DEAR DR. FOX: We adopted a solid white, blue-eyed, 7-month-old Turkish angora cat from the local shelter. Although the vet had examined Mr. Pink, there was no indication on his record that he was deaf.
Mr. Pink is now 1 1/2 years old and has begun jumping on kitchen counters and other high surfaces. He has even knocked pottery off bookshelves.
The challenge is that we can't use auditory cues to modify his behavior. We try hand signals, but he stays in place until we walk directly over to him, at which point he scampers away. Goodness knows what he does when we are not home.
Someone is home with him all but about three hours a day. We groom him nightly, he has lots of toys and he has his own perch on which he sleeps periodically. How do we break this awful habit, absent our ability to use auditory cues? -- V.T.P., Ashland, Oregon
DEAR V.T.P.: Try a couple more high perches or cushioned shelves by windows with bird feeders outside -- or get another easygoing cat. Your cat is probably bored to death. Engage in interactive games with a laser light, wand or fishing-pole lure. As he gets older, he will be less curious and exploratory, so do not despair!
Some more insights about animals' perception and cognition come from two readers:
DEAR DR. FOX: Our daughter's dog, a pit bull-boxer mix, has never paid any attention to photographs, images on television or even in the mirror. However, when he was much younger, he would stare at, stalk and bark at two of our neighbors' lawn ornaments -- one a black cat and the other a ceramic gnome. Neither is more than about 8 inches high. -- E.J., Silver Spring, Maryland
DEAR DR. FOX: I have a 2-year-old Sheltie who is interested in the TV when certain images appear or she hears a dog bark. Not remarkable, as I have in the past had other Shelties who noticed animals on TV -- even if they were animals the dog would never encounter in real life, such as alligators or monkeys. And they loved looking at the Westminster dog show.
Recently, Lexie (our current dog) stared at a nearby bookcase and started a low growl while sitting on the couch next to me. A picture of two of my long-gone Shelties had captured her attention. She moved closer to get a better look and stayed there for a couple of minutes.
She is the first dog I have ever had who showed any interest in still pictures. -- C.C., Alexandria, Virginia
OUR ANIMAL RELATIONSHIPS: THE MOMENTS OF TRUTH PROJECT
What right do humans have to exploit other animals? Where does that right come from, and what are the limits, if any? What duties or obligations do we have in our relationships with our dogs, cats and other animals, domesticated and wild?
Follow and support Caroline Kraus and her Moments of Truth Project (momentsoftruthproject.com) documentary film as she travels across the United States, asking these and other relevant questions of people who live, work with and care for animals.
Is there an overriding consensus, and what are the reasons why people respond very differently to these questions, which in part examine our character, culture and future?
The viewing and discussion of this kind of documentary should be part of every school curriculum and will be of interest to all who work with, profit from and care for animals. To see the interview with me, visit momentsoftruthproject.com/dr-michael-fox/
(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.net.)