What not to feed them: Cats

As with dogs, owners need to take care with what food their cats get their paws on. It is important to become familiar with what might be harmful to your cat’s health and avoid giving them anything that might be a risk. Here is a quick list of what should be avoided:

1. Chocolate:

Theobromine, that nasty substance present in chocolate is deadly if ingested by cats. Luckily cats are not too keen on chocolate but if hungry or curious they may still eat it so make sure and keep it away from reach.

2. Dog food:

Despite a common misconception that dog and cat food are pretty much the same, this is not the case. Cat food contains many nutrients, which are not present in dog food, which are an essential part of their diet.

3. Onion:

Onions when consumed in even small quantities can damage red blood cells and lead to anaemia in cats. It is important to remember that onion powder is in a number of products such as gravy and baby food so these need to be avoided along with other onion based foods.

4. Raw Egg:

Avidin, an enzyme which can decrease the absorption of vitamin B, is found in raw egg whites. This can lead to skin and hair problems in cats.

5. Raw Fish:

Raw fish also contains a harmful enzyme; this one’s called thiaminase which breaks down thiamine (Vitamin B). The lack of thiamine in a cat’s diet can lead to neurological disorders.

6. Milk:

Some cats have it worse then others, but better to be safe than sorry, so unless your cat has been raised on cow milk and never had any problems with diarrhoea or dehydration, then it should be avoided.

7. Mouldy or spoilt foods:

Don’t throw it away, the cat will eat it”. Bad idea. Mould and rotten foods can contain a whole string of toxins which can harm your cat. You wouldn’t eat it yourself, so why feed it to the cat?

8. Bones:

Be careful with meats that can contain bones as they can easily splinter and cause serious internal damage and cats can choke on smaller bones hidden in meat. Remove all bones from foods.

9. Grapes or raisins:

As with dogs, they contain unknown harmful toxins that can damage the liver.

10. Liver:

In small amounts liver can be good for cats but given too often can lead to vitamin a toxicity so be very careful.


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Burgers Zoo , Arnhem , Netherlands

Sorry for the unforgivably long delay between posts! Between job hunting, doctors and a trip to Holland my internet time has been short 🙂

So last week I was in Holland visiting family and enjoying the wonderful food and atmosphere it has to offer and managed to get to the zoo on the one sunny day we had ! Luck! This time around I was eager to go somewhere I hadn’t been before and Burgers zoo came out the winner.

It was the African Penguins or nicknamed “Jackass” penguins who greeted us at the entrance:

Spacious , lots of levels and ample hiding places . . not a bad enclosure.
All out enjoying the afternoon sun !

We carried on into the large indoor complex housing the impressive Desert area. If only our summers could be as warm as it was in here !

Spot the Diamondback rattle snakes in this novel enclosure.
Peccary enclosure 

The Bighorned Sheep chilling out together chewing the cud. 

Everything is spaced out nicely so there is an enjoyable walk but not miles between each enclosure. Indoors I saw my first Manatee which is a very impressive creature (could do with an enclosure re-vamp and extension) and then outdoors in a mixed exhibit with the Sunbears I got my first glimpse of a Binturong an unusual animal which somewhat resembles an undiscovered Pokemon!

Binturong (see even the name sounds like a pokemon)

The Aquarium was enjoyable but as my camera is a little “low tech” and flashes are a no go I haven’t got any presentable snaps so you will just have to check it out yourself sometime! The safari walk was great and as with the desert area it was nice to see the animals from a more natural perspective than through bars.

The Rhino on his way to bully the poor Zebras away from their lunch
The Giraffes and Zebras sharing a snack 

To fit in with the running theme of “animals eating”

All in all it was a brilliant day out and I would recommend a visit to Burgers Zoo. Definitely one of the better zoos in the Netherlands when it comes to keeping it natural and meeting the animals needs.

Lets hope I can get the next post up quicker this time! Once again , SORRY!

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BBC sparks another controversial debate: Foie Gras

In recent weeks on BBC Two’s cookery program “Great British Menu’s” , 2 of the chefs chose Foie Gras as a main ingredient which caused a stream of over 400 complaints requesting that BBC should not promote this ingredient.

Foie Gras basically stands for “fatty liver” and is obtained by force feeding ducks and geese until their livers grow by 6-10 times the normal size. This procedure causes a large amount of stress on the animal and it will usually suffer for weeks up until its slaughter due to internal injuries.

