Thursday 26 November 2020

Pioneering research is training dogs to sniff out Coronavirus


Floki, training to sniff out Coronavirus. (Copyright Getty Kelly Barnes)

Floki is no ordinary Springer Spaniel. He's one of a very special group of dogs being trained around the world to sniff out Coronavirus from human sweat, and is helping to identify people who are infected before they even know it themselves.

This pioneering training is being carried out in various international locations, including Adelaide, Australia, Helsinki, Finland, and in Lebanon by a French-Lebanese research team. There's also a team in the UK, led by Medical Detection Dogs, working in collaboration with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Durham University, that is developing training for dogs who can passive-screen people for signs of the virus (with no physical contact).

Trained sniffer dogs are certainly not new, and they are already being used successfully in the detection of other diseases such as cancer and malaria. They also work alongside airport security teams to detect explosives and drugs.

Trained dogs could provide a rapid, non-invasive way of screening for COVID-19, without using up health service resources. One dog could screen up to 250 people per hour, providing a valuable resource for airports, public arenas and stadiums, for example.

The dogs themselves are at very low risk, as they are not susceptible to the disease, and their training use deactivated 'dead' virus samples. In a real detecting situation, the dogs sniff the air around a person without being in direct contact, and such is their olfactory power, they are still able to to detect signs of the virus. A dog's sense of smell is extraordinary - research by Medical Detection Dogs shows that a dog can detect the odour of disease equivalent to one spoonful of sugar in two Olympic-sized swimming pools of water!

                                             Copyright Medical Detection Dogs and 

Let's hope this pioneering research, using the amazing power of scent that dogs have, eventually helps contribute to our battle over Coronavirus, enabling us to return to a more normal way of life.

Yet another reason to be grateful to man's best friend!

If you think that your dog could be a Covid detective, why not give scent training a go? 
'Detector Dog' from expert dog trainer, behaviour consultant, and HM Customs & Excise detection dog handler Pam McKinnon, takes you and your dog through each stage of scentwork, from the basics, to the advanced, opening up a whole new world of activities for you and your dog to enjoy together.

For a great insight into the invaluable work our canine compadres undertake for us, Nan Walton's 'Partners' is the book for you. Nan draws upon her hands-on experience from 20 years spent in search and rescue, forensic crime scene recovery, canine narcotics detection, and therapy dogs, to bring you 25 stories from professional canine handlers. Not only will you find heart-warming stories of loyalty, courage and perseverance, but also examples of working dog behaviour, and - the real story that 'Partners' delivers - the unity and trust between dogs and partners.



Thursday 15 October 2020

What it’s like to help a dog survive cancer by Laura Hamilton

With a big smile, I’m watching Lily, my Golden Retriever. She’s already run around with her mother, Pilot. Now she’s jumping over her visiting playmate and larger litter-mate, Bentley, my daughter and son-in-law’s dog. Bentley has thrown himself upside down onto the grass for Lily, enjoying her play-growls as she chews his ear. It’s a sight I thought I’d never see ten months ago when Lily was diagnosed with cancer.





I had been brushing Lily on Tuesday afternoon, 15th October 2019, when I found what I thought was a big knot of hair on the back of her left leg near her tail. But it wasn’t hair. It was a lump under her skin. Knowing what that might mean, I made an appointment for her at the vet’s for the next morning.


Two vets examined Lily’s lump and immediately took a biopsy. A week later, I was phoned the news I’d dreaded: Lily had hemangiosarcoma, a highly aggressive cancer which could quickly spread to her spleen, heart and liver. Without treatment, Lily’s survival might have been months, if not weeks.





Lily was quickly referred to AndersonMoores Veterinary Specialists. A week later, she was there for a consultation with an extraordinarily gifted surgeon before her operation scheduled for that same afternoon. I signed the permission form for Lily to have surgery.


Watching Lily being led away for the preliminary CT scan, I felt a surreal mix of relief, because she was going to be helped, and disbelief, because she was leaving to have surgery. For cancer! Everything had happened so fast. It had been only 16 days since I’d found her lump.


