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  • A Typical Daily Routine For A Dog Or Puppy

    07:00 – Dogs like to go to the toilet as soon as they wake up, so make sure that you go outside with him as soon as you come downstairs. Introduce a bit of playtime once he has done his business, and maybe bring a couple of his favourite toys out with you to keep his attention.

    07.30 – If you have decided to feed your dog two meals a day, this is the perfect time to give him his breakfast. This is also the best time to feed your dog his first meal of the day.

    08.00 – About half an hour after your dog has finished eating, take him outside for a brisk walk and another opportunity to go to the toilet. Typically dogs like to go to the toilet between 10 and 30 minutes after they have eaten. Adult dogs are better at holding it in, but puppies can really struggle.

    09.00 – This is when you either allow your dog to settle and rest just before you leave for work, or allow him to explore and amuse himself with some interactive toys as you get things done.

    A cute Bullmastiff puppy playing with its toys
    A cute Bullmastiff puppy playing with its toys

    13.00 – Ideally, most dogs would love for you to return home during your lunch break so that they can be let out to go to the toilet and spend some quality time exercising, playing and bonding with you. Replace your dog’s water for a fresh clean bowl. If you have a puppy, this is the best time to give him his midday meal.

    13.30 – Before you head back to work, make sure that you take your dog outside to relieve himself, otherwise you might be presented with a little treat when you arrive home. Encourage your dog to use some energy by introducing some play (and training if you have enough time), and then invite him back inside to calm down and rest – a crate is the most effective way of teaching a dog to calm down after exercise. To find out how to correctly crate train a dog or puppy follow this link to our crate training section.

    17.00 – As soon as your return home from work, offer your dog a fresh, clean bowl of water. Now is also the best time to give your puppy or older dog his evening meal. Shortly after he has finished eating, take him outside to use all of the energy he has built up throughout the day. You can use this time to do some training – training to fetch, heel, come/recall, sit, stay, lie down.

    19.00 – Your dog will want to relieve himself one more time before he goes to bed. Take him outside to go to the toilet, but don’t offer any play. You dont want to get him too excited, otherwise you might struggle to get him to settle for bedtime. As you invite your pup back inside, reward calm behaviour so that he knows that it is time to rest. The most effective method of teaching a dog to calm or settle is crate training.

  • The Daily Care Of A Dog

    The Daily Care Of A Dog

    Caring for your dog on a daily basis is a hugely rewarding experience. Your dog will forever be your best friend if you know how to tend to his needs and ensure that he has an enjoyable and active life with you.

    However, daily care of a dog is a lot more than just feeding and walking. You will also need to know how to groom your dog properly as well as know the signs to look for that could indicate a potential health problem.

    An obedient dog sitting next to his owner
    An obedient dog sitting next to his owner

    Know How To Check For Signs Of Illness

    You should always be thinking about your dog’s health. It is important that you know how to check for signs of illness and that you are fully aware of common dog and puppy health problems. If you are ever worried about your dog’s general health, contact your vet to either arrange an appointment or to simply ask questions over the phone.

    A cute youngcrossbreedCockapoo
    A cute young crossbreed Cockapoo

    In the case of an accident, illness or emergency it is very reassuring to know that your dog is always covered with a pet insurance plan. Search around to find the most suitable plan for your dog and make the investment, otherwise you might find yourself in a very difficult situation later on in your dog’s life.

  • What Is A Cat?

    What Is A Cat?

    When you think of a cat you may think of Lions living in the Serengeti, camouflaged Tigers stalking their prey through the jungle, or you may just think of the often lazy but loving domestic cats lolling on the sofa. Even though big wild cats and small domestic cats have their differences they share as much as 95% of their DNA.

    A lazy tabby cat lolling on the sofa
    A lazy tabby cat lolling on the sofa

    The Wild Cat Family (Felidae)

    Domestic cats belong to the biological family Felidae. They share many wild relatives such as Lions, Cheetahs and Servals. Felidae can be split into two subfamilies; Pantherinae (the roarers) which includes a lot of the big cats like Lions, Tigers and Jaguars, and Felinae (the purrers) which includes a lot of the smaller to medium sized cats like Domestic cats, Cheetahs and Servals.

    An alert Serval Cat
    An alert Serval Cat

    Scientists have managed to sequence the DNA (the instructions for life) of the domestic cat and have shown there is very little difference between them and their wild cousins. This isn’t surprising when you consider that many domestic cats are able to live feral without any human care.

