M.D., Cape Coral, FL
Tags: cat dog Cape Coral FL
Mar 28, 2011
My adult son took in a small dog the police had rescued from a puppy mill. A lady friend adopted him, but she had a heart attack and died. The dog finally bonded with my son.
The problem is that I have a tamed feral kitty who is going to live with my son, too. We have them visit each other as much as possible, and they've made amazing strides, but I don't fully trust the cat. She likes to get the dog cornered. The kitty is actually a little larger than the dog, and I don't trust that she will keep her claws in. I've heard that spraying each animal with the same fragrance or odor might help. Do you have any suggestions?
M.D., Cape Coral, FL Mar 28, 2011
Many years ago, I advised putting the same perfume on animals who are going to be living together and are not yet clear of fear, distrust and possibly aggression toward each other. Now, natural cat and dog scents called pheromones are available and help to bring animals more amicably together. So try the Feliway for the cat and DAP (dog appeasement pheromone) for the dog, using a plug-in diffuser for each.
If your cat is friendly and the dog is not a fear-biter (and has your son's close attention and restraint if needed), they should work things out themselves. This could be quite soon, once they attune to each other's body language and intentions. Cats' playful intentions and restrained use of claws and jaws while playing, often interrupted by affectionate purring and licking, are behaviors that dogs can come to understand, just as the cat will learn that a dog's playful panting, tail-wagging play bow, gentle mouthing and pawing are non-threatening gestures and intentions. They should be fed, groomed, and petted in sight of each other and, ideally, have your son sleep in the same room with them until they are settled.
R.C., Washington, DC
Tags: dog Washington DC diet food
Mar 28, 2011
I have a 15-month-old cat that has curious chewing habits. I acquired him when he was about 10 weeks old.
At about 7 months old, he started chewing items such as phone cords, anything with fringe such as carpets/throws, shoelaces, the ears off a ceramic-cat cookie jar, labels off clothing and more. Not only does he chew these items; he swallows parts of them. I worry about his safety. My vet tells me some cats are like this and I just have to keep certain items away from him.
He eats Evo brand cat food (dry and moist) twice a day. He is playful with my other cats and enjoys his numerous toys, so I don't think he chews out of boredom.
Several people have suggested that this cat may have a vitamin deficiency. He is much smaller than my other cats. Should he have carbohydrates in his diet, or can you suggest any other remedies?
R.C., Washington, DC Mar 28, 2011
Cats who chew can be a problem, as I know from personal experience. Genetics can be a factor, Siamese cats being notorious chewers and wool suckers.
Your cat's craving (pica) could be due to many factors: boredom, curiosity and lack of dietary fiber (like sprouted wheat grass) or chronic irritation from worms, even feline leukemia.
Check www.feline-nutrition.org for helpful nutritional information. Most likely this is simply a vice or behavioral fixation, and as your veterinarian advises, keep potentially harmful items and those that you cherish away from your chewy cat. Some are satisfied with a small pot of sprouted wheat grass or an occasional sprinkling of catnip herb in a dish, both products being available in most pet stores.
J.M., Annandale, Va
Mar 27, 2011
My 11-year-old male cat has arthritis that causes him to limp in one of his back legs, especially during the cold months. Can I give him MSM (methylsulfonylmethane) to manage the inflammation and discomfort? If so, what dosage do you recommend?
J.M., Annandale, Va Mar 27, 2011
Many cats suffer from arthritic diseases because of similar causes of this epidemic affliction in the human population -- poor diet and lack of exercise -- often compounded by being overweight.
Chronic arthritis is more noticeable in dogs than in less active cats, for whom the painful condition can progress and lead to changes in temperament, house soiling and night restlessness.
Consult with your veterinarian, and go to another one if only cortisone (prednisone) is offered as a treatment. Supplements such as chondroitin, glucosamine and MSM, along with fish oil, a daily massage and a warm pad to sleep on, can help many cats. Playing with your cat to make him more active would be wise, but he's probably too old if he has never had interactive play with you before. You could get a second playmate cat; two cats living together are generally happier and healthier than those who live alone. They give each other comfort, resting together, engaging in reciprocal grooming, and during bouts of play get the short bursts of exercise to help keep them in good condition.
N.H., Moorhead, MN
Tags: cat Moorhead MN allergies
Mar 27, 2011
I got a farm cat when he was about 4 months old. He is now a year old. He and the others at the farm were sneezy. I have taken him to the vet and have tried several things: an immune booster for 30 days (Enisyl-F Lysine Treats), two different antibiotics (Amoxi-Tabs 50 mg; and Clavamox 62.5 mg) and an antihistamine.
