The Animal Doctor

DEAR READERS: The rights and welfare of animals and the protection of endangered species and their threatened habitats were never mentioned in all the various political debates I heard this year in America. Solutions to various environmental and related public health issues are deferred if jobs, local tax-yielding "development" and the GNP are threatened, and animal suffering is justified for the benefit of society.

I see no hope of significant progress until animal and environmental issues are put on the political agenda with the same level of public concern as human rights and interests. The biological deserts created by agri-industry destroying rain forests and grasslands are a testament to human ignorance and irreverence for life. Keeping animals confined and crowded in factory farms is an abomination, causing billions of animals to suffer every day. These animals become the source of epidemic diseases that threaten us year after year. Pesticides and other chemicals contaminate our bodies, air, food and water.

We should include animals in our politics and put them on the public agenda because of their many values and services to society -- ecologically, economically, emotionally and morally. Animal-protection laws and their effective enforcement are the litmus test of societal compassion and responsibility. Animals' moral value lies in our recognition and prohibition of animal cruelty and wanton annihilation of living beings and their communities because such actions are considered immoral. Immorality in any form is unacceptable in civil society. The late Cesar Chavez, president of United Farm Workers of America, wrote: "Kindness and compassion toward all living things is a mark of a civilized society. Conversely, cruelty, whether it is directed against human beings or against animals, is not the exclusive province of any one culture or community of people. Racism, economic deprival, dog fighting and cock fighting, bull fighting and rodeo are cut from the same fabric: Violence. Only when we have become nonviolent towards all life will we have learned to live well ourselves".

Crimes against humanity and nature and acts of terrorism against innocent peoples and other animals are of the same psychopathic currency, variously rationalized on the grounds of necessity by the executioners. A recent report by the World Wildlife Fund and Zoological Society of London shows that the world's wildlife population has dropped by a staggering 58 percent since 1970, with the greatest decline (81 percent) in lakes and rivers. This debacle, along with the billions of our 7 billion population suffering war, poverty and starvation and many indigenous cultures becoming extinct, means we must either evolve and flourish, or devolve and our humanity -- the virtue of being humane -- perish.

The antidote is living by the Golden Rule, which translates into the equality of justice for all beings, social justice and environmental eco-justice being complementary. We must establish mutually enhancing relationships with each other and other species, both wild and domesticated, as we strive to cause the least harm in meeting our basic needs and executing our planetary responsibilities. This is enlightened self-interest for us, the dominant species, to prevent accelerating deterioration of all indices of quality of life on planet Earth. We are interconnected and interdependent: one health, one environment and one wealth.

DEAR DR. FOX: My cat has started eating all kinds of fabrics in the house. She has eaten large chunks of a knitted wool sweater, nitrile gardening gloves, leather and foam gardening gloves, and cotton woven placemats. At times, I have found her gnawing on a glove before eating her canned food. Other times, she drags the object around the house and gnaws at will.

She is checked yearly by a vet and is well. She is 4 years old and indoor-only. There are five other cats and three dogs in the house, with whom she gets along well. Why is she doing this? -- S.T., Batesville, Virginia

DEAR S.T.: This behavior, called pica, is most often seen in Siamese cats. It is generally regarded as a vice or obsessive-compulsive behavior, but it should not be dismissed as purely psychological. Pica, especially in dogs, can be triggered by discomfort due to inflammation in the oral cavity and guts.

Some cats with pica improve after various dietary changes, including providing probiotics, digestive enzymes and more fiber, such as a half-teaspoon daily of soaked psyllium husks mixed in with the canned food. Transitioning onto a raw-food diet with fibrous muscle and organ tissues may help in some instances, or you can try giving your cat a daily scalded chicken wing or thin strip of gristly beef.

You need to do some detective work and get a closer veterinary checkup of her mouth and gums. Keep me posted!

(Send all mail to or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.

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