Back home, I waited nervously for the surgeon’s call to tell me how Lily’s operation had gone. But when he phoned, he said he’d postponed the operation for a day, because her CT scan raised concerns about her spleen. He’d biopsied it and needed the results before proceeding in case her spleen was cancerous.


Thankfully, the spleen biopsy result, back the next day, showed no cancer so surgery to remove the lump went ahead. Lily came home the following evening.



                         Lily just after her surgery




Surgery was just the beginning. Lily also needed chemotherapy so one month later, she began 18 weeks of chemotherapy, 6 cycles, each 3 weeks long. Lily’s oncologist was brilliant, incredibly knowledgeable, and extremely reassuring about Lily.


Before every treatment, Lily was weighed and her blood tested.  Each cycle began with Doxorubicin by infusion, one of the most powerful chemotherapy drugs ever developed. Two weeks later, she had Vinblastin by injection. A week after that, she started the next cycle with Doxorubicin again, and so the cycles continued, month after month after month.


After every Doxorubicin infusion, Lily had loss of appetite, nausea and diarrhea. Her oncologist provided tablets to cope with these.


Often Lily needed coaxing to eat. It once took two hours for her to have breakfast. Sometimes I had as many as 12 foods to tempt her like chicken, salmon, sardines, ginger biscuits, scrambled eggs, doggie ice cream and juice from roasted fillet.


Lily lost so much hair (all grown back now) that she wore her fleece-lined waterproof jacket for walks in the winter and the spring. I didn’t risk having her catch a chill. Or, indeed, catch anything. Concerned that chemotherapy might depress her immune system, I kept her away from dogs other than Pilot and Bentley, and attached a fluorescent yellow lead slip to her lead reading MY DOG REQUIRES SPACE.  We were experts at “social distancing” months before Covid-19 necessitated it.



                         Lily during her treatment with her nurse


     Lily lost a lot of hair during her treatment


A week after Lily’s final Vinblastin injection, she had a CT scan. It still raised concerns about her spleen, so she had another biopsy which, happily, showed no cancer. Lily was declared clear! There was great rejoicing at AndersonMoores and at home.

Three months later, Lily had another CT scan. To everyone’s delight, there was no sign of cancer.

Her next scan will be just over a year since the day I found her lump.

                         Lily and Laura after the 'all clear'


Cost in time and in money


Lily has had a lot of help on her road to remission. First, I found her lump early. Then intuitive local vets rapidly referred her to AndersonMoores. There her surgeon, her oncologist and their colleagues gave her exceptional care.


Lily had me with her at home all the time and at all her appointments, cherishing her and caring for her.


Her pet insurance also covered almost all of the cost of her most comprehensive care which, to date, has been nearly £17,500.


Was it money well spent? It certainly saved Lily so that she could enjoy a life worth living. As she plays with Pilot and Bentley now, I smile. Yes. It’s been worth every penny.

                         Lily back at home, happy and fully recovered

Beautiful native hares are threatened by hunting

One of Britain’s most recognised but elusive wild creatures is the hare. Often associated with symbolism and mystery, these beautiful animals deserve to live peacefully in our countryside, but, sadly, are threatened by illegal hunting.


There are three native species of hare in the UK. The brown hare with its distinctive black-tipped long ears, the mountain hare, whose russet coat changes to white or grey to blend into snowy surroundings, and the Irish hare, a sub species of the mountain hare found only in Ireland.

                                            Brown hare © Norfolk Wildlife Trust


These timid and elegant creatures are in danger of being victims of hare hunting packs. In England and Wales there are 71 registered hare hunting packs, and in Northern Ireland, seven. Scottish mountain hares have protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, if properly enforced. But hunters are notoriously tricky to catch, and evade the law.

                                           Mountain hare © I Campbell GWCT



The League Against Cruel Sports is campaigning to strengthen the Hunting Act 2004. Whilst offering some protection, it still allows loopholes to be exploited by unscrupulous hare hunters, who may claim that they are hunting rabbits (legally) whilst ‘accidentally’ killing protected hares. Hunting with dogs is cruel, causing suffering to the hares who naturally live above ground (unlike rabbits), and are chased to the point of exhaustion.

The brown hare is listed as a conservation priority in the UK’s Biodiversity Action Plan, so everything possible should be done to help him thrive. In Scotland, mountain hares are illegally hunted to protect grouse moors, and in Northern Ireland it is still legal to hunt hares.


