DEAR DR. FOX: Last week, we had to have our beloved 13-year-old kitty, Alice, put to sleep for health reasons. Our house is so empty without a cat.
We plan to adopt an adult female cat. Our local shelter, King Street Cats, has many to choose from. I would like you to help me convince my husband to adopt two cats. We are senior citizens, but we are still away from the house five or six hours each day. I am afraid a cat who is used to living in a shelter would be very lonesome while we are gone.
I appreciate anything you can add to my desire to adopt two adult cats who are littermates or are used to being together. -- S.J., Alexandria, Va.
DEAR S.J.: I am glad to read that you would prefer to adopt two cats because you and your husband are away from the home for much of every day.
Cats do suffer from loneliness and boredom. I frequently emphasize in my advice that two cats are generally happier, healthier and more active and lively than those who live alone.
Cats living together engage in social grooming that reduces stress and may boost their immune systems. They often enjoy sleeping together, which provides mutual security and the benefits of rest and relaxation. Most cats enjoy playing together and can be encouraged with various interactive toys, my favorite being a feather tied with a long string to a short cane -- the cat fishing rod. Physical play, including stalking, chasing and wrestling, provides mental and physical stimulation and serves as social bond strengthening and affirming activity.
Strange cats will often get on well, but, generally, littermates and a mother and one of her kittens get along best of all. My book "Supercat: How to Raise the Perfect Feline Companion" will give you more insights and inspiration to make your indoor environment as cat-friendly and as safe as possible.
DEAR DR. FOX: I've got a problem with my dog, Charlie. For several months now, he has had a bad case of fleas.
No matter how many flea baths, flea powders and flea collars I've tried, they just won't subside. I live with my mother, and I wanted to bomb the house, but she won't let me because she thinks it will get all over her doll collection and furniture, etc.
What can I do? I know the fleas are really bothering my dog a lot. Is there a homemade remedy? -- R.F., Milford, Conn.
Dear R.F.: You are correct that the house most probably must be thoroughly fumigated by a professional to break the flea cycle. Fleas feed off the dog and hatch and develop in carpets, floor cracks, crevices and down the sides of upholstered furniture.
Alternatively, set up some 15-watt light bulbs just off the floor over pans of warm soapy water to act as flea attractors. Fleas will jump toward the warmth of the lights and fall into the sudsy water and drown.
Sprinkle and vigorously brush into carpets borate powder, like Flea Busters, or try diatomaceous earth on carpets, sides of furniture and everywhere the flea larvae may be hiding. Vacuum up after 72 hours, and repeat after seven to 10 days and again after another seven to 10 days. Be sure to have the dog given at least one flea-killing shampoo during this time, and use a flea comb to check for and catch any fleas you may find on him.
The in-home dustings with borate powder or diatomaceous earth will not harm your dog.
(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.)