From teaching your cat a new language to riding older horses, your pet questions answered

Its mission is to help our pets. . . and is here to answer YOUR questions.

Sean, who is the head veterinarian for a custom pet food company, has been responding to owners’ requests for ten years. He says, “If your pet is acting weird or is under bad weather, or if you want to know more about nutrition or exercise, just ask. I can help keep animals happy and healthy.


Today Our Pet Vet Is Helping A Cat Owner Who Wants To Teach His Pet English CommandsCredit: Getty
Sean McCormack, chief veterinarian at, promises he can


Sean McCormack, chief veterinarian at, promises it can “help keep pets happy and healthy”Credit: Doug Seeburg – The Sun

Q) AFTER seeing a plea to rehome him, I adopted a cat called Zimba to go with the three I already own.

Zimba’s previous owners explained that he only understood Tamil, the language they spoke at home.

We’re thinking of buying a smart speaker so Alexa can translate. But we also don’t want to confuse our other chats with a language change.

Do you have any ideas on how we can avoid splurging on our tech cat while still helping our cat?

Elizabeth Dolding, Sevenoaks, Kent

From fighting gerbils to keeping koi carp - your pet questions answered
From brushing a cat's teeth to bathing a dog - your pet questions answered

Sean says: As long as you are consistent and keep commands or sentences short while talking to Zimba, he will learn English quickly.

Animals do this by associating your words with specific results, so if you say, “Dinner time!” before you open the pantry and prepare his dinner, he will quickly understand what this means.

Adding a new language to the mix could end in confusion for all cats. Or they will all become bilingual! Your choice.

Q) MY Dachshund Ted hardly ever makes a sound but if he sees a bigger dog like a husky he goes crazy and barks like crazy.

Is he really aggressive or is he saying “stay away” because he’s scared?

And any tips for explaining his barking to other dog owners?

Peter Kemp, Runcorn, Cheshire

Sean says: Dachshunds are feisty little souls.

Usually this behavior is defensive and says, “Stand back, I’m not comfortable with you. Don’t come any closer.

A behavior will only last if it works, so when the other dog backs away, the barking dog thinks, “Phew! It worked, I will do it next time.

Early socialization around dogs of all sizes is essential for puppies.

I see far too many dachshunds – a fashionable breed – being carried around and coddled, which predisposes an already mouthy breed to this behavior.

Correcting it requires techniques such as response substitution and desensitization, often with the help of a behaviorist.

Jo wants to know if it's OK to ride an old horse


Jo wants to know if it’s OK to ride an old horseCredit: Getty

Q) Can I ride an older horse?

I know horses are considered geriatric at 18, but they can live much longer.

My Rio horse isn’t as flexible or agile as it used to be and I don’t want to risk injury on long rides.

But a little light exercise would probably do him good. Is once a week enough?

Jo Banham, Guildford, Surrey

Sean says: I can’t say exactly what suits Rio as I haven’t reviewed it.

Your “not as flexible” may differ from other ratings.

Your veterinarian will be able to advise you on a tailored exercise program.

But in general, I agree – regular exercise is good for older pets. It maintains the mobility of the joints and the proper functioning of their muscles.

This could mean not riding her anymore, but could involve arena work, a slight lunge, or just walking Rio by hand. provides tailored nutritional food for pets

6 provides tailored nutritional food for pets

Q) SOOTY, our cat, was recently hospitalized with bladder stones and is now on a special diet.

He loved his treats and I would like to know if there is an appropriate treat we could give him.

Tina floorHessle, East Yorks

Sean says: You will need to ask your vet, as there are different types of bladder stones, made from different minerals.

Certain food ingredients could predispose Sooty to form them again, but that’s stone specific.

Ask your veterinarian for a list of acceptable treats. In some cases, you have to be very strict and remove some of your kibble or wet food from your daily intake and use it only as a treat.

It may seem boring for humans to eat the same foods all the time, but cats don’t care.

Stars of the week

PETS Ham Solo and Piggles love walkies and tricks.

The Instagram piglets are owned by primary school teacher Emily Pridham, 28, from Slough, Berks, and her partner Sam White, 27, a software engineer.

Ham Solo and Piggles love walkies and doing tricks


Ham Solo and Piggles love walkies and doing tricksCredit: Unknown, clear with photo office

Emily and Sam taught the pair the “come” and “turn” commands.

Now Piggles, the black pig, and his buddy are practicing wearing special harnesses for walkies.

Sam, who took his vet’s advice and is an advocate for ethical pet ownership, reveals, “They’re watermelon crazy.

“A lot of their skills revolve around food. If anything is food related, they are guaranteed to be in it.

Olivia Mikhail owns breeder Kew Little Pigs in Amersham, Bucks, where the duo originated.

She says: “Like dogs, pigs are intelligent, empathetic and very enthusiastic. They make perfect pets.

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Dog names take on a princely touch

ARCHIE is the most popular royal name for dogs, Paws & Claws has found.

In a poll to mark National Pet Month, Milo and Bella were found to be the most popular puppy names overall.

Archie is the hottest royal name for dogs, Paws & Claws has found


Archie is the hottest royal name for dogs, Paws & Claws has foundCredit: The Mega Agency

Archie – the name of Harry and Meghan’s two-year-old son – ranked 46th among the male dogs.

This was well ahead of other princely names George (76th), Harry (135th), Louis (166th), William (345th) and Charles (a modest 2,930th).

The figures were collated for Paws & Claws by Agria Pet Insurance, based on 250,000 dogs registered here in 2021.

No puppy was registered as Kate last year, although ‘Duchess’ ranked 221st among female names.

Tom Vaughan from said: “It is fascinating to see the change in pet names every year and the impact that popular culture and everyday life can have on the names we give our pets.

“As with baby names, there will always be ‘classic’ names that appear on the list.

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“But the pandemic and increased interest in the royal family seems to have played a significant role in recent years.”

The names inspired by coronavirus for the first time, with Pfizer in 5,415th place – more popular than Meghan and Elizabeth.

Clyde P. Johnson