Read more about how to help the campaign to  educate law enforcers to identify this cruel activity and  give hares better protection under the law on the League Against Cruel Sports website

Let’s hope that the campaign gets the support it deserves, to help protect these iconic and beautiful wild creatures.

                                            Irish hare © Irish News

Thursday 20 August 2020

Paper Tigers (and other animals)

Finding something to fill a spare hour or two probably isn’t much of an issue for most of us: our furry, feathery, and scaly companions need feeding and exercising, after all. But with lockdown still very much in effect for many, spare time is sometimes unavoidable, and finding something to fill it that's fun and entertaining (and preferably not too tricky) can be tricky. 

Say "Hello" to the wonderful world of paper craft. If you’re looking for something to entertain yourself with for a few minutes (or longer), these exquisitely designed print-and-make creations are addictive. Paper crafting has always been a popular hobby, and has seen a resurgence during the CV-19 lockdown. In today’s blog, we take a look at just a few of the incredible models that have caught the eye of the Hubble & Hattie crew.

What is paper craft?

Paper craft covers a multitude of areas, from multi-layered decoupage creations, to the miracle of paper folding that is origami. Here we focus on flat, printed patterns, with cut, fold and glue marks, that can be formed into 3D objects. These cater for all skill levels, with most requiring just a few simple tools to complete; a printer, a cutting rule, craft knife or scissors, and glue or tape. You can supplement your kit with cutting mats, circle cutters, markers, folders, etc, should you catch the paper crafting bug!

Where do I start?

New to paper craft? You need to start somewhere that's both inspirational and fun. Originally intended to provide free craft activities for owners of its colour printers, the Canon Creative Park website is the perfect place. 
It's well worth taking a look around Creative Park, if only to wonder at the sheer range and ingenuity of models, and the skill of the artists and designers behind them. Of course, we made a bee-line for Animals, and there you’ll find everything from pets to mythical beast. 

Creative Park's wonderful Dragon model

As you would expect from a company such as Canon, all its offerings are high-quality marvels of paper engineering, some of which even feature working mechanisms. There are literally hundreds of projects, covering almost every subject you can imagine … plus a few more. There’s equal focus on the educational and the fun, too, and each comes with clear, detailed instructions.

Canon even offers diorama templates to
stage your paper craft creations in

Alongside models of pets, flying animals, and marine animals, you’ll find a well stocked Beginner Series, with models suitable for crafters of every age. Creative Park also provides some very realistic-looking models, and even paper dioramas for staging them. A fine collection of prehistoric animals, endangered species, and animals found only on specific continents makes them a great educational aid, and a wonderful way to encourage a love and understanding of nature in children (not to mention the crafting bug).

Creative Park's full head wolf mask
Away from the animals, you’ll find projects for the home,  construct-your-own toys, and group activities for family and friends. You’ll also discover photo booth props (perfect for livening up those lockdown Zoom calls), hats, costumes, and even full head masks.

For even more incredible creations, head over to PaperCraftSquare. This website gathers together thousands of sources of paper models, toys, origami, quilling, and other paper arts, under one roof. Believe us when we tell you that you can find almost anything in model form, from Harry Potter character busts, to historic buildings, and even Japanese fighting robots.

Animals are well catered for, with  models covering nature, film and animation, and pets. They also cover all sizes; if you're up for a large-scale challenge, why not try making a metre-high elephant‽ Stylistically, templates range from the cartoon, Minecraft block-style, and plain 'silhouette' designs, to some superbly realistic models.

No matter what your favourite 'style,' you'll find something to suit at PaperCraftSquare

Sometimes, especially with new hobbies, it can be hard to interpret written instructions, so why not take a little video instruction? YouTube is the perfect place to see models actually being built, and perfect for picking up tips and hints from those in the know. Whiling away the minutes, watching someone else do the work, can also be quite rewarding!

