Dear Dr. Fox:
Three months ago, we added a 7-week-old female kitten to our household, which already had a 1-year-old female cat. We slowly introduced them in separated rooms for a few days, and within a week, they were cleaning each other, wrestling and sleeping together.
However, now we have noticed the older cat surrenders completely to the kitten, refusing to play as soon as the little one comes into view. The kitten constantly jumps on the older one, chases her and seems to terrorize her. The older cat doesn't appear to be threatened, but she will often just run away from the kitten. We try to pay extra attention to the older cat, who seems to have "aged" overnight, becoming more docile, aloof and less affectionate than she was before the new, energized kitten arrived.
Is it possible the kitten is playing the alpha role; or is the older cat depressed at losing her only-child status? Did we go wrong in getting her a younger companion?
K.W., New York
It takes time for newly introduced cats to work things out, and sometimes one will show some change in personality (as you have witnessed).
My interpretation of what you describe: The older cat is being very accepting of the feisty kitten and simply remains passive when attacked playfully, a clear sign of mature tolerance. The kitten will eventually learn to play gently, realizing the older cat is not interested in playing when she runs off.
So, put in playtime with the kitten and continue giving the older cat extra TLC.
No, you didn't go wrong. In a few months, I bet they will be inseparable companions for life. Dear Dr. Fox:
We have an 18-month-old golden retriever named Bentley, who has a skin condition that causes huge dandruff-like flakes all over his body. The flaking seems not to bother him -- he doesn't itch or scratch abnormally -- but following him around the house with a vacuum cleaner is getting a bit overwhelming.
So far, we've tried two special shampoos from the vet, brushing him daily, bathing him every other day, giving him vitamin E tablets, extra-strength Denorex people shampoo, changing his diet -- everything. He's currently eating Pro-Plan chicken adult dog food (which he likes); we've also tried Wellness (which he refuses to eat). Our vet says he might grow out of this condition. But if it's in his genes, he might not.
With two other dogs and cats in the house, cooking special meals is out of the question. Is there anything else we can do to help our flaky Bentley?
B.J. McA., Nokesville, Va.
Excessive production of dry, rather than oily, dandruff could mean your young dog has an idiosyncratic (individually unique) nutritional need that regular, balanced dog food does not satisfy.
Your veterinarian should consider testing supplements such as flaxseed oil, vitamin A, zinc and selenium. A weekly shampoo with a product containing selenium (like Selsun Blue) may also help. The possibility of early onset of hypothyroidism should be considered, too.
Dear Dr. Fox:
Regarding cat attacks at dawn: Our cat, Ivan, did the same thing until I started giving him a bowl of food when we went to bed. Evidently, he was just trying to tell us he was hungry. After all, they are nocturnal.
Many people with cats who awaken them in the early hours have followed your common-sense solution. Cats like to take little snacks rather than two big meals a day. Most cats will self-regulate and not overeat. Those who do gorge should be provided with a dry-food dispenser so that they have to "work" to get a snack.
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.