Sanctuary Life

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Find out about the dogs, cats and four legged friends at the Pet Samaritans Animal Sanctuary in Derbyshire.

Poorly black cat is still with us

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Jet is hanging on and looking much happier today.  She’s still weak and feather-light but is eating and really enjoying her food.  We’re giving her special sensitive feline pate and she licks the plate clean. She’s also having a few spoonfuls of goat’s milk yoghurt on a saucer alongside her food and she slurps it all up.  Jet is a cat with a lovely temperament, she purrs all the time she’s picked up and loves a cuddle.

Jet hasn’t been grooming herself and is raggedy looking even though she’s a smooth haired cat.  Her coat is dull and ‘staring’ which means it sticks up and isn’t glossy.  Although her face looks plump it is only fur and the rest of her is bones almost sticking out of the skin.  How old is she?   In her teens we think but not so old that she should be in this bad sat te.  She’s become very run down.

We’re hoping that’s all it is and she’ll gradually pick up and put weight on.  When she’s stronger she’ll be able to have her teeth cleaned and the bad ones extracted.  It’s puzzling why so many cats need dental work these days and yet they eat so many biscuits.  But then, I suppose if we ate loads of biscuits we’d need to see the dentist too.

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Poorly old cat

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This poorly cat was brought in yesterday, she’d been living as a stray and was too weak to keep going any longer.  She’s only a little cat, very thin and frail and hungry, wolfing her food down in big gulps.  We can’t give her too much at once as she is emaciated so  it’s  little and often. We’ve called her Jet (completely black) and she looks like an old stager, scraggy, unkempt and much too light.  It all might change if she picks up though.  Nothing ages a cat so much as starvation.

Jet’s teeth look dodgy, although not enough to stop her eating and a trip to the vets is next.  Sometimes they can’t do anything about the mouth problems straight away as the cat is too weak to stand the anaesthetic.   Jet looks almost ready to give up but we’re hoping for the best.  She’s warm and comfy and has a full tummy at least.

Does your dog like praise or food best

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Here in the sanctuary we spend our lives, not just looking after dogs, but studying them as well.  There’s no doubt that our canines pals are obsessed with food, it motivates them and they spend a lot of time thinking about it.  If dogs are fed something they don’t much like (such as dry complete) then they aren’t so bothered – just show them some chicken or steak and there’s a big difference – ‘yum, yum, yes please, I want it now’.

Dogs also like to be praised, when they are bonded with us they live for our approval.  Recent studies done at Portsmouth University have suggested that dogs are a bit selfish and only like to find objects that have some importance to them.   So is it true that dogs would rather suit themselves than help us?

We’ve found, after working with dogs for many years, that praise is far more important than anything else to a dog. They love to please us and ‘well done’ is more appreciated than any amount of treats or big dish of meaty dinner.   ‘Good boy’ gets more tail wagging and ‘love you’ smiles than anything else.  Giving both – a piece of chicken and a big fuss, – takes some beating though.


When a kitten is a wild child

kittens - yum yums 5We usually find them in a box left at the gate, or else they’ve been found under a garden shed, we get semi-feral kittens brought in all through the summer.  They are little spitfires at first.  When kittens aren’t socialised in those crucial first weeks, they became wild and frightened.   That’s all their hissing and spitting and scratching is – they are terrified of us.  All they want is to be left alone – so long as we keep putting dishes of food out for them to wolf down and then they’ll scoot away and hide again.

Catching the kitty is the first problem.  They may be tiny but they have sharp teeth and bite as well as scratch.  If you put food out at first without trying to catch her you will establish a rapport.  If you have a cat basket or a shed then you will be able to  lure her inside with a pouch then a hungry kit will forget fear long enough for you to shut the door on her.  You may still have to pick her up  and get her in a cat carrier though.

Don’t try to grab her with bare hands, you are bound to get scratched.  Get set up in advance – with everything you need.  Your first try is the most likely to be successful.  Wear gloves and have a blanket ready-throw it over the kitten and scoop her up and straight into the basket.  She’ll be so busy tangling in the blanket she’ll not get you.  That’s the hope anyway.