    Three Wild African cats A Cheetah family in the Masai Mara Kenya
    Three Wild African cats A Cheetah family in the Masai Mara Kenya

    Unlike dogs, who are considered fully domesticated, cats should only be considered semi domesticated. Some cats are much more dependent on us than others and some are much closer to their wild cat cousins.

    Hybrid Cat Breeds

    Hybrid cats are a perfect example of cats that are considered domestic but share a larger portion of their genes with a wild cat. Hybrid cats can exist in nature, but are more commonly found in selective breeding programs where domestic / wildcat hybrids fetch a high price tag.

    A Bengal Cat with incredible markings
    A Bengal Cat with incredible markings

    Hybrid Cats In The UK

    A good example of hybrid cats occurring in the wild is a cross between the Scottish Wildcat and Domestic cats. This happens when Scottish Wildcats interbreed with roaming Domestic Cats to produce a litter of hybrid kittens. This is very detrimental to the Wildcat population because hybridisation dilutes the wild genetics and makes it even less likely that two Wildcats will mate. It is thought that fewer than 100 purebred Scottish Wildcats now exist in the wild with hybridisation being one of the primary causes for the falling population.

    A Scottish Wildcat hunting in the long grass
    A Scottish Wildcat hunting in the long grass

    Breeding Hybrid Cats

    Hybrid cats have become hugely popular in recent years with many new hybrid breeds popping up. Perhaps the most widely recognised hybrid is the Bengal which is a cross between an Asian Leopard Cat and a Domestic Cat.

    A lovely little Bengal kitten playing in the house
    A lovely little Bengal kitten playing in the house

    Bengal whose parents are an Asian Leopard Cat (ALC) and a Domestic Bengal is known as an F1 Bengal. Here the ‘F’ stands for Filial which simply means son or daughter and the number represents the number of generations separated from the ALC. For example an F3 Bengal is a Bengal who has a Great Grandparent ALC and an F4 would have a Great Great Grandparent ALC etc. The first 3 generations (F1, F2, F3) are considered early generation or foundation Bengals and are not eligible to be shown at competition. From F4 onwards they may be referred to as SBT (Stud Book Tradition) which means they are at least four generations removed from the ALC and the product of purely pedigree Bengal x Bengal matings. SBT Bengals are known to have the grace and beauty of a wildcat with a domestic cat’s personality, albeit a personality with certain endearing quirks with some even showing a love for water.

    Hybrid Cat Breeds And Their Wild Lineage

    • Bengal (Asian Leopard Cat)
    • Caracat (Caracal)
    • Chausie (Jungle Cat)
    • Safari (Geoffroy’s cat)
    • Savannah (Serval)
    A Savannah kitten with incredibly beautiful markings
    A Savannah kitten with incredibly beautiful markings

    Breeding Cats For A Wild Look

    As well as hybrid cats there are cats that are selectively bred for a wild look without being crossed with a wildcat. Similar to hybrids these are new breeds that are growing in popularity thanks to their exotic looks.

    A Toyger cat with tiger like markings
    A Toyger cat with tiger like markings

    A breed that has received a lot of media attention is the Toyger, which as the name suggests has been bred to resemble a miniature or ‘toy’ Tiger. These cats don’t have Tiger DNA but their striped coat and small ears could make you think otherwise.

    Wild Looking Cats And The Wild Cat They Are Bred To Look Like

    How To Tell The Difference Between A Stray Cat And A Feral Cat

    When approaching an unknown cat it can be quite difficult to tell whether it is a stray cat or a feral cat. To find out the clear differences we have compared the two types of cats below.

    Feral Cats

    A feral cat is a cat that was either born in the wild, or is a stray that has not had human contact for a long period of time. Feral cats are different to strays in that they are very wary of humans, and cannot usually be tamed. This means they are not suited to indoor living and are better off living outside in a colony. A cat colony is a group of feral cats living in the same area with a common food source. There are many charities that manage feral cat colonies by using the trap, neuter, and return scheme to control the population.

    Feral cats perching on a fence
    Feral cats perching on a fence

    Taming feral cats is not advisable as they lead happier and less stressful lives in a cat colony, but kittens who are born feral may be socialised and sold to good homes.

    Feral cats have little to no contact with humans so when approached by humans they will be very scared and will not approach. However this isn’t a sure way to tell the difference because many colonies of feral cats have learnt that humans can be a great source of food (not literally!). This is particularly true for colonies living in coastal tourist hotspots. The body language between strays and ferals also tends to be different. For example feral cats won’t display any body language which indicates they feel comfortable or happy in your presence. They won’t make eye contact with you and will crouch low, or sit with their tail wrapped around them guarding them.

