Timid cat is bullied by three housemates

April 5, 2012

Dear Dr. Fox:

I have four cats that get along all right, with the exception of one. I rescued Eugenie from my neighborhood, and she is very timid and often bullied by the other cats. I give her as much special attention as possible. She has a separate feeding area in an upstairs bathroom away from the others. I have a litter box for her in the spare bedroom, which, unfortunately, the other cats also use.She has started to urinate in the bathroom sink and on the counter. I could move her food to the spare bedroom and lock her out of the bathroom, but my concern is that she will find somewhere else to urinate that might not be as easy to find or clean up.

M.J., Poughquag, N.Y.

DF: Try using the cat pheromone Feliway in one or two of the rooms the cats use most often. This can have a calming effect and help cats get along better.

Rubbing a moist cloth on all the cats’ heads (temples and lips, in particular) and then wiping it on the other cats might help. Repeat this procedure morning and evening for seven to 10 days, keeping the cloth in a plastic bag to retain the group scent.Allow your fearful cat to continue to urinate in the bathroom sink and counter in the interim; forcing change at this time could cause your fearful kitty additional stress. Eugenie might have stress-related cystitis, so contact your veterinarian. You can take a urine sample from her deposit in the sink (keep it plugged until you get a sample) for analysis. Putting a couple of drops of lavender oil under a layer of cotton where she sleeps might also prove beneficial and is a practice used in some animal shelters.

LITTLE DOG, BIG HEART

Dear Dr. Fox:

I recently came across your column regarding the quoted price of $400 for a sonogram for a pet. I suggest your reader get a second opinion and quote — it might prove to be quite a surprise. Our local veterinary clinic gave my husband a quote of $60 for the same procedure.Three years ago, we adopted an adorable 12-year-old toy Yorkie that was in very bad shape. At barely three pounds, she could walk only a few feet before having to stop and rest. She was so tiny that we started calling her Little Bit. After getting her, we immediately took her for a thorough checkup. After two months with us, Little Bit gained two pounds and was running to her favorite park.Recently, I found what turned out to be a cancerous lump in Little Bit’s tummy area. She had never been spayed, and we were told that she would also need to have that done at the time of the surgery or the cancer would return with a vengeance. Knowing that any surgery on a very small 15-year-old dog is extremely risky, we decided to get a second opinion. That opinion confirmed the first, and we were quoted a price of $700 to$800 for the surgeries. The surgeries were done at the clinic we always use. We never asked about the cost and were amazed when we got the bill: It was less than $200.I am happy to report that Little Bit survived the surgeries with no problems, like the little trouper she has always been. She is doing well and is once again running in her favorite park, although she has slowed down a tad. The best thing we ever did for ourselves was to adopt that tiny little dog.

M.A.C., Central Point, Ore.

DF: Three cheers to Little Bit, and to you for adopting such an old dog in the first place, and seeing her through what sounds like breast cancer.

Some dogs do have an amazing will to live, which, along with good nutrition and a strong immune system, help speed recovery from surgery and illness. But, just as with human patients, prolonged hospitalization for animal patients can delay recovery. So this is avoided by enlightened veterinarians who know that instructed care in the animals’ familiar home environment is less stressful, especially in terms of separation anxiety and associated fears.If a dog’s breast/mammary tumor is caught and removed early enough (before it spreads to the lungs and other organs), she will have a good prognosis. The best thing to do is spay a dog at 5 or 6 months, before her first heat.With toy breeds such as Little Bit, special attention must be given to their teeth and gums because dental problems are common. If neglected, these problems can lead to the spread of disease to the kidneys, heart and other internal organs. Toy breeds need diets relatively low in carbohydrates and fiber.

DO ANIMALS CRY?

Dear Dr. Fox:

I am writing in reference to your article about animals crying.I have four Chihuahuas: two 7-year-olds and two 5-year-olds (they are a mother, father, son and daughter). My husband retired three years ago, and since then, our dogs have bonded to him more than ever.Every time my husband leaves the house, our 7-year-old female, Monica, sits at the back door looking forlorn and showing signs of tears. My husband recently went on a week-long trip to Texas, and Monica sat at the back door for several hours each day, hanging her head and crying. I assume she missed my husband.When I approached her, she gave me hateful looks and skulked off to be alone. She waited for him at the garage door, then she’d sit on his favorite chair until bedtime. Her eyes were wet until he returned. When he got home, she was ecstatic — dancing, prancing and squealing. She demonstrates these emotions every time he is gone, whether it’s for five minutes or five days. My other three dogs were not as sad as she was; I think she missed my husband more than I did.

L.G., Portsmouth, Va.

DF: I know that many readers will appreciate your letter confirming that some grieving dogs will get watery eyes and shed tears.

In humans, grief is recognized as an emotional disorder with varying degrees of severity, just like depression. I would make the same medical claim for animals, and I would distinguish this condition from separation anxiety, in which there is often more agitation and destructive behavior.Like many grief-stricken people, animals — from dogs to horses to elephants — can lose the will to live. They withdraw from social interaction, sleep more and refuse food and attempts to provide comfort and relief. Psychotropic drugs such as Prozac, injections of appetite- stimulating vitamin B complex and physical activity and interaction with familiar, friendly animals can help ameliorate the grief.Metaphysically, grief is a breaking of the heart or spirit, a psychological reaction to the trauma of close emotional connections being severed. This dispirited condition can lead quite rapidly to death in susceptible individuals, human and nonhuman alike, if not recognized and if appropriate intervention is not initiated.

Michael W. Fox, author of a newsletter and books on animal care, welfare and rights, is a veterinarian with doctoral degrees in medicine and animal behavior. Write to him at United Feature Syndicate, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, Mo. 64106.

2012 United Feature Syndicate

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