The Animal Doctor

Some Readers’ ‘Pet’ Peeves

DEAR DR. FOX: Responding to your request for ‘pet’ peeves -- or should I say ‘guardian’ peeves? Mine are:

-- Feeding an animal too much so she/he becomes obese.

-- Buying cheap grocery-store pet “food.”

-- Not providing dental care. -- D.A., Falls Church, Virginia

DEAR DR. FOX: Thank you for providing helpful information in your newspaper column. In a past column, a reader asked what the worst mistakes are in pet care. You provided some helpful ideas. May I suggest you add another to the list?

Please stress that pet owners should NOT drive their car with their pet roaming freely in the front seat or sitting in the driver’s lap. It is a danger to the pet, who may be thrown through a windshield in the event of a sudden stop. It is also very distracting to the driver, who may cause an accident that would endanger the lives of the owner, the pet and other drivers/pedestrians.

I have witnessed an accident and have, several times, been nearly hit by drivers who had pets sitting in their laps. I even urge people to write to their congressional representatives to sponsor state laws that pets not be allowed in the front seat unrestrained. It is currently a law in only a few states but, for everyone’s safety, it needs to be a law in every state.

Let’s keep pets and their owners all safe. -- S.B., Burke, Virginia

DEAR D.A. & S.B.: Your “pet peeves” are spot-on, and I need add no more except to endorse your concerns and urge all readers to take your good words to heart.

DEAR DR. FOX: Two weeks ago, I adopted a cat from the Humane Society, and yesterday I had to take him back. I hated to do that, because he was basically a good cat. But MY cat nearly had a heart attack when I brought the new one home. I found that I had to keep New Cat in the basement, and Old Cat upstairs. With bathroom facilities accordingly. Can’t live like that. The few times I tried to get them together required several Band-Aids. For me.

But now that New Cat is gone, how do I convince Old Cat of that without buying another box of Band-Aids? The cat bathroom is in the basement and I’d like to retire the temporary one upstairs. I thought I was doing a good deed, but all I did was upset an already neurotic cat. -- E.J., St. Louis, Missouri

DEAR E.J.: It is foolhardy to simply let a new cat into the home and expect the resident cat or cats to accept the interloper like a long-lost friend. The Humane Society is very much at fault for letting you take the cat without any advice about introduction and preparing your home before you took the cat with you. The steps that should be followed when adding a new cat into a home are available in the article “Introducing a New Cat” on my website, These kinds of materials should be provided by all cat adoption agencies.

It may take several weeks for your resident cat to recover and accept going down into the basement to use the litter box. You may want to place the litter box at the top of the basement stairs or at least close to them, with the basement door open, for a few days. Of course, clean the box used by the new cat with water and vinegar before putting in fresh litter, and clean around the floor surfaces in the basement to at least dilute the scent of the new cat. A plug-in dispenser of Feliway, the cat bonding pheromone, in the basement may also help.

(Send all mail to or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 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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