DEAR DR. FOX: I was away working on our farm up north for several months; when I got back to Boca Raton, I found my wife had been feeding a stray cat. The cat had kittens, and the mother went off and left them with my wife. She was able to catch some of them and get them adopted, but others ran off. She thinks the mother may have another litter on the way.
What should we do? I told my wife not to feed stray cats, but she insists that what she is doing is right. -- S.A., Boca Raton, Florida
DEAR S.A.: Stray, lost, free-roaming and feral populations of domestic cats have become a plague in the United States. They are hunting from the North Woods of Minnesota to the swamps of Florida to the fragmented and fragile wilds of Hawaii. An internationally recognized ecologist told me recently, while attending a conference on biodiversity in Hawaii, that he witnessed a woman at the edge of a parking lot pulling out and scattering bags of cat food as she called into the surrounding scrub bush, out of which poured scores of cats.
Millions of well-intentioned people feed stray cats who come onto their property, sometimes adopting them. But they should do so only in collaboration with local Animal Control authorities. They should plan on getting the cat neutered, giving vaccinations and anti-parasite treatments and testing for feline immunodeficiency disease and leukemia virus infection. The goal is to break the reproductive cycle, responsible for the demise of songbirds and other indigenous animal species.
To simply feed hungry cats who come to your door is an irresponsible, selfish, feel-good activity that facilitates the continued survival and breeding of free-roaming cats, who are a threat to public health, and which also means great suffering for kittens. These young cats will either starve to death, die from overwhelming flea and worm infestations or from a virus or other infections that are a threat to endangered wild cat species such as the Minnesota lynx and the Florida panther.
DEAR DR. FOX: I adopted a 3-year-old female beagle from the county shelter and was told she came from a puppy mill. She has had pups in the past, but she's been spayed. She was scared of everything but that's gotten better, and now she is gentle, loving and quickly learned to handle stairs. She was house trained within three weeks. She follows me around the house all day. I named her Daisy. Problem is, she has separation anxiety. So when I leave, I have to get my daughter to come stay with her; even so, she cries and runs to the door while I am gone. The shelter vet said to give her Benadryl with diphenhydramine, but it hasn't helped at all. She doesn't like being in the car -- even sitting next to me with my hand on her -- and she works herself into such anxiety that she throws up. I tried a Rolaids once before going with her, and it did no good.
I tried leaving her in the house for five minutes, then 10, and it took awhile for her to calm down when I got back, but seemed OK. I then tried leaving for an hour on an errand. When I got back, she had chewed on the bottom of the door threshold seal, been up on the sofas and dining table and stool at the kitchen island. Since then, I've been for three hours for an appointment, and my daughter said she cried the whole time I was gone. What to do? -- K.G., Wentzville, Missouri
DEAR K.G.: You have put much love and patience into rehabilitating this traumatized commercial puppy mill breeding dog. These places should be closed down, but, as I document in my book "Inhumane Society: The American Way of Exploiting Animals," they are "inspected" and licensed by the government of a culture that puts money before compassion and respect for all life.
Your veterinarian should put your dog on a short course of Xanax or Valium, and you should try putting a few drops of lavender oil on a bandana around her neck. A small piece of fresh ginger (half of one teaspoon) in a ball of cream cheese helps stop motion sickness.
Keeping your dog in a crate for short periods of time when you are there and when you are briefly out of the house will protect the house; leave the door open when you're home, and you will eventually teach her that is her safe space.
(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.)