Many uploaders provide links to downloadable templates of the models featured in their videos. Tubbypaws demonstrates this perfectly, with its video build of Keyboard Cat, a working mechanical model …

We must admit that, after looking at all these amazing paper craft creations, many at H&H caught the paper craft bug, so we asked which paper craft model they would choose to make … here's what they said:

Rod Grainger (Publisher)
Rod's choice is a Chevrolet Confederate Deluxe Sports Roadster, and Dr Who's TARDIS ("To get away from CV19")

Jude Brooks (Publisher)
Jude chose a Cockatiel – which she made, and is modelled here – and a Unicorn

Geraldine Cetin (Marketing Co-ordinator)
Geraldine chooses the iconic (desktop-friendly) Sagrada Familia, a favourite from her travels, and an Exotic Shorthair. ("Because it looks like mine!")

Emma Shanes (Office Administrator)
Emma is always up for an arty-crafty challenge, so decided to make both her choices: the Statue of Liberty, and Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs.

If you've caught the paper crafting bug, and made your own crafty creations, let us know on twitter, facebook, and instagram with the hashtag #papercraft, or post below in the comments section.

Thursday 6 August 2020

It’s all change from next year for UK residents who want to take their dogs on holiday to Europe.

For many, having holidays without their canine companion is unthinkable. Enjoying the journey; making happy memories in a new location, and seeing their interest in new sights, sounds, smells and scenery is all part of the fun. But for UK residents, things are about to change because of the UK leaving the EU, and travel to Europe with pets will no longer involve simply obtaining a pet passport. With many not able or willing to travel this year because of the pandemic, it’s important to check the big changes being put in place from next year that will affect travel with your pet.

Holidays in Europe with your dog just got a lot more complicated for UK residents ...
(© Photo by Jasmine Brunner on Unsplash)

Since February 2000, UK residents have been able to take dogs and cats to countries in the EU and return without the animal needing to be quarantined, providing certain conditions are met. These included the pet having a valid pet passport (some 100,000 are issued annually), and being microchipped. Whilst this continues through 2020 in what’s known as the ‘transition period,’ it’s all change from 2021.


More advanced preparation will be needed for those planning holidays in mainland Europe with their pet next year. The Government’s website lists all the new requirements for a pet to travel. Spontaneous breaks will be a thing of the past, as owners will need to start planning at least four months before travel, checking with their vet to get the latest advice. Pets (defined as dogs, cats and ferrets), will need to be vaccinated against rabies and microchipped. A blood sample is then taken at least 30 days after the vaccination, and is sent to an EU-approved blood testing laboratory. A three-month waiting period from when the successful blood sample was taken is then required before travelling, whilst obtaining a copy of the test results from your vet, who also enters the date the blood sample was taken on an animal health certificate (AHC). To obtain the AHC, you must visit your vet no more than ten days before travel, taking along your pet’s vaccination and microchipping history and the successful rabies antibody blood test result. You will also need this evidence upon entry to the EU, and a new health certificate will be required for each trip to the EU!

Check out the new rules before travelling next year.

© Photo by Alan King on Unsplash     

It sounds like the new procedure will be time-consuming and expensive, and may deter all but the most determined of travellers from taking along their loyal companion on European holidays. The alternative, which many owners dislike, is boarding their pet(s) in a kennel or cattery, and not seeing (and probably worrying) about their pet for the duration of the holiday, not to mention the expense of boarding.


We advise UK-based readers to take time to check out the Government’s website, and to check with your vet if you need further guidance, well ahead of any trip.

Thursday 23 July 2020

Dog theft is on the rise – especially since lockdown

For pet owners, the sudden disappearance of their beloved companion is one of the worst things imaginable. But sadly, for many owners, this is becoming a harsh reality as dog theft is on the increase.
During lockdown, many people sought the companionship of a new puppy, thinking it was the ideal time to settle in a new member of the family. Unscrupulous thieves have noticed this surge in demand, and as prices increased, so have thefts.
Dog theft is not new. There have always been those who steal dogs and puppies for their own gain. There are several motives for stealing a dog, including reselling to puppy farms for breeding, or at an inflated price via online community sites such as Gumtree, and also, shockingly, for dog fighting. There are even instances of dogs being stolen and taken to medical and other types of laboratories, to be used in experimentation.
More recently. thieves have spotted that dogs (and especially puppies) are a quick and easy way to make money. With the rise in ‘fashionable’ breeds of dog (often owned by celebrities who post pictures, posing with their pooch on social media), an increase in demand for certain breeds has followed. Pugs, Cockapoos, French Bulldogs, Shih Tzus and Chihuahuas are just some of the breeds currently in high demand. Dogs such a these are targets for thieves who know that they can sell one quickly.

