DEAR DR. FOX: My son has an 18-year-old male cat. The other night, he gave Dinker some catnip, which he has had before, but this time he had a little more than usual. Dinker was immediately unresponsive, lying down and not moving. My son thought he was going to have to put him down.
Dinker came around and has been fine ever since. Do you think the reaction was from the catnip, which he has always had without trouble? Because of his age, do you think it could have been a slight stroke or vertigo? -- K.S., West Palm Beach, Florida
DEAR K.S., The moral of your son’s saga is: All things in moderation.
Soon after rolling in, and then eating, a small amount (one shredded teaspoon) of fresh catnip or catmint, my cats would often vomit, though usually keeping down the dried herbs. Then they’d roll in what remained on the floor, and then get squiggly, maybe batting at their tails, before zoning out for a while.
Catnip is the equivalent of Valium for most cats, but some show no interest. It makes for a relaxing tea for us humans, and also has some antispasmodic effects. I advise people to grow their own catnip, or only buy “Organically Certified,” since I have seen plastic packages of catnip in some stores indicating it comes from China.
For Dinker, I say just a pinch or two next time. Moisten it with a little water and let stand at room temperature for a few minutes first to draw out the volatile oils. Dinker may simply roll in the aroma and get “high” that way.
I say “high” not euphemistically or anthropomorphically. In the wild, many animal species -- notably bears, baboons and elephants -- will seek out fermented fruits, clearly enjoying the effects altering their states of consciousness and behavior. I do not think such experiences are essential for us to provide for companion animals, but olfactory-sensitive cats and dogs do enjoy different scents, such as dogs on walks being allowed to sniff to their brains’ content. Some dogs may also appreciate catnip, and I would enjoy hearing from other readers whose dogs do.
As for cannabis, which wild pigs especially relish, its use in veterinary medicine is increasing with its legalization for medical purposes. As this herb becomes accepted for recreational use in humans, companion animals should be kept away. Dogs, in particular, are often eager to eat cannabis plants or the dried herb. An overdose could cause respiratory depression and heart failure, especially in older animals.
When all is said and done, I think it is only we humans who need to lose our minds and come to our senses. Other members of the plant kingdom can help with that, as some psychotherapists are now exploring for such conditions as PTSD, dementia and depression.
DEAR DR. FOX: This is regarding your article about the use of bits on the horses at the recent royal wedding in London.
I do agree that bitless bridles can be excellent, but tossing of heads does not necessarily indicate discomfort in a horse. It does indicate excitement, and the forward position of the horses’ ears suggests that was the case.
These cossetted horses are not only cherished, but also get regular holidays away from London. They are taken to rural areas and given large pastures to roam and play in. Her Majesty the Queen is a fan and follower of Monty Roberts, aka the “Horse Whisperer,” and invited him to London to explain and demonstrate his training methods, which she adopted.
So while the horses you are concerned about are among the best cared for anywhere, I wish you would also comment in your column about the unspeakable government-backed cruelty being perpetrated here in the U.S. by the Bureau of Land Management. The BLM systematically terrorizes the wild mustangs in the northwest, herding them with helicopters, penning them, breaking up family groups and inducing panic, which leads to many broken legs. Slaughter is the final option for many of these beautiful horses.
It does not get into the news because journalists are mostly kept away from the horrific roundups; it does not make for palatable news coverage.
The House Appropriations Committee and the BLM will not allow the humane methods of sterilization that the supporters of the mustangs and burros have proposed. They have far more devastating methods to implement in the very near future.
Please read more about this from the American Wild Horse Campaign (americanwildhorsecampaign.org).
We have read your columns about cruelty to dogs and cats in certain Asian countries. Let’s deal with the horrors right here, and encourage your readers to take action immediately. -- C.B., Hendersonville, North Carolina
DEAR C.B.: Yes, I am sure that all the queen’s horses are well cared for. But traditions always need to be examined when there is questionable suffering and available alternatives. One notable example from my native country is the old tradition of setting dog packs on foxes, deer and other dwindling wildlife species.
I invite readers of my column to visit americanwildhorsecampaign.org and support efforts to bring compassion and respect for all life to bear on the policies and practices of wildlife and feral animal management by state and federal agencies.
(Send all mail to email@example.com 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.)