Is your pet thinking what you’re thinking?

Does your dog or cat know when you’re coming home or when your spouse is about to arrive home? Is this in the absence of the usual clues like tyres crunching gravel on a driveway or the noise of a key turning in a lock? Is your dog irritable or anxious hours before thunder and lightening strikes? Well, according to a new book, your dog or cat might just be psychic. 

In his new book ‘The Science of Delusion: Freeing the Spirit of Enquiry’ eminent scientist Dr Rupert Sheldrake argues that animals are in touch with their psychic selves much more than we as humans are. In fact, he states that most animals, including our domesticated pets, are psychic whereas we have lost most of our ‘higher thinking’ abilities because we have chosen to ignore them; at least that’s the case for those of us who live in the Western world.

In the East, the psychic abilities of pets are taken very seriously to the point that in earth-quake prone areas of China, the authorities actually encourage people to report unusual animal behaviour. As a result of such ‘premonitions’, the Chinese have issued warnings that have enabled cities to be evacuated hours before earthquakes hit, saving thousands of lives. 

In a book that seeks to shatter our view of the world, animal telepathy is one of Dr Sheldrake’s key areas of debate. In particular, he argues that animals can anticipate what we are about to do, our moods and behaviours, and react accordingly. He also states that precognition or the ability to anticipate future events including disaster scenarios, is innate to most animals. I am yet to be convinced of the latter but have always believed that my dogs’ possess a Sixth Sense; an ability that we humans have mostly long forgotten or consigned to the hocus pocus category of thought. 

Dr Sheldrake has himself examined over 5000 cases of psychic phenomena in animals including 177 cases of dogs apparently sensing the death or suffering of their absent masters, mainly by howling, whining or whimpering, and 62 cases of cats showing similar signs of distress. 

There is much to be gained from this area of research, including the potential to use animals more frequently in disaster forecasting as well as all the other benefits we will gain from learning to listen to, understand and even communicate with our pets more.

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Calling time on fat cats and podgy pooches

When you’re sitting on the sofa this evening, glance across at the cat or dog curled up beside you and be honest – is he / she a little bit too chubby around the middle, snoozing too much during the day or wheezing when they walk? Do you give in too frequently to that look that cannily seems to say “please feed me, look how cute I am”? Yes, maybe? Well, you’re not alone – and I can also count myself as being guilty of sometimes falling for that look – as this week’s survey by the PDSA reveals that more than one in three dogs and cats are obese, representing a rise of 14 per cent in four years.

The shocking findings into the state of our pets’ waistlines suggest that we are literally loving our pets to death by treating them to sugary snacks and extra titbits. Around half of the owners surveyed thought treats made their pets happy and only two per cent felt guilty when giving their dog or cat a high-calorie snack. We think we would be depriving them if we didn’t give them extra but the fact is that we are tragically helping to send them to an early grave. 

As an over-indulgent dog owner myself, I know that I sometimes give into my dogs winsome stare to “feed me now!” if she wants a chew or one of her choc drops and I have been known to sometimes give her too many treats. However, the cases cited by the PDSA in their study of 11,000 pet owners shows up some really sad cases of dogs, who were found in the survey to be the most over-indulged, with more than six million being fed junk food including takeaways as part of their daily diet. Inevitably, porky pooches and fat felines are the result of such ‘treat time’ with all the health problems including heart disease and diabetes that can result.

Take Bailey the Border Collie, who was regularly fed biscuits and became 60 per cent overweight, and Deco the Golden Labrador, the canine ‘vacuum cleaner’ who ballooned to 8st 6lbs.

Sean Wensley, a senior vet at the PDSA, commented: “With so many pets being fed inappropriate diets, the effect on their health is devastating. Many owners may think that their favourite treats are harmless to pets. This is not the case. Pets need diets that are suitable for their species, age and body-size.”

However, there is hope for the health of the nation’s pets as increasing numbers of pet owners are giving their pets “lifestyle MOTs” and putting them on diets. Lucky the Labrador lost 2 stone 2lbs after going on a ‘weight loss journey’ alongside owner Alyson King while Tigger the cat lost an equally impressive 4lbs and Badger the black and white cat lost 2lbs. You don’t have to deprive them of all treats but try to swap the sugar-loaded cakes and biscuits for dog-friendly low-fat milk biscuits for instance, which is what I am trying to do! So, next time your gaze shifts to the podgy pooch or flabby feline lying next to you on the sofa, you can take this as an excuse to finally kick-start that diet and fitness plan…. perhaps this time together? 

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Why new ‘craze’ chills me to the core!

Now, don’t get wrong, I love my dog and want her with me as long as possible but I do, of course, realise that it’s impossible for her to live a ‘normal’ human lifespan. I know that one day I will be saying a very teary farewell to my best friend. It seems however that a growing number of people just can’t say that final goodbye and are resorting to the only means possible to be with their beloved pets for ever by having them freeze-dried…Yep, that’s right, frozen after death and kept as a very real memento mori.  

This growing trend, which started in the US and is sweeping (apparently) across the world, has seen increasing numbers of the super-devoted or simply plain wacko, paying up to £2500 to have their dog, cat or any other beloved domestic companion animal frozen after death at minus nine degrees using ‘space age’ technology. They are then made to look as if they are ‘just sleeping’ or can be fashioned into ‘life-like’ poses, depending on the owners’ wishes. 