A frightened kitten can do a lot of damage, if you do get scratched then soak the wounds with soap and warm water for a good few minutes.  We then soak for ten minutes at least in antiseptic (Savlon or Dettol), Epsom salts is good also.   Cover with a clean cloth and get medical help, cat wounds can become infected and bites are worse than scratches.

We coax the wild-child kittens with food and t.l.c.  We had three pretty little tabbies brought in recently.  They were eating well even though only about four weeks old.  Sadly, one died but the other two are thriving and coming round.  Once they are tame they are just as sweet as the kittens who have been handled from the start.  Some of the friendliest cats here were wild as kittens.  It’s when you make that first breakthrough and they learn that you are giving them dinner and they’re not your dinner, that they relax and start to purr.

Feeding your new kitten

plastic & petsThe most common worry when a kitten goes to a new home is that she won’t eat.  It’s understandable, everything is strange and she doesn’t know anyone – ‘where’s my mommy?’  She may be really hungry but it’s all so different.

The kittens we have ready for adoption are all like little gannets – they are good eaters!  Some of that is sibling rivalry, also they are used to the food we give them.   We’ll tell you what they are used to and what they like best. It sometimes takes a day or two and lots of cuddles to get them going though so don’t panic.

We feed kitten pouches, also kitten biscuits are put out all the time for them to snack on whenever they like.   Kittens like milk but it has to be special kitten milk or goat’s milk which is also easy to digest.  A saucer of milk every day is good for them if they like it.   Also a spoonful or two of goat’s milk yoghurt keeps their tummy healthy and most kittens and adult cats love it.

We also offer lots of fresh food and the kittens love it.   A portion on mince is pounced upon, also lightly cooked white fish (just a few minutes in the microwave and with a splash of goat’s milk to cook it down) or sardines – especially yummy. Chopped chicken goes down well – we have big bags of ready cooked frozen chicken available so you can buy that from us and its much cheaper than buying from the supermarkets.

This all provides variety and gets them away from all the animal derivates (what are they?) and sugar that is so often in processed factory made cat food.  Cats lived very healthy lives in the days when there wasn’t a pet food industry — which is nowadays worth billions of pounds a year to manufacturers.   Little wonder they can afford such  glossy and seductive advertising!

Cats aren’t vegetarians, they need meat and also an amino acid called taurine.  It’s essential for them to have this and it’s why they catch and eat bluebottles and flies – they are a rich source of taurine.  Kittens only need a very small amount but if it’s not available they can suffer from heart disease and blindness.  Premium cat food has taurine in it and other vitamins and minerals.  We like a balanced diet best.

Look for kitten food with human quality ingredients – otherwise you might be feeding your new baby cat with meat from diseased animals, yuk!  We like Nature’s Menu ready raw frozen or pouches best, cats do very well on it, theres no sugar (which a kitten can’t break down and assimilate – it’s put in because it’s addictive!) Nature’s Menu is all natural, human quality and you don’t have the smelly litter trays you get when you feed processed.

You can buy it from us (and widely available in pet shops) we’re very competitive on price, your purchase helps the sanctuary and it’s easy to park and pick up.

Kitten gallery all ready now

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Will you take me home with you?  We have some beautiful kittens ready for adoption, they are all fully vaccinated and vet health checked so there is nothing more needed until it’s time for spaying and neutering, which is when they are fully grown (check with your vet).  The kittens are all fully litter trained, eating well, they love pouches and ‘proper’ food – sardines, fish, mince, chicken etc. and also have  kitten biscuits ad lib.  Kittens need a nice clean dish of water of at all  times, they are thirsty when they eat dry biscuits.  We also give them a saucer of kitten milk or goat’s milk every day, it’s good for their bones.

If you go out to work and have to leave your new addition for a while, you might consider getting two friends or siblings.  It’s good for a youngster to have someone to play with.

