“I saved cash by quitting a student room to become a pet-sitter”

Accommodation is free in exchange for caring for pets, which can save as much as £5,000 a year.

Pet Sitting

My university lecturer is in full flow on my laptop screen. Once upon a time, I’d have been surrounded by fellow students in a lecture hall.

Or, earlier this year, I’d have been cramped at a desk in my shared house. Today, my lecture buddy is a rescue dog named Riya.

I didn’t initially consider house-sitting as an accommodation solution. It was a cheap way to experience a new city, definitely.

When travelling across Australia, I’d sat for pets in exchange for accommodation using the platform Mindahome. It wasn’t until my second year of university that the budgeting dots connected.

I am a student at Royal Holloway, University of London, where a room on campus costs £5,000 a year on average. Despite the teaching for my course finishing in March, campus accommodation
contracts run from September to June, leaving a huge portion of wasted rent.

Similarly, while Egham, where the university is based, has cheaper rented accommodation than central London, most contracts are a year minimum, and you’ll compromise lots for budget-friendly leases.

So, in December, I arrived at the TrustedHousesitters homepage. In exchange for pet care, sitters get free accommodation and occasionally a fridge of food or spending money at the owner’s discretion.

I set notifications for sitting jobs within an hour on public transport from the Royal Holloway, University of London campus and applied for all the suitable dates that came in.

After two weeks, I had secured jobs to cover February and March, so in January I could hand in my one month notice at my shared house.

My first job put me in the company of four labradors: Bean, Frog, Luna and Toby. Their home was a 16th century Tudor house in a village in Surrey, heated entirely by a wood-burning stove and protected from evil spirits by an ancient shoe.

The homeowner even pointed out an original Tudor mural on the living room wall, under which I ended up attending lectures while all four dogs attempted to lie across my lap.

As I write, I am sitting for Riya, who was rehomed from a shelter abroad. She’s quite content to lounge around and only potter out on a daily walk. Riya experiences anxiety when meeting other dogs, especially when they are larger than she is, so I met her owner beforehand for a practice walk. Luckily, in Riya’s case, a quick “good girl” and a well-timed treat soon send the worry away.

After this, I am caring for two rescue dogs that came here from South Africa with their owners, then a cockapoo in a nearby village. That will take me to the end of term – but I’m already scoping out jobs for September.

Using TrustedHousesitters has been straightforward and worked well. It’s a little pricier than other websites, charging £99 a year for a basic sitter membership, but features lots of UK jobs.

The basic sitter membership includes a “vet advice line”, which connects you to a veterinary nurse, while pet-sitting. You can also cancel individual housesits at any stage without repercussions.

Homeowners get home and contents protection included with the £129 standard owner package. This indirectly protects the sitter against accidental damage since the homeowner’s items are covered.

The worst damage I’ve experienced was when Bean, the youngest of the labrador crew, raced me to the postman and won, soaking a letter with drool. But it’s reassuring to know that the properties I am in are protected against more serious incidents.

The downside to a basic membership is that you don’t receive cancellation insurance, or accident and third-party liability insurance. This means that you aren’t protected if the homeowner cancels at the last minute, or if something goes wrong while you’re handling the pets.

I keep a rainy-day fund: a savings buffer so I can book a cheap hostel should a housesit fall through. I also inquire whether owners insure their pets, and check past reviews for signs of recurring problems.

Still, it may be wise to buy the standard sitter membership for £129, which includes accident and third-party liability protection. Or, the premium sitter membership for additional cancellation insurance at £199. Even £199 is a drop in the ocean compared with a year’s rent.

As well as saving me money, there’s a unique sort of enrichment that comes from cleaning cat litter, spotting deer on sunrise dog walks, and managing the excitement of feeding times.

You can sit for cats and dogs, reptiles such as bearded dragons, or even horses or sheep for the more country-inclined sitter. As an animal lover, housesitting enables me to indulge all my Dr Dolittle aspirations.

Am I glad I swapped my share house for housesitting? Absolutely. In what world could most students rent an entire house in London, let alone stay in one for free?

House-sitting has eased the financial pressure on me, and provided me with privacy to study – alongside cute housemates. As I previously spent a couple of years backpacking, I am comfortable with living out of a suitcase, although this is a factor to consider for those who haven’t tried it before.

One other drawback might be that you won’t be able to invite friends to where you’re staying, unless you’ve cleared it with the owners beforehand.

There might be the occasional cancellation hiccup, or a few nights in a hostel if housesitting work dries up. However, resilience, risk management and problem-solving are all beneficial skills to develop. A challenge or an empty bank account? I’ll vote for a challenge every time.

Other pet-sitting sites

Cat in a Flat
Sitter registration fee: Free
Sitter compensation: Sitters are paid and can choose their rates.

Mindahome
Sitter registration fee: £15
Sitter compensation: Sitters are unpaid but receive free accommodation.

Pawshake
Sitter registration fee: Free
Sitter compensation: Sitters are paid and choose their rates.

House Sitters UK
Sitter registration fee: £29
Sitter compensation: Sitters receive free accommodation and can choose whether to charge.

(Article source: The Guardian)

Doggy day care offers cocktails, yoga, discos and nude life drawing – for £37 a day

Barkney Wick in East London is the only doggy day centre of its kind, with owners travelling from the US and Scotland to visit its pup-friendly cocktail bar, dog yoga events and nude life drawing classes.

doggy daycare

The Mirror reports that a café and bar that treats dogs just like humans is welcoming owners from all over the world – after it introduced doggy yoga and nude life drawing.

Barkney Wick in Hackney Wick is a day care and training centre that also homes the UK’s first hound and human cocktail bar, After Bark.

It hosts dog discos, art exhibitions and unusual events, such as Downward Dogs Yoga and Drink and Paw life drawing.

Owner Jamie Swan, 36, launched the revolutionary space in January 2021 and has greeted visitors from the US and Scotland.

She told The Mirror : “When I initially came up with the idea, it seemed rather bonkers to most people, but with so many choosing to welcome dogs into their family during the pandemic, it’s not quite so strange.

“We have had people from New York and Edinburgh visit us. The After Bark bar received worldwide attention when we opened last summer.”

The café and bar is completely plant-based, zero-waste and sources produce from local individuals and businesses in and around East London.

Jamie said: “We aren’t just dog friendly, we are dog focused and dog led. Hounds roam off-lead and have their own menu to order from. “Many of our dog treats are sharable, meaning you can share a cake or other sweet treat with your furry friend when you come to the café.”

So when you order a cappuccino, your dog can have a luxury puppuccino by your side. Dogs can order non-alcoholic ‘pup-tails’ from the menu, such as ‘Sex on the Bitch’ and ‘Howlapaw Sling’, all of which are derived from natural juices and come served on edible coasters.

Some nights see ‘doggy discos’ and birthday parties, where furry guests are treated to LED collars, disco lights and tires filled with treats and balls.

Most of its staff members have dogs of their own who come along to work, including pet parent Jamie, whose pup Wolfgang is nearly two years old.

Known as the ‘Chief Puppy Officer’, Wolfgang can often be found at the welcome desk with Jamie during afternoons. One of the centre’s most popular offerings is its on-site doggy day care, where both full and half day services are available.

From 8am to 5pm, four-legged clients can take part in guided group walks, enrichment games and some well-deserved ‘rest and relaxation’ time. Prices start at £22 for half day services or £37 for full days. And it isn’t just dog owners who frequently visit, but animal lovers without pets of their own too.

Barkney Wick also collects dog food and other donations to give to Bow Food Bank for dogs of those who are struggling financially.

You can keep up-to-date with Barkney Wick on their Facebook and Instagram @barkneywick and @afterbarkbar.

