DEAR READERS: I want to thank the many readers of this syndicated column, which I have been writing every week for almost 40 years, for their many letters. These have provided a forum for addressing companion animal health and welfare problems as well as giving me words of encouragement and affirmation of the benefits of advice offered. As I emphasize in my book "Healing Animals & the Vision of One Health," our health and well-being are connected to the health and well-being of animals, wild and domestic, to how well they are treated and to the environment we all share.
We need to strive to close the gap between this vision and the reality of animal suffering, disease, neglect and abuse. Companion animals need to be liberated from the afflictions of genetic disorders and lack of proper understanding and good nutrition, all essential elements of preventive health care.
Significant advances in public and animal health cannot continue to be divorced from the harmful pesticides used in food production and from the antibiotics and other drugs used to make factory-farmed animals productive. Putting these animals' meat and genetically modified produce on our tables and in manufactured pet foods is a profitable enterprise at the expense of consumers and the environment.
DEAR DR. FOX: Ten months ago, my wife adopted a tiny 8-week-old kitten whom everyone had given up on, even the vet. He weighed only 10 ounces, had a wet face and was just plain miserable. But through vitamins, fortified food and love, Jack has surpassed his bad start in life.
Through my research online, we have determined that Jack is a Maine coon, as he possesses all the behavioral and physical characteristics of the breed. He's big -- 26 inches in length (excluding his tail) and about 16 pounds. When he's gentle, he's very sweet; however, he loves to bite, and with his size and strength, he can draw blood. He's extremely smart and will only nibble me, as he knows I don't tolerate it, but he still bites my wife. He also can become arrogant and defiant, sitting upright on his haunches and spreading his paws. His vet says that he could put him on Prozac, but we'd hate to resort to that.
Jack is getting bigger every day and is not expected to be fully grown for three to five years. Do we have a monster here, and what can we do? -- T. & L.R., Manasquan, N.J.
DEAR T. & L.R.: Please do not accept the Prozac or other psychotropic drug treatment for your cat's particular condition. I think of all the poor children on these various drugs for behavioral, emotional and cognitive or attentiveness "disorders" in this insane society that manufactures new diseases by creating new names -- all very profitable indeed. No, I am not wholly opposed to the appropriate use of such pharmaceutical products in humans and other animals, but the now wholesale prescribing does need to be questioned.
First, do not get in to situations with your big cat where these potentially injurious love-bites and play-bites may be evoked. You should be able to tell from his body language when this is about to occur. Stop petting or grooming just before it happens. Try remotivating and redirecting his attention with a fluffy lure on a fishing pole or putting him up against a scratch post or high upon a cat condo ledge.
Visit feline-nutrition.org and learn how a raw food diet could improve your cat's health and temperament. Consider adopting another big, easygoing cat so he has company and will learn to play gently with his own kind. Part of the problem could be overattachment to you and your wife because he is lacking in the full stimulation and social enrichment that contact with his own kind can provide.
As I say in my book "Supercat: How to Raise the Perfect Feline Companion," two cats living together are generally healthier and happier than one living alone. Check my website, DrFoxVet.com, for the essential steps to follow when introducing a second cat. Good luck!
SAY NO TO EASTER PETS
Many pet stores sell baby animals for children to enjoy as part of the Christian Easter celebration. For many families, this ancient, pre-Christian celebration of the return of spring and the renewal of life can end in tragedy. Baby chicks and ducklings often die from hypothermia and can infect entire families with sometimes-fatal salmonella and other bacterial infections. Young rabbits need special care, housing, nutrition and understanding and should never be bought on impulse.
If you are an Easter celebrant, consider adopting a dog or cat from your local shelter, or plant a tree to engage your children in the spirit of the occasion rather than yet another consumptive act of purchasing an Easter chick, duckling or bunny, unless it is a small chocolate facsimile. Also, think of the eggs you may buy to decorate and be sure they came from un-caged hens.
(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.)