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From teaching your cat a new language to riding older horses — your pet queries answered

HE is on a mission to help our pets. . . and she is here to answer YOUR questions.

Sean, who is the head vet at tailored pet food firm, has helped with owners’ queries for ten years. He says: “If your pet is acting funny or is under the weather, or you want to know about nutrition or exercise, just ask. I can help keep pets happy and healthy.”


Today our pet vet helps a cat owner who wants to teach her pet English commandsCredit: Getty
Sean McCormack, head vet at, promises he can 'help keep pets happy and healthy'


Sean McCormack, head vet at, promises he can ‘help keep pets happy and healthy’Credit: Doug Seeburg – The Sun

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

Zimba’s previous owners explained he only understands Tamil, the language they speak at home.

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

Any ideas how we can avoid splurging our kitty on tech while helping our cat?

Elizabeth Dolding, Sevenoaks, Kent

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

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

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

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

Q) MY dachshund Ted hardly ever makes a noise but if he sees a bigger dog, like a husky, he goes crazy and barks like mad.

Is he genuinely being aggressive, or is he saying, “Stay away” because he’s frightened?

And any tips on how to explain his barking to other dog owners?

Peter Kemp, Runcorn, Cheshire

Sean says: Dachshunds are feisty little souls.

Usually this behavior is defensive and says: “Back off, I’m not comfortable with you. Don’t come any closer.”

A behavior will only continue if it works, so when the other dog retreats, the barking dog thinks: “Phew! It worked, I’ll do it next time.”

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

I see far too many dachshunds — a trendy breed — being carried around and babied, which predisposes an already mouthy breed to this behaviour.

To correct it requires techniques such as response substitution and desensitisation, often with a behaviourist’s help.

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


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

Q) IS it OK for me to ride an elderly horse?

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

My horse Rio is not as supple or agile as she used to be and I don’t want to risk injury with long rides.

But some light exercise would probably be good for her. Is eleven a week enough?

Jo Banham, Guildford, Surrey

Sean says: I can’t advise exactly what is suitable for Rio as I haven’t examined her.

Your “not as supple” might differ from other assessments.

Your vet will be able to advise on a tailored exercise plan.

But in general, I agree—regular exercise is good for older animals. It keeps joints mobile and their muscles working well.

That might mean not riding her any more but could involve some sand work, light lunging or just walking Rio in hand. provides tailor-made nutritional food for pets

6 provides tailor-made nutritional food for pets

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

He used to like his treats and I’d like to know if there is a suitable treat we could give him.

Tina StoreyHessle, East Yorks

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

Certain food ingredients could predispose Sooty to forming them again but it is stone-specific.

Ask your vet for a list of acceptable treats. In some cases, you have to be really strict and take some of his kibble or wet food from his daily allowance and only use that as treats.

It may seem boring for humans to eat the same couple of foods all the time but cats don’t mind.

stars of the week

PETS Ham Solo and Piggles love walkies and performing 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 performing tricks


Ham Solo and Piggles love walkies and performing tricksCredit: Not known, clear with picture desk

Emily and Sam have taught the pair the commands “come” and “spin”.

Now Piggles, the black pig, and his pal are in training to wear special harnesses for walkies.

Sam, who has taken advice from his vet and is an advocate of ethical pet ownership, reveals: “They are mad about watermelon.

“Many of their skills revolve around food. If something’s related to eating, it is guaranteed they are in.”

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

She says: “Much like dogs, pigs are intelligent, empathic and very enthusiastic. They make perfect pets.”

WIN: Charger frame

ENJOY a pic of your pet as your phone charges.

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Pooch names get princely touch

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

In a poll to mark National Pet Month, Milo and Bella proved 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 male dogs.

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

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

No puppies were registered as Kate last year, although “Duchess” placed 221st among female names.

Tom Vaughan of said: “It is fascinating to see the shift in pet names each year and the impact popular culture and everyday life can have on the names we give to our family 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 appear to have had a significant role over the last few years.”

Coronavirus inspired names for the first time, with Pfizer at 5,415th place – more popular than Meghan and Elizabeth.

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