Dear Dr. Fox:
Last week, we had to have our beloved 13-year-old kitty, Alice, put to sleep for health reasons. Our house is so empty without a cat.
We plan to adopt an adult female cat. Our local shelter, King Street Cats, has many to choose from. I would like you to help me persuade my husband to adopt two cats. We are senior citizens, but we are away from the house five or six hours each day. I am afraid a cat that is used to living in a shelter would be very lonesome while we are gone.
I appreciate anything you can add to my desire to adopt two adult cats that are littermates or that are used to being together.
DF: I am glad to read that you would prefer to adopt two cats because you and your husband are away from the home for much of every day.Cats do suffer from loneliness and boredom. I frequently emphasize in my advice that two cats are generally happier, healthier and more active and lively than those that live alone.
Cats living together engage in social grooming that reduces stress and might boost their immune systems. They often enjoy sleeping together, which provides mutual security and the benefits of rest and relaxation. Most cats enjoy playing together and can be encouraged with various interactive toys, my favorite being a feather tied with a long string to a short cane — the cat fishing rod. Physical play, including stalking, chasing and wrestling, provides mental and physical stimulation and serves as a social bond strengthening and affirming activity.
Strange cats will often get on well, but, generally, littermates and a mother and one of her kittens get along best of all. My book “Supercat: Raising the Perfect Feline Companion” will give you more insights and inspiration to make your indoor environment as cat-friendly and as safe as possible.
Dear Dr. Fox:
My 5-year-old cat has recently started defecating in the bathtub, much to my disgust.
I have changed her diet to include wet food and fiber. I’ve changed her litter and taken the top off the litter box, but nothing has worked.
Her stools are always dry and hard, and I’ve caught her crying in the tub once or twice. I leave her alone while I’m at work, but I have another cat, and they get along fine, so I don’t think it’s an aggressive behavior toward me for leaving her without company.
I come home every day to stools in the tub, and I am coming to my wits’ end.
DF: I am glad you wrote to me regarding this very common cat problem, because I am sure many cats are wrongly scolded for defecating outside the litter box.
Some will do this when the box needs to be cleaned or a cover makes the dark interior irritating. But most cats that behave as yours does experience pain when evacuating in the box, and they become aversely conditioned by associating being in the box with pain.
Your cat could be suffering from painful constipation, blocked anal glands or both. A veterinary checkup would be advisable. The mild laxative Laxatone and a few mashed lima beans in your cat’s wet food might help. Also, deep abdominal massage can help many cats that are suffering from chronic constipation.
Dear Dr. Fox:
We have a 6-year-old female Pomeranian, Alla, that is trained to urinate indoors on pads. For the past six years, she has faithfully utilized her pad for her duties.
Recently, we left her for three days at a trusted pet sitter’s house. We are now experiencing her wetting once or twice daily on the floor just outside her pad.
Do you have any insight or suggestions as to how we can restore the consistency she once had?
DF: Before coming to a psychological interpretation of an animal’s change in behavior, one must always first rule out a physical or medical cause.
The stress of separation and of being in an unfamiliar environment at the pet sitter’s house could have brought on cystitis (bladder inflammation), possibly complicated by a bacterial infection and urinary calculi. A veterinarian can rule out this possibility.
Try accommodating her behavior by putting four pads side-by-side on the floor, on top of several sheets of newspaper. Then, at weekly intervals, make the area smaller, until you are down to one pad. This shaping of her behavior to retrain her to urinate on one small spot should prove effective. If she has difficulty squatting, you might want to have her checked out for lower lumbar or hip arthritis.
Dear Dr. Fox:
I’ve got a problem with my dog, Charlie. For several months, he has had a bad case of fleas.
No matter how many flea baths, flea powders and flea collars I’ve tried, the fleas just won’t subside. I live with my mother, and I wanted to bomb the house, but she won’t let me because she thinks it will get all over her doll collection and furniture.
What can I do? I know the fleas are really bothering my dog. Is there a homemade remedy?
R.F., Milford, Conn.
DF: You are correct that the house most probably must be thoroughly fumigated by a professional to break the flea cycle. Fleas feed off the dog and hatch and develop in carpets, floor cracks, crevices and down the sides of upholstered furniture.
Alternatively, set up some 15-watt light bulbs just off the floor over pans of warm soapy water to serve as flea attractors. Fleas will jump toward the warmth of the lights and fall into the sudsy water and drown.
Sprinkle and vigorously brush into carpets borate powder, such as Flea Busters, or try diatomaceous earth on carpets, sides of furniture and everywhere the flea larvae might be hiding. Vacuum up after 72 hours, and repeat after seven to 10 days, and again after another seven to 10 days.
Be sure to have the dog given at least one flea-killing shampoo during this time, and use a flea comb to check for and catch any fleas you may find on him.
The in-home dustings with borate powder or diatomaceous earth will not harm your dog.
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.