – he was frightened of grass, pawing it anxiously and jumping when it moved in the wind. He soon settled into the routine of a typical pet cat, going out in the day, and coming in at night. Maoiliosa installed a cat flap to give him the freedom to come and go as he pleased, and for a while, all was well. After a few weeks, Maoiliosa noticed that Ginger had a few scratches around his head and on his rump. At first she put it down to the type of rough play that cats sometimes enjoy. He was obviously getting involved in a social life, finding his place in the local cat community. When he came in with a nasty bite on his foot that needed sutured, she decided that she should intervene. She started calling him in during the evenings, and the signs of fighting settled down. A couple of months ago, Maoiliosa noticed that...
Jake the 14 year old with kidney disease

Jake the 14 year old with kidney disease

Jake  is a big animal, at around twice the weight of a typical moggie. He is not fat; he has a large frame, and he is very well-muscled. When he started to lose weight recently, it was a clear sign that there was something wrong with him. Jake has always disliked coming to the vet. He sits at the back of his carrier refusing to come out, and it’s usually necessary to turn it upside down to force him to emerge. He then crouches on the consulting table glaring angrily at the vet, hissing and spitting if anyone dares to touch him. Any handling needs to be done very carefully, because he is quick to lash out with his front claws. And when he is finally returned to his carrier at the end of the consultation, the cage door needs to be closed using an object like a pencil. Jake always likes to have the final word – letting out a loud “pah” noise, and lashing out with his claws at the hand that is closing the door. As he has grown older, Jake has needed to have his nails regularly clipped, and the only way that this has been possible has been with sedation. While he is sedated, I always take the opportunity to carry out any other minor procedures that may need done. I check his teeth, listen to his heart, and put him on the weighing scales. It was during one of these routine visits a few months ago that his weight loss was noticed. He had lost ten per cent of his weight, the equivalent...
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 on reflection, she realised that he might have lost weight even before...
Max the cat had a sneezing problem

Max the cat had a sneezing problem

Max was a smart, inquisitive and friendly cat. He was the only animal in the house, and he enjoyed 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 of repeated sneezing showed no signs of settling down. Stephen made a quick decision to take Max to the vet. Stephen could hear him sneezing for most of the ten minute...
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...
Taming a feral cat

Taming a feral cat

A year ago, 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 family 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...