Meet the modern Doctor Dolittle

Can you really train a cat? Why do dogs pee on lampposts? Dr John Bradshaw, head of Bristol University’s Anthrozoology Institute, answered these and other pressing pet-related questions for our recent issue of PetPeople magazine.

Tailored by species, PetPeople is sent by insurance company Petplan to its customers and provides them with expert advice on how to look after their pets. The magazine also celebrates the trials and joys of being a pet owner.

John, who you may recognise from BBC Two’s The Secret Life of the Cat and Dogs: Their Secret Lives, has dedicated his career to understanding more about what pets are thinking. He has written several books on the subject and is considered a world expert in pet behaviour and welfare.

We photographed and interviewed him at Southampton Blue Cross with a cast of cats and dogs awaiting rehoming. To take the pressure off our furry models, we photographed each of them separately with John and then comped them together into one lovely image for the feature.

The answers to the above questions, in case you’re wondering, are yes, you certainly can train a cat (John has co-authored a book with Sarah Ellis called The Trainable Cat on how to go about it); and that pee means ‘data’ in doggy language. Valuable information is transmitted by smell, so dragging your dog away mid-sniff is, according to John, ‘Like reading the newspaper and having someone rip it away from you when you’ve only read half a page!’