DEAR DR. FOX: I have two Cornish rex brothers who are 10 years old. After I returned from a 10-day vacation, I noticed that both cats started urinating on chairs, counters and tables, as well as using the litter box. I used my regular cat sitter while I was gone.
They don't have any physical problems. I tried different litters and use the Feliway pheromone dispensers. They are on antidepressants, and we're trying Royal Canin Calm food. I clean the boxes daily. I've brought litter boxes into the areas they are soiling -- they use them and then go to another part of the house and spray. There are three open boxes and one covered. The boys are very close and fight only now and then. They are extremely affectionate cats, and I love them dearly. Any suggestions would be appreciated. -- G.W., St. Louis
DEAR G.W.: I sympathize with your difficulties. Whatever made your cats feel insecure and needing to spray-mark around the house -- possibly the perfume or deodorant your cat sitter was wearing -- they have developed the equivalent of a habit fixation, continuing to house-soil after your return.
There is a remote chance that there is an outdoor cat prowling, spraying and yowling that set off your cats while you were away.
You need to confine the cats to one room to help break the cycle. Spend as much time as possible in there with them for two to three weeks. Get them back onto their regular cat food, off the antidepressant and offer a little dried catnip every other day. Clean all soiled areas with a liquid enzymatic cleaner like Nature's Miracle. Do not put litter boxes out except in the place they were before the problem started. When you let the cats out after their deconditioning isolation, be very calm and go about your normal daily routine.
NATION'S LARGEST PET INSURER REVEALS TOP 10 OBESITY CONDITIONS
"Giving pets table scraps and treats may seem like a harmless reward for your cuddly canine or friendly feline, but it can lead to health problems down the road, including arthritis, diabetes and liver disease. Just like their human counterparts, excessive weight increases the risk of additional health problems and shortens the life expectancy of pets," according to the Veterinary Pet Insurance Co.
Obesity-related claims are steadily increasing; policyholders file more than $34 million in claims for conditions and diseases that can be caused or exacerbated by excess weight. The company recently sorted its database of more than 485,000 insured pets to determine the top 10 dog and cat health conditions associated with obesity.
In rank order for dogs, "the most common obesity-related conditions were arthritis, bladder/urinary tract disease, undiagnosed limp, low thyroid hormone, liver disease, torn knee ligaments, diseased disc in the spine, diabetes, heart failure and chronic kidney disease".
For cats: "Bladder/urinary tract disease, chronic kidney disease, diabetes, asthma, liver disease, high blood pressure, arthritis, undiagnosed limp, heart failure and gall bladder disorder".
The VPI data confirm the dietary link to a number of cat and dog health problems detailed in my book "Not Fit for a Dog: The Truth About Manufactured Cat & Dog Foods," which I co-wrote with two other veterinarians. But the VPI report begins by blaming the feeding of table scraps and treats, plus lack of exercise, rather than taking a broader view of how commercial pet food diets, along with co-factors such as neutering, lack of social stimulation in live-alone animals and exposure to endocrine disrupting and "obesogenic" environmental contaminants contribute to this obesity epidemic. Manufactured pet foods are in large part the issue -- too many carbs and omega-3 deficiency/imbalance -- not simply too many table scraps and treats. But going light on critical analysis of manufactured pet foods is not surprising because of the VPI's close association with the pet food industry, its website stating:
"Scottsdale Insurance Co., a wholly owned subsidiary of Nationwide Insurance, the country's sixth largest insurance company, owns approximately 66 percent of VPI's stock. The Iams pet food company owns about 9 percent of our stock and the remaining 25 percent is owned by nearly 1,000 individuals, most of whom are veterinarians. Nationwide and Iams support VPI with strong financial backing and business expertise, and our veterinary owners keep us grounded in the profession."
(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.)