Dear Dr. Fox:
I have a well behaved, sweet but very skittish 1-year-old female Ragdoll cat. My husband and I brought her home at 11 weeks old and she immediately bonded with our very sociable male Ragdoll.
Although she doesn't hide, you can't approach or even pay her the least attention without her scurrying away. If she perceives she cannot escape, she lets out an audible meow. After letting out the warning meow she will allow us to pet her and appears quite contented. Ironically, she is the one who will occasionally sleep on our bed or will curl up in a basket right next to my computer.
What, if anything, can we do to ease her anxiety?
D.T., Fort Lauderdale
Some cats are "wired" differently, and while they protect themselves from being caught, they do enjoy being petted. They simply lack the will to initiate contact themselves. Fear/anxiety may play some role, so a short course of treatment with alprazolam (Xanax) prescribed by her veterinarian may help. Or try the new feline pheromone/scent product Feliway. Put a little on your sleeves and on your bed where she sleeps. This may calm her down and make her less fearful of being approached. Simply holding the cat, gently but firmly, initially for a few seconds and then for gradually longer and longer periods, while talking to her in a calming voice may also help her become desensitized and enjoy being held.
Dear Dr. Fox:
We have a wonderful 3-year-old bichon frise dog named Tasha. I groom her every day, cleaning her eyes, ears and teeth, and combing her hair thoroughly. Last summer, while we were at our summer home, I noticed red staining from her eyes (she had never had that before), and, eventually, it became worse and worse.
I brought her to two vets in Rhode Island and both told me there was nothing they could do, it happened to some dogs and, because she was white, it was more noticeable. I felt bad because she looked terrible and people would tell me I needed to clean her eyes more regularly.
When we came back to Florida, I took her to our vet here and he told us she had an infection and that sometimes medication works. He prescribed 100-milligram doxycycline tablets.
Well, the red staining is now completely gone and she is back to her beautiful self. It took about two months for the medication to work, but you could see the difference almost immediately.
Last week our vet told us to cut back the medication to every other day, so that's what we're doing right now. I've sent you a picture so you can see for yourself.
I'm sure other owners of these beautiful dogs would like to have this information.
J.E., Naples, Fla.
I'm glad you found a veterinarian who was able to clear up your dog's chronic eye problem.
Many animals get reddish-brown stains from their tears and saliva (which also gets on their front paws). Bacterial infection may not always be to blame. Some animals secrete porphyrins that stain the face -- gerbils, in particular, secrete this material in their tears.
Tearful eyes should not be ignored, since tears can be an early warning of eye disease. Some dogs, like humans and some other animal species, do actually cry when distressed, shedding copious tears. I would like to hear from readers who have companion animals who cry in this way.
Dear Dr. Fox:
I have seven birds, two of which are lovebirds. One lovebird is very ill and the vet told me she has a neurological problem and that he cannot help her.
If this lovebird dies, do I have to replace her or can my remaining lovebird be content with all her other friends?
P.G., Manchester, N.J.
I appreciate the concern and sensitivity that your question reveals. If the surviving lovebird gets on well with your other birds, they should serve as an emotional buffer and support after the other lovebird's death.
You need not get another lovebird unless the survivor becomes withdrawn, depressed and loses all interest in life. This is more likely when birds live in pairs and one dies.
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) 2005, United Feature Syndicate Inc.