The world’s first truly interactive ebook about cats

May 25th, 2012

The Interactive A-Z Guide To Famous Cats Cover.indd
How it came about
I wanted to use the strength of the technology to help people, in a way that just hasn’t been possible for authors before. There’s a double search function built into this ebook, so that you can search very easily through over 400 separate entries.

The world’s first truly interactive feline ebook is now available, entitled The Interactive A-Z Guide to Famous Cats. I wanted to use the strength of the technology to help people, in a way that just hasn’t been possible for authors before. There’s a double search function built into this ebook, so that you can search very easily through over 400 separate entries.

You can move forward between cross-references and also go back between individual entries at a single click. This allows you to follow up on a particular thread of interest, whether you want to know about the various cats that have lived in the White House down the years perhaps, or those that were in Top Cat’s gang!

In addition, the cats themselves are divided into different groups. This means that you can sort the entries throughout the book, separating out all the real live cats, fictional cats, cartoon cats, musical cats or simply amazing cats, with a single search command. It means that not only is the book more useful as a result, but it actually becomes more personal too.

Cat sayings and more
Alongside this interactive directory, I’ve also published a companion ebook, called Cats & Us: The World of Famous Cats. This title looks in more detail at the ways in which cats have shaped our world, from feline sayings that have entered our language to symbols and imagery relating to cats. There’s also plenty of coverage of individual cats that have made their mark in the world as well, with the text extending to over 26,000 words.

Both these titles are available in Kindle format from Amazon, as well as through the iBookstore, Barnes & Noble’s NOOK programme and through the Kobo network.

Animal grief: how animals mourn

November 5th, 2011

Animal Grief - how animals mourn

Animal Grief - how animals mourn

Many thanks to Jude and Paul and the team at Hubble & Hattie for this promo video and their help with the book, not to mention Si Dunn for his music – now available on iTunes. See the video here:-

Watch Animal Grief: How Animals Mourn now on YouTube

Don’t laugh next time someone tells you that animals can feel grief. There’s now the science to prove it.

The dolphins at Monkey Mia

February 13th, 2011

If you’re looking for an amazing encounter with wildlife at close quarters, and are heading to western Australia, plan your route carefully! Driving along the dirt road to Monkey Mia, close to the town of Denham, some 800km (500ml) north of Perth in Australia will lead to an opportunity for a truly unique encounter with wild dolphins. A small group of these marine mammals living in the area actually swim into the shore on a regular basis and allow themselves to be touched by people – an event that happens nowhere else in the world.

One of the dolphins at Monkey Mia.

One of the dolphins at Monkey Mia.

The origins of this strange liaison date back over 30 years, when one of the bottlenose dolphins living in Shark Bay started to drive fish into shallow water beneath the wooden fishing jetty, making it simple for the fishermen to make a good catch. They showed their gratitude by throwing some of the fish back to the dolphin. Gradually, this became something of a regular event, and Old Charley, as he was christened, became a local celebrity.

Other dolphins in the vicinity were soon attracted to this part of the bay where the pickings were easy, but it was not until 1964 that a teenager on holiday in the area persuaded an old toothless dolphin nicknamed Old Speckled Belly to take fish from her hand while she stood in shallow water close to the jetty. This dolphin then allowed herself to be fed by other people in a similar way.

By the time that Wilf and Hazel Mason took over the caravan park next to the shore in 1975, the dolphins had become regular visitors. News of their readiness to associate with people has spread, and today, the campsite has grown into a tourist attraction, drawing visitors from all over the world. Every day, the park ranger heads down to the shore around seven o’clock in the morning, when the dolphins are most likely to make an appearance. The eager crowd of visitors are organised into a line in the shallows and wait in anticipation.

The dolphins usually first reveal their presence by leaping out of the water further out to sea. As they approach the beach, the dolphins then readily accept the greetings from the people there, allowing themselves to be stroked and taking fish from the hand. Sometimes, mother dolphins bring their young, and so knowledge about this encounter has been handed down through the generations. Just as Old Charley had usually swum off by 8.30am, those visiting the beach today still adhere to his routine, so that if there has not been a sighting of the dolphins by this stage, they are unlikely to be seen that day.