(Article source: The Mirror)

Dog owners face hefty £2,000 fine if they don’t add key detail to pet’s collar

All dogs must wear collar with the owner’s name and address on it when walking in a public place – but adding a mobile phone number to the tag is still optional.

dog collar

The Mirror reports that Dog owners who walk their pets without a tag could be hit with a £2,000 fine.

Under the Control of Dogs Order 1992, all dogs must wear a collar with the owner’s name and address on it when in a public place. However, owners can choose whether to put their phone number on them as well.

A statement from the Blue Cross reads: “Even if your dog is microchipped, they still need to wear a collar or tag. Exemptions apply for some working dogs. “We recommend you add your mobile number so you can be contacted at any time in case your dog goes missing.”

Those who go against the rules, or fail to update their dog’s details if they move house, could be fined up to £2,000. Owners could also land themselves another £500 fine or criminal prosecution if they do not microchip and register their dog on an approved database.

The Blue Cross statement adds: “Puppies must be microchipped before they go to their new homes, with the breeder being the first registered keeper. “They are breaking the law if they do not register the puppy by the time they are eight-weeks-old. “Breeders should also pass on correct microchip paperwork to the new owner when the puppy goes home.

“The law applies to dogs and puppies over the age of eight weeks. Exemptions are available if a vet believes there is a valid health reason not to microchip a dog. “The vet must issue the owner with a certificate of exemption in this instance.

“Owners are required to keep their pets’ details up to date, for example if they move house. “If you rehome your dog to someone else, you must give the new owner the correct microchip registration paperwork so that they can contact the database and register as the dog’s new owner.”

Despite the law threatening fines of up to £2,000 for walking a dog without a correct tag, those caught out usually end up paying around £200. In 2018, a dog who was picked up without a collar on near Sapcote, East Midlands, leaving their owner a fine of £50, with £50 costs and a £30 victim surcharge for admitting the offence.

(Article source: The Mirror)

Gold digger: Retriever puppy digs up sovereign coins worth £6,000 on first walk

A family’s new puppy became a gold digger when it discovered several sovereign coins worth almost £6,000.

Gold Digger

Metro reports that Adam Clark, 51, bought Ollie as a surprise for his nine-year-old daughter Alicia a month ago.

The dog is a lagotto romagnolo – a type of water retriever which is notorious for digging, especially for truffles.

And on March 30 he certainly made his weight in gold by discovering 15 coins likely dating back to the 19th century on his first walk with his new family. Adam, from Blackpool in Lancashire, said: ‘When we got him we thought he seemed special.

‘Alicia was over the moon and we couldn’t wait to take him out for his first walk around the gala fields. ‘We’d literally been walking for around 10 minutes when Ollie suddenly stopped and started frantically digging away at the soil. ‘That’s when he uncovered the pile of gold pieces – I couldn’t quite believe it.

‘The treasure is one thing, but, the fact is, I’ve bought myself my very own gold hunter, and I cannot wait to take him out again. ‘He is obviously a very special pup and I’m thrilled with what he brings to the table – quite literally!’

Adam, who works in property, took the gold coins to be examined by leading gold dealer Chards, which is based in Blackpool. They were valued at a staggering £5,943.96.

Although Adam and his partner Kim Mcguire, 37, are delighted by the find, they believe the real prize is Ollie. ‘I have an allergy to animal hair so we were restricted on what dog we could get,’ he added.

‘After Alicia researched online she found out Ollie’s breed is hypoallergenic and doesn’t malt so he was safe for me.

‘We got him from a breeder in Manchester and my daughter connected with him instantly – they’re best friends.

‘He cost me £2,000 so after sniffing out the gold he tripled my investment which is always a bonus!’

(Article source: Metro)

Secrets of the cat walk: why some pet owners are taking their feline friends out on a leash

Pet cats are a major threat to native wildlife so councils in Australia are cracking down – but some kitties can still enjoy an outdoor stroll, as long as they’re leashed.

Cat Walk

Some cats, apparently, don’t like being walked on a leash.

But some do, and according to an animal behaviour expert, some cats can be trained to walk on a lead, ensuring they can still enjoy the outdoors.

