K.G., King, NC
May 27, 2006
We have two indoor cats named Ronnie and Nancy. They are about 1-1/2 years old.We feed them only Hills dry food, but my Ronnie is several pounds overweight. Our vet recommended giving them half diet and half regular food. He said to stay away from soft food that may contribute to tooth decay and thus require many cleaning visits.What do you suggest? They seem to like dry food with fresh water daily.
K.G., King, NC May 28, 2006
It is not advisable to feed cats and dogs packaged semi-soft foods because of the high sugar content. Canned pet food with highly processed ingredients can lead to dental problems because microparticles get caught between the teeth. Letting them chew on a raw chicken wing every two to three days is a natural way of cleaning their teeth rather than relying on dry food to do the job. (Dry food is ineffective if some of the processed ingredients and byproducts are microparticulate, thus likely to adhere to the teeth.)Many cats do not drink a sufficient amount of water to maintain normal fluid balance when fed on an exclusively dry-food diet, which can lead to long-term health problems. Cats lack a normal thirst mechanism, a reflection of their desert origin. They can also become addicted to dry food (often too high in carbohydrates), the net result being obesity, diabetes and urological problems. So feed your cats some canned food and consider raw foods and a home-prepared diet of whole foods rather than by-pro
V.L.R., Miami, FL
Tags: small pet
May 27, 2006
In an earlier column, you wrote that dogs make a lot of different sounds to communicate. Other than barks and yelps, what are they?.
V.L.R., Miami, FL May 28, 2006
Many years ago, I did voiceprint analyses of dog (and wolf, fox and coyote) vocalizations. Dogs vary individually and from breed to breed in their vocal repertoire.Nursing pups make distinctive mews and, like adult dogs, make contentment grunts, sighs, moans, groans, whines, yelps and screams. Adult dogs bark, howl, yip, yowl, yap, lip/tongue smack, yawn-yowl, yawn-whistle (a high-pitched cry), pant, pant-huff (laugh), huff (warning) and coo/trill-yowl. Other sounds include tooth-snapping and head-shake ear-clapping.Dogs make "sentences" with these sounds, which vary in frequency, intensity and duration. For example: "Pant-yip-yelp-pant-huff, bark-yelp" when soliciting play, "yip-yelp-bark-whine" to solicit attention and "huff-growl-huff-bark-growl-bark" to give warning. These sounds clearly express motivation, emotion and intention.
A.S., Washington, DC
Tags: cat Washington DC
May 20, 2006
My cat, Molly, is a rescued cat, very shy around strangers. She eventually learned to trust me to the point where she will let me pet her and she will sleep on the end of my bed. She's a young cat that I adopted for companionship and, since I am 86 years old and not in good health, I need your advice. When the time comes that I can no longer care for Molly, I need to find a good home for her.
A.S., Washington, DC May 21, 2006
Thank you for your lovely letter (here abridged) about the beautiful cat that lives with you. I appreciate your dilemma. Do you have a friend or relative who could take your cat when you can no longer care for her? Surely your cat's veterinarian or local animal shelter could help you find a suitable foster home where she can be well cared for. I wish more people were like you: realistically accepting the fact that your animal companion will probably outlive you and making every effort to find the right person/family, to be named in your will, to take the beloved creature -- with or without (as circumstances dictate) some money toward feeding and appropriate care. I know of no agency or organization set up specifically to help people in your situation, but I have a dream of an animal sanctuary for the dearly departed whose beloved animal companions can live on and enjoy life. Are there any out there? I will ask through my column and let you (and all readers) know.
P.B. & J.J., Virginia Beach, Va
Tags: small pet Virginia Beach VA
May 20, 2006
We used the exact technique that you described to teach our cat Shadow what a scratching post is for. We didn''t really get anywhere until we substituted treats for praise, with results that you might have predicted. She uses the scratching post if she feels like it -- or if she wants a treat.We successfully used the praise-only technique with Squeaklet, a young cat rescued from a terrible barn-cat situation.We have found Feliway to be excellent at keeping the cats from scratching furniture without keeping them from lying on it. We spray it just around the areas prone to being scratched.All but one of our four cats enjoy scratching cat condos, to the point of destruction.Our most amazing success, though, was with the cardboard scratchers from Cat Claws. Sunshine, our then 9-year-old Persian, was a notorious scratcher and was impervious to any kind of training. Finally, we got some scratchers and a wooden inclined plane that can hold one scratcher at a slight angle. Sunshine and all the other cats love the scr
P.B. & J.J., Virginia Beach, Va May 21, 2006
I appreciate your feline insights. Other readers who want to stop their cats from scratching furniture and other materials and surfaces will benefit from what your cats have taught you.I hope your insights will also help convince people not to have their kittens and adult cats declawed. This routine procedure is cruel and unnecessary, with various harmful consequences, and is considered unethical by veterinarians in the United Kingdom and by a growing number in the United States.
N.W., Arlington, TX
Tags: cat Arlington TX declaw
May 13, 2006
Please settle an ongoing argument between my husband and me. I agree to abide by whatever you say. We have a 1-1/2-year-old cat that we have had since he was 7 weeks old. We had him declawed when he was a few months old, and we agreed we would never allow him outside. He spends a lot of time lying on the windowsill and looking through our glass front door but has never tried to go outside. We have an attached patio enclosed with louvered windows that access the backyard through a patio door. This patio is not heated or air-conditioned, but I want to allow the cat time there where he'll be closer to nature. My husband says the cat is perfectly content now, and if we allow him patio access, he will then want to go outside and/or will never be content to stay in the house. We do have an inside dog that is let in and out. What do you think? Am I asking for trouble by wanting to give our cat additional freedom?
