Dear Dr. Fox:
We have a 5-year-old male cat, Max. He was a year old, neutered and declawed when we adopted him from a shelter.
Staff members told us he had been adopted as a kitten but was returned to the shelter at about 9 months because the couple could not care for him. His real personality started to show only after he was with us for almost two years, finally seeking out affection and allowing himself to be held and petted.
He bonded quickly with our female Lab, then 5 years old, when we brought him home. The dog is very patient with him, and he has always snuggled and head-butted with her. He grooms and play-fights with our female cat, but they mostly just agree to co-exist in the same house as their humans. She’s clearly the dominant of the two.
Max has always kneaded on me, one of the few things he regularly did after we got him, but it was clearly on his terms and comfort level. He’s always been closer to me than to my husband or our daughter. I was the one who brought him home from the shelter.
In the past few months, Max has started kneading our dog and climbing on her back. This happens several times each evening. So far, the dog has been very patient with him and seems to tolerate the behavior, but I worry about a potential reaction from her if she gets tired of him.
What leads to the kneading behavior, and what caused this increase in behavior directed toward our Lab? Should we be concerned about the frequency?
A.C., Desloge, Mo.
DF: You are describing one of the behaviors of cats that is often misunderstood by cat caregivers and is essentially part of a normal, healthy cat’s behavioral repertoire. You can read more in my book, “Cat Body, Cat Mind.’’
Some cats are more needy and knead more than others. This behavior is exacerbated when a cat is weaned from its mother too soon. It’s an anxious cat’s way of seeking contact comfort.
Many cats with no anxiety or early-weaning issues start this behavior as a self-comforting ritual on a caregiver’s arm or ear lobe, blanket, cushion and, in some instances, on another accepting cat — in your case, an indulgent dog. It is an instinctual behavior seen in every kitten nursing and kneading the teat area of the mother with its front paws, and it can persist into adulthood, often accompanied by drooling.
It is not a behavior to discipline but to accept, as your old Labrador retriever does, with patient understanding, gently pushing the cat away when you have had enough. Some cats will even suck on their own tails and flanks. This can become an obsessive-compulsive activity until the cat goes to sleep; intervention tends to increase the anxiety level and makes the cat more motivated to engage in this self-comforting activity.
Dear Dr. Fox:
I am hoping you have some suggestions for helping my 17-year-old cat, Mojo, who started having blood inside his right eye about a week ago. It was very pronounced in the evening and would lighten up the next day (to about normal), darkening again as night approached.
I took him to the vet, who looked closely at his eyes and was concerned because she could not see past the anterior chamber. She suggested that it might be melanoma and that we might need to take him to an ophthalmologist. She then took his blood pressure to see whether hypertension might be the problem. It was 200, which she did not think was a definitively high number, given the stress of being at the vet.
She then suggested it might be uveitis. She gave us steroidal eye drops to administer three to four times a day for two weeks. If this doesn’t help the problem, she wants us to go back for another blood pressure reading.
It has been two days of the drops, and his eye looks worse. Mojo has been a very healthy cat. His only recent behavioral change is becoming more of a lap cat since we euthanized his companion cat about a month ago for renal failure. Mojo has been deaf for a year or so. His appetite and output have been normal. He does throw up a few times a week, usually hairballs, but sometimes foamy vomit. He lives with, and bosses around, a 90-pound dog whose bed he monopolizes.
DF: Your veterinarian has suggested what I consider to be the main possible causes of your cat’s eye issue: High blood pressure and associated kidney disease would be my first consideration, then uveitis or a malignancy.
Your cat’s age and his quality of life, comfort and security are paramount, and these considerations, in my opinion, place limits on how much veterinary intervention and related stress is warranted.
If there are no signs of painful glaucoma, it might be best to have a veterinary eye specialist make a house call, or you could go in for a one-time visit for a definitive diagnosis. Do not be persuaded to have the eye surgically removed if your cat is otherwise enjoying life.
Autoimmune diseases — such as lupus and other chronic inflammatory conditions — afflict manypets. A common cause is vaccines, which the medical establishment continues to deny or discount. This is ethically unacceptable and scientifically unfounded.
At her website, healthypets.mercola.com, Dr. Karen Becker, a veterinarian, writes: “A revved-up (overly stimulated) immune system, which is both the goal and result of vaccines, can set the stage for disorders in which the immune system mistakes the body’s own organs for foreign invaders, and attacks them.
Autoimmune diseases can affect a wide variety of tissues in the body, including blood, joints and muscles, nervous system, thyroid, adrenal glands, kidneys, liver, bowel, reproductive organs, eyes, skin and mucous membranes. While a safe, individualized vaccination program is important for every pet, research shows that dogs and cats absolutely do not require annual re-vaccinations to keep them protected from disease.’’
The book “Vaccines and Autoimmunity,’’ edited by Yehuda Shoenfeld, Nancy Agmon-Levin and Lucija Tomljenovic, provides critical review articles by 77 scientists and medical doctors — from 15 countries — assessing the role of vaccine contents and protocols in the genesis of autoimmune diseases in humans and animals.
This book should be mandatory reading for all involved in the manufacture and distribution of vaccines, and it is a wake-up call for all health-care providers in human and veterinary medicine. A list price of $169.00 is outrageous, but at least inform your veterinarian and human doctor about this important book, which calls for a revision of vaccination protocols and a far less cavalier approach to their use.
I have emphasized this standard in my article “Vaccination Issues,’’ posted on my website, drfoxvet.net.
Michael W. Fox, author of a newsletter and books on animal care, welfare and rights, is a veterinarian with doctoral degrees in medicine and animal behavior. Send letters to email@example.com or write to him at United Feature Syndicate, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, Mo. 64106.