DEAR DR. FOX: We read your warning about not getting a wild cat hybrid, and agree with you totally.
My husband and I bought a Savannah, a hybrid serval-domestic cat mix, as a kitten. He was neutered, declawed and given lots of love and toys, but the older he got, the more he paced and did not want to get near us except when it was time to be fed. He made me nervous because he was so restless all the time, and he was easily upset by sudden noises. After he bit my husband badly on the arm, we sent him to a wild cat sanctuary for these displaced critters, who don't seem to know where they belong or what they are here for.
I hope people follow your advice. After we got rid of him, we adopted two kittens from our local shelter, both tabbies and littermates. Life couldn't be better for them or for us. -- T.L., Trenton, New Jersey
DEAR T.L.: Thank you for sharing your sad experience with this poor hybrid cat -- a lost soul, indeed.
I would like to hear the experiences of other readers. Another wild cat hybrid, the safari cat, a cross between Geoffroy's cat and the domestic shorthair, is a human-created misfit, and this species of wild cat is endangered.
The Scottish wild cat is now endangered as a result of interbreeding with free-roaming housecats. The reverse is possible: A non-neutered wild cat hybrid could escape (they are expert escape artists) and cross-breed with free-roaming domestic cats to produce a new super-predator on our very own doorsteps.
It would be wise, therefore, for municipalities to crack down on breeders and prohibit the propagation of such animals, which has more to do with making money and owning some "exotic" novelty creature than with any empathic regard and respect for wild cat species and these man-made hybrid aberrations. Most of them are simply unable to effectively adapt to a domesticated, confined existence. Many people with such creations genuinely love them, but such love is no justification for their perpetuation and proliferation.
DEAR DR. FOX: I take my 5-year-old neutered male cat out for walks on a harness and leash. He seems to love it. He'll ask for me to take him out by meowing and pawing at his leash. When we walk, I let him take the lead, but by now we've established a regular route around my apartment complex, which he'll navigate reliably and predictably, for the most part.
However, cars scare him, bicycles scare him and groups of people scare him, and he'll attempt to run off in whatever direction he can to get away from them. He's on a leash, so I'm not concerned about him escaping, but is there anything I can do to minimize his fear? -- D.V., Falls Church, Virginia
DEAR D.V.: I wish more people with cats would get then used to going for a walk -- most cats love it, provided it is a quiet neighborhood. I would take a walking stick along, just in case you meet up with an off-leash dog. Your cat may eventually habituate to traffic and noisy people, but be mindful that some cat harnesses, as I learned from personal experience, can be wriggled and twisted out of by a spooked cat.
I advise using two leashes -- a collar and leash as well as a harness and leash if your cat is not always calm and is easily frightened.
(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.
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