Pets' corner: Foot and mouth in household pets and the ideal starter pet

Your questions answered by Chamois Rose-Wood
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The Independent Online

Is foot and mouth transferable to household pets? John Sears, Grimsby

This all depends on what you consider to be "household pets". Most pet owners will not be affected by foot and mouth disease. However, people with small holdings and farms might be affected. Foot and mouth disease infects bovines, which are cloven-hoofed mammals, ruminants and suidae, which is the biological family to which pigs and their relatives belong. Camelidae (camels, dromedaries, llamas, vicunas) have low susceptibility. It is a viral disease and can be spread by movement of infected animals and contaminated vehicles or facilities used to hold the animals. They can also catch the disease by consuming contaminated drinking water and food. Bodily secretions (saliva, semen, urine, vesicular fluid and milk) can spread the disease as well. It can be transmitted by direct or indirect contact with infected animals. Foot and mouth disease is a very complex subject and too vast to go into details, but you will find all the information you need on http://www.defra.gov.uk/footandmouth

I've always hated the idea of pets, but my young children are keen to have some. What is a good 'starter' pet? Amanda Batterfield, Canterbury

A great and fun starter pet for your children would be a stick insect. They are relatively easy to keep and an ideal source of interest and study. Your children will watch them for hours! Stick insects may be kept with other stick insects of the same species, but overcrowding must be avoided. They do best in a covered aquarium with a ventilated lid. It must be tall enough for them to hand upside down so they can moult. Most species require a temperature of 70 to 86°F (21 to 30°C). You can feed stick insects on leaves, such as brambles, rose leaves, privet and ivory. Get these from your garden or local park so you are sure they haven't been sprayed with any chemicals. Also, provide your stick insect with a few twigs to enhance his habitat.

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