The Animal Doctor by Dr. Michael W. Fox

Outdoor Enclosure For Cats

DEAR DR FOX: Thank you for discussing vaccinations for indoor cats in a recent column.

I never intentionally allow my cats outside, but two of them dashed out briefly in recent weeks, after which I found a flea on one. I don’t treat them all monthly for fleas, but I responded promptly with treatments for all.

Would you agree that flea treatments are also optional, depending on a pet’s environment? I’ve read of side effects of flea preventatives, as well.

I’m planning an outdoor enclosure for my cats with a pet door to allow them in and out at will. I am aware that there are chemicals available for treating kennels and surrounding lawn, which may be highly advisable.

Would my pets still be considered “indoor” cats? The enclosure would allow smaller animals to pass through, but not those of similar size to the cats, or larger. Are any outdoor animals hazardous to cats in such an enclosure? -- J.W., South Bend, Indiana

DEAR J.W.: I am glad you are going to put up a catio: an outdoor enclosure for your cats.

Many connect via a flap door to the house. Be sure the top is covered and at least partly provides shade and shelter. Sides should have at least a 3-foot fine wire netting or mesh around the bottom to keep small critters out. Put the catio on the sunny side of the house, on a cement base for easy cleaning.

If there are stray cats in your neighborhood, your cats could be at risk from heartworm disease, so discuss vaccination and other local outdoor-cat health risks with your vet. I would not use any long-acting systemic insecticides on your cats. A pinch of brewer’s yeast in their food daily, and good nutrition such as The Honest Kitchen freeze-dried cat foods, will help repel fleas.

Cat predators? I doubt a coyote or bear would try to break into a catio.

DEAR DR. FOX: One of our cats, Greg, has developed acne (by the looks of it) on his chin. It has gotten better over the last two weeks, and his hair loss/scabbing has decreased, but it is still an irritant for him. Any advice would be appreciated. -- J.F. Maple Grove, Minnesota

DEAR J.F.: Your diagnosis of feline acne is correct, judging by the photos you sent. This condition is quite common, and the first step is to cut the fur close to help keep the inflamed area dry between treatments. Applying aloe vera gel for five to 10 days, twice daily, or a hydrosol of diluted tea tree oil, can work wonders. Conventional treatment with corticosteroid and antibiotic cream is also effective.

Cats have scent glands and sebaceous glands around the chin and cheek areas, and lots of bacteria live naturally on the skin surface. What causes this condition may or may not be hormonal, or a dietary lack of some nutrients -- especially the essential fatty acids found in fish oil that are lacking in dry kibble. Some cats also develop chin lesions when plastic food and water bowls are replaced with ceramic.

THE KILLING OF EVERGREEN TREES A VERY UN-CHRISTMAS RITUAL

Millions of little evergreen trees will be killed this Christmas for the holiday/Holy Day celebrations, in imitation of a long-forgotten pagan ritual of dressing the symbolic Tree of Life in gratitude. It is time for all of us consumers to wake up and examine such cultural traditions and, in this instance, pledge to plant indigenous varieties of trees, ideally every spring. Communities should set aside land, including public grass-mowed parks and other public and corporate acres, for such plantings. This will do much to help arrest climate change and, hopefully, put an end to the wanton felling of trees for Christmas decoration. The holiday should be a time to revere and celebrate life rather than a time of thoughtless killing.

(Send all mail to animaldocfox@gmail.com 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.

Visit Dr. Fox’s website at DrFoxOneHealth.com.)