The Animal Doctor by Dr. Michael W. Fox

Easter and Animals: Stop the Suffering

DEAR READERS: Millennia before the advent of Christianity, Easter began as a pagan festival to celebrate the advent of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. Like Christmas, Easter has now been commercialized and degraded.

Millions of hatchling chicks and ducklings, along with crates of baby rabbits, are shipped around the U.S. as Easter presents for children. Those few animals who survive are often put up for adoption shortly after the holiday. Children are at risk for infections acquired from these Easter presents, especially salmonellosis, and some are hospitalized with such infections. The U.S. government should prohibit this seasonal market in animal suffering and public health risk.

A more empathy-driven Easter would help the Greening of America. It could be a time to plant more trees and to turn our chemical lawns and bug-free flower gardens into buzzing, singing sanctuaries for harmless, beneficial and increasingly displaced indigenous plants and animals.

Easter, for me, is celebrating the return of spring -- first in the wood mosses greening through the melting snow of Minnesota. We have a cottontail rabbit family living in our former front lawn -- now a rewilded plot -- and the toads will soon be singing again. It is a time for community and ecology recovery and renewal.

DEAR DR. FOX: I run a holistic cat grooming business in the U.K. I groom cats in the comfort of their own homes, as I believe this is best for their mental well-being and reduces stress during the process.

I am currently reading your book “The Healing Touch for Cats,” which I am thoroughly enjoying. I’ve believed for many years that massage can benefit our feline friends hugely. I massage my own cats: One in particular absolutely loves it, and it’s helping her recover from emotional trauma.

I’m wanting to incorporate some massage techniques into my grooming work to make the groom as enjoyable and beneficial as possible, and I would love to teach my clients some tips so that they can help their own cats. I am qualified in basic massage techniques and have a good understanding of feline anatomy.

I notice the world is full of training courses for canine massage techniques, but there is little info on feline massage work. There’s probably a lot of people out there who wouldn’t even think massage would be something a cat could enjoy.

I’d be very grateful for your thoughts on this matter. -- E.C., Skipton, Yorkshire, U.K.

DEAR E.C.: I have found over the years that some cats become addicted to receiving slow, deep massages on a daily basis, while others prefer a gentle, less invasive touch. Cats are rather like people in these varied preferences. In many instances, cats come to accept deeper muscle and abdominal massage after first getting used to more superficial massages.

It is always good to make a few strokes initially, then pause and breathe slowly in harmony with the cat. The cat may then stretch and readjust, or start to knead with the front paws -- a real sign of relaxation and reversion to kittenish self-comforting behavior -- and even roll over and allow abdominal and paw massage.

Some cats have certain body areas they do not like to be touched, often around the base of the tail or the tummy. This may change when the cat becomes more trusting of the process. Some cats, whether because of temperament, prior trauma or underlying medical conditions (such as hyperthyroidism), may never accept being stroked for more than a few seconds, if that. Massage therapy may remain out of the question for such cats.

Studies have shown that massage can improve humans’ immune systems and help in the treatment of autoimmune and inflammatory conditions. By logical extension, my massage routine for cats will help the many suffering from often-undiagnosed arthritis, poor circulation, obesity and depression.

I urge you to incorporate into your grooming business some tips from my “Healing Touch for Cats” book, which has improved the lives of countless felines and their humans over the years. Many owners should be amenable to learning by observation as you show them how much pressure to apply.

Do take extra precautions during this COVID-19 pandemic -- and even when it is over -- because cats can be infected by people with the coronavirus. It may be only a matter of time before a mutant strain from cats infects people, as has happened on mink fur farms.

(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.)