The Animal Doctor

DEAR DR. FOX: A recent letter in your column about the cat who started spraying about two years ago reminded me of our Mischief. Mischief wasn’t actually spraying; he just preferred to urinate standing up. From the time he was a kitten, we had to make special litter boxes out of large Rubbermaid containers (no top, door cut into a side) or else we’d have wet walls, floors, etc. He lived to 17 1/2 and never deviated from that posture. There didn’t seem to be any reason other than his personal preference.

Since it’s a recent thing, though, with the cat in the recent column, I’m wondering if perhaps the letter writer’s cat has something structural going on that could make standing feel more comfortable. Or maybe he just thinks he’s human! -- B.W., Ellicott City, Maryland

DEAR B.W.: You are to be commended for your creative solution for your rather unique cat, who should have had tests done to see if indeed your plausible theory of a congenital abnormality of the spine was the issue. That would be my first guess in a young cat.

When older cats suddenly pee and poop outside the litter box and seem to have difficulty bending their backs properly to evacuate, they are often experiencing pain from arthritic vertebrae. Anti-inflammatory fish oil or a sardine a day helps many of these old cats.

Actual spraying is deliberate marking behavior, where the cat will raise the tail (which may vibrate), slightly elevate the hind-end, then back up to whatever he/she wishes to put a scent mark on. This is more common in un-neutered males and is often triggered by stress, as I detail in my book “Cat Body, Cat Mind.” I would like to hear from other readers about their cats’ quirks around the litter box. I wonder why some cats are fastidious about burying their poop while others seem to be erratic even with an otherwise clean litter box. Is that simply forgetfulness? One sign of being emotionally disturbed is house soiling, and not covering the poop may be associated with social stress in the home, in some instances.

DEAR DR. FOX: My holistic vet will only approve Advantage II collars, not Advantix. Advantage does not go through the liver, but stays in the sebaceous glands.

You might pass this along to those people who wrote in about their beloved griffs who died. -- L.U., Arlington, Virginia

DEAR L.U.: I would not use these collars on any living animal if it can be avoided. The simplest solution is not to let your cat outdoors to get infested and bring fleas into your home so they can multiply. Check my website for some holistic and least-harmful flea control measures.

The product in the collars is “lipophilic,” meaning that it is absorbed by the fats on the animal’s skin and kills fleas soon after contact. If a treated animal is stroked by a child or licked by another animal, the product will be transferred and could cause various adverse reactions. A dog wearing such a collar should be kept away from lakes and streams, because it could poison aquatic life.

One of the ingredients in the Advantage II collars is a nicotine-type insecticide that the manufacturers also promote for spraying in and around homes and which kills beneficial insects, including bees. So I say “bug off” with these products, if you please, and stop this insanity.

I find it totally absurd that these kinds of insecticides are given to cats and dogs not when they have a flea infestation, but just in case they might, which is like taking antibiotics in case you get an infection. Chronic use means chronic exposure, which can facilitate fleas and other insects developing resistance. And then stronger insecticides are developed, with potentially greater ecological and public health risks. This is the living history of our toxic chemical agribusiness food industry, which continues to deny any connections with cancer and the demise of pollinating insects. The precautionary principle should not be abandoned for profit.


The Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Chicago’s ban on pet store sales of animals from large commercial breeders, and dismissed a lawsuit initiated by two pet stores and a breeding operation. -- Source: Chicago Tribune

(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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