Feeding a wild cat

The problems with feeding a cat that isn’t yours

Feeding a catFeeding a cat that is not yours, may not be doing the right thing

Cat owner or cat lover, we are all fond of cats. We appreciate it when they are around, we want to please them and make them happy. And what’s better for this purpose than a nice bit of food? But for several reasons, leaving cat food outside your house or feeding the nice cat that is coming to visit is perhaps not as good an idea as it may initially seem.

First, if the cat belongs to someone else, it might eat less at home. This may be interpreted as a loss of appetite by the owner, who then takes the cat to the veterinarian to have it checked over, causing unnecessary stress for both owner and cat. There are also the not inconsiderable financial consequences for the owner, as the vet may do tests because there is nothing obvious to explain this apparent loss of appetite. If the cat doesn’t eat less, then there is obviously the risk of obesity as the cat eats more than it needs and starts to put on weight. This not only puts a stress on the heart and the like, but also on the joints, resulting in painful arthritis sooner or later.

Second, if it’s not your cat, you won’t know if it has a health condition that is being controlled with a special diet. For example the cat could have a dietary sensitivity or diabetes, (which might be linked to obesity) and need to be on a specific diet to avoid problems. Feeding a routine food, may not have an obvious immediate effect, and the cat won’t avoid what might be tastier, just because it isn’t good for it in the long run. Such a choice could result in delayed complications, such as diarrhoea or a more serious crisis in the case of a condition like diabetes.

Some people like to offer visiting cats raw meat as a treat, after all, cats are strict carnivores, and feeding them with raw meat seems only natural.

sausages

Unfortunately, raw meat can carry disease, such as toxoplasmosis. This can be very serious, or may not appear to affect the cat very much (see Toxoplasmosis page here), but the cat can spread it to people including children, where the consequences can be much more serious. Feeding a cat that is not yours might not be the right thing to do, but feeding it raw meat is certainly not the right thing to do.

Finally, another sad potential consequence of feeding is that you may encourage cats to cross roads in order to come to visit and inadvertently increase the risk of them being run over. There are over 300 000 cats killed on the roads in UK each year and we don’t always know why they felt the need to cross this particular road. Getting food seems a pretty good reason, after all, many cats cross roads to head for fields where they can hunt.

crossing

So, what should we do about cats wandering in the neighbourhood? You should decide to do one or two things: First you should not feed any cat, and so avoid any problems linked to feeding them; next you can try to identify if the cats are owned or cared for? Where do they come from? Do they have to cross any road to come and see you? If they are owned, are they in good health and body condition? All this information and strong community contacts may give you the answers you need to make the right decision, and if it is not-owned, then it is better to take it to a rescue centre, where it can be fully cared for. Cat owners can also take measures to ensure that their cats are not put in “feeding- danger”. If they are on a strict diet, they can put a collar with the message “do not feed” on their cat. They can also talk to the neighbours and warn them about their cat’s special needs. Alternatively, if it is felt that it is better to keep it indoors, it must have plenty of stimulation and places to explore, so it doesn’t get frustrated.

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By Dr Naima Kasbaoui and Prof Daniel Mills
University of Lincoln, Animal Behaviour Cognition & Welfare Group.

World War 1 Dogs

World War I Dogs

World War 1 DogsThis weekend we be remembering and paying our respect to those who lost their lives  in the two World Wars and other conflicts. During World War I many dogs lost their lives assisting the troops in the trenches.

Dogs had a vital part to play in World War One as the complexes of trenches spread throughout the Western Front. Dogs were used as messengers and proved to be as reliable as soldiers in the dangerous job of running messages.

The complexities of trench warfare meant that communication was always a problem. Field communication systems were crude and there was always the very real possibility that vital messages from the front would never get back to headquarters or vice versa. Human runners were potentially large targets and weighed down by uniforms there was a chance that they would not get through. In the heat of a battle, there was even less of a chance of a runner getting through as the enemy’s artillery was likely to be pounding your frontline and the area behind it. Vehicles were also problematic as they could breakdown or the ‘roads’ could have been reduced to a mushy pulp and travel on them made impossible.

Dogs were the obvious solution to this pressing problem. A trained dog was faster than a human runner, presented less of a target to a sniper and could travel over any terrain. Above all, dogs proved to be extremely reliable if they were well trained. A dog training school was established in Scotland and a recruit from this school traveled over 4000 metres on the Western Front with an important  message to a brigade’s headquarters. The dog traveled this distance  (war records classed it as “very difficult” terrain) in less than sixty minutes. All other methods of communicating with the headquarters had failed – but the dog had got through.

Dogs also had another role to play on the Western Front. For men trapped in the horrors of trench warfare, a dog in the trenches (whether a messenger dog or not) was a psychological comfort that took away, if only for a short time, the horrors they lived through. It is said that Adolf Hitler kept a dog with him in the German trenches. For many soldiers on any of the sides that fought in the trenches, a dog must have reminded them of home comforts.

Dog that is scared of firework

Remember remember the 5th November (& the weekend before!)

Dog and fireworkSo as Bonfire Night approaches this can be really frightening for our furry friends. Fortunately there are some simple things that you can do to make the experience as stress-free as possible for Fido!