The production of Foie Gras is thankfully banned in the UK however it is still perfectly legal to import and sell and is served up as a delicacy in many restaurants across the UK. In recent years there has been some progress seen as large stores such as Selfridges have taken it off their shelves and large events like the Brit Awards and Wimbledon refuse to sell it to their guests.France is by far the biggest producer however it is also popular in Hungary, Bulgaria, USA, Canada and China. In the USA the state of California has banned the production and sale of Foie Gras and fingers crossed other states will follow with similar actions.

In order to get an idea of the pain and suffering injured by the ducks an Geese raised for Foie Gras I have included a short video made by the APRL last year investigating the conditions behind the scenes at a Foie Gras scene. I warn you it gets pretty graphic:

At the end of the day everyone is entitled to their own opinion however it is always good to know what you are eating and the story behind it. I have included a few links with further information at the bottom of this page.



What not to feed them : Dogs

Bailey - Authors Own

While the urge to hand your dog leftover food and throw them down a scrap or two from your plate at dinner time is not uncommon , it is important to take note that as well as this increasing chances of obesity and undesirable begging behaviours from your pet, a number of food substances can be toxic to your dog. Here is a short list outlining just some of the risk foods:

1.Grapes & Raisins:
In recent years these have been found to be toxic to dogs and lead to kidney failure, all though the reasons why are not yet known.

2.Onions and Garlic:
The toxins present in these break down red blood cells in dogs and in turn can lead to anaemia. These are ingredients found in a lot of foods including gravy so it is vital to keep them away from your pet.

3.Dairy products:
As with cats, dairy products when given to dogs can cause diarrhoea and dehydration so you should always be careful with this.

4.Fatty meats & bones:
It is vital to take care with meat as dogs can easily choke on bits of bone and in addition the bone can splinter inside their digestive tract causing serious harm. The fat and grizzle on meat in large quantities can lead to pancreatitis so if you wish to give your dog leftover meat ensure it is cooked properly, bone free and fat free.

5.Chocolate, Candy and gums:
These are all very harmful to dogs and in large quantities can be lethal. Xylitol, and ingredient found in many sweets can disturb insulin levels in dogs leading to liver failure. Theobromine found in chocolate is poisonous to dogs and this is why chocolate should always be avoided.

Caffeine is like poison to a dog and should at all times be avoided. It is present in coffee, tea, chocolate and a number of soft drinks.

While this one may seem obvious there are still pet owners that slip their dogs a bit of alcohol now and again. Due to their lower body weight and different metabolisms this should be avoided as it doesn’t take much to cause alcohol poisoning in dogs.

8.Yeast dough:
When digested by animals yeast dough can expand in their stomach and cause unease and digestive issues. In turn the yeast can produce alcohol in the dog’s stomach leading to a possibility of alcohol poisoning. Bread is ok to give to dogs in very small quantities as a treat.

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Cheltenham Festival 2012


A full week of glitz, glamour and gambling galour  . . . great right? Not so much . . . . This year’s Cheltenham festival was a blood bath with 5 horse deaths in the opening 2 days. This is hardly justifiable considering it is supposed to be a well organised and regulated sporting event.

This is not the first time death has spelled in the horse racing business in the UK, in fact over 804 horse deaths have been recorded due to racing since March of 2007 alone. This is not counting those slaughtered during the breeding procedures of racing horses (something I will go into at a later date).

Coming back to the Cheltenham races a little known fact (for obvious reasons) is that more horses have died on this particular race track then on any other in the UK over the last 5 years. A statistic that should not be over looked the conditions at this race track need to be seriously reviewed.

The issue of horse racing will always be up for debate, and there will always be people either side pushing for and against but at the very least there needs to be a further push towards better racing standards and loop holes need to be tightened with concerns to the breeding of these powerful animals.

The RSPCA have said they will be investigating the deaths and will also be looking to into the punishment procedures of those accused of “over whipping” or “incorrect whipping” during the races. So far 5 people have been penalised for this offence according to the GaurdianUk

Image Rights:

Image 1: http://www.horsedeathwatch.com/

Spring Lambs ! :-)

Was in England last week visiting friends and it was lambing weekend at Reaseheath College, my favourite time of the year ! 🙂 I have a slight obsession with sheep , all down to my granddad who I helped throughout my childhood with his small flock of 20+ sheep. They all had names and some of them would even come when called by that name which was very handy.

All the mums to be !