More council areas are banning cats from roaming around off-leash and threatening native wildlife, so they are being herded inside.

A study has found pet cats kill about 230 million native Australian animals a year. Add in feral cats, and the total is about 1.7 billion native animals. Research suggests cats, wild and domesticated, are responsible for dozens of extinctions, and threaten another 120 species.

Owners in many areas of Australia are being told to keep cats indoors, with some councils implementing curfews and even bans on letting cats out.

From July, all Canberran cats will have to be kept indoors. Greater Bendigo already does that, and the Adelaide Hills brought in similar rules at the start of the year.

In many cases, though, cats are allowed day release – if they’re kept on a leash.

The RSPCA says that, unlike dogs, cats are in charge on a walk: The humans are expected to follow them. (As author Terry Pratchett said: “In ancient times cats were worshipped as gods; they have not forgotten this.”)

Dr Jacqui Ley, a Melbourne specialist in veterinary behavioural medicine, works with animals with mental health problems “to help them become well again”. She says you can teach a tethered cat to walk.

“Some cats like going out for a walk on the lead,” she says. “They’re just like people. Some are much more sociable, outgoing, and some … like to stay home. “The trick is for the human carers, guardians and owners to figure out what sort of cat theirs is and whether or not they’re going to like it.”

She concedes training a cat to walk on a lead may not be a fast process. First, find a cat harness – they’re available online, and at a range of pet stores – and it must be a harness. A cat collar won’t cut it. Then let your moggy pad about the house with it on, while it gets used to it. Treats will help. Then attach a lead to the harness, and move around the house (without pulling on it – kitten gloves, people).

When you think your cat is comfy, try a stroll in the yard first, before heading into the big, wide world and bracing for the occasionally catty glance.

The RSPCA’s policy is that “a leash and harness may be used to walk cats outside the owner’s property under direct supervision”, but goes on to say: “Despite some owners successfully training their cat to walk on a leash, in general the RSPCA does not recommend it”.

New environments can stress a cat, the association says, and an escape-proof enclosure might be a better option. It also warns against taking cats to public parks, but doesn’t specifically mention alleys, litter, or tin roofs.

Vet nurse Nina Gibbins has been diligently trying to teach her two-year-old Burmese cat Summer to walk on a lead. Summer seems deeply contemptuous of the idea that she should obey Gibbins’ directions, but relatively happy to be on a lead.

So to save native wildlife, and to avoid having a fat cat, it might be worth teaching the old mog new tricks.

(Article source: The Guardian)

Cost of living sees more pets abandoned, says charity

Rising living costs are causing record numbers of pet owners to abandon their dogs, according to a charity.

pets abandoned

BBC News reports that Hope Rescue in Llanharan, Rhondda Cynon Taf, said the first four months of this year have been the busiest in its 16-year history.

Sara Rosser, the charity’s head of welfare and adoption, said the centre had taken nearly 300 dogs, nearly double pre-pandemic levels. She said many owners were in a “desperate situation”.

Ms Rosser told Radio Wales Breakfast: “We’re still seeing quite a high number of dogs that appear to be deliberately abandoned that are coming in to us as strays. “We’re then finding out that actually it was the owners who brought them in to us so they were in a desperate situation, felt the only option was to abandon their dogs.”

She added the charity received 20 to 30 calls a day, with many owners saying their financial circumstances have changed.

“We’re seeing quite a few people who are struggling for money, they can’t afford vet bills… they can no longer provide for them,” she said. But with so many sick and elderly dogs in their care, the charity itself is struggling to keep up with rising costs.

“Our vet bills are always a big cost for us, they’re at the moment between £25,000 and £30,000 a month,” said Ms Rosser.

“Our utilities last year were around £4,000 a month, but we are expecting them with the current rises to be around 30% higher than that, so we’re expecting potentially around £60,000 plus for our utilities this year. “It is a worrying time.”