    Stray Cats

    A stray cat is a cat that once had an owner, but has ‘strayed’ and become lost. Fortunately stray cats can usually be re-homed, as they soon remember the comforts of having loving owners and a warm lap to curl up on.

    A dishevelled stray cat
    A dishevelled stray cat

    Stray cats are more likely to approach either you, or your house than a feral cat. They are far less likely to run away when you approach them and some may even tolerate or enjoy being stroked. A stray cat is more likely to make eye contact with you and show body language that indicates its happy and comfortable such as walking with its tail straight. Stray cats are likely to meow in response to you, whereas a feral cat will not meow or purr.

  • Escaped Parrot

    Escaped Parrot

    If your parrot escapes indoors, the only things you have to worry about are doors (keep them closed), pets (keep them out), and anything fragile/toxic that the bird might investigate. If the parrot is tame, you can lure him back to your hand. Even if he’s too nervous to do that, he’s sure to return to his cage or perch once he’s had enough of his free-flying adventures.

    Lost Parrot

    Your chances of recapturing the bird outdoors depend on how tame he is, and how happy he is in his aviary or bird house. A contented bird will soon head for home – unless he’s flown a long way and lost his sense of direction or become exhausted. Equally, a tame bird will respond to your voice, so if you manage to intervene soon after the escape, you’re in with a good chance of calling him home.

    Orange-winged Amazon escaped
    Orange-Winged Amazon on the run
    • Unfortunately, many birds escape when no one is looking, and it may be some time before the absence becomes apparent. Don’t give up hope, though: most parrots will keep within a mile radius of home, unless they’ve been chased further away or caught in a storm.
    • If possible, take the bird’s cage with you when you search for him, or, if he is an aviary bird, take some other cage or suitably-sized pet box. Arm yourself with the parrot’s favourite treats too.
    • If appropriate, take your parrot’s favourite bird companion with you (in a cage). This may be enough to lure the escaped bird back.
    • Take a towel or net – these may aid you in catching the bird if he won’t come to your hand willingly.
    • Play parrot sounds on your mobile phone – either ones you have recorded, or sound files downloaded from the internet. These may draw the parrot back to you.
    • Stand by the aviary and call, and walk around the local area listening for your pet bird’s voice. Even if you can’t see him, calling to him can act as a beacon for him to home in on.
    • If there’s no sight or sound of the bird, and your searches in the immediate area don’t bear fruit, leave an open, treat-packed cage on or near the aviary, to lure him back if he passes this way again.
    • If you locate the bird, don’t take your eyes off him. Get as close as you can (he will usually be up a tree or high up on a building). Call to him and make the treats as visible as you can. Even a tame bird may be a little wary, as he will be stressed by the noises, open space and sheer strangeness of his predicament.
    Lilac-crowned Amazon escaped
    Lilac-Crowned Amazons in the wild
    • Ironically, the parrot may fall quiet if he spots you before you spot him – this is a sign that he is relaxing, reassured by your presence. Hopefully, though, he will also want to call out to you.
    • If there is no sign of the parrot in the local area (scout around on a bicycle or in a car for a wider view) parrot, alert everyone you know in the area to keep a lookout. If night falls and there’s still no sign of the parrot, create some flyers (printed and digital versions) to pin on posts and noticeboards. Get the community involved. Remember to include a phone number on the flyers, and consider including a small reward, to encourage pocket money-hungry kids to join in the search.
    • If you know of any aviaries in the neighbourhood, check them out – your parrot may have been attracted there by the sight and sound of the other birds.
    • When you locate the bird, don’t shout at him, throw things at him or try to hose him down from his perch. These things are likely to cause panic and further flight. A calm bird, on the other hand, will linger once he’s alighted.
    • A familiar object and a treat are the only things that are going to lure him to you. If he is hand-trained, and will happily fly to you and use you as a perch, that’s perfect. Otherwise you’ll need a stick perch, cage or food bowl.
    • Call to the bird soothingly all the while, and stop your attempts to lure him down if he looks like he’s ready to fly again. You need him calm, relaxed and compliant.
    • A tame bird may react if you deliberately hide, by squawking, and then flying to you for reassurance when you ‘reappear’. It’s a long shot, but worth a try.
    • Keep crowds away when you’re trying to lure the bird down – the parrot’s favourite person, alone, has more chance of success.
    • If he’s still close to home, waning light at the end of the day will often make a parrot want to return to familiar surroundings. By the time the light has faded he will start to roost. Your only chance of capturing him then is if he’s on an accessible window ledge or roof.
    Scarlet macaw flying
    Scarlet Macaw on the wing