* Walk the dog before the fireworks begin (best when it is still light to avoid an unexpected “Bang”). Some pets are too frightened to relieve themselves outside, which may lead to some accidents at home.

* Distract your dog and muffle any outside noise by closing the curtains and putting on the TV.

* If your dog does get scared, although it’s the natural thing to do, try to resist comforting them. This tends to reward their fearful behaviour; teaching them that it is the correct response to be scared.

* If your dog is not microchipped; make sure that they are properly identified with your contact details on their collar or install a containment system to prevent them running off.

Dog on beach

Autumn Dog Walks with Children

Autumn Beach Walks With Your Children And Dogs

Half term is creeping up on us here in England and those of you with kids and dogs will be thinking about where to go and what to do to keep them all happy.

Dog on beachIt’s easy finding a spot where the children can roam free but not so easy finding one where the family dog can join in the fun so we thought we’d give you a quick recap of the beaches in the United Kingdom that allow dogs to run free.

 Norfolk

Holkham beach has four miles of sand where dogs and families can enjoy an Autumnal picnic and a bit of late Summer surf.  There are beach huts just in case that nip in the air is a bit too fresh otherwise you can huddle up behind one of the many wooden dividers and wrap your wind breakers around you as you break open the flask of hot chocolate! This beach is backed by Holkham National Nature Reserve so you can prolong the day.

East Sussex

Camber Sands is a firm favourite for all dog owners and families as the dunes are far reaching and provide shelter. There are great rock pools here to explore and some odd looking wildlife like the sea splurge and the brown tailed caterpillar!

There’s great accommodation in Camber Sands that comes highly recommended for a half term break or just a quick weekend away.

Camber sands is a known doggy paradise and there are dog zones and a good amount of waste bins too!

Hampshire

Lepe beach is perfect for children and dogs to romp around with plenty of room and grassy areas, a mile of sand, pine edged cliffs and meadows full of wild flowers with views of the Isle of Wight!

It was here that many troops landed during D Day which is another heroic and heart warming story to tell your children in between foraging and beach combing.   Little ones will love the children’s play area and there are toilets and lots of parking!

West Cumbria

St Bees beaches are both sandy and stoney and have great facilities like wheelchair access and toilets!

St Bees is the beginning of the Wainwright’s Coast to Coast walk and there’s a good nature reserve close by too where you need to keep the dog on a leash but further down there’s a mile long beach just great for dog walking and a bit of fetch!

Kent

We’d recommend Whitstable which is pebbly but the village it borders is just chocolate box pretty and full of those olde worlde wooden houses and little quaint shops that even sell oysters!

There is a sharp drop to the sea so make sure your dog can swim well.

 Yorkshire

There is almost a mile of sandy beach at Danes Dyck just on the south side of Flamborough Headland giving you loads of room to let the dogs run free and take the children with them!

Picnics are great here as you have the white cliffs behind you on both sides of the headland and the actual sand stretches, gently sloping, far from the ocean so you don’t even have to get your toes wet.

Devon

Branscombe beach is found at the end of a down and is a shingle and pebble beach. The beach is close to many of the popular tourist destinations such as Beer and Seaton so there’s plenty to do when you’re not letting your canine friend run free. The beach includes toilet and refreshment facilities, as well as a magnificent cliff top walk..

Dorset

Durdle Door beach is one you will easily recognise as it is probably one of the most  famous and photographed beaches in England and is very popular with dog walkers. The sandy beach curves around the cliffs towards the natural arch formed in the cliffs by the waves over thousands of years. Lulworth and Lulworth Cove are close by and access is from the car park at the Durdle Door Holiday Park.

Cornwall

Mawgan Porth beach offers a good change to the very popular and often crowded beaches of Newquay and Watergate Bay. You will probably only  share the beach with a few surfers depending on the weather!  The beach does tend to mostly disappear during the evenings when the tide is in, so this might be a good beach to combine with the nearby South West Coastal Path for a longer walk. However for pure peace and tranquility, it’s hard to beat.

Ugly Dog

Owners opt for ‘ugly’ breeds of dog

“Ugly” dog breeds are increasing in popularity as owners look for pets which provoke a strong reaction, new figures show.

Ugly DogMiss Ellie, a Chinese Crested Hairless dog, won the World’s Ugliest Dog Contest last year Photo: Getty Images

Growing numbers of Britons are shunning traditional breeds in favour of the less obvious charms of animals which even their staunchest supporters might concede are not blessed in the looks department.

The surprising surge in popularity of a series of “ugly” or unconventional-looking dog breeds is revealed in statistics from the Kennel Club on the numbers of pedigree puppies born in the last decade.

Among the fastest risers were the Mexican hairless and Chinese crested, both of which are largely bald with wizened features, the Cirneco Dell’Etna and Pharaoh Hound, distinguished by their oversized bat-like ears, and the wrinkled-faced dogue de Bordeaux, owned by Frank Lampard and Wayne Rooney, the England footballers.

Between these five breeds, 3,452 puppies were born in 2010, compared with just 990 in 2001.

Meanwhile, many traditional breeds are plummeting in numbers, among them the Yorkshire terrier (down 32 per cent since 2001 to 3,441 puppies in 2010), and West Highland White terrier, (down 51 per cent to 5,361), German shepherd (down 27 per cent to 10,364) and golden retriever (down 20 per cent to 7,911).