STUART McMorrow answers your pet problems
Q My cat is about seven, and last year he kind of “moved out”. He refused to come into the house or eat anything we gave him. Recently, he’s started coming back but he’s very thin, and although I’ve wormed him he doesn’t seem to be putting weight back on. I’m worried something could be wrong, but if I try and catch him to take him to the vet I think he’ll run away again. What should I do?
A You do need to take him to see your vet because his weight loss, and behaviour could be due to an underlying medical problem. Your vet will give him a thorough examination and may recommend taking a blood sample to check for certain conditions. If he is found to be well, apart from his low weight, you should ask for advice on why he doesn’t want to come in to your house. Cats are very sensitive to stress, so building work or a new baby in the house could be stressing him, as could other pets.
Q I’ve had my hamster for six months but she’s still very nervous of me and sometimes bites. What can I do to stop her biting me?
A If hamsters aren’t handled daily from a young age they can be scared when they are older and this can cause them to bite. You should always approach her slowly and quietly. Start by placing small pieces of her favourite food in front of you, for her to take. When she starts taking the food confidently, begin offering it from your fingers. Next, offer it from your outstretched palm. Build up with small steps like this, eg lifting your palm slightly while she is on it and then gently cupping your hands. Each step may take a few days, and the whole process may take weeks. Don’t move to the next step until she is confident with the current one. By associating your hands and lifting with something she enjoys (food) you should be able to increase her confidence when being handled. When you have achieved this, remember to always use both of your hands as a scoop and hold her low over a flat surface.
• Stuart McMorrow is based at Edinburgh’s PDSA PetAid Hospital, 26 Hutchison Crossway, 0131-443 6178