© By DK1k - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,
French bulldogs are particularly popular, and are a target for thieves.

Responsible owners take all the recommended steps to safeguard their dog, including microchipping, never leaving him unattended, and keeping him on a lead. However, thieves are increasingly targeting private gardens, as well as stealing from reputable breeders’ property by breaking in to take puppies, some so young that they should not leave their mother. This is heartbreaking for the unsuspecting owner or breeder who believed their dogs or puppies were safe.
Dog fighting, although banned in the UK, along with the owning of fighting dogs, still takes place in secret, and dogs can be stolen for the distressing purpose of being taught to fight, or used as bait to train other dogs.

© Dogslost

Above, just a selection of posts from ‘’ in the last few weeks. Dogslost is the UK’s largest lost and found service.

Campaigners have petitioned to call on the Government to make pet theft a specific crime, rather than being treated as ‘property theft.’ Given the heartbreak and suffering it causes to both owners and dogs, the punishment, they believe, should fit the crime, and regarded differently. The animal group Stolen and Missing Pets Alliance (Sampa) campaigns for tougher legislation on pet theft, and compulsory microchipping. A glance at its website shows the scale of missing pets, with many French Bulldogs and Labrador Retrievers missing, as well as other breeds. Although focussed on dogs, some cats are also stolen, especially pedigree breeds, so the same caution is required by owners of feline companions.
The RSPCA has produced a helpful checklist reminding owners of the dangers, and how we can protect our dogs, and keep them safe during this period of increased theft:


In the current climate of increased dog theft, please keep yours safe and protected, whether at home or when out and about.

A campaigning message from #PetTheftReform shared on social media and by © SAMPA

Thursday 25 June 2020

Laura Hamilton celebrates a special birthday when Lily, her one on a million, turns 6

Lily: Part 1 of 2  by Laura Hamilton

Every dog’s birthday is surely worth celebrating. But on 5 May, when my Golden Retriever, Lily, became six years old, we had four fantastically worthy reasons to celebrate, considering she has survived not just once but twice when we honestly wondered if she would.

The first reason for a celebration is that she actually made it to her first birthday. Born with an extremely rare swallowing disorder (cricopharyngeal asynchrony), Lily couldn’t get enough of her mother’s milk into her tummy to thrive. Though a perfect birth weight at 406g, she was quickly left behind in her development by her littermates. By Day 19 of their lives, they were three times bigger. Lily was hanging onto life by her little nails. And she was losing.

 Lily, one third of the size of her two littermates 

So at noon on Day 19, I began having her lick puppy mousse from my finger, a little at a time. She still choked and risked aspirating food into her lungs as she licked. She couldn’t even lap water. But hand-feeding saw a big improvement.

The gripping and heart-warming story of how I have kept finding ways to keep Lily alive during and since that first year is not overstated in Hubble & Hattie’s book Lily: One in a Million, A Miracle of Survival.

She still has to be hand-fed every mouthful and hydrated no more than a tablespoon at a time every day.

The second reason to celebrate is that Lily has had two books published about her. That’s pretty impressive in itself! The first was Lily: One in a Million, A Miracle of Survival in 2018, followed by the children’s book, also published by Hubble & Hattie, The Adventures of Lily and the Little Lost Doggie in 2019. It tells, with 53 illustrations that I drew, what happened when Lily found a lost toy doggie under my hedge as we left to go to school where she regularly worked as a Pets As Therapy dog.

Laura's books about Lily, published by Hubble & Hattie

The third reason for celebrating Lily’s birthday is her impressive work as a Pets As Therapy (PAT) dog. The earliest age at which PAT will assess a dog is 9 months, and Lily was just 9 months old when she passed each of the 15 stringent tests with the best possible results. Within days, she began helping children and adults. Lily had worked an astonishing 235 assignments before she had to stop last autumn.

