DEAR DR. FOX: I was reading about the problem of seniors wanting but not being able to afford animals in your column, and two thoughts came to mind:
1. Many animal shelters offer low-cost veterinary services to the public beyond spay/neuter clinics and rabies shots. It is worth calling yours to inquire if it offers such services.
2. Rather than own your own pet, why not foster? Shelters are always in need, and they may pick up the cost of the animal's care and feeding. You get wonderful companions, albeit short-term, and animals in need get out of cages and experience human companionship. Win-win! -- M.D., Rockville, Maryland
DEAR M.D.: Thanks for your simple and sensible solutions. This is a great option for many seniors instead of just sending a check to support a big animal protection organization they see advertised on TV. I would also urge interested seniors to volunteer at their local humane society or animal shelter. Petting and grooming caged cats for a morning or taking dogs for a walk can do wonders, reducing animals' stress and enhancing their adoptability as well as providing companionship for seniors.
DEAR DR. FOX: In reading your article about the killing of Cecil the lion, I wonder: Where do you stand on the killing of unborn babies, babies with heartbeats and brainwaves? Obviously sensing your compassion for animals and being a medical person, I hope you are also on the side of life, or as Albert Schweitzer said, "Until he extends his circle of compassion to include all living things, man will not himself find peace."
Looking forward to hearing from you. -- P.L., Danbury, Connecticut
DEAR P.L.: Yes, I embrace the Schweitzer ethic of reverence for all life. Part of practicing this ethical principle calls for restraint of human activities that harm other species and the natural environment. Reproductive restraint is a moral imperative, hence the wisdom of supporting more effective birth control and family planning for our species. This would greatly reduce the untold suffering, near-starvation and disease of millions of children who are born and survive to endure a lifetime of physical and cognitive impairment.
Concerning Cecil the lion, "Cecil hunt was legal" was the front-page headline from the big game trophy hunter, Walter J. Palmer, in the Minneapolis Star Tribune (my local paper) last month. Such a claim assumes that what is legal is therefore ethical. In ancient Rome, it was legal for husbands to kill their wives and children. While we have made some moral progress as a species and culture in recognizing human rights, we have yet to broaden the scope of rights and human responsibilities.
The worldwide outcry over this killing of a lion is a positive sign that the execution of other species for sporting or recreational pleasure and big-game trophy prestige is being questioned, be it "legal" or illegal poaching from a government or private preserve. For the rule of law and justice to prevail, politics, commerce and industries must all be in accord with the public will to respect and protect the rights of all members of the Earth community, both the human and the nonhuman. The greater good may then be better served.
DEAR DR. FOX: I live with a man who has two adult indoor cats. Two months ago, one of them started licking so much that he was thinning the fur on his back, stomach and hind legs and making his skin red and raw. The cat's owner (a 61-year-old man) insisted it was fleas and dunked the cat in the sink with water and Dawn dish soap to kill them. The cat started to look a little better after the bath, but I noticed he still licks a lot; the fur is still thin on his back by the base of the tail.
Is it boredom, a skin condition or food allergy? I buy 9Lives and store-brand cat food, mostly fish flavors. Also, the cat now acts likes he has not been fed in days. I open two cans a day -- one in the morning and one in the evening. He eats the whole thing in one sitting.
Can you tell me if he has something seriously wrong with him? -- R.B., Fargo, North Dakota
DEAR R.B.: Whenever a cat or other companion animal shows a sudden change in behavior, such as grooming more vigorously to the point of self-mutilation, the caregiver has a duty to have the animal examined by a veterinarian and not make uneducated guesses as to cause and treatment.
It could be emotional stress, though it's probably a dietary/ingredient allergy or hypersensitivity or hyperthyroid disease, all calling for different treatments after a proper diagnosis has been made. So please get the poor cat to the vet without further delay.
(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.net.)