Essex

Compost, sprouts and tinsel: The peculiar pet food peccadilloes

Alex Evans
Image caption Writtle University College student Alex Evans discovered piglets have a sweet tooth

Earlier this month Alex Evans, of Writtle University College in Essex, told BBC News how piglets have a penchant for blackcurrant squash - but it turns out they are not the only animals to have quirky taste buds...


Brussels Sprouts

Image copyright Finkley Down Farm
Image caption Cats are not the only animals to enjoy a good plate of Brussels sprouts

Sally Learoyd remembers the day she bought Shandie, a marmalade-and-white kitten, from a market stall in Colchester. It was back in 1970.

And while Shandie is no longer alive, Mrs Learoyd's memories of her cat's curious culinary predilections are as strong as ever.

"When we sat down to have our roast dinners on Sundays she used to be all around my legs brushing past, as cats do.

"She seemed to want a little taste, so we put a little out in a bowl for her and she loved it - even the Brussels and the Yorkshire pudding."

Giving the cat her own diminutive roast dinner became a family tradition.

"Oh she used to tickle us with her roast dinner eating," says Mrs Learoyd. "She lived to about 16 years old, so it did not do her any harm. She did slightly turn her nose up at regular cat food though, after indulging in a good roast."

And while Shandie is no longer with us, her sprout passion is far from dead.

The guinea pigs at Finlay Down Farm in Hampshire appear to love their greens too.


Compost

Image copyright Mark Chester
Image caption British bulldog Wally loves nothing more than compost

Yes, Wally, the four-year-old British bulldog, will happily eat regular dog food (and steak, for that matter).

But it seems his idea of the perfect dessert is not chicken, or a good solid bone, but compost. Regular, plastic-bagged garden centre compost preferably.

His owner Mark Chester, who lives in Southend, says: "He just loves it.

"Leave a bag of compost out and he will be in there. He is a light tan colour and you know when he has been at the compost because his nose is covered in it.

"I have had to put plastic wrappers around the beans to stop him getting at the compost and hanging basket covers around my perennials to keep the dog out.

"On some of the lower level containers I have put silver soil around them to prevent him getting to the compost.

"I take him to the vets about twice a year and he is in great health, so it is not doing him any harm."


Biscuits

Image copyright Wildlife centre
Image caption Polly want a biscuit? Charlie was found by shoppers at Tesco in Dinnington

Lost blue-fronted Amazon parrot Charlie returned home thanks to a humble biscuit.

Missing from the Tropical Butterfly House, Wildlife & Falconry Centre, near Sheffield, last month, the bird was spotted about two miles from home by shoppers at Tesco in Dinnington.

A group of teenagers used a chocolate biscuit to keep her busy while her owners went to retrieve her.

Abigail Carter, of the centre, found the crumb-covered Charlie in a tree munching on the biscuit.

She said although chocolate was not good for parrots, she praised the actions of the youngsters for keeping Charlie occupied for long enough for them to get to her.


Tinsel

Image copyright PDSA
Image caption The silver tinsel strand was found by vets to stretch from Ginge's tongue down to his intestines

Curious cat Ginge, who lives in Stoke-on-Trent, needed veterinarian attention after he thought he would give a metre-long (3ft) length of tinsel a try.

As the BBC reported at the time, Ginge's owner Joanne MacLeod became worried when she found him vomiting and lethargic.

The silver tinsel strand was found by vets to stretch from Ginge's tongue down to his intestines.

Ms MacLeod told the BBC: "Ginge is a curious cat and likes shiny things. He had been chewing away at the silver thread on my scarf and also around the tinsel on the Christmas tree.


Toy Trains

Image copyright PDSA
Image caption Cyril's operation to remove the toy went well, vets said

Earlier this year nine-year-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Cyril, from Torpoint in Cornwall, started vomiting after eating the toy last month, worrying his owner.

He was taken to a PDSA hospital, where an X-ray revealed he had got his paws on a Clarabel toy - a character from Thomas the Tank Engine.

It was removed in emergency surgery.

Vet David Jones, who removed the toy at the pet charity Plymouth hospital, said at the time: "Whenever a dog swallows a foreign object, there is a very real risk of a blockage in the intestines, which could be fatal.

Owner Lesley Mellor, 40, said the family were "really worried" about their dog.


Crab

Image caption My own family's pet dog Molly loves nothing more than crab

And then strangely, in writing this piece, I came across another pet which appeared to have a peculiar pabulum passion - my parents' dog, Molly, who lives in Halifax.

We're used to her getting over-excited by the whiff of woodland. But there's now a new odour in town: crab meat.

The merest hint of crab meat coming up the path sends her into a frenzy.

I knew nothing of this until my father mentioned it in passing.

I have since learned that while she is given crab very sparingly (twice a year), it should actually be cooked first and not served up in its shell (though Molly licks the meat out of the shell like a child devours an ice cream).

And this brings us to the most important issue of all - pet health and safety.

Gudrun Ravetz, president of the British Veterinary Association, said: "Pets are naturally inquisitive, and will hunt out food and drink that can be hazardous to their health.

"On average vets see one case of poisoning every month with the top five cases including foods that are not toxic to humans, but which pose a significant risk to pets.

"From chocolate, grapes and raisins to toxic substances such as rat poison and antifreeze.

"If you suspect your pet may have eaten something they shouldn't, then don't delay in contacting your local vet."

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