Dear Dr. Fox:

I am writing in response to your article addressing the use of spot-on and drop-on flea and tick insecticides on a routine basis.

Many years ago, our veterinarian recommended that we add powdered brewer's yeast to our cats' food for the additional protein it provides. Much to our amazement, it also rid them of fleas. Furthermore, we found that the yeast stimulates the cats' appetites. Unfortunately, it doesn't have any effect on ticks -- it's still necessary to seek those out and use the Vaseline-and-tweezers removal method. Nevertheless, the yeast gives the animals relief from the itching of fleas and keeps our home free of these pests. We highly recommend the brewer's yeast treatment for its threefold benefits.

E.L.R., Bridgeport, Conn.

Thank you for sharing your experience with a widely acknowledged nutritional supplement that helps deter fleas.

Use about 1/2 teaspoon of brewer's yeast at mealtime for a cat or small dog, and 1 full teaspoon per 30 pounds for larger dogs. This treatment is especially important during the hot, muggy summer flea season (and year round in states like Florida and Arizona). Chopped garlic may also benefit dogs, but it is not safe for cats. Give 1 clove of fresh, chopped garlic per 30 pounds of your dog's weight. Flaxseed oil (1/4 teaspoon per 15 pounds) also benefits both cats and dogs.

Dear Dr. Fox:

My 4-year-old cat, Arthur, has recently begun mounting my leg anytime I'm lying down. He doesn't rub the way a dog would, but kneads with his front and back paws for up to five minutes if I let him. Although his bottom doesn't touch my leg, he is as obsessive about it as a dog in heat. Should I be worried?

G.H., Washington

What he's doing is a combination of nursing/kneading with his front paws, which is a self-comforting behavior, followed by sexual mounting of your leg. These behaviors are not uncommon in cats and are no cause for concern.

Try diverting him with a fluffy toy on a string that you pull for him to catch and "kill," and a sock or pouch filled with catnip to nuzzle and carry around. Keep the catnip in a plastic bag in the refrigerator between playtimes, which are best in the evening and last thing at night.

Finally, your cat needs the company of his own kind, and he's young enough to accept another cat into the home.Dear Dr. Fox:

I have a couple of questions I'd like your opinion on. I have two cats who will both be 8 years old in August. They love to eat plastic (mainly plastic bags). We have to be very careful about leaving anything like that sitting around. Have you ever seen anything like this?

Also, one kitty has been taking phenobarbital for two years now to control seizures. We have not seen her have one since she started taking the medication. Do you feel this medication should be taken for life? I have tried to read up on this subject, but find it confusing. We have her blood levels checked often and she is doing well.

A.R., Ozark, Mo.

Cats often like to lick and chew on plastic and photographic prints, which I believe is because there are animal byproducts like fat (stearates) and gelatin mixed in with other potentially toxic chemical compounds in these man-made materials. So it is best to keep cats away from these materials.

Cats rarely develop seizures, so it is advisable to have your veterinarian check for thyroid disease and other underlying health problems that could result in periodic spells.

You may want to try your cat on a home-prepared diet containing fresh, raw meat or poultry, and do not feed her any dry cat food that is high in cereals. Then, after six to eight weeks on the new diet, take her off the phenobarbital (which can cause liver damage) and see how she does.

Some spayed cats also seem to improve, in terms of hyperirritability and aggressive behavior, when given a long-acting progesterone injection; ask your vet about this as well. Such an injection may also help your cat become less seizure-prone, as progesterone has a mildly tranquilizing effect.

Dear Dr. Fox:

We have a small male poodle, 14 years old. Lately, he's been drinking a lot of water resulting in a lot of urination -- at times uncontrollable, and at times in his own bed. The smell is terrible. Any suggestions?

R.G., Barnegat, N.J.

My question to you is why did you not immediately take your dog to be checked by a veterinarian when you realized that he was drinking much more water than usual? He may well have kidney disease or a form of diabetes and should receive immediate veterinary attention.

Anytime an animal has a change in routine behaviors like drinking, eating, playing, sleeping and wanting to go out to walk or jog, a veterinary appointment is called for.

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.