DEAR DR. FOX: I read your recent column about how to deal with cat issues. I was amused while reading, because people are so stupid -- why would anyone want a cat in his home? I'm in the opposite camp: My problem is how to totally clear my yard of live cats.
I spent more than 15 minutes cleaning poop out of my lawnmower wheel last time I mowed. I live in a city that will not allow me to terminate these feral cats -- permanent elimination would be great! I tried trapping with no success. I just want a clean place to walk with no odor. -- A., Norman, Oklahoma
DEAR A.: Thanks for raising this issue. It is a complex one with no easy solutions.
My wife and I caught a free-roaming cat on our property in July. We learned when we surrendered the cat to the Humane Society that he would be assessed to determine if he was adoptable. After the stress of capture and being in a shelter, many cats will hiss and spit defensively, since they are in terror. Our kitty was deemed an unadoptable wild or feral cat. We could pick him up as a "working cat" -- he would be released where he was caught on our property! Otherwise, he would be given to anyone who wanted a cat around their barn or garage to keep rodents down. Putting him back on our property under their trap-neuter-release (TNR) "Community Cat Initiative," where we had seen him kill chipmunks and songbirds, is absurd. It's crazy to me that just a day after the poor cat was given a general anesthetic and surgically castrated, and after a week in the noisy shelter in a small cage with nowhere to hide, he would be released. He'd been given only a rabies vaccination, and no vaccines to protect against contagious cat diseases, and no prior test for feline viral leukemia and immunodeficiency disease. I hope that no so-called humane society has this kind of TNR policy for stray, rescued cats where you live.
Clearly, this is a big issue, which I will address again. Cats can transmit a score of diseases to humans, so this is a significant public health problem, which may carry some weight in your municipality if you file a complaint. Bottom line: Legislation is called for to outlaw people allowing their cats to roam free.
Maybe you should get a dog to keep the cats out of your yard!
DEAR DR. FOX: This morning I read your column and I have to comment on the recent recommendation that you made to a reader. You mentioned that your neighbor puts her cat outside on a long leash with a collar harness. I used to do this with my cats and found out the hard way that cats are very curious and can and will do things you never dreamed of. Both cats decided to jump over the fence (one that they had never climbed or jumped before). The lines were long enough for them to jump over, but one decided to come back, and the line wasn't long enough. My cat hanged itself -- the harness slipped up around it neck and choked it to death. I was in the house cooking and was unaware of the situation until it was too late.
I would make sure your readers know to never leave a cat unattended in a harness, leash or rope situation around fences or on decks. They can get themselves in trouble, and if a dog or wild animal enters the yard, they will be unable to escape and possibly be unable to defend themselves.
I hope you remind your readers that tethered cats must always be under observation; it takes only a minute for them to get into trouble. If you can't watch them, don't tether them -- they are safer on their own. I used the tether to protect my cat and ended up killing it. I now go by a strict indoor-only rule for all my cats. -- S., St. Peters, Missouri
DEAR S.: Thanks for emphasizing the risks of putting a cat out on a long line in the yard.
Many cats have been strangled as you sadly experienced. Others, kept as indoor-outdoor cats -- which should be made illegal -- have caught their collars and have been strangled or starved.
Breakaway cat collars (bearing ID and rabies vaccination tags) are safer for all cats, since indoor cats could also slip outdoors and get caught wearing a regular collar. Cats on outdoor lines should best wear a harness, and the yard should be fully enclosed to keep out other cats and coyotes, who will make a meal out of them. And, as you write, they should never be left unattended.
POPULAR PLANT POISONOUS TO PETS
The seeds of the sago palm are especially poisonous when eaten by dogs, causing acute liver damage. The survival rate for sago palm poisoning is between 30 percent and 50 percent, according to Lynn Hovda, director of the Minneapolis-based Pet Poison Helpline, available for veterinary professionals or pet owners at 800-213-6680. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals also has a helpline, at 888-426-4435. Other popular indoor and outdoor plants that can harm companion animals include azalea, autumn crocus, cyclamen, daffodil, dieffenbachia, kalanchoe, lilies, oleander, tulips and hyacinths.
(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.
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