The results as featured on sites such as look eerily life-like and a definite improvement on those pets subjected to taxidermy. I can thoroughly understand the need to keep the adored pet around, but I do think that this new ‘craze’ is a step too far. What next, freeze-drying relatives and having them posed in life-like positions around the house? Perhaps have Uncle Ted pipe in hand reclining in his favourite armchair? Yes, I agree, what a horrible, sick idea! 

But why is it so different with pets whom we once treated as integral members of the family? What about their dignity in death?

A dog or cat is not purely defined by what they look like and I would argue that they are much more purely ‘them’ based on their unique characters and quirks of personality. When what defines them in life has gone, I firmly believe that what you’re left with is a mere shell that resembles the deceased pet but brings none of the joy and pleasure that having a real dog or cat with his / her own unique personality brings. 

In fact, I would have thought that having this constant remember of a beloved deceased pet would, to the vast majority of people, be intensely upsetting. To have a cold shell where once warm blood coursed and a heart beat beneath the fur, where once a tongue could lick a face, where once a paw would twitch in a dream and eyes would ask for food or a walk, would be horible. I, for one, would be in pieces to have that sort of constant reminder. Wouldn’t you?

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Why we’re lucky as dog owners to live in the UK

I recently read an article in a Canadian magazine that celebrated the UK as a land where dogs are really made to feel welcome. The writer described how canines in this ‘happy and welcoming country’ are allowed in pubs, on public transport, off leash in parks; freedoms we as dog owners take for granted in the UK. In the US and Canada, ‘dog parks’ are a fixture, as canines are forbidden to go off-leash in all public places and are not allowed on public transport or in bars or coffee shops. 

The other day, a fellow dog walker Tweeted about how dogs are allowed into Beamish Museum (the grounds, not buildings) and I couldn’t help but respond that this was my dog’s favourite day out. Not only can she enjoy a lovely countryside walk with a difference (time travel to the early 1900s!) but she has also become something of a regular in the museum’s pub, The Sun Inn, where she enjoys nibbles of pork pie and crisps! 

The writer in the Canadian magazine also marveled about dogs in pubs in general and the joy of being able to take our pets on public transport. I have travelled on the East Coast mainline with my dog and she just loves watching the world whoosh by. It’s a freedom that I truly hope we can keep.

I also love the fact that if I need a newspaper or a pint of milk, my local shop allows ‘small’ dogs. My pooch has also become a regular there and gets bits of chew or a little sweet every time she comes in with me. She also likes to say ‘hello’ to everyone she meets, whether that’s at the local shop or at the nearby post office.

While I love our freedoms in this country, I think we could be even more welcoming of our canine friends. France is an even better country for Canadians to emulate for dog friendliness, in my opinion. I have seen small, very well-behaved dogs sitting next to their owners in restaurants waiting for tasty scraps. And wouldn’t it be lovely to be able to walk round Tescos with your dog?! Now, I am in cloud Cuckoo land…!

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Time to crack down on animal cruelty

Two news stories of overwhelming cruelty to animals brought tears to my eyes today and made me despair for our future. At the same time they also made me incredibly angry that we are now in the second decade of the 21st century and yet domestic animals and principally our pets who are rightly and generally regarded by us as ‘members of our family’ are still treated in the eyes of the law as ‘property’. Any offence against them even if it ends in the death of the pet is treated far, far too leniently as an offence against our property, rather like someone bashing in our cars. Something desperately needs to change or I fear that cases of cruelty will continue to rise as there is currently no effective deterrent. 

Back to the news stories in question. The first concerns a 33-year old man involved in a ‘domestic dispute’ who tied a Beagle to the back of his Porsche 911 car and drove seven miles at speed before dumping the mangled body of the poor dog in a lay-by. The man is currently being questioned by police after he handed himself in following the ‘incident’ in Brighton on Sunday evening. There were eyewitness and the man handed himself in clearly in the knowledge that he will merely be fined, cautioned and be free to go. I doubt very much that this clearly sick and depraved person would have ‘handed himself in’ if his punishment would be a certain lengthy jail term. Time will tell what happens to him, but I do at least hope that he is named and shamed by the media, as happened to the vilified woman in Coventry who dumped a cat in a wheelie bin ‘on a whim’ last year.

The second story of the day concerns the rise of ‘cat coursing’, particularly in Northern England and Scotland. Blackburn, West Yorks in particular has seen 15 cats snatched off the streets in recent weeks and used in barbaric blood lust ‘games’ with fighting dogs. The ‘aim’ of the sick and twisted cult sport is to see which dog has the most aggressive tendencies and to bring these out as much as possible…The fighting dogs used are the often maligned Staffies but also Dogue de Bordeaux, Akitas and Shar Pei, in particular. The ‘sport’ is for the ‘enjoyment’ of the groups of people watching, rather like the baying crowds in Roman times watching lions ripping apart Gladiators. But more awful as the poor cats have generally been plucked from loving homes and thrust in to hell.

I for one believe that the time is right now for a re-writing of our law concerning animals so that they are no longer classified as our property, our ‘chattels’. This will mean that the punishment for those involved in cases of animal cruelty will finally fit the crime. 

Come on RSPCA, where is your campaigning spirit these days??

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