Sunday, May 20, 2007

If I could "Ask A Vet..."

As an author of speculative romance, I make up animals as part of my world-building, but that doesn't relieve me of the obligation to be plausible, and also to be responsible.

If I create an apex predator, he has to be constructed like a predator. His eyes should probably face forward, unless there is a very good evolutionary reason (such as convergence -- where he evolves to look like his prey in order to mingle better and pick off prey without having to chase it, or spoil its flavor by frightening it.)

Here are some questions I'd like to ask a vet.

1. I know chocolate is bad for dogs. Is wine bad for big cats?

2. If chocolate is bad for dogs, should it be bad for werewolves?

3. I've read that dogs have a knob that acts as a sort of anchor once mating is underway. What would happen if a knobbly mating was forcibly interrupted?

4. Is it true that cats have "barbs" on theirs?

5. Do wasps (yellow jackets) really get drunk on rotten fruit? And if they do, is it because they like getting drunk? Or is it accidental?

6. Is there still animal cruelty involved in movie-making these days?

Best wishes,
Rowena Cherry


Josh said...

Wine bad for cats? Depends on how the owners behave after having imbibed it! Surely you don't mean to give your cat alcohol? Cats' livers are very poor at detoxifying chemicals as they are obligate carnivores and so have not evolved to cope with the array of chemicals that plants contain.

Josh said...

Werewolves and chocolate? Real (high-cacao) chocolate would certainly excite them as their livers would be intermediate between humans' and dogs' at metabolising theobromine. There's a possibility that they could have fatal seizures. On the other hand if you palmed them off with the inferior so-called chocolate that many Brits seem to love then they might explode with rage.

Josh said...

Interrupted mating? There's a possibility that you'd be severely bitten! The genital tie is very firm.

Rowena Cherry said...

Hey, Josh,

How wonderful to see you here. Thank you so much for answering my questions?

I am very pleased to know that I have to be careful with a cat's liver... I should hate to make a mistake and write something inadvertently cruel.

Best wishes,

Rowena Cherry

Josh said...

Barbs? Never seen them. Snakes, on the other hand, have hemipenes. Interesting possibility for a sci fi writer.

Rowena Cherry said...

LOL on the werewolves. OMG... I have to get my friends to read this!!!!

Josh said...

It's pleasure to help, Rowena! Am working my way through the questions.

Rowena Cherry said...


I never considered how angry the animals might be!

Josh said...

Wasps drunk? Yes, I believe this can happen to a number of creatures. I don't think the wasps would enjoy it, however. Supposedly elephants can get inebriated on the fermented fruit of the marula tree (also spelt "maroela"). This is controversial, and filmmaker Jamie Uys allegedly spiked the fruit in order to film animals drunk. You can find an interesting discussion here:

Here is an extract:

[...] Also, that same reviewer pointed out the "drunk scene" was man made, so I checked out the site he mentioned (, and if you search around the plant section (some plant that start with an m, sorry I forget which).

Here is the relevant text:
"Due to its well-known alcoholic capacities, rumours abound as to the Marula's intoxicating effects on wild animals. While elephants and baboons both relish the fruit, the former would need to consume prodigious amounts of already fermenting fruit for it to have even the mildest impact, and since these huge animals drink up to 160 litres of water a day, there would anyway be a major diluting effect. Interestingly, examination of fresh elephant dung show that less than ten percent of Marula fruits are actually 'processed' in any way - most fruit passes through the digestive tract intact.

Observations on baboons suggest that they prefer fresh Marula fruit and because the pulp is digested and the seeds passed within a 24-hour period, fermentation is impossible. The infamous scene in a popular movie from the 1970s - Jamie Uys' 'Beautiful People', which depicted a troop of obviously drunken baboons in and under a Marula tree, was clearly man-induced and would today be outlawed in terms of animal cruelty."

Josh said...

Animal cruelty in recent movies? I'm certain of it. In my opinion filming such things as bullfights amounts to complicity. See, for example, this film directed by Almodovar:

Rowena Cherry said...


I'm buying your book Pet Hates !!!!
I see that in the UK it is available in Tesco, Waterstones, and lots of other fine stores, but I may use

I can't wait to see what you say next!

Best wishes,

Deborah Macgillivray said...

I know Chocolate is bad for cats. Supposedly can kill them. However, I had a cat we called "LC" for little cat. She was teeny. She would eat a whole Cadbury Bar, before you could blink an eye. My gran didn't know chocolate was bad for them, so she fed her Cabury bars whenever the silly thing wanted it. The cat was healthy, lived to be 21 years old...

go figure...

Josh said...

Most so-called "chocolate" in the USA and the UK is very low in cacao (such as the commonest products produced under the brand name you mentioned, Deborah), and many mainland Europeans wouldn't dignify it with the name. It's the cacao that contains the stimulants fatal to carnivores. I believe some people use the husks of cocoa pods as garden mulch and that some dogs will eat this, with predictable results.

Interestingly, research has shown that dogs will often take what the owner hands them as treats but when offered them in taste-choice experiments they will reject the so-called "treat". This, I have heard, applies to those "doggy choc" treats that many owners give to their pets. (Of course these treats do not contain significant amounts of cacao.) Much pet food is marketed to appeal to owners as much (or more) than to their pets.

There's some interesting stuff about pet food here: