Ali’s Answers Presents: Chantelle’s Reptiles

I have enlisted the assistance of my friend, Chantelle, in order to try an get more website posts out to you all. As you can tell by the title of this post, Chantelle has a lot of reptiles (and amphibians); she will be writing a few posts about these animals, for Ali’s Answers. Look out for the first post from Chantelle, coming up in the next few days!

You can follow Chantelle on Instagram – @chantellesreptiles and on Facebook – chantelle.sash185

Cat Proofing Your Garden

Dogs and cats are among the most popular pets in Western culture; in the UK dogs are more popular, but in the US cats are more popular. Wherever you live, whether you own a pet or multiple pets or none at all, it’s a lot easier to put up with your owns pets being a nuisance than other peoples pets causing you hassle!

Especially where young children, and proud garden owners, are concerned; wildlife or neighbouring animals using your garden as a litter box is not usually a welcome habit. Cats are notorious for roaming gardens in close proximity to theirs, and marking their territory by urinating and/or defecating to tell other cats and animals in the area that this territory is theirs. However, if you want to let the local cats know that your garden is off limits as part of their territory, and/or as their litter box, there are a few things you can try as cat repellents.

Method #1: Odour Repellents

There are many different odour repellent solutions out there, some of the most common are:

  • Citrus (Fruit Peel or Sprays)
    Reports indicate that this is a good solution, but not necessarily with all cats. Commonly, cats hate citrus; if a cat is chewing furniture for example, a diluted citrus spray is a recommended solution. Citrus Peel or Sprays may be disliked by more than just the cats, but they are not harmful to your plants or you or the cat(s) or any pets you may have. They will, however, need to replenished regularly – spray regularly or put peels out regularly.
  • Lion Faeces (Pellets)
    With no artificial ingredients or any chemicals, that may be harmful to animals, curious children, plants or soil, one application of pellets is said to work for up to approximately 6 months. Even the boldest of the neighbourhood felines, using your garden as a litter box, will not want to cross paths with an apex predator! However, it is not guaranteed to deter all the pesky cats in your neighbourhood, as all animals are individuals (just as we are) and therefore results may vary!
    It is also worth noting that heavy rain can wash these pellets away, so it’s always worth checking if you need to put more out after a downpour!
  • Predator Urine (Granules, Scent Tags or Sprays)
    Much the same as the Lion Faeces pellets, the urine granules or sprays of other predators (higher up in the pecking order than your neighbourhood kitties) is said to deter the pesky pussy cats from marking your garden as their territory.
    The sprays will definitely pack more of a stink to the human nose; wolf urine it is said to smells like hops or cannabis, so the smell may be a factor in picking the predator! Most sprays will also need to be regularly applied, between every 2-3 weeks. Scent tags need to be reapplied every 7-10 days approximately. The granules tend to last around one week; as with the Lion Faeces pellets, these can be washed away with heavy rain, and will need to be reapplied if washed away.
    This can be very harmful to cats; causing illness and (in some forms) can cause liver failure in cats.
    This can be harmful to cats and other animals, and this should be avoided at all costs.

Method #2: Plants as Repellents

  • Lavender
    It’s said that our feline friends dislike the smell of lavender; I am not convinced by this, as I have sold lavender-scented cat litter many times (one customer said her cat wouldn’t use any litter that didn’t smell like lavender)!
    However, if you have enough lavender plants around the perimeter of your garden (covering any “landing areas” cats may jump down to) may work as a deterrent, as cats do not like leaping into the unknown – i.e. if they cannot see a safe place to land, they likely won’t try!
  • Peppermint
    There are mixed viewpoints on the Peppermint plant as a cat repellent; some say cats hate it, some say cats love it, some say it has no effect on cats! This makes it a bit of a gamble, if you choose to try using the plant to deter unwelcome felines. You may end up with more neighbourhood kitties in your garden than you had in the first place, or it may just have no effect – if it does work, this is good, but there are certainly no guarantees that this plant is effective in deterring wandering cats from your garden.
  • Scaredy Cat
    This plant, allegedly, smells so bad that it will repel cats, dogs, rabbits, foxes (and other similar mammals), away from it.The Scaredy Cat plant is said to have an aroma similar to skunk spray; the scent is said to stick to you if you brush up against it. However, there is no evidence that is does work as a cat (or other animal) repellent; merely gardener’s tales. This plant belongs to the mint family, and attract butterflies and bees, with leaves similar to Peppermint and Spearmint plants. The results seem similar to that of the Peppermint plant – some say the plants work wonders, others say the cats are not bothered by them. Again, no guarantees as to the effectiveness of the Scaredy Cat plant as a cat repellent.