Out of an estimated population of some 150 dolphins in the Shark Bay area however, less than a dozen will venture inshore to the beach. They can all be recognised by individual marks and nicks on the bodies and fins, allowing scientists to monitor their comings and goings, but no-one can yet explain as to why some are ready to associate closely with humans in this way. The fact that these dolphins do not swim away as soon as they have eaten suggests that they enjoy aspects of human contact, beyond the obvious attraction of food.

Dangerous substances for cats

September 25th, 2010

A surprising number of household products and remedies, including aspirin, are poisonous to cats, and so it’s never advisable to treat a sick cat without seeking veterinary advice first. Other dangers include anti-freeze, which cats like to drink, even though it will cause kidney failure. Be sure to keep all such chemicals out of reach of cats around the home. If you suspect that your cat might have ingested a poisonous substance, you may be able to give it salt water to make it vomit, based on your vet’s advice. But never try to make a cat sick if you suspect that it has drunk a corrosive substance.

Touching tributes

August 11th, 2010

The degree of loyalty which dogs can display towards their owners can be truly remarkable. In Japan, near Shibuya train station, there’s a sculpture to a special dog, paid for by public donations. It is a tribute to the devotion of Hachiko, who was a Japanese Akita.

Hachiko used to walk to the station with his owner each morning, and would then return to accompany him home in the evening. Even though the professor died suddenly at Tokyo university during 1925, Hachiko continued this journey back and forth to the station every day for a further 10 years, in the hope that they would be reunited.

In its own way, this simple gravestone in an Edinburgh churchyard is just as poignant, even though the events surrounding it are not well-known, especially when compared with the case of Greyfriars Bobby – this Scottish city’s most famous canine resident.

© kyz

Commemorative stone © kyz

Commemorative stone

The engraved inscription on the stone tells of the death of an elderly shepherd in 1795, but that is only part of the story. John Foord became caught up in a fierce snowstorm on Corstorphine hill in February that year, while tending his sheep. When he was found after the blizzard, he was lying dead near a rock, with the body of his sheepdog at his side.

His friends then decided to bring the rock down the hill, and cut it to create this tombstone. They also placed the smaller stone alongside it, to commemorate the death of John Foord’s faithful canine companion, who stayed with him right to the end.

Dog Photographer of the Year

July 19th, 2010

The 2010 Dog Photographer of the Year competition has been launched, and it’s easy to take part. For full details, call 020 7518 1035/1009. Entries should be accompanied by a donation of £3.50, with all monies raised going to the Kennel Club Charitable Trust, which funds a wide variety of work ranging from research into canine diseases to welfare initiatives and the promotion of support dogs which work closely alongside people.

The winning photographs will be put on display at Discover Dogs, London’s leading canine event which takes place at Earls Court in November, and the overall winner will be placed on the front cover of the Kennel Gazette, the flagship monthly publication of the Kennel Club. Winners from each category will be presented with a framed print of their photograph.

There are four categories:-
* Dogs at Work
* Dog at Play
* Dog Portrait
* Man’s Best Friend

There is also a special category for entrants under 16, simply called ‘I Love Dogs’ – entry is free in this case.

A Strange-coloured Cat

June 12th, 2010

Unusual silvery colouration in a cat. © kgsz.

Unusual silvery colouration in a cat. © kgsz.

It’s not just dogs like the spotted individual here which can have really unusual markings. Strange patterning can also crop up in cats too! Whereas show breeders have sought to define the colours of bicoloured cats more distinctly, most moggies still have odd white hairs intruding into the adjacent coloured areas of their coat. Yet this particular cat from Poland is a extreme example. The white and black areas in its coat actually merge together to create this highly unusual silvery effect.

Sam the spaniel is back home again!

May 30th, 2010

After vanishing from his home on a farm in the English county of Devon over two and a half years ago, Sam the crossbred spaniel has finally been reunited with his owners, Christine and Ray Robinson. They had been devastated when their beloved pet suddenly disappeared.

Sam the cross-bred spaniel.

Sam the cross-bred spaniel.

