Dear Dr. Fox:

My question is about our cat. She is 1 year old now. Our problem is that she won't eat moist cat food. We've read some articles that say it's okay; others say it's bad for her. Please help us -- we love her and want her around a long time.

M.E., Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

Cats can become addicted to dry food and refuse other kinds. This can jeopardize their health for several reasons, especially if they don't drink enough water and if there are too many carbohydrates (cereal byproducts) in the formula, which is often the case.

You should try soaking her dry food, and give her only a little non-soaked dry food to help clean her teeth. Once she accepts the soaked dry food you can start mixing in some moist food to give her some variety. This will offset any chances of nutritional deficiency.

Include chopped chicken and turkey and, later, a little pureed kale. Also try sweet potatoes, or whatever other veggies and high-fat and high-protein moist foods she likes, including a small portion of scrambled eggs or yogurt.

Dear Dr. Fox:

Perhaps my question is for a dog psychiatrist, but I trust you can answer it as well as anyone.

My 8-year-old cockapoo has a strong attachment to several fuzzy squeaky-toys in the shapes of animals, carrying them from room to room and squeaking them with strong jabs of her nose in just the right spot. But the behavior I'm really curious about is the following:

I leave my shoes and socks beside the bed upstairs when I'm sleeping. Every morning I find one of my socks (and occasionally my underwear when it was accessible) downstairs, draped directly on top of one of the dog's toys.

If you have an explanation for this I would love to hear it. What is on her mind? My theory is that she sees us putting on and taking off clothes and she is attempting to "dress" her toys. My wife thinks it has more to do with smells.

Only one time did this vary. One spring, when the doors were open, I found a freshly killed, headless young rabbit balanced on top of her toy pig. Was she attempting to "feed" her pig?

H.R., High Point, N.C.

Your rabbit-killing cockapoo knows the difference between covering and feeding.

A Foxian (rather than Freudian) "dog psychiatrist" analysis of her behavior would surely conclude that her squeaky-toys (which incidentally probably contain harmful chemicals if they are not pure rubber or latex) are her puppies.

She is highly intelligent, so when she sees you and your wife under the covers in bed, she mimics you by covering the surrogate puppies that stimulate her caring, maternal impulses. Placing a fresh, headless young rabbit on her toy pig, presumably for it to eat, supports this interpretation.

If she is not spayed, these activities may intensify to the point that she produces milk and has a "hysterical" or false pregnancy.

Dear Dr. Fox:

My son brought back a wonderful aboriginal or pariah dog after working in India for his company. What information is there about these intelligent and loyal dogs?

H.B., Takoma Park

These dogs are indeed remarkable natural survivors, and make interesting and devoted companions. I have two myself. For more information about these "natural" or original/aboriginal dogs, read my article on the Web at http://tedeboy.tripod.com/drmichaelwfox/id6.html.

Dear Dr. Fox:

Three months ago, my daughter, who lives alone, adopted two litter brothers. The kittens are now 6 months old. She adores them and has become their "mommy cat."

When my husband and I visit, the kittens hide in a closet. After a half-hour or so, the braver one will peek out and then retreat. When they finally appear, they dash to another hiding place and ignore us completely. This behavior has only worsened as they have gotten older.

They are playful and mischievous when they are alone with my daughter.

My theory is that the kittens rarely see anyone other than my daughter, and have been unable to adjust to any other human beings. Please comment with advice.

E.G.M., Mamaroneck, N.Y.

Your analysis of the situation that has resulted in your daughter's cats becoming shy of strangers is probably correct. Shy, reclusive people, and those who rarely have houseguests, tend to have cats (and dogs, too) who are either shy of strangers or get overexcited and "in your face" when visitors stop by.

The best preventive is to invite people (particularly children) into the home so that young animals can interact with them, be petted, groomed, played with and given treats so that they become properly socialized.

Michael Fox, author of many books on animal care, welfare and rights, is a veterinarian with doctoral degrees in medicine and animal behavior. Write to him in care of United Feature Syndicate, 200 Madison Ave., New York, N.Y. 10016. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.

(c) 2004, United Feature Syndicate Inc.