    Parrot Still Missing After 24 Hours

    • A bird that hasn’t been spotted after a whole day has probably flown too far away and is completely lost. It’s also possible that some unfortunate accident has befallen him. Don’t give up hope just yet, though: Phone places where a sighting of an escaped exotic bird may have been reported: the RSPCA, any other local animal rescue centre, vets in the area, any local zoos, pet shops, and of course the police.
    • Place an ad in the local newspaper; see if the local radio station will mention your escaped bird; check online forums and post messages there. Keep your eyes and ears on all of these resources.
    • A tame parrot is likely to seek out human habitation rather than the field and forests, so continue to ask around for any news of the bird.

    Bird Net

    A parrot-catching net is not something you want to use unless absolutely necessary. It’s handy if an aviary bird needs isolating for some reason (for transporting to the vet, for example), and also if a bird has escaped and won’t return to the cage.

    Peach-Fronted Conure escaped
    An escaped Peach-Fronted Conure will be tricky to catch without a net

    You can buy bird-catching nets in online stores, and you can also use a soft towel or pillowcase for capturing him. The advantage of the net is that it comes on the end of a long stick, so you can catch the parrot while you’re some distance away from it.

    No matter how tame your bird, and no matter how many times he’s been netted, the process will be stressful for him, so never use a net routinely – only in emergency situations such as an escape.

  • Teaching a Parrot Tricks

    Teaching a Parrot Tricks

    Parrot tricks are something that both the bird and the owner derive great pleasure from. But it is important to note that it isn’t just about entertainment. A trained parrot views his ‘performance’ as social interaction, and this will assist both with his tameness and his general well being. If you have more than one bird and keep them in an aviary or birdhouse, this is less of an issue. They will be more ‘wild’ and the only ‘trick’ they need to learn is not biting humans! A single parrot in a cage, however, needs you as his closest friend. The tricks and games you teach him will be part of the cement of that friendship.

    Blue and Gold Macaw tricks
    The key to tricks is having a good relationship with a tame bird, like this Blue-and-Gold Macaw

    The best place to teach tricks is a neutral spot, away from the parrot’s cage and away from distractions. Have a perch standing by – a T-stand or similar. This will be the starting point for all the tricks – the parrot on his perch, and you close by. A supply of treats will be needed too.

    Keep the sessions short, especially in the early days. Watch your bird carefully, and as soon as he stops enjoying the interaction, call a halt.

    Waving

    This is a good first trick to teach your pet. It relies on the bird knowing how to ‘step-up’ (see the Parrot Training Methods section of this guide).

    When the parrot is sitting still on the perch, say “wave!” and offer your finger for a step-up. He will lift a foot to take the step – don’t let him step onto the finger, but move it slowly away. The parrot’s foot will remain in the air for a moment – this is your cue to tell him how clever he is and offer a treat.

    Repeat the routine as many times as your parrot will allow before boredom sets in. Eventually, after a few sessions, the prompt word “wave!” will make the parrot lift his foot. Some birds get it very quickly, others take a little longer. Patience, as ever, is key.

    Turn Around

    With your bird happily settled on his perch and ready for some interaction, hold a treat at eye-level, but well out of reach. Move the treat slowly around the bird, using the words “turn around!” to establish a connection between the action and the command. The parrot will reach out with his beak as your hand moves around him, and he will have to turn his whole body to keep the treat within sight. When first teaching the trick, stop at 180 degrees, and let him have his reward. When he’s done this a few times, complete the 360 degrees. After several run-throughs, your parrot will turn around on command, knowing that a treat awaits.

    Green-winged Macaw tricks training
    Tame Green-Winged Macaw

    Take a Bow

    This is a variant on Turn Around, in which the treat is moved from eye-level down to perch level, with the words “Take a bow!” becoming the cue.

    Play Dead

    This relies on your bird knowing how to ‘step up’ from one perch to another. With the parrot standing on a flat surface, offer your finger as a perch, on his left or right side (rather than head-on). He will reach out with one foot and grip your finger. The trick is to move your finger up and over him so that he ends up on his back. He will be slightly put out the first few times you do this, but offering treats and praise will soon make him realise what’s required. As you carry out the training, use a chosen phrase, such as “play dead” or “lie down”. Some people use a pretend gun sound, but others think that’s in bad taste! Over time, the command will elicit the response.