Lily in April 2019, ready to work as a 'Pets as Therapy' dog

The fourth reason we’re absolutely thrilled to celebrate her birthday is that on 5 May 2020 she had her sixth birthday, which we had hardly dared to hope she would see, because the previous October she was diagnosed with an extremely aggressive cancer. Without emergency treatment, she had months, possibly only weeks, to live.

Lily after her 6th chemotherapy treatment

We had never given any thought to what it would be like to have a dog with cancer. Now we were to find out, as the next Animal Magic will reflect ...

Caring for a golden oldie - how to say goodbye in a good way

Those who read our books live all over the world, and we love to hear from them when they get in touch with us. Carolyn Walters is based in Australia, and here she writes about how our book Older dog? No worries! has helped her to care for her Golden Oldie, Hugo, improving quality of life for them both. 

Me and my Golden Oldie

I recently received from my good friend Robyn Youl a copy of Older Dog? No Worries! as she knows that my old companion, Hugo, and I had begun going through some rough times due to his advancing years.

                                                  Young Hugo

Hugo – who's thirteen-and-a-half – had always been healthy until about a year ago when his health deteriorated very quickly, which, mentally, I struggled with as I hadn't prepared myself for the particular challenges of an ageing dog.

                                                                      Hugo at 13

The physical pain that Hugo was suffering resulted in a decline in his mental health. I wasn’t sure what to do to help him, but Older Dog? No worries! has helped me understand what's happening to Hugo, and how to make his transition through old age easier.

Amongst other things the book illustrates different approaches to enhancing a dog’s senses, which I’ve found very effective due to the fact that Hugo is almost completely deaf. I have incorporated some interactive and sensory activities into Hugo's life, who has learned to trust his other senses in his everyday life, and his confidence has increased because of this. 

Hugo recently lost his lifetime companion – Zeph, the dog he grew up with – and I was concerned that this may cause him to become anxious and depressed, but, instead, the reverse appears to have happened, and Hugo seems to be thriving as his mental and physical health have greatly improved.

                                                  Hugo and Zeph

Now, Hugo is extremely absorbed in his new lifestyle, is more animated than ever before, and seems to enjoy a considerably improved quality of life, being confident, comfortable, relaxed and happy. 

I could not ask for anything more. 

Older dog? No worries! has opened my eyes, and shown me that although Hugo is an old dog, there are little things I can do to improve the quality of his final years. It has also shown me how to prepare mentally for the different stages that Hugo will experience and, of course, for the final stage. 

If I was to say in just a few words what my understanding of the book is, and what I have learned from it, they would be: How to say goodbye in a good way …

Carolyn Walters

Thursday 4 June 2020

Adopting pets during lockdown - is it the right thing to do?

Whilst most of the world’s population is in lockdown due to the COVID-19 epidemic, there has been a lot of coverage in the media about adopting a pet. But is this enforced confinement really an ideal time to welcome a new cat or dog into the household?
In theory it could be – when else would we be confined to our homes for such a long period of time, and so be there throughout the day to help settle a new family member into their new home?

Some people may be feeling isolated and lonely, cut off from their friends, family and colleagues, and longing for the company that an animal companion would undoubtedly bring during self-isolation.
These are worthy reasons to consider adoption, and without doubt there are thousands of pets looking for their ‘forever home’ and the love of a new owner.
However, adopting a pet is a huge undertaking, and many prospective owners don’t consider the full implications first. The lifetime cost of owning a dog is calculated at anything between £5,000 – 15,000 depending on the breed (source PDSA and that may be without factoring in vet’s fees and insurance!     
When the pandemic finally ends and life begins to return to some sort of normality, many people will return to work and study, leaving homes empty for much of the day. Dogs can’t be left for more than a few hours, so unless you are lucky enough to have a dog-friendly workplace or the option to continue to regularly work from home, think very carefully before adopting, as it will be hard to adjust back to a different pattern once a dog is part of the household. Dogs need regular daily exercise so time for walks should be factored in.
Moreover, many dogs have come to be in a centre because their previous owner could not (or would not) adapt to having a dog and had to give them up. What could be more distressing for the dog who is returned to a shelter, having had a taste of being part of a loving household?    

