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Your pet subjects; EXPERT NICK MAYS ANSWERS SOME OF THE MANY READERS' QUERIES WE'VE RECEIVED FROM PET LOVERS IN RESPONSE TO OUR POPULAR PAGE ABOUT ANIMAL HEALTH AND WELL-BEING.

ACTIVE TORTOISE

Q I have a tortoise that has not yet hibernated, despite the recent cold weather. What can I do to encourage it?

Very young tortoises do not always hibernate; they have to mature beyond five or 10 years before they settle into a rhythm and, as tortoises can live for 100 years, they have plenty of time to consider the benefits!

Older tortoises usually start to slow up and stop eating from September onwards.

If your tortoise is less than 13 years old, it is most likely to have been born and bred in this country, as the law against importing tortoises without a special licence came into force in 1984. There is a trend for captive-bred tortoises to be less regular in their hibernating than those born in countries where there is a more marked changed of weather. Warmer summers and mild autumns in the UK have also kept many tortoises awake for most of the year.

To encourage hibernation, leave him in a rat-proof box filled with garden debris in a dry place in your garage or garden shed, but don't worry if he stays frisky throughout the winter.

DOGGY TOOTHPASTE

Q My young dog has very embarrassing bad breath. What could be wrong, and what can I do?

A I suspect that your dog is suffering from a build-up of tartar on his teeth, which can, if left unchecked, infect the gums and cause further problems. A sure sign of excessive tartar is the smell you have noticed. Ask your vet to give the dog a dental examination.

Most vets now recommend cleaning dogs' and cats' teeth from an early age. If you start them early they will accept it, and there are now animal toothpastes available in flavours to tempt them into the routine. Experts agree that using a pet toothbrush every other day can save many problems later in the animal's life.

WHY THE SNEER?

Q My cat occasionally curls his lips, narrows his eyes and seems to "sneer" at me. Sometimes he does this when he's about to eat. What's he doing?

A No cause for alarm - your cat is indulging in the very natural act of phlegming. Basically, the cat goes through the procedure you describe to allow natural odours to enter its mouth and come into contact with a special organ in the roof of its mouth named the Jacobson's organ. This is packed with scent receptor cells and allows the cat to build up a detailed "sensual" picture of whatever it is smelling. It is present in many species of animal, including humans, although ours is rudimentary and hardly used.

NESTING NEEDS

Q I have a pair of zebra finches which have started laying eggs. However, they lay them in their food dishes, on the cage floor and even in their bath! How can I make sure that they will look after their eggs and hatch them out successfully?

A Quite simply, by providing them with a proper nest! Small basket nests can be bought from pet shops and these are easily attached to the bars of the birds' cage.

As for nesting material, shredded tissue paper or fresh hay placed in the nest will do fine. If you lay some of this material on the floor of the birds' cage, they will take great pleasure in collecting it and making their nest properly. All being well, you should soon hear the cheep of tiny finches!

Labrador Welfare wish to thank all those who responded to Nick Mays' article in Personal Magazine, November 2. We are still busy finding new homes for dogs, but we do not do this over the Christmas period.

June Roberts, Secretary, Labrador Welfare.

Phone: 0114 266 1756

How to tell if it's Mr Beaky

Q My daughter has recently acquired a pretty blue and white

budgie. How can we tell if it is male or female?

A There is a piece of hardened skin just above the budgie's beak called the cere. It is coloured blue in males and brown in females.

All young budgies have a pale brown cere, whatever their sex, but it develops its proper colour as the budgie matures. Just to make things awkward, however, the cere is brown in both sexes of white and yellow budgies.

Talking of cage birds, if you're one for the birds, why not spread

your wings and flutter along to the National Cage and Aviary Birds Exhibition in Birmingham next weekend?

This is the "Crufts" of the Cage Bird world, and visitors will be able to see the top exhibits amongst thousands of different species of cage birds taking part in the show.

Visitors are greeted by a seven year-old Catalina macaw who opens the show with a cheery wave, while one of the major attractions for parrot fans is the Macaws Direct walk-through aviary - the very latest design in desirable residences for the well-appointed parrot.

The National Cage & Aviary Birds Exhibition, National Exhibition Centre, Birmingham, Saturday December 6 and Sunday, December 7, 1997. Admission prices: adults pounds 8, senior citizens, pounds 6, Children (5 to 16 years of age): pounds 2.50. For a pounds 1 reduction telephone the Advance Booking Hotline on 01460 68686.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Mays, Nick
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Nov 30, 1997
Words:872
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