DEAR DR. FOX: Last winter, I noticed a longhaired stray cat roaming outside. I began to feed her, and eventually she consented to being a house cat during the night. While she was still an outside cat, she was in a catfight, so I had to take her to the vet. The vet thinks she is between 6 and 10 years old, and was probably abandoned. She does not have a chip.
Cat (her name) gets along fabulously with my 80-pound retriever mix. She lets me groom her and will even cuddle for a very short time. I have had dogs my entire life, but never a cat.
For the life of me, I cannot figure out why she would want to be outside during the day. Even when the temperatures were near-record cold, she yowled and put up a fuss until I let her outside. She likes to spend time in a storm sewer, which worries me to no end. At dusk, I call her and she comes inside and is very content to eat and spend the night in the house. I have given her two litter boxes, and she uses both of them when inside. But I am beginning to think that dogs really are smarter than cats. My dog would never choose the cold outside over the warm couch inside. Can you give me some suggestions to help me get her to stay inside during the day? -- K.W., Imperial, Missouri
DEAR K.W.: Cats are odd in many ways, and sometimes can be quite irrational -- like one of mine hissing at me when I am outside the house and looking in through the window. A dog would grin and wag his tail on seeing me.
I am glad that you took in and socialized this obviously lost/abandoned -- rather than feral -- cat.
It is just not safe outdoors for cats: She could be food for a coyote or get trapped, shot, hit by a vehicle or injured or infected by another cat. Get her microchipped, and try taking her out for short walks in a secure cat harness on one leash and a neck-collar and ID tag on a second leash. Cats can get out of harnesses, with potentially catastrophic consequences.
Do not let her out by herself. Spend time with her engaging in interactive games, especially around the time when she likes to go outdoors, and give her padded stools or ledges so she can see out the windows, ideally at bird feeders outdoors. A pinch of catnip may help her calm down.
GUARD DOGS FOR CONSERVATION
Should taxpayers' dollars be spent on compensating farmers and ranchers for livestock losses from wolves, mountain lions, bears and other predators when they refuse to use guard dogs to protect their animals?
The most effective guard dog breeds include the akbash, Kangal, great Pyrenees and komondor. Less commonly known are the Turkish kars, Turkish tazi, Czechoslvakian chuvatch, Polish tatra, the Hungarian kuvasz, Tibetan mastiff and Italian maremma. Donkeys and llamas have proven effective in many instances as protectors of sheep, goats and calves.
The methods employed by state and federal agents to kill these predators, which include poison bait and 1080 cyanide guns, are often indiscriminate, killing non-target animals -- including endangered species such as the lynx and golden eagle.
This sanctioned adversarial attitude toward wildlife in general and predators in particular, indifference about their suffering and disregard for their ecological value all add up to unethical and non-sustainable ranching and farming practices. Therefore, no compensation should be provided if guard animals are not being effectively deployed. This would also save our tax dollars.
Annual "harvest" hunting quotas for mule deer, elk and white-tailed deer should be drastically reduced so that predators have sufficient natural prey for themselves, rather than having to prey on livestock. For obvious reasons of ecological restoration and protection, all commercial trapping should be prohibited. Non-game and trophy hunting quotas need to be revised from an optimal ecological biodiversity perspective, rather than from a self-serving "sustainability" paradigm of maximal harvesting -- including fishing, both recreational and commercial.
The use of guard dogs to prevent predation as an alternative to lethal methods of predator control is surely an ethical imperative for a nation of meat eaters to have government more effectively institute. It is as sane and sensible as using goats instead of Roundup and other herbicides to control weeds.
(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.)