DEAR DR. FOX: In May, we adopted two male kittens -- brothers and littermates. They are neutered. They get along very well, and they play together, groom each other and sleep together. I have three litter boxes (two are covered boxes, one is not. All get scooped two times a day.
Occasionally, B used the bathtub or sink to urinate in, but in early October, he pooped in the sink. Both cats love to drink out of the sink if I am there getting ready for work.
We have no small children or other pets. We feed the cats downstairs by their litter boxes so they know where they are located. The boxes are in a quiet spot -- no one bothers them when they're going. I put bowls of water in the areas where they're peeing to try and stop the behavior, since it is difficult to close off the rooms. That seemed to work until this morning. While I was trying to sleep, B pooped in the bathtub in the master bath, and he used towels to cover it up, even though there was a bowl of water in the tub, from which he and the other cat drink.
We believe B's brother -- the runt of the two -- is now the dominant cat. He can easily take B's toy or treat from him without any fuss. I don't know if this behavior is due to trying to establish dominance or something else.
I have had cats in the past, but I've never experienced this sort of behavior. I don't know where else to turn as my vet cannot find any reason for this behavior. My vet says he has heard of cats (especially neutered males) liking the texture/feel of porcelain sinks, and he believes that the behavior may be in response to an issue the brothers are having. My fear is that this is becoming a learned trait and will be impossible to stop. Any suggestions? -- R. & N.K., Houston
DEAR R. & N.K.: The out-of-place toilet behavior you describe in your cat is not uncommon. I would consider removing the litter box covers, which some cats detest. Fixing dripping faucets switches off many cats' delight in sipping and playing with the drops, so I'd suggest purchasing a plug-in drinking fountain. Cats, especially ones eating dry food, need to drink plenty of water, and a bubbling water dispenser attracts them.
After ruling out cystitis and constipation, my solution for my cat, Igor, who began pooping in my sink and peeing in the bathtub, was to put a few inches of water in both sink and tub for a few days. Most cats do not like to get wet, and this may be your best solution. I do not believe that this behavior has anything to do with their interrelationship.
DEAR DR. FOX: Six years ago, we brought home our female bichon from the vet's office after the breeder left her there when the vet delivered her puppies surgically. She was not socialized, and she didn't know how to walk with a collar and leash. We gave her the love and happy home she never had before.
She has been diagnosed with incurable kidney disease. She was dehydrated, vomiting and quit eating -- she always loved to eat. We want to give her the best possible medical care. Our vet hydrated her for a week and put her on antibiotics and nausea medication. She is starting to eat better now, but we understand that a diet for renal failure is necessary.
Do you have a good and tasty recipe that we can prepare for her? She is picky about her food -- if it doesn't smell good, she won't eat it.
We would appreciate any medical advice and a healthy dinner recipe you may have to keep our sweet little Sophie as healthy and happy as possible. -- M.K., St. Louis
DEAR M.K.: Chronic renal failure in dogs and cats takes more than a manufactured prescription diet to help maintain. Many of these special diets are unpalatable and high in cereals that may aggravate some of the consequences of kidney disease, especially when the patient is losing protein in the urine.
It is critically important to have the dog's creatinine level in the blood monitored, along with serum calcium and phosphorus. Potassium deficiency may call for appropriate supplementation, and high blood pressure and anemia need to be checked for and treated. Fish oil is one supplement that can help improve kidney function.
For home-prepared diets for this condition, visit secure.balacneit.com. My website, DrFoxVet.com, will also give further insights into dealing with this all-too-common canine malady.
REVERSE ZOONOSES: PEOPLE GIVING THE FLU TO ANIMALS
If you get influenza this winter, minimize contact with your pets because the virus may be transmissible to cats, dogs, ferrets and other species. Precautions like washing hands, wearing a mask and avoiding crowded and poorly ventilated public places -- along with good nutrition and supplements such as zinc and vitamins A, C and D -- may be more effective and less risky for some people than being vaccinated. Different flu strains are constantly evolving, which is why vaccinations can never guarantee total protection. Those working with animals on farms, horse stables, zoos and research laboratories should take time off if they get the flu.
(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.
Visit Dr. Fox's website at DrFoxVet.com.)