DEAR DR. FOX: I am concerned about my longhaired cat, Isabella: She gets matted areas in her fur, which I imagine are uncomfortable for her. In the past, I have taken her to be groomed several times a year, where she was shaved or given a "lion cut." We had a wonderful groomer who let me hold Isabella while she was being shaved. Isabella tolerated it very well. However, this groomer is no longer available. Other groomers want me to drop off my cat and let her wait for hours until it is her turn. They also want to put a collar on her. This is stressful for Isabella, and she often salivates a lot under these circumstances.
I brush Isabella two times a day, in the morning after breakfast and at night before bedtime.
Apparently, though, I've fallen down on the job, as she has a nasty matted area on her thigh. She protests if I approach her with scissors to cut off the affected area. Your advice would be welcome. -- P.D.O., Vienna, Virginia
DEAR P.D.O., Don't give up on your local groomers! They can't all be that insensitive. I have heard some bad accounts about pet groomers who treat animals like commodities and think nothing of keeping them caged and terrified until it is their turn to be groomed. Keeping cats in the same room as yapping and barking dogs is malpractice, in my opinion. Crazy, indeed, and potentially fatal for some cats with heart disease, high blood pressure and other stress-sensitive ailments. I see no logical reason why a groomer should not set an appointment for you to come in and help hold your cat while her coat is untangled and the mats removed safely. Do not try to do it yourself.
When was her last veterinary checkup? Cats who are not well, notably those with dental problems, groom themselves less and less to the point that they give up when the coat becomes badly matted, which pulls on the skin and can be very painful and lead to infection. So a veterinary appointment may be called for, hopefully with someone who will see your cat and not insist on giving a carpet-bombing with booster vaccinations. You may do best with a vet who does house calls or a holistic veterinary practitioner. To locate a holistic veterinarian in your area, a searchable list can be found at holisticvetlist.com.
DEAR DR. FOX: My 14-year-old Siamese cat, Pearl, was a biter when she was young, but she outgrew it with my disapproval and redirection. I understand that biting can be an atavistic play behavior for felines.
Flash forward to last week: While sitting next to me on a sofa, Pearl leapt up, wrapped herself around my left arm and began to bite ferociously from my hand to my elbow, breaking skin as she went. Using my right hand, I grabbed her jaw to stop the biting but had difficulty unwrapping her from my arm. I finally shook her off, and she appeared ready to pounce again.
I was frightened and very annoyed by the fresh wounds and left the room. She has not repeated this behavior, but I am wary and concerned she might hurt visitors or me again. -- L.C., Chevy Chase, Maryland
DEAR L.C.: You have a potentially serious issue because as you no doubt know, cat bites can be dangerous and introduce bacterial infection into the bloodstream. Always squeeze the area to let blood flow, wash thoroughly and apply an antibiotic cream, hydrogen peroxide or iodine; if in doubt, go to the emergency room for professional care, especially if you develop a red flare where you were bitten.
Bizarre behavior like this could be triggered by you wearing a new perfume or skin cream, or by a neurological/cognitive change in your cat that a veterinarian could evaluate. One consideration is early dementia or hyperactive thyroid gland disease, which can trigger sudden aggression in rare instances. The calming cat pheromone Feliway may help, and some cats do become calmer when they eat a little catnip herb, which is akin to Valium.
If the attack was in the early evening, there may be a "sundowner" arousal component, which you may help allay in the future by engaging the cat in some interactive games such as chasing a laser light or a feather on the end of a string tied to a cane. Good luck, and keep me posted!
(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.)