Apart from purring, our very old cat George has never uttered a sound, not a single mew, unlike our late Burmese who used to bawl at us. To communicate, George stands in front of us and stares pointedly. We have learnt when he means “I want to eat” or “I want to go out” and so on. (Why use a cat flap when there are humans to open doors?) There’s nothing extrasensory about this perception. We and he have simply learnt the little signals of communication entailed in body language and looks.
LT,Gloucester This letter is a wonderful example of how cats and humans communicate. Both have to learn how to “talk” with the other and not all cats (or humans) use the same methods. Cats are naturally much less vocal than humans but many learn to use their voice to get attention. George doesn’t condescend to do this but he has worked out the equally effective method of the “command stare”. My elderly Staffordshire bull terrier, Nesta, suffered from depression but improved when put on the animal drug Selgian. Then we used a D.A.P. (dog appeasing pheromone) plug-in, and not only was she untroubled by fireworks but she was no longer worried by bird-scarer noises in nearby farmland. Nesta was afraid of walking in the park because of these and would lie down, refusing to budge, but now happily walks there again. Her hearing is not impaired: she can hear sweet wrappers rustling from another room.
JC, Rayleigh, Essex Old dogs can learn new tricks with veterinary help. The D.A.P. plug-ins, which I often mention near Bonfire Night, don’t work for every dog but obviously have made a huge difference to Nesta. What interests me is that putting a D.A.P. in the home made her more confident outside it. Dogs frightened of one noise often begin to be scared of others. This is an example of the reverse trend, where confidence in one area leads to confidence in another, so that Nesta is calmer around other noises outside the home. I have had three Persiantype cats over the past 30 years. The last one, a beautiful chinchilla, died at the age of nine from kidney failure. Does this type of cat have a propensity for kidney disease? I would love another chinchilla but wonder if the heartache that follows the death of a beloved pet should be expected at that sort of age.
JT, Liskeard, Cornwall. Polycystic kidney disease, an inherited disorder, is now common in Persians, exotic shorthairs or any breed with Persian ancestry. The gene for this incurable disease is transmitted to all kittens. Conscientious breeders now test their cats for the gene and a list of safe breeders is kept by the Feline Advisory Bureau (www.fabcats. org). Send an sae for details to FAB, Taeselbury High Street, Tisbury SP3 6LD, and only buy from these breeders. My terrapin, Tezzyaraza, is at least 33 years old, with a shell about four inches by four. He has an adorable face, with bright eyes. He knows my voice and sways from side to side when spoken to affectionately. At night, he climbs on to his rock under the lamp once I’ve switched off the UVL and said goodnight, and he stays there until morning when the UVL is put back on. Because of my increasing age and recent stays in hospital, I need to know of a caring rescue centre that would take him. A reptile centre would just sell him.
CM,Cranbrook,Kent As Tezzy is not a large redeared terrapin — the Ninja turtle sort that is difficult to rehome — it will be easier to find him a place. The British Chelonia group (www.britishcheloniagroup. org.uk) could help. Write to P.O. Box 1176, Chippenham, Wiltshire SN15 1XB, and enclose a photograph. I live in Crete and see a lot of cruelty to animals. Education is the key but it is a slow process. Many expats do what they can to help stray cats and dogs, but it is an overwhelming problem.
GA,byemail Those who started the RSPCA in 1824 must have felt the same but they pressed on with their work. Knitters can help raise funds with the help of a book of patterns for knitted cats or mice. See www. monkeyandsofia.blogspot. com. Winston (left) is a six-yearold Staffordshire bull terrier cross who loves people, but being so loving has made it difficult to find him a new home. Since being brought to Gables Farm Dogs’ and Cats’ Home in Plymouth three years ago, he has been found new owners five times, only to be returned because he gets anxious when left alone and makes frantic attempts to get back to his humans. “Winston is having treatment for this and his new owners will need to carry on with his training programme,” says Lynn Henwood of Gables Farm. “It would be wonderful to find somebody who understands Winston’s needs, because each time he is returned his spirit is broken a bit more.”
Gables Farm celebrates its centenary this year with events that can be found on www.gablesfarm.org.uk. It was started by two sisters who cycled around collecting strays. Now it rehomes 1,500 dogs and cats each year.
If you live in Cornwall or South Devon, and can make the commitment to help Winston overcome his problem, call 01752 331602.
Celia Haddon regrets that she cannot answer all readers’ letters personally. All sick animals should, of course, be taken to a vet.