Cats are by nature more adaptable, but considerable thought is still required before adoption. Whilst they are naturally more independent than dogs, many cats are especially loyal to their owners and miss them when they are away. If you plan to keep a cat indoors, he will need stimulation in the form of toys, a comfortable place to sleep, a litter tray, and fresh water and regular feeding. Two cats can be company for one another, if they get along. Consider whether it is safe to install a cat flap, allowing access to the outdoors. It may be fine if you live in a quiet area away from busy roads, but, sadly, many cats lose their lives to cars each year so this may not be the best option.
Animal adoption organisations and sanctuaries have taken different approaches during lockdown. Battersea’s adoption centres are closed during the COVID 19 epidemic. Cat’s Protection is limiting adoption through its centres for the safety of  staff and volunteers. Dog’s Trust is  rehoming only an exceedingly small number of animals, and its rehoming centres are closed for th duration of the pandemic in the interests of both staff and animals. Remember that once the pandemic is over, the dogs and cats will still be there, needing homes more than ever, and adoption decisions can be made in the light of the situation people find themselves in then, which may be very different to how it used to be, pre-lockdown.
Think very carefully about animal adoption, particularly in this unsettling time. Undoubtedly, welcoming a canine or feline companion into your life can be one of the best things you can do, and giving a home to a previously homeless animal is to be commended.
But it may be better to wait until ‘normal’ life has resumed before taking that big step ...

Thursday 14 May 2020

Keeping cats happy during lockdown – tips for contented felines

We’re all living in a strange new world at present as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. What we once (recently) took for granted has become remote and different – we can no longer ‘pop outside’ whenever we wish, and for many of our feline companions this is the same.

Cat owners may be worried about possible transmission of the virus via their pet; all sorts of ‘information’ (and misinformation) is appearing on social media that is not necessarily helpful. There have even been instances of pets being abandoned at sanctuaries by fearful owners.
However, evidence currently shows that cats and dogs can’t catch the virus themselves, but if they are stroked by someone who has it, it may be possible to transfer it onto their fur.

This graphic, produced by World Animal Protection, is useful and reassuring.

You may feel safer keeping your cat indoors. For a cat who is usually an outdoor free-roaming feline this will be a big change. However, there are easy ways to make indoors fun and comfortable for cats. In Fun and Games for Cats by Denise Seidl there are lots of ideas for making indoor time enjoyable for your feline. You can even identify their personality type and find the games they are most likely to enjoy.

If you are keeping your cat indoors, make sure that you have a litter tray in an easily accessible place. If your cat isn’t used to one, you’ll need to show him where it is, and perhaps place him in it at regular intervals until nature calls. Place it away from the feeding area and in a quiet location.

Make time for your cat, interact and reassure him. Even older cats will play with encouragement, and the simplest things can become toys and give hours of entertainment. We all know that cats love boxes, so if you have an empty cardboard box let your cat explore it. Toys that can be chewed, chased and rolled on are what cats love best, especially if they are infused with catnip! If you don’t usually have toys around roll up some paper, even better if it makes a noise. String or ribbon is ideal, too, just attach it to something so that it can move.

Being indoors for days with your cat is an opportunity to really get to know him and strengthen your bond. Observe his behaviour. Talk to him and spend quality time pampering him. It will increase his trust and loyalty and make him more affectionate.
Would you like to better understand why your cat behaves as he does, and build a better relationship? Try reading The One Minute Cat Manager – sixty seconds to feline Shangri-La by Kac Young. It’s full of helpful tips and tricks to bond with your pet.

So, try to make ‘lockdown’ a time when both you and your feline reconnect. He may be delighted to be seeing more of you if you are usually out of the house during the day. Make time to play, enjoy each other’s company and enrich his indoor time. He can still watch the world outside through the window (as can we!), and with nature enjoying the quieter streets and gardens there will be more to observe. Birds, insects and wildlife are thriving at this time of year, and it’s fun to watch your cat watch creatures from indoors. His hunting instinct will still be there, but he can’t do any damage behind glass!

If you have a bit more time to read and love cats, try Miouw! Cats really are nicer than people by the late Sir Patrick Moore CBE FRS. It’s a lovely book about the cats who shared his life, full of anecdotes and happy memories.