Q: Our cat, Martha Stewart, loves our two children, Jane, 11, and Adam, 6. After school, Adam comes home and runs around naked. I think the cat gets embarrassed. Is that possible? When Adam is fully clothed, the cat loves him, but when he’s naked, Martha wants nothing to do with him. Any advice?
– T.B., Tampa, Fla.
A: My goodness, what’s going on in Tampa? Your cat is probably afraid of naked Adam because he runs around in his birthday suit, and is more calm when clothed. Cats don’t generally care what we’re wearing, or if we’re wearing anything. However, your neighbors might.
Q: I love watching the birds from my dining room window, so I put up several bird feeders. Recently, a very thin tabby showed up, and I foolishly fed him. He gained a few pounds. Unfortunately, he also caught a bird. Luckily, I got out there in time and made him drop the bird. Since then, I’ve seen him catch two more. I have emphysema and can’t always move quickly enough to rescue his prey. I don’t want to harm this beautiful cat, but I also don’t want my beloved birds lured into a trap. Any advice?
– L.T., Miami
A: I understand your dilemma. Your example illustrates why cats belong indoors in the first place. Apparently, before you fed this stray, he wasn’t doing well, which is not unusual. Cats are not a part of the natural outdoor ecosystem. They can help control vermin in barns, but otherwise they don’t belong outside. Living outdoors, they can be hit by cars; catch infectious diseases from other cats; be chased and attacked by animals such as coyotes or other cats; and harm animals that do belong in the ecosystem: songbirds.
If at all possible – if this stray is calm and friendly enough – consider fully adopting this cat and bringing him indoors. First, trap the cat and have him neutered and vaccinated. Then make the indoor life a lark.
There are many ways to make life interesting for previously outdoor-only cats by enriching their environment. Offer a view of live birds outside or play DVDs starring birds. Rotate toys, play with the cat using an interactive toy, and feed him by placing food treat balls (which your cat must roll to knock the kibble out) around the house to activate his prey drive.
If you’re unable to take in the cat yourself, perhaps a friend or relative would be willing to adopt him.
Another option is fencing which would stop the cat from reaching your bird feeders; available at catfencein.com.
Q: Happy, our 2-year-old bichon frisé, goes for walks, gets lots of people time and has chew toys. The problem is, between 4 and 5 a.m., Happy starts to bark. We take him out, but he doesn’t need to go potty. He’s raring to play! We thought a peanut butter KONG toy would keep him busy, but still he barks before dawn. We’ve tried keeping him awake later at night and exercising him before bed time. Any suggestions?
– K.W., Madison, Tenn.
A: Buy a pair of earplugs and wait it out. I understand why you did what you did, but taking Happy out and offering him the KONG toy with peanut butter amounted to rewarding him. No attention is not rewarding. Totally ignore Happy when he barks in the morning, which at first will make you very unhappy, as the barking will likely intensify as he ups the ante, desperate for your attention.
You might try to relocate Happy at night. I’m not sure where he sleeps, but he might be more content in your room and stop barking. If he currently sleeps in your room, try moving him to the basement or a bathroom with a closed door. This might help, or Happy could become absolutely inconsolable separated from you – and bark even louder.
Also, consider asking your veterinarian about using Benadryl or melatonin to help Happy sleep through the night.
Steve Dale welcomes questions/comments from readers. Send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Include your name, city and state. Website is stevedalepetworld.com.