DEAR DR. FOX: Our 13-year-old neutered male cat (Oggie) goes after our 13-year-old spayed female cat (Ella) in a sexual manner -- mounting her, pawing down her back and biting on her neck. He does this several times a day.
This seems very unusual since they both have been fixed. We thought Oggie would at least do this less as he got older, but he does not seem to be slowing down.
Ella tolerates it for a while, but it usually ends with her turning on him, voicing her annoyance and then chasing after him. It is a whole ordeal the two of them go through, but it also annoys my husband a great deal. -- M.R., Arlington, Va.
DEAR M.R.: As I describe in my book "Understanding Your Cat" (available now as an e-book), during normal play behavior, many cats will incorporate some sexual activities, even when neutered.
The back of the neck "love bite" is often the only component of male sexual behavior that one may see during cat play. This bite asserts dominance and triggers passive submission. When you seize the scruff of a cat's neck, you trigger that same passive, immobilizing reaction. This may have a calming effect, much like a mother carrying a kitten with her teeth.
During sex play, once the love bite triggers immobility, the physical contact the top cat feels can lead to the next behavioral sequence of mounting, back arching and pelvic undulations. If injurious fighting erupts, you should intervene with a loud clap or a squirt of water from a spray bottle.
From your description, it seems like a regular, non-injurious play ritual best left alone.
DEAR DR. FOX: My cats refuse to eat canned food. They merely lick off the gravy and leave the balance. (They eat Friskies.) I've had the vet check their teeth, check for worms and perform a complete physical exam. They all passed with flying colors. We live on a horse farm. The cats bring dead birds, moles and squirrels home to lay at the doorstep -- intact, no parts eaten.
I've heard that cat food manufacturers add ears, ground-up hooves, tails and hair of other animals to their cat food formulas. Is this true? -- W.N.M., Lewisville, N.C.
DEAR W.N.M.: I encourage you to try your cats on different varieties of canned cat food. Our two cats like only two varieties (chicken/herring and salmon/turkey) of Organix cat food. They dislike beef, lamb and lobster.
Cats don't always drink sufficient amounts of water, so consuming moist canned or home-prepared cat food is important. Alternatively, soak some dry food and flavor their water with a little milk or salt-free chicken bouillon or chicken stock.
The instinctual but needless killing of wildlife by cats -- which they bring home as gifts -- should be prevented by keeping the cats indoors. They may enjoy outdoor walks on a leash or time in an enclosure in your yard. Your cats' hunting may be curtailed by having them wear a bell on a breakaway collar, though some cats learn to tuck in their chins to silence the bell! You can also buys a CatBib, which deters cats from killing.
Pet foods that contain "meat and poultry byproducts" include some processed skin, tendons, bone and other body parts, and these add up to an inferior quality of protein. Until fairly recently, feathers from processed poultry were also included. The remains of road-killed and euthanized animals can also end up in some pet foods and livestock feed.
(Send all mail to firstname.lastname@example.org 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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