Dear Dr. Fox:

Two years ago, I adopted a beautiful male snowshoe cat from an animal shelter. He is very sweet, natural and content to be with me. But in all this time, I have never heard or felt him purr. I’ve had cats my whole life, and I have never known one not to be able to purr. Do you have any explanation for this? He’s 4 years old.

P.G., Virginia Beach

DF: There is no scientific answer to your question, only educated guesses about genetics and individual differences.

Many readers will attest to the fact that their cats never purr or meow. Some silent cats become vocal after a vocal cat in the home has passed away.Fear is a significant inhibitor of purring. The word “copycat” is appropriate: Cats learn from one another, so being separated from other cats at a young age might account for some cats’ vocal sounds not being triggered.Try brushing your cat, and learn some massage therapy to help induce deep relaxation. Harp music or Gregorian chants can make cats relax and might put yours in a purring mood.Cats might purr to relax and convey friendly intentions, but one scientific theory holds that the vocal vibrations might influence bone density and help prevent osteoporosis.My view is that because purring might involve circular breathing to create an almost-continuous sound — a trick some musicians employ — cats might be inducing a meditative or altered state of consciousness.

Warts and all

Dear Dr. Fox:

I have a 5-year-old pug. He has several black spots that look like warts on his stomach.The veterinarian I took him to has retired, and a young vet has taken over. The previous vet put him on steroids, but the new vet said she could remove them with surgery. She told me the warts are caused by a virus.What could be causing these growths? What options do I have besides surgery? Can I be infected by this virus?

D.J.W., Uniontown, Pa.

DF: Yes, your dog’s warts are caused by a virus. But because it’s different from the viruses that cause warts in humans, you have nothing to worry about. You can’t get an infection from handling your dog.

I am glad that the veterinarian who prescribed steroids is no longer treating your dog. Steroids could make the problem worse and have other side effects.Try “painting” the warts two to three times a day with apple cider vinegar. You’ll have to stop your dog from licking it off for about 30 minutes. If you see no improvement in a few weeks, I would consider surgery. Have the surgery done soon if any of the warts seem infected or ulcerated and are causing your dog discomfort.Several other home remedies for warts are in the archives section on my Web site, www.
. Some readers have found success by applying vitamin E squeezed out of gelatin capsules.


Dear Dr. Fox:

My ferret, Sparky, is 6 years old, and he has halitosis. When I am playing with him, my hands sometimes get a bad smell from his saliva. He sometimes drools a lot.He won’t chew bones to keep his teeth clean. What do you advise?

S.K.L., Springfield, Mo.

DF: Ferrets, especially older ones such as yours, are prone to developing gingivitis, an inflammation and infection of the gums; tartar, especially on the upper back teeth; and periodontal disease.

Have your ferret examined by a veterinarian. Any of these dental problems can lead to complications, including heart, kidney and pancreatic diseases caused by bacteria, toxins and inflammatory substances that build up in the ferret’s diseased oral cavity.After professional dental care, maintain oral hygiene by providing your ferret with thin strips of raw beef or slices of raw turkey gizzard to chew. Applying PetzLife Oral Care gel or spray will help keep the teeth free of tartar and maintain healthy gums.


Dear Dr. Fox:

I had a cat, Samantha, who lived to be 22 years old. The vet said he could have lived until he was 23; he had only nine months to go. I had to have him put to sleep because he had throat cancer. The vet said he lived a good life and was well taken care of.He ate all types of dry and moist cat food, plus tuna, chicken, turkey, salmon, ham, sweet potatoes and flaxseed oil. He was an indoor cat who never got fleas and who walked on a leash like a puppy. He was more like a kid than a cat.He slept in my arms like a baby at night. He would use his litter box one time, then come to me and meow to let me know he wanted the litter changed. When company would come, he would go down the steps to greet them. (I live in an upstairs apartment.) He loved to go for walks, and he loved to have his hair combed like a person.I could write more, but I should stop. I’m thinking about writing a book about that cat.

N.K., Romney, W.Va.

DF: Cat owners and lovers will enjoy your brief story about life with Samantha.

Some of the ways to help cats enjoy a long and healthy life are confirmed in your letter. Love and understanding, a nutritious diet and keeping your cat indoors unless walking it on a leash.Flaxseed oil is good for dogs and most humans, but it is inadequate for cats, which need fish oil as a source of essential fatty acids.Some cats are brighter than others; they have greater insight, reasoning, focus and dexterity.I wish more people would have more than one cat. Adopting litter mates or a mother and one or more of her kittens is an easy way to have multiple cats. Check my Web site for details about introducing a new cat.

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, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, Mo. 64106.

2012 United Feature Syndicate