The Daily Telegraph - Saturday - - Cover Story - Pete Wed­der­burn

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 to­der­burn@tele­ All sick an­i­mals should, of course, be taken to a vet.

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