Method #3: Fence (or Wall) Modifications

  • Netting (or Wire Mesh)
    If a cat cannot see a safe way to land, they won’t jump off your fence and into your garden. If you cover sufficient space, from your fence over your garden, with netting, any visiting neighbourhood kitties will be unable to see a safe way to jump into your garden, so won’t. The same applies with getting a foothold – if the netting isn’t supportive enough for them to walk on, they wont try. The main issue with netting on your fence seems to be purely aesthetic.
    Netting or Wire Mesh can also be used to deter cats from specific areas; for example, if you have a vegetable patch or flower patch that the neighbourhood cats seem to like to use as their litter box, covering the area in Netting or Wire Mesh (so the plants grow through them) an few inches up, should stop cats from walking on the area and thus will deter them from using the area as a toilet.
    This can also be used to put up your fence, as it may cause cats to struggle to scale the fence in the first place – however, unless you get your neighbour’s permission, you can only do this on your side of the fence.
  • Anti Cat Spikes
    Designed to be uncomfortable but harmless; they are designed to stop cats wanting to walk on them. Often made from plastic or rubber, with blunted ends, so as to not cause harm to any animals. Mostly, Anti Cat spikes seem to be a good bet as a cat repellent, but they come with no guarantees; some stubborn cats will walk along the spikes despite the discomfort, whereas others may try to walk in between the spikes.
    Installing Anti Cat spikes straightforward and fairly inexpensive, however you will need to ensure that any neighbours that share your fence are agreeable to the fence modifications, before you go ahead with the work. Anti Cat spikes may also reduce the amount of wildlife in your garden too, if they access your garden via the fence!
  • Rolling Fence (or Wall) Toppers
    Something as simple as piping with washing line running through it (or something similar), secured a few inches above the top of your fenceor purchasing a professionally made roller barrier… or buying/constructing a wooden roller for atop your fence… basically something unstable, not harmful, and (depending on your choice of roller) something that doesn’t hinder the aesthetics of your garden. Rollers are difficult for cats to manoeuvre around, and certainly too unstable to get a grip on to easily walk, or pull themselves up onto the fence panel – so they certainly wont be able to get a good footing to jump down into your garden!
    This has also been suggested as a good method of keeping your pet cat(s) in your garden, to stop them roaming where you or other don’t want them.

Method #4: If you can’t beat them… accommodate them!

If you aren’t fussed about cats coming through your garden and doing their business in it, you just want to control where in your garden they use as their litter box, then set up a designated area for this.
Setting up a sandy or wood-chip or litter covered area, with a bit of cover for bad weather (maybe even including cat attracting plants or scents), will hopefully encourage any visiting kitties to use the designated area as a toilet; and not the rest of your garden!

All images are either open source, Google images, or my own – or photos donated for use by the pet owners.

If you have any questions or comments; please post a comment below, or contact Ali’s Answers via one of the social media pages…
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Titbit: Tilly the mix-breed rescue

AMIDST THE CRAZINESS of the world right now, in times of lock-down (for many countries), there are a lot of people crying out for help. With people being made jobless, or being furloughed, or too unwell to help themselves – whatever the reason – we need to stand together (2 m/ 6 ft apart) until this is all over. I am based in England, UK and I noticed that Facebook (at least on my app) has a COVID-19 help centre, for people to offer and/ or request help during these uncertain times… this is how I came to meet Tilly! Her owner cannot walk her all the time at the moment, so I have the privilege of walking her when I am needed.