I have been told that he has an upper-respiratory issue/virus that won't ever go away. He sneezes frequently, and it is a mess. He also breathes loudly (like Darth Vader of "Star Wars") most of the time and occasionally coughs. Otherwise, he seems healthy and has grown at a regular rate.
I read one of your columns that seemed to address this, but the advice was just to contact a vet. I am wondering if anything else can be done. Would diet impact this at all? I would appreciate any other recommendations or just to know if there is truly nothing more to be done.
N.H., Moorhead, MN Mar 27, 2011
I have given frequent advice on this common feline malady. A head cold and sinusitis that won't go away, often compounded by sickening gums and teeth, calls for a radical holistic approach to alleviation and recovery.
In some instances, there can be a chronic allergy to cat-litter dust or artificial fragrances, corn or other manufactured cat-food ingredients. There may be an underlying viral infection such as feline AIDS or a chronic bacterial or fungal infection such as aspergillosis.
A holistic approach considers all these possible co-factors. Check AromaCat for some herbal inhalants for cats that may help, because some are antifungal, antibacterial, antiviral and anti-inflammatory.
V.L.P., Silver Spring, Md
Tags: cat Silver Spring MD grieving
Mar 21, 2011
I'd like to share a story about the close relationships between cats and their masters. My late mother's cat, Dakota, whom I now own, is 16 years old.
My mom was ill for three years with cancer and would go to the hospital frequently for chemotherapy treatments. For the two weeks before she died at 85, she was a hospital inpatient.
One morning, Dakota ran ahead of me to my mother's bedroom and jumped on the bed. She stared at me intently with a questioning look on her face. I said, "I'm sorry, Dakota, mommy won't be coming home today." This happened several times.
When my mother died in the hospital, I brought her clothes home and placed them on her bed. Dakota immediately jumped on the bed and began smelling the clothes. Then, to my amazement, she began to cry. This was not the "I don't want to go to the vet" wail -- it was soft whimpering and crying.
The next day, I was away from the apartment for quite a while, busy with funeral arrangements, etc. When I returned, Dakota smacked me on the wrist and then cried again. This time, her face reminded me of an ancient Greek tragedy mask.
A friend suggested that I give Dakota something that belonged to my mother. I gave her my mom's bathrobe. She slept on it for naps and nighttime for a month. Then I removed it, which I think helped both of us with the healing process.
I now have Dakota, and we have bonded in ways that surprise many people.
V.L.P., Silver Spring, Md Mar 21, 2011
Thanks for sharing your experiences with your cat Dakota and the death of a family member. Your letter reflects both your cat's sensitivity and awareness, as well as your own. Perhaps the close companionship of fellow creatures, when our hearts and minds are open to them, can elevate us to a greater sensitivity and understanding of the nature of love, putting an end to the cruelties we inflict on what one philosopher called the children of a greater god.
D.W., Arlington, Va
Tags: small pet Arlington VA
Mar 21, 2011
Our 12-year-old son is pleading for us to buy him a pet iguana and a hedgehog. He has recently become interested in animals, and we think this is good for his education. Since visiting a big pet store and seeing these animals, he fell in love with the two he wants. I worry about proper care and wonder what you might advise.
D.W., Arlington, Va Mar 21, 2011
In my professional opinion as a veterinarian, conservationist and animal-rights advocate, both state and federal governments should outlaw the trade of importing and captive breeding of exotic, nondomesticated species. Many are harvested from the wild, including tropical fish. Others are smuggled, and many die in transit. Those that are captive-born generally do not adapt to the domestic environment, become easily stressed, require considerable expertise to be properly cared for, and can have diseases transmissible to humans and other animals.
Children can learn much and develop empathy caring for conventional cage pets, such as hamsters, gerbils and guinea pigs. Your son is at a good age to start volunteering at the local animal shelter or wildlife rehabilitation center where he can help clean enclosures and wash out food bowls, learning the basics of animal care. I did the same at his age.
S.D., Annandale, Va
Tags: dog Annandale VA diet food
Mar 20, 2011
My 8-year-old female English cocker spaniel has recently developed an obsession for eating paper and other things. My displeasure does not seem to stop her for long.
Could she be lacking something in her diet? She eats high-quality dry food, maintains a healthy weight, and is in overall good health. Is there anything I can feed her to keep her from craving these forbidden things? I am afraid she may get a blockage.
S.D., Annandale, Va Mar 20, 2011
Any time a dog develops a compulsion to chew and swallow non-food matter (a condition called pica), a thorough veterinary checkup is called for. Chronic oral inflammation, abdominal discomfort (as from internal parasites or cancer) and nutritional-deficiency diseases (such as anemia) can lead to pica.
