Dear Dr. Fox:

I followed your advice about giving catnip to my three cats. Two of them love it! I grow my own in my yard, sun-dry the herb, and give them a pinch every few days. They get so relaxed!

I decided to give some fresh flower heads and leaves to the two that love it, and one immediately vomited. He never did this when I gave him the crushed dry leaves and flowers. Cleaning it up, I found two fur balls.

G.L., Roanoke

DF: My two cats also enjoy the occasional pinch of dried catnip. One even vomited fur balls less than a minute after he ate the fresh herb.

Fur balls can be harmful to cats, and many do not regurgitate them. They can fill up the stomach, interfere with digestive processes and cause intestinal blockage.

kitty dental floss

Dear Dr. Fox:

I have a cat with mild cardiac issues. He is on a low dose of baby aspirin and atenolol.

Vets always want to clean his teeth; he has tartar and a couple spots of redness on his gum. His cardiologist believes that although he would probably be fine with general anesthesia, in the absence of an emergency, there’s no reason to take the risk. He mentioned some vets have loved PetzLife, and maybe I should try it. He said as far as he knows, it won’t interfere with medication.

What is better for cats, peppermint or salmon?

J.K., Minneapolis

DF: I am glad to hear that your veterinary cardiologist is on the ball and acknowledging the benefits of PetzLife oral care products. I would use the salmon-flavored product that my cats like. Be sure to not overdo applications, and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Giving your cat a raw chicken wing tip with all the skin from the wing or a thin strip of raw beef to chew on once a week will help keep teeth clean and remove the tartar loosened by the PetzLife gel or spray. Chicken skin and raw beef are like kitty dental floss. But scald them to kill any salmonella and other potentially hazardous bacteria.


Dear Dr. Fox:

We adopted two kittens — brothers and littermates. They are neutered.

They get along very well, and they play together, groom each other and sleep together. I have three litter boxes (two are covered boxes.)

Occasionally, B used the bathtub or sink to urinate in. In early October, he defecated in the sink. Both cats love to drink from the sink.

We feed the cats downstairs by their litter boxes so they know where they are located. The boxes are in a quiet spot. I put bowls of water in the areas where they’re urinating to try and stop the behavior.

We believe B’s brother is now the dominant cat. He can easily take B’s toy or treat from him without any fuss. I don’t know if this behavior is because he is trying to establish dominance or something else.

I have had cats in the past, but I’ve never experienced this sort of behavior. Any suggestions?

R. & N.K., Houston

DF: The out-of-place toilet behavior you describe is not uncommon. I would consider removing the litter box covers, which some cats detest.

Fixing dripping faucets switches off many cats’ delight in sipping and playing with the drops, so I’d suggest purchasing a plug-in drinking fountain. Cats, especially ones eating dry food, need to drink plenty of water, and a bubbling water dispenser attracts them.

After ruling out cystitis and constipation, my solution for my cat, Igor, was to put a few inches of water in both sink and tub for a few days. Most cats do not like to get wet, and this might be your best solution. I do not believe that this behavior has anything to do with their interrelationship.

renal failure in dogs

Dear Dr. Fox:

Six years ago, we brought home Sophie, a bichon, from the vet’s office.

She has been diagnosed with incurable kidney disease. She was dehydrated, vomiting and quit eating; she always loved to eat. We want to give her the best medical care. Our vet hydrated her for a week and put her on antibiotics and nausea medication. She is starting to eat better now, but we understand that a diet for renal failure is necessary.

Do you have a good and tasty recipe that we can prepare for her? She is picky about her food; if it doesn’t smell good, she won’t eat it.

We would appreciate any medical advice and a healthy dinner recipe you may have to keep our sweet little Sophie as healthy and happy as possible.

M.K., St. Louis

DF: Chronic renal failure in dogs and cats takes more than a manufactured prescription diet to help maintain.

Many of these special diets are unpalatable and high in cereals that might aggravate some of the consequences of kidney disease, especially when the patient is losing protein in the urine.

It is critically important to have the dog’s creatinine level in the blood monitored, along with serum calcium and phosphorus. Potassium deficiency might call for appropriate supplementation. High blood pressure and anemia need to be checked for and treated. Fish oil can help improve kidney function.

My Web site,, can help.

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