Dear Dr. Fox:

My 10-year-old tortoiseshell has a bad limp in her left front leg. The veterinarian says it is arthritis. Is she in pain? What can we do to help her?

She also is terrified when I want to apply Frontier, so much so that I’ve had to give it up at times. What can I do?

J.E., Shepherdstown, W.Va.

DF: I advise against all regular applications of topical spot or drop-on anti-flea chemicals on cats.

Arthritis is common, even in young cats. It’s a disease attributable primarily to inadequate, pro-inflammatory diets. And for similar reasons, it is prevalent in feline and human populations, attributable to dubious products of industrial farming and the processed, convenience-food industry.

Quality fish oil for dogs and cats should help your cat. Begin with a few drops in her food and then work up to a teaspoon daily or a quarter of that amount if it is pure cod-liver oil. Also, give supplements your veterinarian can prescribe, such as chondroitin and glucosamine, but no nonsteroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs.


Dear Dr. Fox:

What kind of moist cat food do you recommend? I’ve been feeding nothing but dry. Years ago, our vet recommended only dry, saying canned food wasn’t good for cats. Our mixed breed gets some fresh liver snacks, but also Nutro Natural Choice Lite.

Is there something better for him? He is 5 and not overweight, even though he doesn’t get much exercise.

M.E., Nixa, Mo.

DF: Veterinarians used to recommend just dry food for cats, in part, because some were led to believe that crunchy dry food would help keep their teeth clean. But these days, most animal doctors recommend that cats eat moist, canned, home-prepared or a balanced raw food, which you thaw before serving.

Check with a specialty pet store or an upscale grocery store for better brands of canned and dry cat foods, such as Evo, Innova, Wellness, Organix, PetGuard and Newman’s Own.

A diet of dry, high-cereal-content cat food is responsible for a host of feline health problems. Your cat might be addicted to dry food. So give him cat food with low or no grains, as per the aforementioned brands. And then offer various brands of canned food, starting with a tablespoon when he is hungry. Limit his dry food intake accordingly.


Dear Dr. Fox:

About 10 years ago, a young, semi-feral shorthair cat selected me to be her provider at a small marina where I work. She is mild-mannered but easily spooked and comes only to me. She remains an outdoor cat by choice, but I provide a doghouse shelter, fresh water and three meals a day. Her appetite is good, and she grooms herself well.

Recently, I noticed that her coat is thinning along her spine. There is no wetness, no scabbing and no flea dirt. It’s much like a man’s balding.

I want to spare her the trauma of an animal carrier and vet appointment, but mostly I want to preserve her trust. It was many years before she would allow me to pet her.

J.H.A., Mystic, Conn.

DF: You have clearly established a bond, which could be subsequently reestablished. I would trap her in a humane box trap and have her condition evaluated by a veterinary cat specialist. She probably needs to be wormed, and the veterinarian will probably insist on vaccinations. You do not know whether she has been spayed, and I would not agree to an exploratory operation to see whether she needs this operation because she is getting on in years and her breeding days are probably over.

I doubt she will lose trust in you. She should come around quickly once you release her into her familiar terrain. Perhaps you should seriously consider making her a live-in companion. Unable to escape from a suitable room or indoor enclosure, many cats settle down and come to feel safe and secure, especially when paired with an outgoing, socialized cat.


Dear Dr. Fox:

My cat Missy is 4. I have had her since she was 8 weeks.

Recently, we had a bad thunderstorm with wicked flashes of lightning and loud claps of thunder. Missy was upstairs at the time and came running down and hid under the living room sofa for five hours!

Televisions never used to bother her, but she now is deathly afraid of them when they are on. If I turn on the TV downstairs, she will stare at it for a few seconds, then run upstairs. She will lie by me in the upstairs bedroom, but as soon as I turn on the TV, she runs downstairs.

She seems so unhappy and won’t even play with her toys. She eats well, and her toilet behavior is fine.

B.B., Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

DF: Your cat’s thunderstorm-associated TV phobia is a new one for me. Try desensitizing her by leaving the TV on without any sound or static noise, day and night, for three to four days. Then slowly turn up the volume over several days. Keep her out of the room when you want to watch a particular program during the desensitization period.

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. Write to him at United Feature Syndicate, 200 Madison Ave., New York, N.Y. 10016.