Vets and Pets

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Stuart McMorrow answers your pet queries

Q: We just rehomed a very timid rescue cat. She is about 18 months old and was found on the streets with two kittens, so we don’t know if she has ever had a proper home. She lets us stroke her but won’t let us lift her up at all; how can we help her get used to this?

A: The key will be to take things very slowly. You should offer her small bits of her favourite food (for example, lean chicken) and let her approach you to take it. Then start stroking her at the same time. Once she’s happy with this, gently place your hand where you would to lift her (but don’t lift her), and let her take the food treat. When she’s relaxed with this, lift her off the ground slightly and put her down. Slowly build up like this, offering the food item and using an encouraging voice at each step. Don’t move on to the next step until she’s relaxed with the one before; this may take weeks or months.

Q: Is it true that spaniels can sometimes have a problem with their brains being squashed because they have been bred to have such small heads?

A: The condition you’re referring to is called syringomyelia, which is particularly common in Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. Dogs with syringomyelia have a skull that is too small for their brain. Their brain is squashed, which puts pressure on the spinal cord and causes pain. Signs can develop at any age, but usually start when they are less than a year old. They include scratching at the neck, squealing in pain and reluctance to exercise.

• Stuart McMorrow is based at Edinburgh’s PDSA PetAid Hospital, 2b Hutchison Crossway, 0131-443 6178