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.