N.W., Arlington, TX May 14, 2006
Many cats enjoy long hours (weather permitting) in escape-proof patios. Set up a cat gymnasium, or secure a thick tree branch set at a low angle with carpeted shelves so your cat can climb and perch. The low angle is necessary because she has, most regrettably, been declawed. A cat-friendly patio is one of the best gifts for cats that are never allowed to roam free outdoors. The company of another easygoing cat is another consideration. I don't believe your cat is likely to feel more frustrated being in closer contact with the outdoors while on the patio. On the contrary, she will be stimulated and entertained, especially if you set up a birdbath and feeder in her line of vision. You might even consider adopting another young, healthy cat for even more fun and games.
C.R., Freehold, NJ
Tags: small pet
May 13, 2006
After reading your article about motion sickness in car-riding dogs, I wanted to relate our solution.We have "shown" dogs for years and travel with them a lot. We carry slices or cubes of sugarcoated crystallized ginger, purchased at health-food stores or supermarkets. They''re easy to carry, and the dogs eat them as treats, even when we delay and they are already feeling ill. A burp or so later and they are fine! This is good for ship travel and air travel, as well. We''ve found that even migraine-related nausea in humans subsides.Not much is needed: A small, 1-inch cube for a 50-pound dog works fine. You can break it up for more surface exposure in the gut for the ''gobbler'' type dog. Most dogs chew them first, and this can be repeated. They taste great.
C.R., Freehold, NJ May 14, 2006
Your sage advice is welcome. Most dogs have a sweet tooth, but those who don''t like the sugar-infused ginger or the taste of ginger can be given pieces coated in peanut butter or cream cheese.I unequivocally support your remedy for canine motion sickness. Ginger is a remarkable herb with many beneficial properties in addition to its stomach-soothing, calmative effect. A drop of essential oil of ginger or peppermint on a dog cookie (that may need a peanut-butter coating to mask the odor) would also help.The human benefits of these and other herbs, tinctures and essential oils have been well-known for generations. Some, as you have discovered, also benefit our animal companions.
K.S., Sharpsburg, Md
Tags: cat Sharpsburg MD diet food
May 06, 2006
My 8-year-old cat will be sound asleep, and then, at 2 a.m. almost to the minute, he will start banging on the blinds. I will get up, and he runs into the sunroom and goes to his bowl to have a snack and a drink of water, and then I shut the door and he goes to sleep. It isn''t like he wants to go outside; he just wants me to follow him. We have tried to stop this behavior, but he would tear down those blinds if we didn''t get up.I have, in the past, just put him in the sunroom and shut the door before I go to bed, but I do like having him sleep on our bed, and I always think he''ll behave this time -- which he never does.Any suggestions? He is a very spoiled cat.
K.S., Sharpsburg, Md May 07, 2006
Your clever feline companion has the upper hand and has trained you very well. You are not the only reader with a cat who has at least one family member wrapped around his or her tail.Cats do like to be active at night, so, before you turn in, engage him in some physically active play. Chasing, wrestling, hide-and-seek and catching and "killing" a fluffy toy dangled on a broomstick are games he may enjoy.Then put the blinds up, out of his reach (including any pull-strings). Put his food and water in your bedroom, and close him in with you for the night. You may have a few restless nights, but ignore any attempts on his part to get your attention. You may want to clear all breakables off your dresser. Many cats like to knock things over to wake up their human companions, and more than one has become a hair-puller and ear-nipper.
C. McK., Waterford, TX
Tags: small pet Waterford TX
May 06, 2006
I adopted a 4-year-old mixed-breed named Sophie. She came out of the city pound two years ago bone-thin and had obviously birthed pups recently. As required, I had her spayed once I''d cleaned and fattened her up and we''d gotten well acquainted. She''s well mannered, smart and loving -- a perfect companion. While Sophie''s quirk isn''t a problem, I am curious to know why she frequently humps pillows.This began when she tore into some large sofa pillows, shaking then humping them. After she "killed" one pillow, I gave her a sturdier one to pick on when she gets in the mood. She ignores that pillow all day long, but around early evening she grabs it, shakes it around for a bit, then humps it. She struts around for a while, then goes at the pillow again.This routine has become a family joke, and we''ve become so accustomed to it that we usually ignore the nightly episodes. Still, I must ask if you can surmise the basis for Sophie''s behavior.
C. McK., Waterford, TX May 07, 2006
I appreciate your attitude of acceptance with respect to your dog''s little pillow fetish. This is not uncommon in dogs (as well as cats) and is clearly a pleasurable activity. Some animals do it more intensely when company arrives, no doubt an indication of increased excitement. Such humping may be relaxing and may also have an addictive component with the release of natural-body opiates, oxytocin and other neurochemicals associated with pleasure.Dogs mount dogs and cats mount cats to assert dominance and also during contact play, the sexual component probably being triggered once the front paws are around the playmate (the pillow, in your dog''s case) and the body (pillow) is straddled. I interpret this as a behavioral reflex, an unconscious action that is nonetheless a pleasurable experience to the animal, rather than as a sexually motivated behavior. It is perverse thinking to regard such activity as a perversion.