PETSUBJECTS

The Daily Telegraph - Saturday - - Cover Story - Celia Had­don

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.

RES­CUE ME

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.

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