Pet Advice Guides for Pet Owners

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Coping with problem pets can be daunting without good pet advice. If you have encountered aggressive behaviour in dogs, cats who refuse to use their litter trays, overweight pets, nervous behaviour and fear of loud noises, excitability, skin ailments and general poor health, help is at hand. Our Pet advice pages are based on years of work with all sorts of animals. Through our dog adoption services, we have seen all sorts of behavioural problems. Sadly, this usually results in owners getting rid of the problem, often due to many months (even years) of trying to cope. Our aim is to educate, rehabilitate and create harmony between owners and their pets. We provide assistance, help, maybe just a shoulder to lean on, so you can enjoy a balanced, healthy relationship with your pet.

If you have a specific pet problem and would like some advice, let us know.
All our pet advice pages are provided as a free service for you to enjoy. If you find them useful, a small donation is always appreciated.

Fat Cats how to slim them down

cats - ginger tina 5

Although Tina, who came in recently with her sister, has a small pretty face, she has a big body and is overweight.  Too long being a couch potato before she came here perhaps.  Both of these sisters were indoor cats and this can make the problem worse.  They eat and sleep and have a fuss and then do it all again!   Cats who go out chasing birds, hunting mice and eyeing up the fella next door use up a lot of energy and stay slim.

Get some exercise -  We don’t like the idea of frantic playing, it can lead to personality changes.  Making cats run round till they are dizzy may help them to lose weight but it can become addictive.  Chasing a feather duster is fun – for a few minutes at a time.   Provide toys but make sure they are natural and haven’t cost the earth (imports from the other side of the world?   No way)   Few cats can resist some screwed up silver paper or a cotton bobbin on a piece of string.  Playtime will help but it isn’t the complete answer to feline weight loss.

What do you do if your plump pet doesn’t want to play?    An overweight cat will probably just yawn.  He can’t be bothered.   You’ll have to make him  ‘hunt’ for his food.   Put a few mouthfuls of chicken on a saucer and put it at the top of the stairs or in the attic.   The porch?  Garage?  Different locations provide interest and exercise.  No more every ready meals and dishes full of factory made mosh waiting in the kitchen.  It encourages him to sit down and slurp it all up.  There’s a lot of sugar in pet food and the cats love it.  Is it good for them though?   It’s why so many cats are unwell – heart disease, diabetes, shortness of breath, allergies………..

Cut out the carbs    –   Small amounts of lean fresh food – chicken, lamb, beef, ham, fish, sardines, mackerel etc. all help to keep his weight down.  A few teaspoonfuls for each meal. Sometimes finely chopped, other times in chunks for chewing.   Only a few biscuits (if any) they are not a natural food and are full of carbs. Isn’t it a myth that biscuits are good for the teeth – does eating biscuits mean that we don’t have to go to the dentist?   Cats keep their teeth in good shape by chewing chunks of meat so don’t cut it all up too fine.  We put ‘Plaque Off’ on all the cats (and dogs) food – the enzymes in it stop plaque developing and help fetch it off if the teeth are already coated.  (We always have it in stock – it’s invaluable).  Cat biscuits are a factory made convenience food and cats have managed to thrive and stay healthy for thousands of years without them!

Dainty dishes –  Change the size of his dish, no more huge plastic bowls – a dainty china saucer is best for a fat cat – it will encourage you to give him less too.   So what about the actual food?   Shoud you buy special weight-watchers menu even if it is more expensive?   We don’t do this because it doesn’t work, it’s factory made processed convenience food and can leave cats feeling disatissfied.  It’s the quality of food that counts.   Cats haven’t evolved to eat dry biscuits or something out of can or pouch!   Fresh food is best for them and a small, lean piece of protein is more satisfying and beneficial than a dish of moshed up carbohydrates and additives. A cat in his wild state is a carnivore, a mouse for breakfast, some flies as an aperitif, a small bird for lunch and a baby bunny for supper.

