My black cat, Clarissa, likes to sleep at the bottom of beds, under the covers, and the guest room is her favourite place. Overnight visitors clamber sleepily into bed without realising their folly. When they wake Clarissa, she panics and scrambles her way up and out of the bed. This causes shock and consternation to our visitors. What can we do?
TI, Bedfordshire You need to make it more difficult for Clarissa to hide in the guest bed. Put a spring on the guest bedroom door, so that it stays shut all the time. Clarissa will soon find an alternative comfortable place that is easier for her to reach.
To be extra safe, I suggest that you place a small “Beware of the cat” sign on the guest bed pillow, politely suggesting that visitors check the foot of the bed for cat-shaped lumps before climbing in. You mention (February 9) that garlic can be toxic to dogs. As a family, we all take once-daily garlic capsules and my Labrador, Baron, has one, too. The details on the label say that each capsule contains 10mg of garlic extract, which is equivalent to 1000mg of fresh garlic. Should I stop giving him this?
DM, Gloucester The amount of garlic that causes toxicity is variable between individuals, but it does depend largely on body weight. There may be problems when as little as 0.2 per cent of a dog’s weight is eaten — eg a typical 25kg Labrador eating 50g of garlic. You give your dog a daily dose of 1000mg, which is only 1g, around a fiftieth of a toxic dose. A problem would only be likely to arise if a Labrador particularly enjoyed eating garlic and an owner allowed it to eat numerous fresh garlic cloves. But if a very small dog (eg a Yorkshire terrier weighing only 3kg) was given a single garlic capsule, this could be close to a toxic dose.
SL from Devon wrote to tell me that she uses garlic capsules to prevent fleas in her pets. This may be fine, as long as owners are aware of the risk to very small animals of overdosing. We have two sister rabbits who are nearly a year old and have not been neutered. They live in a spacious hutch with a large run, so have daily exercise and plenty of space. Our problem is that they have become very grumpy when we try to pick them up. We may be at fault for not spending enough time with them. Is it too late to tame them back to cuddly pets? And is having two un-neutered females living together a bad combination? They do sometimes scuffle and seem quite hormonal.
EC, Cornwall Most female rabbits become grumpy when they reach puberty, from six months of age onwards. They can be very territorial, growling at, biting and scratching humans, as well as being aggressive to other rabbits. This can come as a huge shock for owners expecting cuddly, fluffy, friendly pets. You should get your rabbits spayed as soon as possible. Spaying reduces and often completely cures any aggressive behaviour. Spayed females are likely to live longer, too. Up to 80 per cent of unspayed female rabbits develop uterine cancer by five years of age. Removing the ovaries prevents this.
Wait for a month or so after the operation and then work on taming them. When the malevolent effect of their hormones has been removed, they will be much friendlier towards you and each other. Our cat, Kirsty, is two years old. For more than 12 months, she has not used her litter tray, although it is available to her day and night. We have tried changing from regular litter to sawdust, but to no avail. Kirsty now wakes us, sometimes as early as 4.30am, to let her outside. At the cattery she does use her litter tray, perhaps because she has no other option. Can you suggest how we could get her to use the tray at home again?
EA, Bristol It sounds as if Kirsty has developed an aversion to her litter tray that needs to be addressed on a trialand-error basis. You should try different locations for the tray. Choose somewhere well away from large glass areas or anywhere she may feel exposed and vulnerable, since cats like to be private when using the tray. Experiment with different types of tray (eg open or covered, shallow or deep, large or small). Try a range of different substrates. Some cats prefer fine clumping litters and cats that are used to going outdoors may even like earth dug from the garden.
Once you have managed to get her using the litter tray occasionally, you can then try shutting her in the kitchen at night with a warm bed and a discreet tray in the corner, then refuse to respond when she cries to be let out.
Reader JMJ from Norfolk writes that JR (Pet Subjects, February 9) should count his blessings that his cat only brings worms into his kitchen. She says: “Some years ago, I was initially relieved to find my kitten playing with something that was not alive when I came down the stairs in the morning. Then I realised that the ‘toy’ he was batting around the hall was the foil top off a milk bottle – and I did not drink milk. I ended up having to present eight of my neighbours with milk-saver boxes before the problem was solved.”
Send your pet problems to firstname.lastname@example.org. All sick animals should, of course, be taken to a vet.