(Article source: BBC News)

Brits encouraged to get rats as pets as they are ‘sociable, intelligent and friendly’

There are around 200,000 pet rats in the UK with the RSPCA receiving more than 670 reports about rats in need last year, in comparison to 221 in 2020.

rats

Forget puppies and kittens, how about having a pet rat in your home?

While they terrify many people and are incorrectly thought of as being dirty, the RSPCA wants to reverse their bad reputation.

They are also looking for new owners for these unwanted rats which they say make “sociable, intelligent and friendly” pets.

Dr Jane Tyson, rat welfare expert, said: “Rats are incredibly intelligent animals who can be trained to count, fetch a ball and high-five a human.

“Some have even been trained to safely locate landmines in war zones so that they can be removed. “

But she added: “Sadly, rats have a bad reputation for being dirty animals but this is not the case. Rats are actually very clean animals and will spend hours grooming themselves. They are also intelligent and highly sociable, forming strong bonds with other rats and with their human companions. They certainly don’t deserve their bad reputation.

“Some people may be put off by the wild rats they see in the street but domesticated rats can make really great pets as they’re clean, friendly and enjoy human company.

“Owners can teach them tricks to keep them stimulated and engaged and can also enjoy relaxing with them on the sofa. I think many people would be surprised by how friendly pets rats can actually be.”

There are around 200,000 pet rats in the UK with the RSPCA receiving more than 670 reports about rats in need last year, in comparison to 221 in 2020.

Dr Vikki Neville from the University of Bristol conducted a survey among more than 650 rat owners to find out how they are cared for at home.

She warned how her research found some cases where rats were not provided with opportunities to explore outside their cage or were not provided with both bedding and nesting materials. Others had never visited a vet.

Dr Neville said: “I hope that we’ll now be able to communicate the importance of these aspects of husbandry with owners so that they can best look after their rats. Rats are such intelligent creatures and are full of personality, just like tiny dogs, and I think they deserve the best life we can give them.”

The RSPCA says rats can suffer from health problems just like any animal, so it’s important to keep an eye on them for potential problems and take them for regular check-ups.

Anyone who can properly care for a rat should consider adopting a rescue in need of a home instead of buying.

These include Rhona, a one-year-old female rat, who was sadly abandoned in a garden with 14 other rats. She has a mild head tilt which has given her the affectionate nickname ‘Wonky’.

Vets at the RSPCA’s Greater Manchester and Salford branch say they believe this is from a previous ear infection which has now healed. She is friendly and playful and needs to be rehomed with her two friends Terri and Cindi in an adult-only house with lots of space for them to explore.

Terri and Cindi are looking for their forever home together. They found themselves at the RSPCA Blackpool branch after their previous owner could no longer care for them. They both enjoy being handled but would benefit from regular human interaction to build up their confidence.

(Article source: The Mirror)

You talkin’ to me? Dogs can identify different languages, study finds

Scientists from Eotvos Lorand University in Hungary trained 18 canines to lay motionless in a brain scanner, where they were played parts of the famous novella The Little Prince in Spanish and Hungarian.

dogs language

Dogs can distinguish between languages when listening to people speak, researchers have found.

Scientists from Eotvos Lorand University in Hungary trained 18 canines to lay motionless in a brain scanner, where they were played parts of famous novella The Little Prince in Spanish and Hungarian.

The dogs taking part had only ever heard one of the two languages before. Their brains displayed different activity patterns depending on whether a familiar or unfamiliar language was spoken, suggesting they could differentiate between the languages.

Author of the study, Laura Cuaya, had the idea when she moved from Mexico to Hungary with border collie Kun-Kun, who had only been spoken to in Spanish. Kun-Kun became one of the dogs included in the landmark experiment.

Senior author of the study Attila Andics said this “showed for the first time that a non-human brain can distinguish between two languages”.

“It is exciting because it reveals that the capacity to learn about the regularities of a language is not uniquely human,” he added, musing it was possible dogs had become better listeners due to living with humans for so long.