Small amounts –  Lean meat or fish will help your cat to slim down, he’ll love it too.  Try chicken, lamb or ham occasionally.  Cooked or raw is fine so long as you don’t give too much.   Feed fish as often as you like, cheap cuts, sardines and mackerel are all good for him and he won’t put on weight.  Don’t forget, it’s small portions only.   A cat needs three meals a day, breakfast, dinner and an evening meal.  A good quality pouch of meat or fish will do if you haven’t any fresh meat in. When he’s back to a svelte shape and is feeling more energetic he could have a full pouch for every meal.

While he’s still a fatty you could hide  a small dish with a sardine in a corner of the spare room – he’ll have to find it – and he will when he’s hungry enough.

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Ponies like to run around in snow

ponies - ruby and daydream

The little ponies like to come out in the snow, they run around and play but then they are soon waiting to come back inside.  They know there is a feed waiting and a rack of hay, it’s warm inside and these little ones soon feel the cold.  A larger, plump and young horse will stand the cold much better but they can only tolerate bad weather for any length of time if they have many acres to roam in and lots of natural shelter.  If there is a wood and thick hedgerows, dips and hollows in the land and a stone barn then they will be alright.  They still need large bales of hay or haylage to feed on and bringing them in overnight is best.   These little ponies need to be in every night.  A quick chase round, a roll in the snow and that’s it – they want to be back inside.

ponies - haylage

ponies in snow

Caring for a Kestrel


birds - kizzy kestrel 4Kestrels are a familiar sight hovering in the air at the side of the motorway.  They are looking for a small rodent, something they can eat.  We’ve had them brought in before, usually injured.  When we’ve patched them up and fed them well, they are released.  One of last year’s is still around, flying free but coming for food, which is wonderful to see.

The one above, who we have called Kizzy, is fit and well so no nursing is needed.  Her circumstances are quite different.  She is a captive bred bird, an imprint who was reared by humans.  Kestrels are often kept as captives even though they wouldn’t be able to catch anything big enough for us humans to eat!   The reasoning behind falconry is for us humans to catch their dinner and a large bird such as a goshawk, a buzzard or Harris Hawk would do this easily.  They pounce on their prey (a rabbit maybe) and give it up when their handler gives them an alternative – a piece of dead chick perhaps.  In the olden days (no supermarkets) this was an important source of getting food.

Our little Kizzy knows none of this.  Her life so far has been one of waiting for a dead chick to be given to her.   She has been tied to a block (perch) by a leash fastened to her legs so she couldn’t fly away.   She chatters to us when sees us – a piercing shriek - feed me please!  Falcons and hawks are popular with enthusiasts but not so much so if they are imprints.   Everyone wants a parent reared bird – they are quiet and never beg for food.  You can get fed up with a large hawk, with a loud call, shouting to you all the time!

The sound Kizzy makes is no problem, it is low enough to be pleasant.  We like to know that she is acknowledging us.   Before she was brought to us she had never flown free, she sat on her perch all the time.  These birds do a lot of sitting around in the wild, but it is on a branch, swaying in the wind and high up in a tree.  Not so good tied to a perch on the ground.

So the first thing we did was to take her jesses (leather strips used to fasten her legs) off and remove the leash also.  We’ve let her go in an aviary (small to start with) where there are lots of branches.  At first she just sat on the floor – she didn’t know what to do.   We put her food on a branch and within a day she was flying up to take it.  Kizzy soon learned how to fly…….. it’s a natural instinct after all.

What’s the long term plan?  Are we to keep Kizzy as a captive bird for the rest of her life?  Crying for food when she sees us?  I don’t think so.  But first we have to get her weight up.   We have to get her fit and able to fly well.   We have to teach her to hunt – and that may be the hardest part of all.

birds - kizzy kestrel 2

Donations towards to the care of our wildlife would be much appreciated.  We need more aviaries, cages and equipment.

If you would like to sponsor Kizzy or other of our wild please send a donation and we’ll send you:

An adoption certificate, Kizzy’s photo and story, a Sanctuary 2015 calendar, our latest Newsletter and regular updates.