It is important to rule out possible physical/medical causes before considering behavioral/psychological reasons. The latter includes boredom, no available safe chew toys, addiction to the taste or texture of certain materials, and displaced "cleaning up" behavior.
Certainly the possibility of intestinal obstruction following the ingestion of a lot of paper, which could require surgery, is something to avoid. Many years ago, we had a dog that enjoyed snacking out of the cat litter box, and one day he broke down the barrier and consumed at least a pound of the litter. An early diagnosis and emergency enema saved his life!
E.R., Arlington, Va
Tags: cat Arlington VA
Mar 20, 2011
We have two female cats, ages 8 and 13, who have both been spayed and are in good health. We have had both since they were kittens, and although they are both loving cats where people are concerned, they have never gotten along with each other.
We can tolerate the growls and occasional spats, but we are not fond of the younger cat's behavior: marking windows and walls in the house and occasionally urinating where the older cat likes to spend time. We have tried various pet products to eliminate the spots she has marked, as well as collars and plug-in devices that are supposed to emit a calming pheromone.
Do you have any suggestions to address this aggressive and destructive behavior?
E.R., Arlington, Va Mar 20, 2011
Some cats never get along well with each other but when a third cat is introduced, peace reigns! You may want to adopt a calm and healthy neutered adult. Adopting a third young cat (as I have found from personal experience and as many readers affirm) can change the social dynamics, and a happier ambience develops.
When older cats live with a rambunctious young feline, giving them a timeout can help, putting the young cat in a room without them but with you engaging in interactive play with the youngster. Close supervision when they are together will help, and you can use a dog-training clicker to trigger a startle reaction to nip any rough play or aggression in the bud.
Alternatively, you may want to explore with your veterinarian (after seeing if a daily pinch of catnip helps) a short-course treatment with one of several new psychotropic drugs (some related to Valium) that can help temper your 8-year-old cat's aggression and anxiety. These are not without risk, and tests of liver function are called for with prolonged treatment. Often, a short course of treatment can help a maladjusted cat cope with fear and anxiety that can be at the root of aggressive behavior and territorial marking. Some cats become more irritable and aggressive with age, and there is often an underlying medical reason for this, the most common one being a hyperactive thyroid gland.
E.B., Grand Prairie, TX
Tags: cat TX Grand Prairie
Mar 14, 2011
We purchased two longhair cats at the local Humane Society, male and female, both 5-1/2 years old. The female started having rectal bleeding, and we found out that she has FIP (feline infectious peritonitis). We've been told that it is terminal. It's so sad because she's so loving, and I see her getting weaker and weaker.
Should we have the male tested? What can I do for my female? The vet gave her a steroid shot and then we tried Interferon, but that made her sick. She is sensitive to any medicine. She also has constipation, but no more rectal bleeding. Is it OK to keep giving Laxatone?
E.B., Grand Prairie, TX Mar 14, 2011
As long as an animal is not suffering and has some quality of life, has a good appetite and enjoys being petted and gentle play, then never give up.
Visit www.feline-nutrition.org, and consider transitioning your cats onto a lightly cooked or raw-food diet. Supplements such as probiotics, aloe-vera liquid (human grade, available in health stores), ginger, lecithin, fish oil, glutamine, n-acetyl-cysteine, L-alpha-lipoic acid and L-carnitine are all worth considering. Such supplements can help boost the immune system and improve digestive processes, both of which are failing because of this viral disease affecting your cat. Your cat should not be given any more steroids or vaccinations.
S.O.V., via e-mail
Tags: dog fleas
Mar 14, 2011
I enjoyed your column on safe flea-control products and have controlled our flea problems with the borax products. I have also discovered an inexpensive, safe method for controlling the occasional flea.
I keep a small jar of petroleum jelly next to my favorite chair. I dip my finger into the jar and touch the flea, and it's immediately immobilized. A quick wipe off my finger with a tissue, and the problem is solved.
I used this method for 25 years while overseas in the diplomatic corps and since retirement. Almost everyone has this product or can get it at a local dollar store, and it works perfectly.
Mar 14, 2011
Safe methods for dealing with fleas, especially in flea-infested, warm and winter-free states like Florida (where insecticide use is over the top), are indeed welcome.
The petroleum-jelly-on-finger flea trap is a novel approach but not appealing to the squeamish. I prefer using a good flea comb that traps fleas in the fur you may not see. Then I dunk the comb in soap-sudsy water to dislodge and drown the fleas.