“It is exciting because it reveals that the capacity to learn about the regularities of a language is not uniquely human,” he added, musing it was possible dogs had become better listeners due to living with humans for so long.

The dogs were also played scrambled up versions of the book passages to see if they could detect speech separate from non-speech.

Researchers found distinct activity patterns in the animals’ brains when they compared responses to normal speech and the jumbled up versions, however there was no evidence the dogs preferred one or another. The study reports that this was the case whether a familiar or unfamiliar language was used.

Co-author Raul Hernandez-Perez said: “The mechanism underlying this speech detection ability may be different from speech sensitivity in humans: whereas human brains are specially tuned to speech, dog brains may simply detect the naturalness of the sound.”

The research by the university’s Department of Ethology is published in scientific journal NeuroImage.

This comes after a Canadian study found dogs could understand an average of 89 words, the same number as an 18-month-old baby.

(Article source: Sky News)

‘I am utterly in thrall to the beauty of cats’: David Baddiel on his favourite pets

Cats for David Baddiel, with all their furry, funny ways, are an expression of love and a deep link to his now gone parents. Oh, and they’ve got far more personality than those barking, snappy pets.

David Baddiel

My dad died earlier this year. On the upside, we got a new cat. This may sound like a flip gag, and indeed it is, but it also isn’t.

Let me explain. In the 1970s, fathers were not expected to show love to their children.

Or much to their wives. I grew up with my dad and three brothers in a house where familial affection, as we understand it now, was low in the everyday mix.

However: we had a cat. She was called Phomphar. This name was my father’s idea, an onomatopoeic rendition of the noise she made when she was happy, which most people would call purring, but he called phompharing.

This indicates something, which is that if my father did have a softer side, it was shown mainly to the cats. By softer side, what I mean is he would pick them up and aggressively sniff their heads and say “You’re a great beast – what are you?

A great beast, yes you are!” But trust me, for Colin Baddiel, that was effectively a love sonnet.

Cats, therefore, for me are a deep point of connection, with my childhood and with my now gone parents. There was very little beauty in my childhood – this is not a misery memoir-style statement, it’s just a true one about Dollis Hill, northwest London, in the 1970s – but Phomphar was beautiful.

Of course she was. She was a cat. Now, luckily, I have a lot more beauty in my life, and a lot more softness and a lot less gruff, blunt maleness, but I am still utterly in thrall to the beauty of cats.

I am a fundamental atheist, but when I look at one of my cats – I presently have four – curving like a Matisse in a shaft of sunlight, I believe in God. Some people on social media see me as the antichrist, but really, I am the anti-Zouma.

I have never, since I was a child, not had at least one cat. Even when I was at university and living in halls of residence, I smuggled in a stray and fed it regularly.

I also had one when I shared a flat with Frank Skinner. Frank is not a cat man, but he is very committed to comedy, and the name of the tabby who lived with us, arrived at after a short brainstorming session (mainly driven by his extraordinary punning ability) was Chairman Meow.

There are not many hills I am prepared to die on, but that this is the best name ever for a cat is one. One proof is that it – the name, not the cat – was stolen soon after by Will & Grace.

Another is that the first time I took her – Chairman was a her, unlike Zedong, although even if alive today and on Twitter, I doubt he’d have been that big on announcing pronouns – to the vet, and the receptionist asked for the cat’s name, it got in the crowded waiting room a massive laugh.

Obviously, I was very pleased about this, except I noticed the receptionist just wrote down, on her computer, “Meow” – just, as if it were her surname.

Which meant that when I went through to the actual vet and saw him glance at the information on his computer about this new cat, I could tell, from a raised eyebrow, that he was thinking “Meow” – what a sh*t name for a cat.

Supposed to be a writer and comedian and he goes that unoriginal on a cat name? But it felt too late to explain.

It isn’t, however, just about beauty, because cats are not just beautiful (although they really are: what other small animal is a perfect micro-copy of their big version?

