DEAR DR. FOX: I have an emergency with my cat: She has diarrhea. What do you advise I do? -- E.M., Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Don't try home remedies such as over-the-counter human anti-diarrhea medications that can be fatal for cats. A short fast followed by a fresh batch of the usual food may help (buy a new batch of the same brand), since the batch you were using could be bad. Or your cat may have an infection or parasite, or has developed food intolerance or an associated endocrine disorder.
If your cat is old and could have fatty liver disease, not eating for more than a day could cause serious complications, so do not hesitate: If she does not quickly recover and appetite and strength return after the diarrhea, get to the vet without further delay.
DEAR DR. FOX: I feed my dogs around 5 p.m. Many times, they don't consume the food until much later in the evening. On these occasions, the dogs sometimes defecate in their room. The room has a doggy door that is closed at night so they do not go outside and bark at all hours. The dogs are otherwise very well trained. We have two 8-year-olds and a 13-year-old. Do you have any suggestions? -- M.S., St. Louis
DEAR M.S.: I have found that the best feeding and toilet pattern for dogs is going out for a morning walk or yard run and eating a light breakfast, then taking a walk around noon to 2 p.m.; before an evening meal (between 5 and 6 p.m.), go on a long walk or run. Then, before you go to bed, give your dogs another walk or more time in the yard.
This routine fits in with dogs' behavioral cycle of eating and being active, and their need to go out to empty their bladders and bowels.
DEAR DR. FOX: I have always had pets, but never cats because of a severe allergy. My sister came to live with me for a few months several years ago, bringing her young cat. The cat got along well with my dogs (bonding completely with my dog of the same age), but I started to notice some strange things.
First, the yellow heads from my son's Lego figures would disappear. Then, I couldn't find the yellow spring eggs I decorated for the season. My set of paints was missing the tube of yellow that I knew should be there. When I couldn't find my favorite shopping bag (yellow), I began to suspect the cat.
I spread out some multicolored pompons on the table where we kept his food and counted how many of each color there were; sure enough, by morning there were no yellow pompons, but none of the other colors had been touched. The same was repeated with multicolored feathers. When we checked the cushion of the cat's preferred nap spot, we found a stash of yellow bits of paper, plastic and fabric; this cat had a favorite color!
We set out a small yellow blanket in the house, and he moved it to his nap spot. When he wasn't drinking enough water, we started putting the water in a yellow bowl, and he stayed well hydrated.
I knew that animals could see colors (contrary to popular myth), but this was the only animal I have ever known to have a favorite color. Until the day he died, he kept his own little spot happily decorated in sunshine yellow. -- R.C., Atlanta
DEAR R.C.: This is an interesting account of a cat's color fixation, for reasons best known to the cat -- feline aesthetics, perhaps!
Cats can see some colors and can tell the difference between red, blue and yellow lights. Also, they are able to distinguish between blues and violets better than between colors near the red end of the spectrum. Recent research has also revealed that they can detect ultraviolet light.
When we match what we know of cats' multisensory abilities and recent comparative genetic research showing that domestication has done little to temper their wild heritage, we can embrace them knowing that they are, with some breed and individual exceptions, still more wild than domesticated.
Your sister's cat may have found a way to create, through this game of color-selection, a degree of environmental stimulation for a complex little brain and spirit living in a relatively unstimulating home environment -- the social enrichment of friendly dogs notwithstanding.
(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.)