With lots of sheep and lambs born every half hour or so , it was definitely my kind of day out:

this little chap just had to be cuddled , he did love a good scratch behind the ear, bit more puppy like then lamb :p
Mummy giving her new born twins a good clean
This new mum has a hard road ahead of her with 3 mouths to feed 🙂 

As well as the lambing event you could also have a look around the Reaseheath Zoo, one of the only times in the year which it is open to the public.

watching carefully over the goings on 

One of the Otters have a good look around 

The giant hissing cockroach , getting a bit bored of being picked up all day

The sun shined for most of the day and it was a nice way to spend a Sunday afternoon , so if you happen to be in Cheshire during Feb/March keep an eye out on them lambing weekend dates 😉

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In search of the smooth newt (L. v. vulgaris)

When I was younger I remember just how common it was for me to find a smooth newt when out exploring the fields. It was on recently reading about the National Newt Survey that I began to wonder if these fascinating little creatures where still as common on our land as they had once been.

I set off this afternoon, wellies on and raincoat zipped, into the fields with my trusted partner by my side to see if I could find us some newts. The first call of course the small stream marking the break between our upper and lower fields. I never failed as a child to find newts sitting on rocks or dipping their toes in the water here so figured it would be the best place to start. Unfortunately after much patience and muddy boots no newts where to be seen.

The small stream
Garfield my trusted companion enjoying the walk

Just up the bank behind the stream there is a bed of rocks and this was once Newt city so easing up quietly towards the rocks eyes peeled was the first success.

Smooth Newt

A female smooth Newt sitting amongst the moss on top of a large rock, she stayed still as a statue with my approach hoping I had not spotted her which was great where my camera was concerned. I was very excited by this find as it was good to know that the smooth newts still resided here, however I was disappointed that I could only find one.

I will try again in a few weeks better when newt finding conditions improve and hopefully this time I will be more successful. On returning it was time to let the dog out for a game of “Just you try and get this toy of me”. She never did get the hang of fetch . . .

come and get me . . .
"don't like fetch, would much rather just roll around and chew it thanks"

Circus Animals: Ban on the horizon

In 2009 Bolivia became the first country to impose a complete ban on using animals be it domestic or wild, in circus acts. In the years to follow Austria, Sweden, Singapore and several other countries followed suit in tightening laws to protect animals in entertainment and banning them from circus use. Early this year Greece joined in by banning animals used for entertainment with the exception of race horses, pet shops, zoo’s and licensed shows.

After over 54 years of performance in a British circus, and evidence of countless beatings and acts of cruelty, Anne the elephant was finally given a new lease on life in April of last year. This was a story that reached households across the UK and even the world as the last performing Elephant in Britain was finally given a better home at Longleat Safari park. This story reached out to people and helped set in motion an attempt at banning the use of animals in circuses across the UK.

Before: Image of Anne the circus elephant being kicked in the stomach (Mail online)
Anne the Elephant enjoying life at Longleat Safari Park : Mail Online

In 2011 MP’s and the British Public all showed their support towards an all out ban on animals used in Circuses; however the government motioned for a licensing system instead. Animals are to a certain extent protected by the Animal Welfare Act 2006 but this is not enough to ensure the welfare of animals in the entertainment business and now in 2012 it has been promised to impose a ban to follow in the footsteps of Greece.

The headline in a newspaper article released by the independent today read “Cameron accused of smoke and mirrors over circus animal’s ban”. Within this article Green Party MP Caroline Lucas said outlined how tax payer’s money is wasted on license regimes rather than just banning the cruel act. While minister for environment Jim Paice said that he would be surprised if a date for the ban was not set by the next elections.

Tiger in it's home at the circus . . 😦 (Mail Online)
a Bengal tiger and her cub , clearly happier then the one above ! (National geographic)

Here’s hoping that the British government sticks to its word this time and listens to its MP’s and the public who are all clearly in support of a ban.

Full articles from the independent and the BBC regarding this subject t be found below:

Independent :


Badger culling: Ireland and the UK

Badger culling has been going on in Ireland over the last 20 years to help stop the spread of Bovine Tuberculosis.

Photo gotten from “This is dairy farming” see link at bottom post (1)

The main method used to cull badgers in Ireland is with the use of snares and the Irish Wildlife Trust have estimated that over 6,000 snares are laid down each night. Once caught in a snare it can take the badger’s hours if not days to die if the traps aren’t checked frequently. As well as the drawn out death of the adult badgers often the badger’s young will slowly starve to death in their sets.

the type of snare used by the Irish government ( Wildlife Extra) 2

As well as snaring several badgers other wildlife and even cats and dogs can just as easily wind up caught in these snares. Below is a photo of a landowner in Ireland with one of his four dogs which all ended up getting snared within a week.

Dog before badger snare was removed (Badger watch Ireland)

While the government insist that the culling is worth it, and that TB is at an all time low, specialist and wildlife organisations question if it is a significant reduction to justify the continuance of this method and want to push forward vaccine programmes as an alternative.

The UK is now planning to run a trial on badger culling in 2 areas in Somerset and Gloucestershire in autumn of this year. Farmers in the designated areas will be given special permission to shoot badgers on sight during a 6 week period, and then they will review the trial and decide on further action. There is also talk of gassing badger sets however this is being frowned upon by welfare groups as it is not planned to first identify the problem sets within an area so in a lot of cases the badgers being culled may not even carry TB.

Over 10 years John Krebs had studied the use of badger culling and its benefits and feels that overall it is an ineffective approach to the TB problem. His advice to the British government would be not to cull however he feels the government have dug themselves into a hole and can’t sit back and do nothing. Bovine Tb is costing farmers and the government millions each year and feels any action at this point is better than no action.

The whole badger culling case the government are putting forward is very sketchy and they do not seem to be taking enough precautions. The badger numbers in Ireland are not even being monitored properly and may even be endangered at this stage. If not eradicating culling completely it is felt amongst most organisations that sufficient research into alternatives and a full badger population survey should first be conducted before any trials are run in the UK.

If you agree with the Irish Wildlife trust and think that it is time to put a stop to badger culling in Ireland please visit their website and help out by signing their petition or becoming a member by following the link below:


Irish wildlife Trust campaign poster

Photos and useful links:

1 : http://www.thisisdairyfarming.com/dairy-farming-facts/browse-all-facts/what-is-bovine-tb.aspx

2: http://www.wildlifeextra.com/go/news/badger-culling.html#cr

Take a look : Antwerpen zoo , Belgium

While working as an Au-Pair in Belgium, my host dad bought me a season ticket to Antwerpen zoo. Found myself spending way too much time there just watching the animals (on my own). While for appeal and variety I must say it’s great, but did feel they were a bit behind the times on the welfare end of things.

The beautiful central station as seen from the zoo

Antwerpen zoo could not be easier to get to, literally step out of the Central Station and there it is to your right. It can be seen from all over the zoo, but luckily not heard so easily. It is so much better when visited on a quiet day, I made the mistake of going one sunny Sunday afternoon and there was not a minute’s peace!

One of my favourite parts of the zoo had to be the Lions as they seemed to be the most content out of most large mammals in the zoo. They recently had a new enclosure built which was so much more spacious then the dreary enclosure they had previous (which was not unlike the tiny Tigers enclosure)

Spacious and enriching Asiatic Lion enclosure compared to . . . . .
the not so great Siberian Tiger enclosure.

All over the zoo the animals tend to be really easy to see and up close. This is great for visitors, maybe not so great for the animals, depending. The avian species of animal in the zoo were mostly housed in old style cages with thick black bars. In several cases it would have been easy for an adult or child to put their hand through the bars. I managed to get this beautiful photo of the Caracara thanks to the dreaded cage :

the stunning Caracara posing 🙂

This was before a somewhat ignorant man decided it would be fun to taunt the bird with his map and pull at him from through the bars, the downside of such enclosures.

the Caracara getting frustrated with the man with no sense . .

There was an avian section which I found to be a very clever use of species specific behaviour towards light. Instead of using a solid barrier they used a light barrier to contain the various species of birds as seen below :

The light controlled bird enclosures

My favourite thing about Antwerpen zoo was simply the quaintness of it all, I can only imagine it to be so much nicer in the spring when flowers and trees are in full might. It had a “city park” feel. Aside from when I was evaluating enclosures and feeling sorry for the animals (my degree’s fault) I really enjoyed just wandering around enjoying the sights and sounds 🙂

One of the buildings and gardens within the Zoo

Overall if you don’t mind crude enclosures, pacing big Cats and swaying Elephants then it isn’t an all bad zoo, nice place to take the family or just go for a wander alone!

Finally because everybody loves penguins . . . :

The attention seeker . .
Yawn !

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