When I see Ron, my all ginger polydactyl – he has seven toes – boy, I just think: this is a lion cub. I basically live with a lion cub).

Some of you may be aware that although my day job is still, nominally, comedian, late in my career I’ve been pulled into a type of activism, where I spend much of my time trying to redress various negative stereotypes and myths and bad imaginings that surround a long-maligned group. It may be time however for me to move on from Jews, to cats.

I have got to the age now where the only jobs I want to do are ones I know I’m going to actively enjoy, so I recently suggested to a TV production company, who were keen to hear my ideas, a show called David Baddiel: Cat Man.

The idea being that I – the person in the title – would go round the country visiting people with extraordinary and characterful cats, and they would show me the cats being extraordinary and characterful.

That’s it. I can’t think of a show I’d love to do more.

But what the TV company got back when they pitched this idea to broadcasters was: cats? Extraordinary and characterful?

They just sit around preening themselves. They’re all the same. Now, dogs…

There’s a number of things wrong with this attitude. First, it’s wrong. I mean, it’s just a priori wrong.

Cats have won. In the eternal battle between them and the barking, snappy ones as to who humans prefer being around, there is no doubt that first place has gone to the felines.

People who don’t accept this will point to the fact that in the UK, there are still slightly more dog-owners than cat ones, but these are analogue people who presumably have never heard of the internet.

In 2015 – these are the figures I can find, now it will be 10 times that – there were more than 2m cat videos on YouTube, with an average of 12,000 views each, a higher average than any other category.

So from the point of view of what animals people like to watch and look at on their screens, these TV commissioners genuflecting reflexively towards dogs are just incorrect.

Secondly, it’s wrong. Because cats don’t pander to humans, that doesn’t mean that they are inexpressive.

I’ve really had a lot of them, and each one has been very different and absurdly idiosyncratic. Pip, Ron’s mother, is often lazy and irritable, but will come over all kittenish and adorable if my wife sings her, at a particular pitch, Only You by Yazoo.

Chairman Meow would stick her tongue out at you if you ran your fingers over a comb.

Tiger, Ron’s brother, will grab your attention by tapping you gently on the arm with his paw, which is not unusual in and of itself, but he often becomes uncertain about the tap on the way to the tapping moment and so just stays with his paw poised in the air staring at you in hope and confusion, which is so cute it makes me want to die.

These are just the tips of the various icebergs of personality that a few of the cats I’ve owned display.

Yes, there are some issues with cat ownership. Recently, I went to watch Chelsea play a midweek game and, because I’d be getting back quite late, decided to cook dinner (monkfish in teriyaki sauce) before leaving, thinking, “I’ll just pop that in the microwave when I return.”

I left it in the pan, covered with a bowl and a cake mesh. When I got home, they’d eaten it. Pip, Ron and Tiger had combined so well – presumably they thought, “That’s nice, not only has he left us a meal, he’s set it up as the prize at the end of an entertaining obstacle course”- leaving the bowl and the cake mesh so neatly next to the pan, that I assumed the heist must have been perpetrated by a human.

So I accused my teenage son, who professed he hadn’t done it and that the cats were clearly trying to frame him. And he was right.

But the thing is, I’m always going to forgive them. We take our cats on holiday, and Ron once went missing in the attic of a house we were renting on the day we were meant to leave.

I spent three hours searching among the lung-eroding insulation and dust up there for him. By the time I caught him, we were late, probably going to have to pay a fine, and I was sweating with anxiety. But the minute I saw his face, I still thought: “Ahhh, Ron.”

Cats are not selfish. They are selves, complete, rounded, rich and strange characters, but the idea that they have no empathy – a mistake humans make about animals in general, all part of human exceptionalism, which is what allows us to keep them as pets, but more importantly, eat them – is deeply mistaken. Monkey, a male cat who I gave to my wife when we first got together – I acknowledge this is a bit presumptuous, I mean, a cat’s not just for a one-night stand, he’s for life, or at least, a long chapter within serial monogamy – was one of the nicest beings I’ve ever known.