Tilly is a beautiful 10 year old mix-breed, who was rescued by her owner at age 5. She can be nervy of bigger dogs, due to previous bad experiences; overall she is a happy, well-behaved, loving girly living her ‘golden years’. She has been a breath of fresh to me during lock-down, as she is my four-legged (almost) daily exercise companion – being an animal lover, going for a walk is just that little bit better with an animal by my side!


It’s always fun (i.m.o.) getting to know a new animal; getting to know their personality and who they are! As her hearing and sight are not what they used to be, I have had to learn to adapt some of my normal dog walking style to fit in with her.

As regular readers of my website posts (if there are any) will know, my little Barney crossed the rainbow bridge September 2019, aged 15. His eyes were getting cloudy, but his hearing was still pretty decent. I often use a ‘click’ sound to encourage a dog to keep close/ up and to ‘whistle’ to recall a dog from a distance; with Tilly being harder of hearing, I have learned to give a ‘whistle’ in lieu of a ‘click’ and she responds well.

As she can be nervous of bigger dogs (especially if they are over-excited or lunge (even in play)) I have become more vigilant with taking stock of any dogs in the area; noting size, behaviour, and whether or not they are off-leash. In terms of her deteriorating eye-sight, she can definitely find her way with her nose if she is struggling to see; I am ensuring to talk to her and/ or allow her to smell me before going in to fuss and pet her – just so she is aware I’m there, and avoid startling her!

I am sure Tilly is adapting to me, as much as I am to her; as we continue to get to know each other better, and learn to be out together in the current climate, I am enjoying her company and hope I prove to be an enjoyable exercise companion to her too!

All images are either open source, Google images, or my own – or photos donated for use by the pet owners.

If you have any questions or comments; please post a comment below, or contact Ali’s Answers via one of the social media pages…
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Dog Training: Basic Tips

I AM HOPING, in some future posts, to go into each point in more detail. For now, I just wanted to share some basic tips to think about, when training your dog/ puppy. As always, any questions or comments can be left on the website, or via Facebook or Twitter (as below).

1. Relationship and Behaviour

Building a trusting relationship with the dog is key. Nothing builds trust better than time – spend time with the dog, let them take all the time they need to come to you and to trust you. Physical contact helps to reinforce the relationship, the way in which you approach physical contact will also impact the way the animal interacts with you.

Me & my Barney

2. Control the Session

Remaining calm is a key component to remaining in control of the situation. Dogs are great at picking up on your energy and your mood; if you are stressed or anxious, they will pick up on this and be more likely to react to this; if you are calm and in control, they will feel relaxed and more likely to feel they can trust you.

If you feel like things are starting to get out of control, take a breath and step back – end the session if you have to, but keeping yourself and the animal safe, and as least stressed as possible, will benefit you both more than trying to push through. Knowing when to stop, and when to push through a barrier, is sometimes tricky.

3. Patience and Persistence

Just like people, dogs learn at different rates; they’re all individuals, with their own learning speed and strengths. If the dog isn’t getting something as quick as you would like, just be patient, and encourage any little successes – for example; if you are teaching a dog to give paw and they lift their foot but don’t give it, reward this and encourage this to help them.

Barney “giving paw”

Pictured below is Maggie, a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, who I worked with and trained. She was in a rescue kennels where I worked, and was very toy-aggressive; she would try to take your hand if you tried to take her toy… after 3 months of working with her, she was still very toy-possessive, but no longer toy-aggressive. She still had a long way to go, but it took 3 months to get her to such a positive place to work from. Try not to be discouraged if things aren’t progressing as fast as you’d like – go at the pace of the dog; persistently but patiently.


4. Understanding

There is a saying that Altitude is Attitude – meaning, in terms of dogs, that the dog who physically holds the highest ground, also holds the the highest rank in the hierarchy; they see themselves as the Alpha, the dominant dog, the top dog. This is very helpful to have in your mind for any kind of training; a dog that knows their place (not Alpha), has boundaries and structure, is a happy dog.

