Every few years there’s a story in the Australian media saying we should be keeping native mammals as pets. This always fills me with horror.
For I’m a vet working with pets in the Australian state with the slackest rules on owning native animals and I see the results. I also hold a Masters degree in Wildlife Medicine and Husbandry and have worked in zoological medicine.
I hope that by the time you finish this, you’ll understand why there are some animals who are uniquely suited to being pets, and others that almost never are. I’ll also debunk some common myths about keeping native animals everywhere, not just Australia.
Driven by high levels of public approval, Australia is haphazardly but relentlessly moving towards greater containment of cats. I support cat curfews, and keep my own cat inside, but I still have concerns.
The big problem with cat laws in Australia is that they seem to be enacted by those who know the least about cats. It’s leading to unrealistic expectations and poor results.
I’ll discuss why that is in a minute, but to not sound negative I’ll start with the benefits of curfews.
Are you looking for a puppy in Adelaide? Then no doubt you have already seen how hard it is to get one. There’s a massive demand for new puppies, and seemingly a reduced supply since the new dog breeding regulations came into effect.
Traditional sources like breeders and shelters have long waiting lists. The only quick and easy way to get a puppy is from a pet shop. I perfectly understand if you’ve thought about it. But before you make the commitment, there are a few things to consider.
It must seem strange for a vet to compare humans and dogs and find humans better. Well let me tell you, this is an exception to a general rule. Just read Why Dogs Are Better Than Humans and you will agree.
However, our inferiority tends to mask the fact that there are a few special areas in which we do better. And because we don’t recognise them, we tend to make bad assumptions and harm our dogs. So here they are…
If you have a Scottish Fold and this is the first time you are hearing of their problems, you are not to blame. Finding good information before you get a cat is not easy, as you have probably learned by now.
I was a young vet only a few months out of university when I saw my first aortic or arterial thromboembolism (ATE). This is a horrible disease of cats caused by a saddle thrombus: a blood clot released from the heart that is ejected down the aorta and blocks it near the hind legs.
Everyone knows that having an overweight dog is bad. But how bad?
Twenty years ago, Purina demonstrated a two year reduction in lifespan in Labradors kept in a laboratory setting. Now a recent large study in the US has for the first time looked at common dog breeds in the home environment.
Keeping birds can be done well, and to the benefit of both them and us. But too often in doing so we take away the very thing that defines them: flight. So here are some suggested minimum case sizes to allow your feathered friends to enjoy their fullest lives.
“Unfortunately, there are people out there who don’t like cats — hate cats — and too often we see what happens to cats when they are trapped by these sorts of people.” RSPCA South Australia chief executive Paul Stevenson
“A law like this would give the worst elements of society Carte Blanche to abuse their neighbours’ pets” Brian May (guitarist in Queen)
Why are these two so worried?
New cat curfew laws proposed by Marion Council will allow the trapping of any cat found off the property from 9pm to 7am. Not just by council staff either. By anyone at all.
It’s easy to forget how refreshing Grumpy Cat was when she first appeared. If something wasn’t as good as the hype, then there she was with perfect one liner to burst the bubble. Coming from a cat like her, who could argue?
Grumpy Cat will always be the queen of memes, and perhaps the most famous cat of our time. Until now, I’ve refrained from talking about her death. But hopefully enough time has passed, because there’s a story in it about the future of cats.
Sadly, the treatment of mental health problems in dogs is taken much more seriously than in cats. An anxious dog will often get help quickly due to destruction or noise issues. An anxious cat, by contrast, tends to suffer in silence. Even worse, when they do show signs they’re often blamed for it.
No one wants to drug their pets. I get that. But we need to talk about mental health.
Let’s start by throwing out all the weasel words that stop us seeing it for what it is. It isn’t a ‘behaviour problem’ except to us. All these concerns like destruction, whining, howling, barking, biting or escaping. They’re only symptoms of a much greater problem.
In the last 5 years, having someone look after your dog in their own home has become a genuine alternative to using dog boarding kennels. Generally, the change has been a very positive one. However, with new industries always come new challenges.
The dog you see isn’t the only one harmed. In fact, he’s one of a whole string of similar stories I’ve seen and heard recently in Adelaide. Let’s call him ‘X’.
Although it will not be universally popular, the move towards universal desexing and microchipping of dogs and cats should produce a clear net benefit to pets and the community.
Regarding the concerns I raised below back in 2016, most have been addressed satisfactorily:
Vets can only give temporary exemptions
Guard dogs and remote communities are not specifically exempted
Breeding standards are already law and now breeders must also be registered, making the removal of rogue operators easier
I’m yet to be convinced of the benefit of cat owners being asked to register their cats. Most owned cats have no harmful effect on communities or councils. There are existing laws on the removal of unidentified stray cats that function perfectly well.
Compulsory microchipping and desexing are an excellent idea for all cats, but the existing databases you already pay for are still necessary, and in my opinion, all that is needed.
It’s unlikely there will be enough information to catch these people. We need you to help. We also need you to be aware of what they are doing.
That’s Arkie above. He was found wandering the streets near Walkerville Vet and brought to us, as are so many other stray pets. Usually all we do is scan their microchip and make a phone call to reunite them with their owners.
Having pets is such a rewarding part of being human. But have you ever thought how it is we can keep animals as pets? Why are some animals great as pets and others often a complete disaster? What’s going on? Today I want to explain why a small group of mammals are literally made to be our pets and why you should think very carefully before owning any others.
Those who have been following our Facebook will know about the three dogs owned by a victim of domestic violence. She was taken to hospital and her dogs were in urgent need of emergency housing. Now that their owner has found safe accommodation, she has been reunited wth her beloved dogs and it is safe to tell their story.
Here I go again! Another unbearably cute puppy picture in the paper and all I can do is complain!
There’s no question that adorable images of a Shar Pei puppy and a Scottish Fold kitten from the Adelaide Advertiser melt the heart. So why do most vets see something different when we look at these pictures?
It all starts innocently enough, An unknown cat starts hanging around the house and looks like she doesn’t have a home. So the householder starts to worry that she’s hungry, and puts out some cat food for her. The next thing she’s hanging around every day and sometimes even coming in the house. Before too long she can always be found somewhere around the yard.
We all love funny animal pictures but sometimes we come across ones that are just so wrong we can only shudder. It’s when the interpretation of the animal’s behaviour results in them being blamed for behaviour where they are actually the victims.
For those of us who care about animal welfare, the news, Facebook, and our inbox can be hard to cope with. There seems to be a never-ending series of distressing stories about acts of cruelty towards animals.