    Fetch

    This is a great bonding game, and is worth the time it takes for your pet to learn it. When the training is completed, the parrot will respond to “fetch!” by picking up an object, bringing it to you and dropping it in your hand. There are three stages.

    Choose an object suitable for your parrot’s beak size, such as a bright button. Hold it out to your bird until he takes it in his beak. When he does so, say “fetch”. Let him play with the object; and as soon as he drops it say “drop it!” and reward him with a treat. Now put the button on the floor and let him pick it up himself, saying “fetch” when he does so, and “drop it” when he drops it.

    Next, put your hand, palm up, close to the parrot, and try to catch the object when it drops. He will soon come to associate the dropping of the item into your hand with the treat that follows. Alternatively, you can catch it in a bowl, which will then become the parrot’s target for dropping.

    You now need to introduce distance into the game. Toss the object a metre or so away from the bird, and as soon as you see him moving towards it say “fetch”. By now he will have realised that dropping it in your hand (or in the bowl) is a sure way to get a treat, and will scuttle back and deposit it in your general vicinity.

    Yellow-naped Amazon
    Yellow-Naped Amazons can be taught to ‘fetch’

    Sitting on your Shoulder

    This is a great favourite of parrot owners who also happen to be fans of fictitious pirates. The reinforcement command for this one can be something like “Pieces of Eight!” or a pirate laugh; but “Come on then!” or similar is just as good! It relies on your bird being confident perching on your finger or hand. Gently move him to your shoulder and ease him on, using the chosen command and rewarding him with a treat. Once he’s happy sitting there, you can introduce movement. Walk slowly, encouraging him all the time. In the first instance stop after three or four steps and offer a treat, increasing the distance over time. Avoid loud noises, and tell everyone else in the house what you’re doing, to avoid sudden noisy intrusions. After a few weeks the parrot will feel safe and secure on your shoulder (or head – that’s another alternative), and may even allow you to move from room to room.

    Dancing

    This is the easiest trick of all – as long as your parrot cooperates! Choose some suitable dance music, and move around to it. Your pet will watch you with great interest, and will – usually – eventually join in by bobbing his head or stepping from foot to foot on his perch. If necessary, show him a video of other parrots ‘dancing’ (YouTube is packed with this kind of stuff!).

    Blue-and-gold macaw playing
    Macaws are playful pets

    Other Tricks

    Apparently complicated manoeuvres such as skateboarding, vehicle-riding and scaling ladders are all just variants on the step-up trick, in which the parrot learns to step from one perch to another. Where motion is involved in the trick, such as in a toy car or bike, start slowly and gently, as in the Perching on Shoulder training mentioned above.

  • Owning a Pet Increases Chance of Happiness, Says Study

    Owning a Pet Increases Chance of Happiness, Says Study

    Pet owners are also more likely to be married, have a child, bag themselves a university degree and have found their perfect job

    Owning a pet increases your chances of being happy and successful, according to a study.

    Experts who polled 1,000 dog and cat owners over the age of 55, and 1,000 adults of the same age without a pet, found those with canine and feline companionships were twice as likely to consider themselves a success.

    In addition, pet owners are more likely to be married, have a child, bag themselves a university degree and have found their perfect job.

    Pet owners also do almost double the amount of exercise – raising their heart rate five times a week compared to just three times for non-pet owners – and nine in 10 owners believe their pet is good for their health and wellbeing.

    The study revealed owners of cats and dogs are more likely to volunteer for a charity, and go on a dream holiday.

    But those without pets are more likely to have paid off their mortgage (69 per cent compared to 60 per cent) and retire earlier (46 per cent compared to 35 per cent).

    Researchers also found pets bring laughter to six in 10 owners, and seven in 10 feel more relaxed in their company.

    While 43 per cent value their dog or cat as it means they always have someone to talk to, 16 per cent went as far as to say that if it wasn’t for their pet, they wouldn’t ever speak to anyone.

    And half of those surveyed, through OnePoll.com, admit they never feel lonely due to having a pet, while the same percentage always look forward to getting home to see them.

    For 45 per cent, their pet is the main reason they exercise and another 31 per cent claim that having a pet gives them a purpose in life.

    Psychologist and author, Corinne Sweet, said: “The psychological and emotional benefits of pet ownership are well-known among mental health professionals.

    Having a close bond with a domestic animal can boost ‘feel good’ biochemicals such as endorphins and oxytocin; which can make owners feel more relaxed, calmer and happier at home.