DEAR DR. FOX: I have a lap kitty. To be more specific, this approximately 7-year-old rescue cat (mine for four years) is not content to just curl up on my legs when I sit. Rather, she senses when I sit in my easy chair from wherever she is napping elsewhere in the house -- how she knows this is beyond me. She comes running and jumping into my lap, worming and inching her way up to my torso until ensconced like a nursing baby, inches from my chin. There, she will stretch out her forelegs, placing each one as far as she can reach around my neck in a seeming kitty hug. I know she would even try kissing me if she could. Of course, I am moved by this act of kitty love.
The problem: A few months ago, she started jumping up on the toilet seat, probably thinking, “Wow, a huge water bowl!” After that started, my husband now scolds me for allowing the snuggling, pointing out that nasty germs on her paws could move to my neck and face. I said, what’s the difference between that and kitty litter on her paws, then on me? Or a pet puppy who licks his genitals, then someone’s face?
I am not exactly fond of this either, but germs are everywhere. I am told that even my washing-machine tub is filled with germs! Pets are doing the only thing they know to show their love for their owners.
What should I do? Bar her from her habits, or enjoy this act of love? -- B.S., Springfield, Missouri
DEAR B.S.: Your vivid prose will get some readers thinking about this important issue and, hopefully, find the middle way.
Without good bacteria from our animal companions and other natural sources, we and our children would probably have even more allergies, depression, obesity, infections and other health issues. These ailments are high enough as it is, because of our collective ignorance and paranoia over potentially infectious and contagious bacteria, and the misuse of antibiotics and other antibacterial -- anti-life -- chemicals.
Infectious disease experts advise to keep your hands away from your mouth and face when in public places to limit the hand-transfer of potentially harmful bacteria, including the infamous norovirus, and to wash hands thoroughly when you come home and before you prepare food and before you eat. Wash hands after putting out pet food, dry kibble being a potential source of salmonella and other bacterial infections.
DEAR DR. FOX: I always read your articles in the Palm Beach Post and find them informative. I am addressing a matter dear to my heart, and I hope you will agree with me.
When a dog or cat is hopelessly ill and suffering and there is no hope, a decision is usually made to euthanize the animal. I would like to propose the following, from my personal experience.
Our old cat, Tomy, after having kidney problems for a long time, eventually had acute kidney failure. He retreated into his “igloo” bed, refusing to drink or eat for days. We decided to end his suffering.
We called the veterinarian and asked her to come to our house, instead of dragging a very sick cat to unfamiliar surroundings and causing additional trauma. The doctor came and my family (including our grown daughter) all gathered around Tomy to say goodbye. I held him in my arms when he got the injection to sedate him, and then the lethal injection. We could see there was no pain; he just fell asleep. We buried Tomy in the backyard. It was a family affair with all of us crying, but it was comforting knowing we were with him to the end in his familiar surroundings.
On the practical side: The costs for the house call were reasonable, and it was cheaper to bury him than to have him cremated. Most people don’t know about the option for in-home euthanasia and are surprised when I bring it up. Please help make home euthanasia wider known. It makes such a positive difference in the final hours of a pet.
Now, I have two questions (unrelated to Tomy). We have a 2-year-old spayed female cat, a rescue. She is happy, healthy and very active. But when she sleeps, she often snores. I have had many cats over the years and never encountered a snoring cat. Have you?
I am involved in TNR (trap/neuter/release) and we have about six feral cats in our community who are well taken care of. What can we do about flea prevention, since we cannot touch the cats? Is there anything we can put in their food? -- F.W., Delray Beach, Florida
DEAR F.W.: Yes, I frequently advocate in-home euthanasia in my syndicated newspaper column. I am happy to say that more and more veterinarians are providing this service in many communities, along with palliative in-home hospice care for terminally ill cats and dogs who are still enjoying some quality of life.
Many cats snore -- Persians in particular, because of their deformed, pushed-in faces. When it is severe, one must look into possible sleep apnea and increased risk of respiratory infection.
I have written extensively about the pros and cons of TNR (as per the article “Releasing Cats to Live Outdoors” on my website, drfoxvet.net), which I oppose with very rare exception. You hit the nail on the head with one contradiction: claiming the cats in your area are “well taken care of” while admitting you cannot do anything about flea control. This is one of my concerns, especially for ill and injured cats. My other concern is that no matter how well fed they are, they will kill wildlife, and they do not belong outdoors where indigenous wildlife species need protection.
(Send all mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 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.)