Being able to interpret what your pet is saying, with body language and facial expressions, help in understanding what your pet is telling you and how they are feeling.

5. Praise and Reward

This doesn’t mean you need to stock your cupboards full of dog treats! Praise can be fussing with positive words, petting and/or play. If the dog breed you are working with is prone to weight gain, it may be best to choose other options of reward, aside from treats, and/or invest in some healthier treats (for example; when I was a teenager, my best friend had a border collie who loved carrots – this was a good way to reward her with a healthy treat).

Jake – toy reward

6. Discourage Unwanted Behaviours Early

This doesn’t mean implementing negative training methods if your dog is not behaving in the desired manner; I mean this more in the sense of training your new puppy, or when working with an anxious dog or a rescue dog; let me explain a little…

Many behavioural issues in adults dogs come about by encouragement from us, because when this behaviour is performed as a puppy it’s seen as “cute”or “funny”. Let’s use tail chasing as an example; people laugh and fuss when a puppy chases it’s tail because it is amusing and/ or “cute” – this can lead to to tail chewing, often obsessively, and they can damage their own tail by doing so. This could just lead to damage to furniture, etc. when the dog is grown, and is too big to tail chase without knocking things over – thus causing the dog to be told off.

If your pup is doing a behaviour that could be (a) harmful to themselves in the future, or (b) a nuisance when performed by the adult dog, try to gently discourage this behaviour as early as possible, to prevent it from becoming an issue later on.

All images are either open source, Google images, or my own – or photos donated for use by the pet owners.

If you have any questions or comments; please post a comment below, or contact Ali’s Answers via one of the social media pages…
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Domestic Equines

In today’s post I am going to cover some basic similarities and differences between common domestic equines; horses and ponies, donkey’s, and mule’s and hinny’s. All of these animals belong to the family Euqidae, and the genus Equus.

Horse (Maggie) and Donkey (Lucy)

Horses and Ponies

Most people know what horses and ponies are, but often are unsure what the difference is. A surprising (to me) number of people have asked me if ponies are baby horses – the answer to that is no; a baby horse or a baby pony (of either gender, under the age of 1 year) is known as a foal. An adult female is known as a Mare, and a juvenile female (under 4 years old) is known as a Filly. An adult male that has been neutered is known as a Gelding, and entire (not neutered) adult male is known as a Stallion, and a juvenile male (under 4 years old) is known as a Colt. The gestation period for horses and ponies is 11-12 months.

There are many different breeds of horses and ponies; from thoroughbred horses to draughts and Shire’s, from cobs to Shetland ponies; within the different types, there are a myriad of colours and patterns – some specific to the breed (e.g. Appaloosa – spotted horse (see below)), others being quite commonplace across many breeds.

Horses are larger than ponies; ponies reach up to 14.2 hh (hands high), and horses are 14.3 hh and taller. The tallest recorded horse to date is a a Belgian Gelding called Big Jake, who was measured in 2010 at just over 20.2 hh.

Horses and ponies have small ears and long faces, long tails and manes, deep chests, and long legs with rounded hooves. They are intelligent creatures, with brilliant speed, agility and strength. Horses have long manes and tails; which need to be kept neat and clean, and are often trimmed, clipped or plaited. Their coats are thin, compared to a donkey’s.

The noises horses and ponies make range from neighing and whinnying to snorting and sighing; these noises can vary a lot in and of themselves, depending on the animal’s mood – body language and posture both help to identify the mood, alongside noises.


Donkey’s are smaller than horses, and smaller than a good number of pony breeds. An entire male donkey is a known as a Jack (hence the term “Jack-Ass”), a male donkey that has been castrated (or gelded) is known as a John or a gelded-Jack, and a female is known as a Jenny or a Jennet. As with horses and ponies, donkey foals are donkey’s (of either gender) up to one year old, a filly is a female donkey under 4 years of age, and a colt is a male donkey under four yeas old.

The African Wild Ass (which are a critically endangered species according to the IUCN Red List), with a decreasing population, are the wild relatives of the domestic donkey.

