DEAR DR. FOX: We rescued our cat, Cookie, who was born outside behind a garage, at about 4 to 6 months old. She is currently 3 years old.
We had a rough start -- biting and scratching that would leave scars on us. We read articles on how to deal with feral cats, and she turned around.
Cookie is not like our previous cats -- she does not purr, she hisses at times when approached and she is not a lap cat.
We have two small crocheted blankets she sleeps on: one on the bed and one on the couch. About three times a day and every time she is alone, she jumps on the bed, bites the blanket, jumps off the bed, drags it through three rooms and takes it to where her food is. Then she meows, almost howls, for a few seconds. Sometimes she kneads the blanket.
Do you have any idea what causes this behavior? -- V.T., Brick, New Jersey
DEAR V.T.: Your cat's behavior may remind some readers of how their children needed to carry a comforter, blanket or towel everywhere they went. Some would suck or stroke a corner -- all self-comforting behaviors, which some cats will also engage in. Cats also knead and "nurse" the soft material; sometimes they'll even do the same to caregivers' arms or earlobes!
This may be one aspect of your cat's fetishlike behavior. Another is the behavior of carrying a kitten to the food source, or carrying prey from room to room. Such seemingly bizarre behaviors are the result of cats adapting to the domestic environment where their natural predatory and parental instincts are thwarted or suppressed, and where they are deprived of interaction with their own species. In some instances, these cats were weaned too early and experienced maternal deprivation.
DEAR DR. FOX: I read with interest the column regarding dogs' "love." Here is a story about our beloved Loki, the Lab-pit bull rescued from the Brooklyn Animal Care and Control shelter in New York City:
Loki was 8 years old when we adopted him. From the very beginning, he had serious health issues. However, he was a wonderful, affectionate pet who lived to be 13. Much of Loki's enthusiasm for life had to do with Joey, the female German shepherd who lived next door. The two really enjoyed each other and would "call" for each other when outside.
Tragically, Joey's owner became terminally ill with cancer. Right after he died and the house was being emptied, Joey came to our back door. I called to Loki, but when I opened the door, Joey came in. She had never done that before. She slowly walked around the house while Loki sat somewhat puzzled in the kitchen. Then Joey went up to Loki, they touched noses, and Joey went back out to the now-empty house. She had been given away to some relatives who lived far away. Loki never saw her again, but he would go over to the empty house and put his paw on the back door. He seemed to be grieving.
What amazed us is that apparently Joey knew she was going away and had come to say goodbye. It was so sad, but totally remarkable how these two dogs had communicated with each other. -- M.H., Poughkeepsie, New York
DEAR M.H.: Thank you for sharing this sad and touching story. I am glad that more people are recognizing that dogs, like many other species, share similar emotions as humans. Scientists are discovering that dogs use similar parts of their brains for cognitive processing to decipher words and language. For me, this affirms our kinship with animals and calls on us to give them the best care possible in accord with their behavioral, social and emotional needs.
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