DEAR DR. FOX: We have had Miss Kitty for 10 years, with no problems until now. She has defecated twice on our living room rug. Can you help us? -- M.R., Florissant, Missouri
DEAR M.R.: Unfortunately and inexcusably, many dogs and cats are punished and often abandoned to an uncertain fate in animal shelters for house soiling. Yet most instances of urinating or defecating outside the litter box -- or in the house with dogs -- can be effectively remedied by veterinarians. Regrettably, too few cat and dog owners recognize that house soiling can mean the animal is not simply being disobedient or stupid, but has a diagnosable physical or psychological problem.
Find a local veterinarian who does house calls, which are less stressful for most cats, for a full wellness exam. Put consideration of diet and constipation at the top of the list.
DEAR DR. FOX: I enjoy your column, but I missed the article in which you expressed disapproval of the catch-and-release programs for feral cats in the United States.
Could you please provide your views about this again, and suggest what else people should do about the problem of feral cats? -- S.C., Hollow Rock, Tennessee
DEAR S.C.: The feral cat problem is nationwide, and, as I point out in my website article, "Releasing Cats to Live Outdoors," there are many solutions. But there is one partial solution being improperly applied in many states that calls for closer scrutiny: trap-neuter-release (TNR).
Where I live in Minneapolis, the Animal Humane Society's Community Cats Program involving TNR releases cats where they were trapped. That includes my own property, where it stresses our indoor cats, who have attacked each other after seeing a cat outdoors, and decimates the wildlife at our feeders. A version of this review article, co-authored by my wife and co-worker Deanna Krantz, will appear shortly in Animal Wellness magazine.
SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE OF TNR BENEFITS EXTREMELY LIMITED
Scientific studies of the effects of TNR on targeted cats and the local cat population demonstrate essentially what one would expect following neutering, namely, better physical condition and longevity, in part determined by the quality of human oversight and supplemental feeding. Neutered males are less aggressive, and females do not have to raise kittens. With fewer screaming catfights, there were fewer public complaints. But none of the reports mention any significant decrease in killing of wildlife where wildlife are present in the TNR cat colony environment. With a greater longevity, such cats clearly could be a problem -- except in confined or isolated locations and where they are provided adequate food and shelter as needed. Nor did any of these studies have a contiguous and encircling study area where cats were trapped, given anti-rabies vaccination, opposite-ear-cut for identification, ideally microchipped and released un-neutered. Without such a control group, the claim that TNR helps reduce the overall cat population cannot be confirmed. Yet advocates of TNR state this as fact.
The only obvious positive result in terms of the virtual plague of free-roaming cats in the U.S. and other countries is that TNR takes cats out of the breeding cycle. But in most situations, the cats should be taken out of the environments they invade, harm and suffer, be they breeding or not.
Read more at alleycat.org/document.doc?id=385.
DEAR DR. FOX: I have a 12-year-old female dachshund.
For about the last year, she has been licking everything -- her blanket, my clothes, any cloth she is near.
Could you explain what drives her to this maddening obsession? She is otherwise healthy. I have had her on Blue Buffalo, and more recently Taste of the Wild. Is it something she is lacking in her diet? -- D.A.R., Moro, Illinois
DEAR D.A.R.: Your old dog's compulsive licking behavior is a signal of some discomfort. This calls for a thorough wellness examination by your veterinarian. Reasons could range from food ingredients that are harming your dog to arthritis, oral or anal gland disease, anxiety and pre-epileptic/seizure-associated behavior. Some veterinary detective work is called for. I'd also suggest switching her to my home-prepared diet, which you can find at DrFoxVet.net.
BOOK REVIEW: "Men With Cats: Intimate Portraits of Feline Friendship" by David Williams
This book is a charmer, with photo-profiles of over 75 men in their home environments, along with apt quotes about their feline companions. It breaks many stereotypes and affirms the mythology of feline powers domesticating man.
(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.)