From having pet donkeys to a cardboard box-obsessed cat — your pet queries answered

Family of donkeys outdoors in spring. Couple of donkeys on the meadow

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 someone interested in pet donkeys

Sean McCormack, head vet at, promises he can ‘help keep pets happy and healthy’

Q) ARE donkeys good pets for kids? I’ve always wanted one.
We have a small paddock and we are thinking of going to a rescue centre to find one to join our Shetland pony. Would they mix well?

DAWN MATTHEWS, Liskeard, Cornwall

Sean says: They wouldn’t be my first choice as a children’s pet, as ­ultimately they are an adult respon­sibility and they can live up to 50 years, so they are a serious ­commitment.

Are they good companions for kids? Absolutely, if the adult takes the lead on care.

Are they good companions for horses or ponies? Sort of, but ­actually it’s unfair to keep them singly with horses or ponies.

Donkeys are an entirely different species and need the company of their own kind.

In some countries it’s illegal to keep a single donkey, no matter what other species it has for company.

So if you’re considering taking on a rescue donkey, you should be thinking about taking two at least, if you have enough room.

Q) MY rat Elon Muskrat is getting a bit chubby. Should I put him on a diet?


Sean says: Rats have a “live fast, die young” kind of lifestyle. And obesity is something that can shave off ­precious months.

So yes, I think Elon Muskrat needs a little calorie restriction, and more exercise. Encourage him to become a gym rat.

Q) BOO, my cat, doesn’t seem to want to eat hard food yet she is fine with soft food.

She is ten. I’m wondering if she may have a problem with her teeth.

Should I try to find a cat dentist or will my normal vet be able to help sort her problem?

BEN PRICE, Whitstable, Kent

Sean says: Your normal vet will certainly be able to help, as dental disease in dogs and cats is very ­common.

We see it all the time and it is actually quite easy to treat in the vast majority of cases.

Because we tend not to brush our pets’ teeth as often as our own, it’s pretty much inevitable they will develop dental issues in their lifetime.

It can result in difficulty eating, infections, tooth loss and pain.

It’s one of the reasons we like to give pets an annual health check so we can catch problems early before they get too severe — and very expensive — to treat.

Q) OUR two-year-old male gerbils have started fighting.

The latest one got really nasty and they ended up bloody, so I separated them.

Can I put them back together? Any ideas as to why they don’t get along any more and what I can do?


Sean says: That’s strange because usually bonded pairs will get along for life.

Has anything else changed in the household? Like any new gerbils they can smell?

A change in their enclosure ­perhaps? Anything that could stress them out basically can cause friction over time.

If they continue to fight it’s a welfare issue and I would advocate separating them for the sake of the their own safety.

But first you could try giving them a bigger, more enriched tank with plenty of opportunity to burrow and get out of each other’s space.
I always recommend gerbils have some social interaction.

So if you do need to keep them apart permanently then having their cages side by side where they can see, smell and greet each other, may be a good idea.

Star of the week

Like many feline friends, Tic Tac the cat is obsessed by cardboard boxes

TIC TAC the cat is obsessed by cardboard boxes – like millions of feline friends.

The question “Why do cats like cardboard boxes?” even has its own Facebook page – and experts believe felines like them because they are insulated and offer security.

The six-year-old kitty’s owner Sean Bow, 50, of Plymstock, Devon, said: “Tic Tac has got everything from climbing frames to deluxe scratching posts and cat beds to hang out on.

“But the one thing that makes her truly happy is a cardboard box – and the smaller the better.

“She once squeezed herself into a shallow long box like a little sausage, and went to sleep.”

Animals grieve for her majesty

Some experts believe that our pets will share in the nation’s grief over the loss of the Queen

OUR pets are sharing in the nation’s grief over the loss of the Queen, some experts believe.

Diane James, head of bereavement services for the charity Blue Cross, which runs a dedicated pet grief line, said: “We are currently experiencing something called communal grief for the loss of our Queen so there is an effect on the whole nation. Our ­animals are very much a part of that.

“Dogs tend to be more responsive to emotions. Cats also pick up when you are sad or poorly.

“When you are out riding your horse it will also pick up on this, as animals are very sensitive to their owners’ feelings and emotions, as well as those in the wider community.

“Even the animals in zoos will pick up on people’s ­collective grief.”

She said the Queen’s pets will also experience grief due to the loss of their owner, while millions of people will be experiencing “echo” grief, where emotions from previous losses, human or animal, can resurface.

Diane, owner of spaniels Hero and Chester, said: “We can’t protect our pets from this cumulative national grief but we need to be there to give them the love they deserve.

“Do something with them that they enjoy. For instance, Hero likes his tummy tickled as he sleeps on his back, so he’s getting extra tickles – anything we can do to make them feel safe and secure.”

The Blue Cross Pet Bereavement line is open daily from 8.30am to 8.30pm at 0800 096 6606 or email [email protected].

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