Once, he appeared upstairs in Morwenna’s study, meowing and meowing. Eventually she got up and he led her downstairs – to where one of our other cats had got his paw stuck under the door. Put that in your well-where-a-child-has-fallen-down and smoke it, Lassie.

Pip is not so nice. She is a grand matriarch and extremely territorial. But she is my daughter Dolly’s cat, chosen by her from a litter we found on Gumtree when she – Dolly – was seven.

Elsewhere, Dolly and I have talked about the fact that she has suffered from an eating disorder. When things have been really bad with my daughter, when she has been at her lowest ebb, without fail, Pip has somehow known, and appeared, and tried – and sometimes, succeeded – to comfort her. It’s unbelievably moving to watch.

On which note. My father’s affection for cats stayed with him even as almost everything else he knew about himself went.

He had two living with him in his last years. After his death, we took in one of them, Zelda, originally Pip’s daughter. We brought her back to her place of birth, and reintroduced her to her family, which really didn’t turn out like Surprise! Surprise!

Unless I missed that episode of Surprise! Surprise! where a mother growled and hissed at her long-lost daughter and then chased her under a cupboard.

But Zelda turns out to have her own personality. She is neat and complex, and eager for human company, so likes to visit us in our bedroom at night.

It turns out there’s nothing more reassuring, when you wake in the night, perhaps tormented by the recent shocking absence of your parent from this world, than feeling the soft weight of his cat on you, and hear her gentle phompharing.

The paperback of David Baddiel’s new children’s book, (The Boy Who Got) Accidentally Famous, is now ready for pre-order. His book, Jews Don’t Count, can be bought for £6.79 at guardianbookshop.com

(Article source: The Guardian)

Nurse who adopted pet pig ‘Wilbur’ in lockdown enjoys walks on promenade with him

A&E nurse Jane Sudds from Blackpool always wanted a pet pig and during the 2020 winter lockdown, she realised she was at the right stage in life to welcome one into her home.

pet pig

The Mirror reports that a nurse who adopted a pet pig “Wilbur” during lockdown now enjoys going for walks on the beach with him and says his favourite thing to do is “follow her around”.

After years of research, the Blackpool local adopted Wilbur, who now lives with her in Blackpool and enjoys walks on the famous beach, Lancs Live reported.

Jane, 32, said Wilbur has settled in quickly and loves his outdoor space as well as snuggling in the living room with her, Pomeranian dog Moo, aged 10, and cat Kitty, aged six.

Jane said: “He is a little monkey.

“He’s really loving and always wants attention, he’s also a proper foodie, strawberries and melon are his favourites.

“His favourite thing to do is to follow me around!

“I think he thinks he’s smaller than he is, but he’s actually quite a heavy lump, but it’s so lovely.”

Jane approached micro pig breeder Kew Little Pigs, who told her she would have to do a pig keeping course, which would teach her all about how to look after Wilbur properly.

When Wilbur arrived he had to stay at home for 20 days and Jane had to apply for a walking licence, outlining specific routes that she would use when she takes Wilbur for his walks.

She said: “There is quite a lot to it, and you have to be sure you have some outside space because many pigs like to be outside for the majority of the time.

“Wilbur just wants to be wherever I am, but he also has his ball pit, mud pit and sandpit in his outside pen.

“When I go to work he enjoys it out there, and Kitty goes outside too so I think she pays him a few visits in the day.

“He really likes to go to the beach, though he didn’t like going in the sea at first.

“He just trots up and down and everyone wants to come and pet him and cuddle him.

“A half-hour walk will always take double the time because of all the people who want to stop and say hello.”

When preparing to adopt Wilbur, Jane took her new responsibilities very seriously, and at the same time her friend Hannah, who lives nearby, adopted Wilbur’s brother Boris.

This means that when either of them wants to go on holiday the other can care for the pigs, after informing the appropriate authorities that their pets will be moved, as they are classed as livestock.

(Story source: The Mirror)