What was your inspiration behind the book?
My dog-owning clients have appreciated my giving them a ‘how-to’ book when they get a new pup, and the parts of the book they value most are the training sections. It still surprises me how many cat owners think that they are easily trained by cats, but that the opposite is a hard task. I thought it would be useful to write a ‘how-to’ about cats and have more on cat training than in any other book I’ve seen.
Tell us about a favorite memory that came about during your time as a vet.
In my first year, I worked for a superb vet. He was absent one day, and one of his clients was forced to see me. Pleasant dog. Attractive owner. After bringing that dog back three times and my not getting the message, she invited me out. We got married two years later.
Fast forward 30 years, and our son Ben is walking in the park when his dog meets another dog. Pleasant dog. Attractive owner. Two years later, he married the pleasant dog’s owner. They’ve produced a new generation, and we’ll have to wait a while to see if pets are as important in their lives as in my son’s and mine.
Your book contains a rich source of information on cat care. If you could pick one tip that every cat owner should know, what would it be?
Hmm. There’s never a single item, but if I had to choose, it would be a tip to dog owners who are getting a cat for the first time. Cats are not dogs in disguise. That’s a common misconception I see with people who want a pet, and their lifestyle dictates that it’s a cat. Their expectations are sometimes unrealistic. That’s why I’ve included a reasonable amount of information in this book about how cats think.
Tell us about your first cat.
I was born into a home occupied by Blackie, an outdoor roamer by day and an indoor snuggler by night. One Friday, the thirteenth, the local baseball team offered free entry to the stadium to anyone accompanied by a black cat, and yes, that was the last day I ever saw my warm snuggler.
What was the most difficult part about writing the book?
My wife Julia, when asked what I do, doesn’t say I’m a veterinarian, she says I work in ‘time-management’. She’s right. Keeping a busy veterinary clinic running smoothly gets priority, which means that writing can only eat into personal time.
Do you currently own any pets?
Millie, our Maine Coon, decided life was more enjoyable at a home down the street. We have LLBean, a 4-year-old Golden Retriever and more often than not, one, two, three or four of our kids’ dogs, all of which live within five minutes of us.
You’ve encountered many animals as a vet. What is one lesson you’ve learned from them?
Our feelings and emotions didn’t spontaneously erupt in humans. Contentment, anxiety, jealousy, love, sadness, possessiveness, frustration and happiness – they’re there for all of us to see in our favorite companions.
Are you planning on writing more books?
I wish! I’m finally getting around to changing www.portmanvetclinic.co.uk from four short pages to a ‘destination site’ for pet owners interested in in-depth information about the health and welfare of cats and dogs. I hope it’s up and running by early summer.
If you could tell your readers one thing, what would it be?
Enjoy the company of your cat companions. We sometimes take them for granted and think of them as not quite as ‘animal’ as their brethren in the wild, but that’s not true. Living with a cat offers you a wonderful window-seat view of the natural world.