Q My seven-year-old female cat has suddenly started to lick my net curtains! I’ve got two male cats but they don’t do this. Can you explain this behaviour?
A Whenever a change in a pet’s behaviour is noticed they should be taken for a health check. Hormonal conditions, affecting the nervous system or liver disease can all cause unusual behaviour. If she is given a clean bill of health, there may be a behavioural explanation. Some cats will groom as a way of coping with stress and it is possible that this could be directed at the curtains. Cats prefer not to live with other unrelated cats and multi-cat living is a common cause of chronic stress in cats. Owners should provide enough key resources (litter trays, food and water bowls, cat beds) for each cat, plus one spare. Importantly, they should also be spaced out around the house so the cats can avoid each other if they want to.
Q My ferret went missing for a week and thankfully returned, but he has ticks and fleas now. Can I use kitten flea treatment on him?
A Both cat and dog fleas can infest ferrets, and ticks are quite common if they have been out in the countryside. It is necessary to treat them as they can cause intense itchiness, fur loss and crusting skin. There are no drugs licensed for dealing with these parasites in ferrets, so your vet will explain how to use an appropriate medicine safely.
Q My dog has started to scratch herself on her back and she now has large lumps appearing. I have some ragwort growing at the front of my house and I have been told that she may be allergic to it. Is this true?
A Ragwort is well known for being highly toxic if eaten by horses and cattle, but I am not aware of it causing skin disease in dogs. I would be wary about assuming this is the cause of your dog’s lumps. Parasites, such as fleas or mites, are a much more common cause of scratching in dogs, as is a bacterial skin infection or an allergy to something else in your dog’s environment. As there is a variety of possible causes, you need to take your dog to your vet.
• Stuart McMorrow is based at Edinburgh’s PDSA PetAid Hospital, 26 Hutchison Crossway, 0131-443 6178