Dear Dr. Fox:

I have a Persian cat who is nearly 7 years old. He eats Purina Cat Chow and likes a bit of peanut butter and yogurt from time to time. My vet says he should be eating wet (canned) cat food, too. I have bought small cans of every brand, but he won't try any of it. My vet says he won't remain healthy in old age if he eats only dry food.

He is a housecat. How do I get him to eat food he doesn't want?

C.W., Bryan, Tex.

I am glad to hear that your cat's veterinarian is concerned about the health risks of a diet of only dry commercial cat food. Many cats become addicted to dry foods, and health problems can arise when they do not take in sufficient fluids. Cats do not have an adequate thirst mechanism like most other animals (including humans and dogs), so they don't drink more water when they need to.

So give your cat water seasoned with salt-free meat or chicken bouillon or juice from mashed tuna or other fish. Also offer her yogurt or cottage cheese mixed with a little water. Use spring water, since cats drink little water and giving them chlorinated and fluorinated tap water (which can contain various chemical pollutants) is potentially harmful.

Dear Dr. Fox:

Regarding your column and the question about the cat that stood erect while urinating due to bone problems: this is exactly what my 13-year-old cat started to do. I found that her hips had such bad arthritis that they were almost frozen.

I solved the problem by using a large, hooded litter box, which prevented her urine from shooting all over. Additionally, I started treating her with glucosamine, but that didn't seem to help.

What seems to have helped most of all is acupuncture. She's had four such visits so far and can now squat to about 50 percent of the way.

E.L., Mantoloking, N.J.

Thanks for your important advice on helping old, arthritic cats not mess outside of their litter boxes -- and enjoy some quality of life.

I have received many letters from readers who have discovered the benefits of acupuncture for their cats and dogs suffering from arthritic pain. Acupuncture works, and it's 100 percent safer than giving steroids.

Dear Dr. Fox:

This is more of a request than a question. Would you kindly address the issue of pet owners' responsibilities in your column? Please stress the importance of being a considerate, responsible pet owner. Though it probably will fall on deaf ears, I maintain the hope that it will have an impact on some owners' thinking.

We own two dogs and live in a peaceful, suburban neighborhood of new homes on half-acre plots. We do not have a fenced-in yard, but we are diligent about keeping our dogs on leashes at all times and cleaning up after them outside. Many of our neighbors also own dogs. Here's the problem: they feel no need to keep their dogs on their property, nor on a leash.

Whenever we walk our dogs in the neighborhood, we encounter many dogs that roam freely on their lawns. As we near their property, they naturally run at us and into the street. Needless to say, not all of these dogs are friendly. Our dogs are frightened and so are we. We have even witnessed a couple of these dogs turn on their owners as the owners made a meek attempt to retrieve them. It has gotten so bad that my husband now walks the dogs with a canister of pepper spray in preparation for a meeting with aggressive dogs.

Once, in frustration, I told a neighbor down the street that her actions were really inconsiderate. Her response was that I have to either "deal with it or call the cops." We don't want to escalate the problem and we don't have the heart to call animal control, as it's not the dog's fault that it's being allowed to roam free. Though we love our house, we are actually considering moving because of this situation. The sad fact is that it might be the same elsewhere.

Dr. Fox, am I asking too much? Would you please remind people everywhere that pet ownership comes with obligations, with basic rules of consideration and responsibility that should be obeyed out of respect for others in the world? I'd appreciate it.

L.K., Ralston, Neb.

You are not alone in facing this community problem. But you do need to call your local animal control agency, which will serve warning citations to all the neighbors who have unrestrained/unfenced dogs roaming freely. I regard such irresponsibility as criminal negligence, and believe that people who let their dogs roam free (or run free in public places without verbal or other means of effective control) should be put on notice by the authorities; repeat offenders ought to be appropriately fined until they comply with the law.

Find other neighbors, with or without dogs, who share your concerns and get a signed petition for dogs to be leashed when in public places and secured on their guardians' property, never being allowed to run except in designated community dog parks.

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.