PETSUBJECTS

The Daily Telegraph - Saturday - - Coverstory -

Presto, my Si­amese cat, de­serves recog­ni­tion as a cat bur­glar. His stolen toy items in­clude a moose, a tur­tle, a Winnie-the-Pooh bear, two or­di­nary bears (one re­turned to the neigh­bours half an hour af­ter de­liv­ery), a pink rab­bit, a Sylvester, a fin­ger pup­pet, a kiwi pup­pet, a koala, one Shaun the sheep, a di­nosaur, a go­rilla, an enor­mous owl (no­body could work out how it got through the cat­flap), an An­drex puppy and a Tele­tubby, a ten­nis ball. Then there are a gar­den­ing glove, two chil­dren’s purses (empty) and a child’s slip­per.

Presto is ex­tremely proud of his finds. If not im­me­di­ately re­moved by us to a safe haven, each is lov­ingly chewed and dipped in his din­ner. His pièce de ré­sis­tance came when we brought home our baby, Ge­orge, from hospi­tal. While Ge­orge was sleep­ing in my arms down­stairs, we heard strange noises fol­lowed by a note or two of ‘How Much is That Doggy in the Win­dow’. Then there was a steady clonk-clonk down the stairs. Presto ap­peared in tri­umph, hav­ing some­how de­tached the mo­bile of dan­gling pup­pies from Ge­orge’s cot.

PL,Cam­bridge Presto is a wor­thy suc­ces­sor to the late Min­ni­more, a lilac Burmese who won the ti­tle of Tele­graph Cat Bur­glar of l998. I am glad to award him the much-cov­eted 2007 award. He also wins a copy of my book, One Hun­dred Ways for a Cat to Train Its Hu­man, so that he can add obe­di­ence train­ing to his hunt­ing skills.

This habit of steal­ing stuffed toys or cloth­ing is a dis­or­der of the preda­tory in­stinct and it looks as if Presto may also be on the verge of wool-eat­ing, an eat­ing dis­or­der found in some Si­amese, so keep tak­ing away his “prey”.

The run­ner-up to Presto this year is Ber­tie, a tabby who steals things in rustling bags and thinks big. His swag in­cludes a half-pound bag of marsh­mal­lows, a pair of black Y-fronts, a leg of lamb, a whole salmon and a 5lb bag of pota­toes. He once came home with a poly­thene bag of money be­long­ing to a neigh­bour, which was re­turned. Later that evening Ber­tie came home bear­ing the same poly­thene bag. No money inside, this time, but a note from the neigh­bour.

Cats who are not fix­ated on toys of­ten go in for steal­ing food. Sally, a So­mali, once jumped back over the gar­den fence with a knot­ted silk scarf con­tain­ing a full packed lunch of sand­wiches, crisps, bis­cuits and fruit. She also stole the neigh­bour’s bar­be­cue. And Huf­fkins, a Si­amese, came home with a bag of warm chips, care­fully hold­ing the edges of the bag to­gether in his mouth. The fish and chip shop was a mile and a half away. You wrote about Max, a Labrador, who would mouth the hands, skirt or hand­bag of his own­ers, when they came home. All he was do­ing was try­ing to wel­come his own­ers by bring­ing them a present. Putting some­thing in their mouth is what Labradors are bred to do, be­cause gun dogs have a need to carry. If own­ers have a rope toy or even a soft toy, then the Labrador can “give” it to you when you come down­stairs in the morn­ing or come home in the evening.

I have two work­ing Labradors, Skye and Wren, who live in the house and greet me each morn­ing — or when I have had to leave them, or just when they feel like it — with a tote, which is a small square of blan­ket. They don’t chew th­ese totes, just carry them around when they feel the need. Then they give it to me as a wel­come, as if to say: “Here you are, Mum, look what I’ve got for you.”

SH,Mac­cles­field,Cheshire Thank you for your ad­vice about help­ing Labradors to ex­press their nat­u­ral car­ry­ing in­stincts. Pick­ing up and car­ry­ing a tote is a great idea. But mouthing or tak­ing a hu­man hand, or hand­bag or skirt hem, should not be tol­er­ated, be­cause it has the po­ten­tial to be harm­ful.

All pup­pies should be taught to be care­ful where they put their teeth. As soon as a puppy’s teeth touch any part of your body, pre­tend that it hurts and say: “Ow!” Then praise the dog when he draws back.

Use the same method to teach your young dog not to grab skirts, shoelaces and so on. I was sur­prised when my dog be­came ob­sessed with frogs and toads. Their move­ment made him give chase and I found a frog in my gar­den with its back bro­ken, un­able to move. I took it to my vet, who put an end to its suf­fer­ing.

I found this dread­fully up­set­ting. Please re­mind your read­ers to spare a thought not just for their own pet’s hap­pi­ness, but for that of all the won­der­ful crea­tures liv­ing in their gar­dens. At the very least, keep cats in at night. And we dog own­ers should also know just what they are up to.

ML,bye­mail. Gar­den­ers can re­ally help frogs and toads by build­ing a pond. Even a very small pond can be of im­mense value to them. All you need to know is on www.froglife. org, or you can write for in­for­ma­tion (en­close an SAE) to Froglife, White Lodge, Lon­don Road, Peter­bor­ough PE7 0LG. RES­CUE ME Buddy (left) is a 12year-old border col­lie who lost a happy home late in life. His own­ers could not keep him, so he was passed on to neigh­bours who then changed their minds about hav­ing him and took him to the Re­hom­ing An­i­mal Tele­phone Ser­vice (www. rats-an­i­mal­res­cue.co.uk) in Bed­ford­shire.

He was re­homed again, but then the new own­ers moved to a prop­erty where they were not al­lowed pets. Buddy found him­self back in a res­cue ken­nels. At an age when he should be at his own fire­side, he has lost three dif­fer­ent homes in just a few months.

He is well be­haved, very gen­tle and loves to be around peo­ple. “He has been moved around too much and it is now time for Buddy to find a per­ma­nent home where he can spend the rest of his days and re­ceive the love and care he had been used to for so many years,” says Les­ley Clark-Hunt from RATS.

“Buddy’s a great all-round dog. He could live with chil­dren and he gets on well with other dogs.”

If you live in Bed­ford­shire, Buck­ing­hamshire or Hert­ford­shire and think you can give Buddy a home for life, call 01582 455499.

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