Tuesday 26 March 2019

The Catman of Aleppo

You may have seen reports about the ‘Catman of Aleppo’ on social media or in the news. He’s Mohammad Alaa Aljaleel, and his story is both heart-warming and, at times, heart-breaking.

This amazing man (and the small team around him), is dedicated to rescuing and helping not only cats, but other animals and children caught up in the war in Aleppo, Syria. Originally working as an electrician before the war began, he had the chance to flee, but decided to stay and help civilians and animals caught up in the conflict. Sadly, many pets were left behind as people fled the area.

He dreamed of creating a refuge, and through social media set up pages and built a worldwide following. People supported him through donations, enabling him to build a sanctuary for the cats, and a playground for local children, bringing some much-needed joy into their lives.

Amazingly, he continued to work as an ambulance driver and first responder during the bombardment of Aleppo. He was able to feed the animals by storing food and drawing water from a well. Sadly, shortly before the evacuation of Aleppo, the sanctuary was bombed, and lots of the cats were killed. Alaa had to leave in his ambulance, together with sick, elderly and disabled residents as well as surviving cats, for the Syrian-Turkish border.

With continued support, he created a new animal sanctuary called Ernestos Paradise. 200 cats are now live there, as well as four monkeys, a horse, doves, rabbits and dogs. Another children’s playground is now also established. A veterinary clinic and qualified vet offer free support for the animals owned by residents of the local area, and spaying and neutering is encouraged. Child refugees and orphans are also being helped.
(Image courtesy of
Syria is still in turmoil, but Alaa continues his mission to help improve the lives of the forgotten victims of the war and to improve their lives. As Alaa says, “I regard animals and humans in the same light. All of them suffer pain, and all of them deserve compassion”.

What an amazing man.

Read more about Alaa’s work here:
Follow on Facebook @TheAleppoCatMen Twitter @theAleppoCatman

Friday 22 March 2019

Travelling with Pets – Easter Holidays

With the Easter holidays approaching, research suggests that five out of six dog owners will take along their dog for a trip.

After multiple surveys by car manufacturers, veterinarians, and road safety bodies were conducted into the opinions of animal transportation, the findings were shocking. Car manufacturer Ford, for example, revealed that 32% of dog-owning drivers admitted to not securing their pets safely whilst driving. Whether they know it or not, this action puts themselves, passengers and other road users at risk. If you’re bringing home a new furry family member, or going away for a spring break, how do you ensure your pet's safety in transit?

According to the Highway Code, not restraining animals in a car could result in the driver being pulled over for driving without due care and attention, as they should “make sure dogs or other animals are suitably restrained, so they cannot distract you while you are driving or injure you, or themselves, if you stop quickly.” And, there’s a solution to every size and shape of pet; “a seat belt harness, pet carrier, dog cage or dog guard are ways of restraining animals in cars.”

Not only is allowing your unrestrained pet to be a distraction against the law, they could cause harm to themselves, other passengers or the driver, and could even potentially invalidate your car and pet insurance.
In another survey, owners also revealed some of the reasons behind not securing their pets. 32% of those questioned said it was because the animals didn’t like it, 31% claimed there was no need when undertaking short journeys, and 14% said they did not have room for a dog crate. If you want to take the guesswork out of deciding which method is best for your pet before you invest in a carrier or safety restraint, take a look at our book, Dogs on Wheels (also available as an eBook.)

So, if you’re planning to take your furry friend on a car journey (whether it be a short or long trip), check out these suggestions to make the experience more enjoyable for everyone involved:

1. Make sure that your vehicle is kitted out with either a sufficiently sized carrier, or a lead restraint. Don’t try and make do with a cardboard box, as anything that is not secure could lead to your pet escaping and dangerously distracting the driver.

2. If your pet is new to you, or has been displaying anxious behaviour, introduce them to the crate or car space in which they will be travelling at home, to allow them to acclimatise. Being suddenly confined to an unfamiliar, sometimes disorienting setting can be stressful, especially as your pet’s natural instinct is to want to see what’s going on! Furnish their area with a few familiar toys and bedding to provide a calm environment.

3. Don’t change their diet, or feed them right before setting off. A sudden switch in your pet’s food before the journey can upset them (and their stomach!) and that’s not what you want when you’re in the car together.

4. Try to avoid feeding your pet right before you leave and when you’re on the road, but do keep a supply of their favourite biscuits or treats. Schedule in stops on your journey, for toilet breaks and fresh air. Never let dogs off the lead in a car park or motorway service area.

5. Be aware that breeds with short noses (brachycephalic) can overheat faster than other breeds.

6. Clip claws to prevent a potential injury if your pet scratches in the carrier.

7. As always, take water and a bowl with you to keep your favourite companion well hydrated. The Highway Code recommends you always carry a large water bottle (5 litres minimum) in case your pet overheats, and needs to be rapidly cooled in an emergency.

8. Cover your seats in doggie-durable, waterproof covers: saves wear and tear of the car and means less cleaning.

9. Leaving your pet alone in the car, no matter what the temperature might feel like outside, is a big NO!

The general advice is to keep your pets out of the front seat and off your lap, regardless of how short the journey is. Even the most docile pet could distract you at a safety-critical moment. You never know when they might react to something that they think is interesting outside the car. Don’t ruin your Easter holiday by letting your pet stick their head out of the window; as much as they may enjoy the breeze, it isn’t worth the risks involved!

As well has preventing a distraction from driving, restraining your dog will keep them away from dangerous holiday goodies that, in the body of a dog, become lethal, such as chocolate, and sweets containing the sweetener xylitol. If you feel like treating your beloved pet to a treat of their own, check out Doggie Cookies (also available as an eBook.)

Wednesday 20 March 2019

A Hare's Not Just for March

We are all familiar with the Mad March Hare from Lewis Carroll's classic tales of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, but what is really mad about the hare? Well, for a start, the idiomatic phrase was actually used as early as the sixteenth century in the works of John Skelton ("As mery as a marche hare") where it could've referred to drunken behaviour.

As a species indigenous to the British Isles (even pre-dating Roman occupation), Hares have long been revered for their wild frolicks and effortless speed: the fastest land mammal in Britain certainly boasts an impressive, traditional and ancient legacy.

In early Celtic and Anglo-Saxon mythology, hares featured as sacred animals to the goddess Eostre or Ostara. The goddess was universally credited for the advent of spring, and all the new life that it brings. Lagomorphs (the same family as rabbits) such as hare, are also famed for their proclivity for ... ahem ... breeding like rabbits, and so the legend endures.

The root of their 'mad' antics does seem to stem from their bordering-on-bizarre courtship rituals. Whilst there's nothing out of character about animals competing for survival of the fittest/prettiest/strongest genes, and the right to continue the species, there's something that could be considered 'mad' in the hare's. For starters, the males box each other for the prize of a mate; their lithe bodies seeming at odds with their fiesty, muscular pugilism.


The hare's fertility status becomes ever more mystical when one considers that they are one of a handful of mammals who are able to conceive a second litter of leverets whilst pregnant with a first (known as superfoetation).

There's no disputing that the elegant hare certainly zips and darts all over the land, and that oral tradition has passed stories of the canny and shapeshifting creature from generation to generation: it's hard to not be captivated by them – even in the modern day.

The Celtic Iceni warrior queen, Boudicca, was said to have released a hare from the folds of her thick, heavy cloak before battle, and her tribesmen read the wild zig-zagging of the animal to mean that victory was sure to favour their side.

Whether in legend of times gone by, or leaping majestically through a field of gold, the hare is certainly a spectacle to behold!

May your March be as merry as the Mad March Hare!