From a sneezing rabbit to a shower-obsessed kitty — your pet queries answered


HE is on a mission to help our pets  . . . and is here to answer YOUR questions.

Sean, who is the head vet at tailored pet food firm, has helped with owners’ queries for ten years. He says: “If your pet is acting funny or is under the weather, or you want to know about nutrition or exercise, just ask. I can help keep pets happy and healthy.”

Today Sean helps a rabbit who can’t stop sneezing
Sean McCormack, head vet at, promises he can ‘help keep pets happy and healthy’

Q) MY ginger tomcat, Mr Tiddles, is obsessed with my shower.

He yowls until I let it run for him then he gets in and plays with the water.

He loves dripping taps as well. I thought cats hated water? Should I be worried and is it OK to encourage his weird obsession?

Ernest Hopkins, Stoke

SEAN SAYS: Many cats hate water, but there are those that buck the trend.

However, I think Mr Tiddles is showing a common behaviour.

They prefer to drink from running rather than still water. Metal bowls or hard water can even turn them off drinking still water. Cat water fountain bowls are a great idea to encourage them to drink enough.

But ultimately he’s just messing with you and reminding you who is really in charge in this household.

Q) My male rabbit, Thumper, is about four and keeps having daily loud sneezing fits.

He gives a little jump when he does it, but otherwise does not seem bothered. He eats and drinks normally. Should I be concerned?

David Sullivan, Groby, Leics

SEAN SAYS: Sneezing in rabbits can be caused by several things, some more worrying than others.

I’d need to know how long it has been going on and if it started when something changed, such as new bedding or him coming indoors.

Is there any discharge from his eyes or nose, and if so what colour it is? The breed of rabbit can be important too, because short-faced breeds such as lops can have dental issues that inflame the nose or tear ducts and can lead to sneezing or eye discharge. I’d get him checked by your vet who can ask all these questions and do a thorough physical exam.

Q) I RESCUED Patch (a cross Jack Russell/West Highland terrier) just over a year ago.

He is six and they warned us he had a problem “mouthing”. When he is excited he grabs your wrist in his mouth and won’t let go.

Jean Greenhall, Kingswinford, West Mids

SEAN SAYS: Look up advice on “arousal biting” and teaching dogs “bite inhibition”. Essentially you need to squeak loudly every time he begins to mouth and snap him out of it, like his mother would have done when he was a pup.

You can then offer an alternative toy for him to mouth, or train him to do a totally different behaviour using “response substitution”. provides tailor-made nutritional food for pets provides tailor-made nutritional food for pets

Q) I WAS on a walk with my cocker spaniel Sam, and another dog came over to him, off lead.

The dog was wagging her tail and seemed really friendly but then she attacked Sam and it’s made him anxious.

I’m blaming myself as I always thought a wagging tail meant the dog was friendly and I was caught off-guard. I want to protect Sam more after what happened. Is there anything I can do?

Brenda Jacobs, Northallerton, North Yorks

SEAN SAYS: Poor Sam. It’s a common myth that a wagging tail always means a happy dog.

Actually if it’s a stiff, upright, rigid wagging tail it can be a sign a dog is tense, territorial or anticipating an aggressive interaction as you’ve now learned. The best thing to do is try to allow as many positive interactions with dogs out and about as you can.

If you wrap him up in cotton wool now and shield him from meeting new dogs on walks it’s unlikely his anxiety will get better.

Learning to read other dogs’ body language is important too — there are good videos and articles online.

Star of the week

WINNIE the gentle golden retriever helps children afraid of dogs to get over their worries.

A pandemic puppy boom means more pets are on our streets and green spaces – which is hard for kids who are anxious around them.

Winnie the gentle golden retriever helps children afraid of dogs to get over their worries

But Winnie, owned by dog trainer Debby Lucken, helps reassure them that man’s best friend need not be scary. Proud Debby, 40, from Poole, Dorset, runs Kids Around Dogs and takes Winnie to meet youngsters in person and via video.

She says: “Winnie is so gentle and has helped children all over the UK to feel happy and confident around dogs. I’m very proud of her.”

Feline stressed? Your cat knows

MANY pet owners reckon their animals have been more stressed during the pandemic.

Behaviourist Nicky Trevorrow, of Cats Protection, agrees the past year has been challenging for animals . . . but mostly because of their owners.

Nicky Trevorrow says the past year has been challenging for animals

Nicky said: “Every cat needs sanctuary and space. But with families at home, particularly those with children, it’s been quite overwhelming for them.

“It’s important they have a safe space where they can retreat. Ideally this will be a room with food, water, their bed and litter tray that isn’t accessed by others.

“But you can use a simple cardboard box as a nice hiding place or den. Or clear a shelf, bookcase or windowsill, so they have a place higher up to observe what’s going on.

“If a cat is sleeping, leave them be. They need up to 16 hours rest a day.

“But it’s also important they have play, so take breaks several times a day to de-stress by playing with your cat.”

Nicky added: “They like routine and any cat will struggle with theirs being disrupted. They pick up on our emotions too, so try to consider their needs.
“If you are concerned, speak to your vet.”

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