Following many months of searching, posting hundreds of “missing” posters through the area and even visiting a psychic, Christine almost gave up hope of ever seeing Sam again, but her husband Ray was confident that they would be reunited as Sam was microchipped. Using a process similar to giving an injection, the tiny microchip – about the size of a grain of rice – is inserted under the skin in the neck. It contains a unique code, which can be read by a special reader.

Sam’s details had been logged with the UK’s largest pet reunification service, known as PetLog, which is run by the Kennel Club. Their database presently contains the details of over 4.2 million pets and their owners, with this figure growing by 40,000 each month. Welfare organisations, dog wardens, veterinary practices and similar groups can trace owners of stray dogs through this scheme, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Sam was finally discovered wandering along the side of a road several miles from where he had last been seen. He was taken to the local pub, in the hope that the landlord might recognise him. When he didn’t, the local dog warden was called and Sam was scanned to see if he had been microchipped.

Christine was amazed and delighted to be reunited with Sam. “It is really fantastic to have him back, and to think that if we hadn’t had him microchipped and his details stored with Petlog, we would never have seen him again. Everyone should have their dog microchipped – it’s such a wonderful service.

“Sam was jumping all over us when we came to pick him up and, as we were approaching the farm, he went wild, tail wagging and running around. He knew exactly where he was! The people who had taken him in had obviously cared for him and treated him well as a family pet. When he left us, he was a healthy gundog, but he has come back slightly overweight. He still enjoys going out with us, although he seems to have forgotten his gundog training.”

*For more information about Petlog, visit

Discover your dog’s ancestry!

May 9th, 2010

Do you have a cross-bred or mongrel but aren’t sure of its origins? It’s always fascinating attempting to work out which particular breeds may originally have contributed to your pet’s make-up. Several years ago, I tried to come up with a formula to identify different characteristics for this purpose. It formed the basis of The Mutt Book : Decoding Your Mutt’s Heritage, which was published in association with the Dogs Trust.

This wasn’t scientific of course, but now, for the first time, you can take the guesswork out of the equation, as a DNA test has just been launched which should reveal your dog’s true origins. All you need to do is to take a swab from your dog’s cheek, which is completely painless and easy to do, and then send it direct to the laboratory.

Within three weeks, you’ll receive your pet’s official ancestry report back. This will be based on a comparison with the DNA of over 170 breeds – the largest database of its type on the market.

Neale Fretwell, director of research and development at Mars Veterinary which has pioneered the test, points out that knowing your dog’s background is important, because there are significant breed differences, not just in terms of appearance but behaviour as well.

“It’s not just about curiosity,” he says. “The smarter you are about your dog’s past, the smarter you can be about his future”. Neale explains that by knowing the breeds which contributed to your pet’s ancestry, so you will be able to meet its feeding, training and exercise requirements more effectively.

The test itself costs £61.29 and is available through Pet-Supermarket. Just click here, visit the site and type ‘DNA Test’ in the search box.

Cat voted leader of UK political party : policy change follows

April 18th, 2010

One cat has risen to lead one of the United Kingdom’s most colourful political parties. The Monster Raving Loony Party was set up in 1983 by a rock musician David Sutch, who was better-known to the public as Screaming Lord Sutch, and campaigned hard at various elections on policies including the abolition of income tax. Following the death of the party founder in 1999, the membership then met to vote for a successor.

The result was a tie between Alan “Howling Laud” Hope, who was acting leader, and his cherished pet, Cat Mandu. The cat was hailed as being responsible for producing the party’s manifesto for the general election of 2001, which consisted of a blank sheet of paper. Sadly, this new era of co-operation in British politics came to a premature end in July 2002, when Cat Mandu was killed by a car crossing the street.

But Cat Mandu lived long enough to see a lasting policy change affecting cats, arising from a proposal put forward by the Monster Raving Loony Party in 1984. Their proposal for pet passports was laughed at by all the mainstream parties at that stage. And yet these were introduced by the British government in 2001 and now cats can travel to the United Kingdom from Europe and a number of other countries without having to spend time in quarantine.

Cat Mandu is just one of cats featured in my book Famous Felines available here from the Pet Info Club shop.

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