DEAR DR. FOX: There are several points that are continually overlooked by those who take an anti-Trap-Neuter-Release (TNR) position. Most caregivers of outdoor cats want nothing more than for each cat to have a loving family of his own. But if we don't take the first critical step in halting an outdoor cat's ability to reproduce, we are fighting an uphill battle. The other reality is that "a loving family of his own" is not possible for every outdoor cat.
While there are times when feral cats can be socialized, it is unrealistic to expect shelters (or people) to have the resources of space or time to allow for this. In the time it takes to socialize one feral cat, countless more could have gone through TNR, significantly reducing the overall number of wild cats. The insistence that caretakers adhere to detailed definitions of appropriate levels of colony care is not reasonable. If the laws already in place in so many states were adhered to (licensing of pets, prohibition of cats roaming at large, illegality of pet abandonment), we would not face this problem.
The only alternative to TNR is to catch and kill, and that option is never going to get endorsements from compassionate people. Rounding up and killing healthy outdoor cats who have become more comfortable with an "alternative lifestyle" (outdoors with little human contact instead of the social structure we have tried to define for cats) runs counter to the definition of a civilized society.
People who do not accept feral cats for who they are and the lifestyle they choose demean them. Those who turn the other way and make no attempt to help these cats demean them. Caretakers who responsibly practice TNR and respect the feral cats' distrust of humans but acknowledge their definition of a quality life are doing anything but demeaning them. -- K.L., Virginia Beach, Va.
DEAR K.L.: I appreciate your concerns about feral cats and those who oppose TNVR -- Trap-Neuter-Vaccinate–Release. Your argument is convincing from the point of view of considering "the lifestyle they chose." But these cats have no real choice in the matter and follow innate survival instincts that include predation on wildlife. And, when they become sick or injured, they must still fend for themselves. In my opinion, this is a tragic situation that is caused by irresponsible people letting their un-neutered cats out and feral cat populations becoming established. Capturing and euthanizing a few for the greater good may still be the most humane and ethical response to this nationwide problem, along with public education and better enforcement of laws prohibiting owners from allowing their cats to roam free.
DEAR DR. FOX: I have an 8–month-old Shih Tzu puppy who likes to eat only poor-quality dog food. If I buy the food recommended by our vet, she turns her nose up at it. I purchased different brands of canned food to see if she would eat it, and the one she prefers is Gravy Train beef and bacon. After doing research online, I found out that Gravy Train is considered a very poor-quality food. I mixed her Iams food in with the Gravy Train and she wouldn't eat it.
I talked to my vet about her finicky tastes, and he told me to put the high-quality food in her bowl and quit stressing over it: "She won't starve."
I want her to be healthy. How can she go 24 hours without eating? Help! -- J.P., Lancaster, Pa.
DEAR J.P.: If your dog checks out in perfect health with the veterinarian, then the picky eating issue is probably psychological.
Many dog food manufacturers conduct palatability tests on certain ingredients that amount to a corporate goal of triggering the equivalent of food addiction -- regardless of the nutritional value of the main ingredients. For details, see my book, "Not Fit for a Dog: The Truth About Manufactured Cat & Dog Foods."
Try making a gravy of the poor-quality food your dog prefers and the good food. Then back off and leave the dog alone. The more you fuss or stand there monitoring the dog, the more anxious she will become. If she refuses to eat, put her food bowl away, and offer it to her later. The food should not be chilled.
(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.
Visit Dr. Fox's website at DrFoxVet.com.)