We appreciate a donation, which can be gifted through paypal or be a card payment.  Whatever you can give us is very welcome and if it helps to cover the cost of vaccinations, flea and worm treatments and vet health check that is very welcome.   A good home is the first consideration for us though.

If you’d like to come and meet the kittens please get in touch – we’re open every day between 11 and 3.0pm.  Please press the bell on Reception when you arrive (it’s on the right in the top yard.)

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Thanks to Dronfield Junior School

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It’s wonderful to have support from the local community and once again Dronfield Junior School did us proud.  Their end of term Fair was a great success and raised funds to buy a Recovery Incubator for injured Wildlife and also a donation of £304 which we’re putting towards our Field Shelter for the Ponies appeal.  Teacher Mrs. Ford (shown here with Pet Samaritans supervisor Miss Whippet) kindly brought the recovery unit to us and it will soon be in use, we get injured birds and hedgehogs brought in most weeks.  A big thank you to the pupils for all their hard work and to staff and management also for helping us to raise awareness of wildlife and animal welfare issues.

Happy ending for a ginger kitten

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Doesn’t he look happy?   This is ginger kitten Jasper who now has a lovely home and has settled well.   He’s grown and looks very different from the tiny tot who was adopted.

It sometimes takes a day or two for a kitten to adjust to his new home so if your new addition doesn’t eat straight away you have to  do a bit of coaxing.   Please keep in touch, we love to have updates – Jasper looks as though he’s going to be a big lad – look at the size of those paws!

Small dogs are tops in popularity

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Labradors and Retrievers used to be the UK.s most popular dogs but now popular pets are shrinking and it’s the little dogs who are the most popular.  The Kennel Club, who keep a register of pure breed puppies, believes that the size of dogs recorded has fallen by about  a twelve per cent.  The popularity of big dogs has declined and more people want a smaller pet.

We’ve noticed this in the sanctuary too, we find that bigger dogs are much harder to re-home. whereas there are plenty of people who want a Jack Russell or Lakeland   Put a Border Terrier on the pet adoption pages and the site will nearly crash. No matter how good the description of a German Shepherd or Husky there will only be a couple of enquiries (at best).  It could be to do with cost, the small dogs eat less.  They also suit today’s smaller houses and fit in to the car better.   Not many people want the big guys –  size matters, even in breeds of dogs.

How well do microchips work

dogs - toby 1We check every dog or cat brought in to us to see if her or she has a microchip.  It’s compulsory for dogs to be chipped, not so for cats.  However, sometimes we can’t find the chip in the usual place, the back of the neck.  It’s not safe to assume that the dog hasn’t been chipped because occasionally the implant moves.  We have several dogs in at present where their chip is in another part of the body, down a front leg in one case.

Sometimes we get dogs in with two microchips, a recent arrival had one in the neck and another along further his back.  His previous carers thought he wasn’t chipped and had a new one put in.  It was very confusing and took some sorting out.  We don’t  know ho to stop this happening and so far, haven’t met anyone who does.  It makes sense to run the chip scanner all over  the pet’s body just in case though.

Some elderly or frail dogs might not be chipped because they have been exempted, because of their condition usually.  If their skin is thin or they are poorly, it’s just one ordeal too many and the vet  can authorise an exemption certificate.

Another potential problem is in recovering your pet when he or she has been found.   Did you know that the microchipping company won’t give you the details of the new keeper if they don’t give their permission.  This is down to the Data Protection Act, which should surely be modified to cover this eventuality.   A family who lost their cat two years ago  still don’t know where is, even though the chip company know.   The people who found the cat want to keep him and applied to have the chip transferred.  This can ‘t happen because he isn’t their cat.  The original owners (who were overjoyed to learn that he had been found safely) can’t get him back because they can’t get to know where he is or who has him.

It’s only when pets are stolen that the police are involved and the people who are keeping the pet can be compelled to give out their address.  Getting the cat or dog back to his rightful owner should be priority but it seems that there is nothing to be done without the finder’s co-operation.