There are a fair few different breeds of donkey; from the American Mammoth to the Miniature Mediterranean to the (long-haired) Poitou. The most common colour for a donkey is grey, but they also come in brown, black, roan, white, and a mixture of all of the aforementioned colours; in speckles or patches or other patterns, or just as broken colours. Donkey’s are usually white underneath, but can be solid colours too. Some colours and/or patterns being breed specific.

Donkey’s range from around 7.3 hh to 15.3 hh, with the average height of a donkey being approximately 11-13 hh. Donkey’s are very strong, they have long ears, and hooves rounded the same as a horse/pony. Donkey’s have short brush-like manes, and short tails with fur covering the tail, and a collection of hair at the end. Donkey’s have thicker coats than horse and ponies.

Donkey’s are known to make a braying sound, which most of us would recognise as the classic “hee-haw” donkey noise; this noise is unique to donkey’s, as they can vocalise whilst breathing in and out, unlike horses and zebras. Donkey’s are also known to squeal and snort, amongst producing other sounds.

Mule’s and Hinny’s

A mule is the offspring of a male donkey and a female horse, whereas a hinny is the offspring of a male horse and a female donkey. A female mule is called a Mare-mule or a Molly-mule, and a male mule is called a Horse-mule or a John-mule.

Genetically, horses have 32 pairs of chromosomes, and donkeys have 31 pairs; due to this, their offspring (when horses and donkeys are bred together) cannot themselves reproduce – they have 63 chromosomes, so one is left without a pair, resulting in mule’s and hinny’s being infertile.

Being part-horse and part-donkey, mule’s and hinny’s are, more often than not, taller than donkeys – ranging from approximately 12 hh to 17 hh. Some suggest that a mule is stronger than a hinny, but others believe it’s hard to gauge as it is hard to tell mule’s and hinny’s apart by appearance. They often inherit the best qualities of both the horse/ pony and the donkey parents; as with crossbreed dogs mule’s and hinny’s often inherit the good characteristics and physiology of their parents, and can be healthier. Physically they can range from looking quite donkey-like, to looking quite horse-like; more often than not they look like what they are – a mix of the two species.

All other images are open source, Google images, or my own – or photos donated for use by the pet owners.

If you have any questions or comments; please post a comment below, or contact Ali’s Answers via one of my social media pages…
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Merry Christmas 2019!

As this is my first Christmas as a married woman, things have been quite hectic – with a whole new side of the family to consider, and travel arrangements to put together! As such, I’ve seemingly run out of time to write a December post, aside from this; my annual Christmas post.

As regular readers will know from September’s post, my little puppy dog crossed over the rainbow bridge, and thus we will spend our first Christmas without him. I always bought our Barney a festive dog treat to keep him happy and occupied whilst we opened gifts, and shared food.

Christmas traditions come and go but as long as we remember the real reason for the season, and show love and kindness to one another – as He who is love, first loved us, and came into this world as a baby, born and laid in a manger, because He loved us; Christ died and rose again, because He loves us.

Please check out my past Christmassy posts here: 2017, 2016, 2014(1) and 2014(2).

And last but not least, Merry Christmas all!

All other images are open source, Google images, or my own – or photos donated for use by the pet owners.

If you have any questions or comments; please post a comment below, or contact Ali’s Answers via one of my social media pages…
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11th November – We Remember

This day, 11th November, we set aside to remember all the fallen in war; the hero’s who gave their today, for our tomorrow. These brave people and animals gave their lives, fighting to preserve all that they, and we, hold dear. Their selfless acts and sacrifices allow us the freedom we have; for that, and so much more, we remember them.

Horses are the animals primarily thought of when war animals are mention (at least in my experience in conversations); a war horse had many uses. Depending on the military role of the division in which a horse was placed, would often determine the use(s) of the animal.

A war horse would carry soldiers into battle, be used as transport for messengers, would pull equipment, machinery, artillery, supply carts, and much more. However, horses were integral to the war, and soldiers would form bonds with their horse, often sleeping close together for warmth when necessary. Donkey’s and Mule’s would also have been used for similar roles; however less so as transport for riders.

