DEAR DR. FOX: I have lived in the same place for six years. Five years ago, a feral cat showed up. She had been abused -- I could tell in her behavior -- and was very frightened of people. After many months of feeding her, she came to trust me.
I named her Boo. She is all black. Over the years, she also came to trust my friends and neighbors. She is very loving and affectionate. Boo will come into my house to sleep when it is too hot outside, storming or too cold. My two dogs allow this because she is one of the family.
Boo could never be an inside cat. She has to have her freedom; she can't be in the house too long.
I plan on moving soon to an island that is 45 minutes away. I don't know what to do with Boo. She is getting old; she has developed cataracts and is gray in some places. I feel like I cannot leave her. I would never take her to a shelter. Most of the neighbors who loved her have moved.
Should I take her with me and let her live outside in an environment she does not know? -- B.W., Naples, Florida
DEAR B.W.: You are a "captive of your own compassion." My wife, Deana Krantz, and I have found ourselves helping animals in our work on many occasions. We currently have two ex-feral cats; neither has ever tried to go back outdoors once given love, food, water and a cozy environment, plus padded window shelves and a cat tower to get up and above us, hide and look outdoors at the birds and squirrels.
I urge you to either take Boo to a cat rehabilitation center and adoption facility where the mandate is never letting cats outdoors in an unenclosed space, or take her with you to your new home, and never ever let her out. With her failing eyesight and age, she would be vulnerable outdoors and could be killed by a larger predator.
My books "Supercat: How to Raise the Perfect Feline Companion" and "Cat Body, Cat Mind" may be helpful to you if you chose the latter suggestion, which I think is feasible for you. Keep me posted!
DEAR DR. FOX: We had four indoor cats. One has been put to sleep leaving us with three: one male and two females, all siblings.
Every time one goes to the vet, he or she is hissed at for up to a week -- I guess because of the smell from the vet. Is there any way to prevent this? -- P.G., Manahawkin, New Jersey
DEAR P.G.: This problem with your cats is so prevalent that I wonder why more veterinarians don't prescribe possible remedial measures when their feline patient has other cats to come home to.
An essential component of appropriate veterinary care is to consider the environment the animal patient is living in. Until recently, the kind and brand of pet food the animal patient was being fed was not a basic clinical question.
Check my website, DrFoxVet.net, for the article on introducing a new cat into a home where there are cats already; try those steps in the future. Products like Feliway (a pheromone diffused to help calm cats with an estimated 50 percent success rate), together with anointing all cats with a dab of your own perfume or aftershave and giving all the cats some catnip or Petzlife@Eaze, may also help.
DEAR DR. FOX: My sister has a 5-month-old male formerly feral kitten. He seems to be very happy; he enjoys being petted and sleeping in her lap.
But he also bites my sister. What can be done about this? He is an indoor-only orange tabby. -- C.C.B., Falls Church, Virginia
DEAR C.C.B.: Kittens, like puppies, bite during friendly interactive play. Their bites can hurt because their milk teeth are very sharp. They quickly learn while playing with each other to not bite too hard and to not use their claws. This is one reason why I advise people to adopt two kittens from the same litter, rather than just one.
Your sister's cat is young enough to quickly accept and enjoy the company of another feline around his same age. I would encourage her to adopt another young cat. She will then enjoy hours of entertainment with the cats taking care of each other's basic needs.
My cat books may be helpful. It is especially important that your sister learns about feline behavior and communication and wears protective clothing to cover her arms and legs while petting and playing with the cat -- she must teach the cat that biting hard and scratching are unacceptable behaviors.
Most young cats love rough-and-tumble play. For a single cat, one game that can help this behavior is to tie a fluffy toy or bunch of feathers to a string and tie the string to a cane so you have an interactive toy for the cat to hunt, chase and "kill" while your sister is at a safe distance, holding the cane.
(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.)