£10.00 will help towards Kizzy’s care for a month

£50.00 will buy heat lamps for birds with weakness or injuries

£75.00 will buy a hospital ‘box’

£100.00 will refurbish an aviary

£500.00 will provide a new aviary



Sally still a long way to go

dogs - sally hair 3

Sally has put a lot of weight on and she’s a happy little girl now.  Her skin is soft and not so leathery, which is amazing because it looked as though it could never change.   She still has one or two inflamed spots but not red all over as she was at first.  And her hair is definitely growing back, she has fluffy little tufts in most places now.

Her feet and nails are still a problem, she hates having them touched, probably because they’ve been sore for such a long time.  Taking a bit off at a time doesn’t upset her too much.

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Hair is sprouting through ……

dogs - sally hair

Still a long way to go …….

Derbyshire Times Featuring the Sanctuary

derbys times Dec 14

‘Cats are not just for Christmas’ is the headline in today’s Derbyshire Times – it’s a feature about the dozens of stray cats who have been brought in or dumped here in the run-up to Christmas.  The photo shows volunteer Jodie (on the left) with Leo (a Maine Coon) and Jo, who is a Sanctuary Manageress and also Adoptions Co-ordinator.

Jo is holding Sapphire who was left for dead in our yard a few weeks ago.   Thankfully both cats are recovering now.   A big thank you to the Derbyshire Times who have highlighted the plight of the unwanted cats and featured our need for cat food and donations to help care for them.

Poorly Westie has a haircut

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We all feel better for a wash and brush up and having our hair done and Sally is no exception.  She had a quick wash in warm water and then we trimmed her hair – and doesn’t she look much better?   We don’t do too much with dogs or cats when they first come in and are in a frail condition.  It’s better to let them settle for a day or two.  Just moving to a new home is stress enough, even if they are in much better circumstances.  Sally has settled in well and is much more confident, she knows us all now and loves a fuss and a cuddle.  She has a walk round and is beginning to explore.   She lets us put her cream on and then she goes back in her room and snuggles down in her duvet.

Sally is a sweet and well behaved little girl.   Can we see tiny hairs beginning to grow through the leather skin?  Too soon to say, maybe it’s wishful thinking…

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Thanks to Kate and the rest of the team who are giving Sally so much love and care.

Another abandoned cat

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Isn’t it cruel to just dump a cat somewhere he doesn’t know and where he might not be found?   Last week we had a young cat left out in the rain in our yard.  She was thin and soaking wet, close to death when we found her.   This one has fared a little better, at lest he was put inside.  We found him shut in Reception.   He’s very thin, starving hungry and completely bewildered – Where am I?

Wr urgently need help to feed all these extra mouths – donations of cat food would be very helpful.  Alsoi we have so many cats to take to the vet – vaccinations, health checks, neutering and spaying – even a small donation would be a great help.  Many thanks

He shot up onto a high ledge when we put him in a pen – then came down and began to eat ravenously.   He’s a lovely cat, massive, as bit fluffy, magnificent whiskers.   He has a friendly (although a bit scred at present) temperament.   He looks like a Maine Coone, very handsome and especially lsrge feet.   We’ve called him Leo – he looks a king of the jungle – although not in temperament.  He’s a bit of a wimp!  Where did he come from?   We’d love to know.


Young Hawk is latest arrival

bird - injured Nov

This young hawk was found in a garden at Mansfield and brought in to us before dark.   We were relieved because it was unlikely he would have survived overnight.  Can you come and fetch him was the first question when the concerned people who found the bird rang up?    Unfortunately we can’t do this at present, we don’t have the rescources unfortunately – one day perhaps.

How to pick this fierce, injured and stressed bird up and get him in the a travelling container?      It’s not so difficult though, don’t be afraid of him, he is terrified of you.  The first thing to do get a cardboard box, not too big, if he can flap about he might injure himself more.  It needs to be just right for the bird and his long wings to fit in.  Punch some holes in the sides.  If you do this before putting the bird in you will cause less stress.  This is the biggest killer of a wild bird.   A cat basket will do if you can’t find a box.

