DEAR DR. FOX: I read your recent article about the unnecessary rabies shots for indoor-only cats.
I am in complete agreement with you, but I'm at a loss as to what to do when the veterinarian we use insists that the cat (in my case, it's more than one) be given the shot. There is also the law, and he reminds me of that every time.
Our kitties do not -- and never will -- go outside. They won't get out accidentally either, as neither of them shows any interest in going outdoors.
Please advise on what you suggest I do. Changing vets is not an option, as we live quite far away, and they all seem to share the same rule regarding this vaccination. -- S.A., Ocean View, Del.
DEAR S.A.: Any government (local, state or federal) that mandates certain medical procedures is ostensibly doing so with the best intentions in service to the greater good. But such mandates must be based on sound science and guided by bioethics to allow for case-by-case exceptions; otherwise, there is neither transparency nor accountability -- and the absence of those qualities is the hallmark of totalitarianism.
It is highly questionable, if not draconian, to mandate annual anti-rabies vaccinations for cats who never go outdoors (and annual vaccinations for dogs when three-year interval vaccines are available). There is also the question of the duration of immunity following vaccination. In many instances, booster shots are not needed.
For more details, and to support research and future reforms as needed in this area, visit rabieschallengefund.org. The organization reports that the state of California passed legislation in October 2011 allowing veterinarians to write exceptions for animals whose health may be put at risk by vaccination. California is the 14th state to enact such legislation. Have your veterinarian run blood tests to determine antibody titers, which may show that your cats do not need additional rabies vaccinations. Your animals' doctor could write a note if that is the case, indicating that revaccination was not deemed necessary.
DEAR DR. FOX: This is not a medical question, but I would like to know how to get my baby parakeet to be people-friendly.
This is our fifth parakeet. I had the last one for 12 years. He was very friendly, but he didn't talk much. All of my previous birds were yellow males (or so I was told).
Number five is a very busy bird: He loves his cage and toys, and, more important, he has a good appetite. His wings were clipped and are now growing in.
What can I do to get him to perch on a hand or allow me to touch or pet him? He threatens to bite whenever I approach him. -- S.A., Jupiter, Fla.
DEAR S.A.: Your parakeet is still young and is behaviorally flexible, so establishing friendly social bonds with humans should be easy. My guess is that he came from a breeder. Before you purchased him, he was with other birds, he bonded with them and had minimal human contact. So you must be patient with him and not force contact.
Parakeets (budgerigars) are highly social birds. They live in flocks in the wild. Once your bird habituates to your presence, caregiving routines and chatty conversations with him, his need for social affirmation should result in him becoming attached to you, his caregiver and surrogate flockmate.
For short periods, put a tough work glove in his cage to get used to, then wear it and offer him his favorite treat from your glove-protected hand. You will be less afraid, and you won't make sudden avoidance movements. This will make him less apprehensive, since fear is a contagious emotion. Once he is bonded with you, I would advise you to consider adopting another parakeet -- birds of a feather belong together. To deprive your bird of contact with his own species in order to imprint onto humans and facilitate his learning to speak is ethically abhorrent, even though it is the norm.
(Send all mail to email@example.com 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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