Perhaps a lesser-known animal used for pulling equipment and supplies, not used on the battlefield, but back home. Due to the usual animals used (horses, mules, donkeys, etc) as they had been taken into war, their roles at home were taken over by some less-common animals in their absence. Elephants and camels were used for transporting materials and such, as well as for ploughing fields, hauling hay/straw, and other every-day jobs that needed to be done. One of the more famous, was Lizzie the Indian elephant (pictured below); once part of a travelling circus, had her role in life completely altered by WW1 just as many people had – and she was put to work in a scrap metal yard in Sheffield.

Pigeons and dogs were also used to carry messages during war. Pigeons were useful with their homing instincts, being able to bring them back to where the message came from – thus being able to return a response message to the correct place as necessary. Dogs were able to navigate trenches and battlefields with more ease and speed than a human soldier, which made them great at transporting messages this way. Dogs had other uses in war, such as; being guard and/or watch dogs, using their keen sense of smell to find injured soldiers on the battlefield and carry medical supplies, as ratters, and (my no means least) as companions.

Cats would also have been used for companionship, as well as for rodent control in the trenches and living areas of the soldiers, as well as on Naval ships. As rodents spread disease and deplete food supplies, cats were of great value in war-time.

Although you probably wouldn’t have thought it, slugs were also of great value during war. How? Well, slugs have the ability to detect gas before humans. They close up their breathing pores and compress their body to protect themselves, and survive the gas. As such, soldiers would take a “Slug Brigade” with them, and when they saw the slugs react to gas, they put on their gas masks before the gas reached harmful levels, and many lives were saved.

Thanks to brave men and women on the battlefields, and back home; thanks to the many animals playing their part on the battlefields, and back home; thanks to the sacrifices made by so many, we have the lives we live today.

Please check out my November 2014 post Remembrance to see other animals that have been used in wars throughout history.

All other images are open source, Google images, or my own – or photos donated for use by the pet owners.

If you have any questions or comments; please post a comment below, or contact Ali’s Answers via one of my social media pages…
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Titbit follow-up: Bertie the Schnauzer

So training with Bertie has been pretty straight-forward, and quite easy – until the last time we had a trainging session, in which we continued lead training!

He’s not so keen to walk to heel when he knows a run on the field is just around the corner! But his owners and I have been working with him and he is getting better each time we go out. He is quite good with his recall training, but sometimes gets distracted by the 10 metre lead and decides to play with that instead!


Initially treat motivation and reward was enough, especially with the basics; with more distractions and unwillingness to walk without pulling, I implemented a new reward – his favourite squeaky toy! This saw the change in his behaviour, as the motivation to be good for the reward was renewed. Clearly the treats are not what he’s most interested in as a reward, but play time with his favourite squeaky toy is a great reward; he is now motivated to do well again.

Don’t give up when training your pup gets tough – change tactics, change reward, change your approach – incorporate whatever positive thing works.

All other images are open source, Google images, or my own – or photos donated for use by the pet owners.

If you have any questions or comments; please post a comment below, or contact Ali’s Answers via one of my social media pages…
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Goodnight and goodbye

To paraphrase the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy;

So long, and thanks for all the licks.

Last week (19/09/19) my family and I said our final farewell to our little dog – he was just over 15 years old, and he brought joy to our lives ever since we brought him home as a puppy in 2004.

It’s always sad to say goodbye to a member of the family – our Barney has been a part of ours since I was 13.

It’s never an easy decision to make; but for so many of us it’s a decision that has to be made, at some point, on behalf of our beloved pet. It was the kind call to make, for his sake, even though heartbreaking for us.

A piece of my heart went with him last Thursday, and he’ll always be treasured in our hearts and memories!

All we can do, as responsible persons for the lives of our animal family members, is to treat them well and give them a happy, healthy life. Then, if it comes down to it, we have the responsibility to not let them suffer too much at the end; and to be there for them – the way they’ve been there for us throughout their lives.

We are to do what’s best for them, as care-givers for as long as we get to have them in our lives!