DEAR DR. FOX: We own a 4-year-old fixed female cat with a pleasant personality. She was a stray, so we allow her to go outside, but she always comes in at night. About a year ago, she returned with several puncture wounds in her tail. We took her to the vet, who shaved the center portion of her tail and treated the wounds.
Due to either her tail's appearance or some other unknown reason, our cat would become disturbed and hiss at and chase her tail. This occurred several times each day without warning. The fur has grown back and the wounds have healed, but she continues this behavior, mainly in the morning and evening.
We have tried calming collars without success. What is the problem? -- J.H., Baltimore
DEAR J.H.: The problem with bites is that they are deep puncture wounds, which can leave bacterial infection in the tissues and bone after the surface of the wound has healed. Your veterinarian should X-ray your cat's tail to see if there are signs of bone infection. If there are, then the tail may have to be amputated. Otherwise, there could be chronic nerve damage, and the veterinarian may wish to try anti-inflammatory medications and possibly acupuncture to help the cat.
It is regrettable that you could not keep this cat permanently indoors; such injuries from catfights and tangles with wild animals are all too common in indoor-outdoor cats.
DEAR DR. FOX: We recently took in our daughter's 10-year-old Jack Russell terrier. The problem is his constant marking in our house and on our car tires. My daughter said he has had this behavior for years, and nothing they did stopped it. Is there anything we can do this late in his life to change his behavior? And what will remove the smell from inside our home and on our tires? We are desperate for help; otherwise, we will need to surrender the dog. -- B.H., Mayville, North Dakota
DEAR B.H.: You mean have the dog killed, rather than "surrender," since no one would want to adopt a dog who marks his territory all the time. Did your daughter seek a professional animal behavior consultant and veterinary advice? What did she try to do to inhibit this behavior earlier on in the dog's life? Now it is a fixed habit. Use a hose on your car tires and an enzyme cleaner like Nature's Miracle indoors.
If he has not been neutered, neutering may help reduce his motivation to mark. Cocking his leg against various objects to urinate on may be related to anxiety-arousal, and a trial treatment with a low dose of anti-anxiety medication would be worth a try. Scolding would just make matters worse if there is underlying anxiety.
DEAR DR. FOX: Recently, you had an inquiry from E.B. about his sadness over losing his cat and his inability to take on another cat due to finances. I am a senior in a program called Senior Cats for Senior Laps in St. Louis. I lived in Phoenix, and I know they had a program there.
In this program, we provide a loving home for a senior cat, and the nonprofit organization that sponsors the program assumes all cost, including food and vet bills. It's certainly a win-win situation! Unfortunately, not many of the people at the Humane Society are aware of this program; however, pet stores like PetSmart and Petco often sponsor events, so that might be the best resource for a senior to find a program in his or her area. -- B.S., St. Louis
DEAR B.S.: Thank you for contributing this information in response to concerns about the plight of lonely seniors -- human and nonhuman -- and what resources there are to help. Certainly we need more as the population of baby boomers ages and animal shelters, which must have more funding and public support, seek to reduce the kill rate of old and unwanted animals.
(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.)