We put a few layers of newspaper in the bottom and then a towel on top of the paper.   This give his talons something to grip.  Now you need to get a large towel or soft blanket, a fleece is ideal.  Approach the bird quietly and cover him with the fleece then scoop him up.   He will be in the dark and not likely to struggle.   Watch out for his talons and beak, they need to be completely covered.   He won’t deliberately set out to hurt you but even a baby raptor (bird of prey) has strong and sharp beak and feet.

Pop him into the box, remove the fleece and close the box up.  If you can’t get him in to us straight away, put a few large leaves in a corner of the box and give him some food.   Ideal is a cut up dead chick but ~I guess not many people have those in the fridge!   A small dead mouse would do but some strips of raw meat or a bit of raw mince would do in an emergency.   Place the food on the leaves.    Why leaves?   Wild birds are suspicious of plastic and anything man-made.  Keep it all as natural  as possible.

Food with fur and bones and inners are what the bird needs and will like.   You don’t need to give water and definitely not milk.   The hawk will get all the moisture he needs from meat.   Put him in a warm, quiet place overnight.   If he’s eaten the meat when you look at him in the morning that is a very good sign.   If he hasn’t eaten then he will have to be hand fed to get him going ……. that’s for the experts only!

Our latest arrival has survived the night and is alert.  It looks as though wings and tail feathers are injured.  He ate last night’s mouse so we are hopeful of his recovery.   We’ve called him Manni – a bit feisty (a good sign) and he came from Mansfield!

Little Billy doing better

dogs - little billy 3

It’s early days but there is already an improvement in Little Billy’s condition.  He isn’t howling or shaking or looking so doped.  Being off the medication will help his system to heal and him to recover.   He’s beginning to be a happy little chap, we’ve had smiles and fuss from him, he loves attention and although he is still sleeping a lot, when he’s awake, he’s a sweetie.   Little Billy likes food and has ate everything we’ve put him front of him, so appetite isn’t a problem.  We’re feeding him natural food only and with lots of herbs.

His eyes were pits of blood when he first came in, now the inflammation is going and they are beginning to heal.   This little dog is as good as gold to treat, he lets us put his Aloe Vera gel on the sore places, without a murmur.   It’s soothing and will feel good.

We’ve even been for several small walks today and he’s enjoyed the fresh air and sun – not too far though.   Most of all he likes the love and attention we’re giving him.   And when he’s ready for a nap he puts himself to bed!

Where’s Billy?   When it’s bedtime this is all you can see!

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A poorly little dog

dogs - little billy 4In dogs, as well as humans, health is everything.  We take it for granted until it breaks down.   This is Little Billy, an elderly and poorly Jack Russell, who has been brought in to us because his owners, who have their own health problems, can’t cope with him any more.   He’s been unwell for a long time and has been treated with tranquilizers (diazapam) and steroids.   He’s been getting worse and becoming more distressed, he’s started to howl for long periods and has become incontinent.

Little Billy has Lupus which is a disease of the immune system.  His body has broken down and the skin around his eyes is raw and looks horrific.  When he first came in he looked very miserable.  Lupus can cause the nose and skin in other areas to be raw too.   Little Billly’s condition is challenging but he is such a sweet little chap and we have seen other dogs improve dramatically with a holistic approach.  The other option was for his owners to have him put to sleep, the howling especially was a big difficulty and a sign of extreme unhappiness.   They have another dog and the two of them do not get on.  This may have been making Little Billy worse.  Feeling unhappy can be a cause of ill health.   We’ll make him comfortable (one of our specially cosy duvet beds) and put him on an organic diet.  We’ve stopped the tranquilizers, they aren’t doing him any good anyway.  He’s having lots of love and holistic treatment – it may not work but we’ll give it a try.dogs - little billy 2

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Get well Little Billy ……..recovery prayers please …….