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Pets Q&A: Check with vet about cat’s misbehavior

Q: We have a year-old tabby we rescued from the woods when she was 6 weeks old. She was really wild, but my son befriended her. She’s still a bit skittish and runs from me. She’s also peeing along the wall in one room, and also on a vinyl desk chair. We do have an older cat that I know is not responsible. The two cats have always gotten along well. How do we stop this behavior? – S.B., Eden

A: If this behavior is new, there might be a medical explanation. If your veterinarian rules that out, certified feline behavior consultant Pam Johnson-Bennett of Nashville, Tenn., and host of Animal Planet Canada’s “Psycho Kitty,” says to place a litter box at the spot where the cat is piddling regularly. This should be (at least) your third litter box. The boxes should be scattered in various places in the house. If you offer four boxes, that’s even better.

“It might be the cats aren’t getting along as well as you believe,” says Johnson-Bennett. “In cats, aggression might be awfully covert. It’s challenging for even observant cat owners to notice all their signals.”

As for the chair the cat is piddling on, either hide it for now or make it uncomfortable for the cat. Line the chair with double-stick tape or a similar manufactured product called Sticky Paws. Placing a litter box near the chair also makes sense.

All cats can be thrown by change, especially those with the temperament you describe. Johnson-Bennett can’t help but wonder if your son has a new schedule; even his going back to school might stress out your cat. Home construction, a houseguest, or any other change in the household routine might be the culprit. Consider purchasing Feliway, a knockoff a cat pheromone, to help minimize your pet’s anxiety.

While some cats prefer covered boxes, most seem to like them uncovered; with three boxes you can offer choices.


Q: I’ve always been a terrier fan. I’ve heard about a breed called the Patterdale Terrier. I looked up the breed on the Internet. What can you add? – S.P., Baltimore

A: People in the United Kingdom like these dogs, and they’re very gradually catching on here. Patterdale Terriers were originally bred in the U.K. as hunting dogs, a role which many continue in today. They are smaller dogs, averaging 11 to 13 pounds, with an easy-to-care-for smooth or rough coat. They come in various colors; black is the most common. Be aware that like lots of terriers, these dogs have a strong and persistent prey drive and energy to burn, so the neighborhood squirrels and rabbits may not appreciate your choice.


Q: We’re reluctant to give our 3-year-old Shih Tzu heartworm medication because of side effects. We’re thinking of stopping it. We live in the city and don’t visit the park; our dog spends a lot of time in our yard. Thoughts? – K.J., Cyberspace

A: “Absolutely, this is wrong,” begins Dr. Ernie Ward, of Calabash, N.C. “The benefits of heartworm preventatives far outweigh any potential chance of an adverse affect. And if there are side effects, which again are rare, most often it’s diarrhea or vomiting, which go away. If a pet gets heartworm, the disease doesn’t just go away. The treatment (for heartworm) is no fun and has the potential for side effects. And treatment is expensive. Prevention is best.”

Mosquitoes transmit heartworm, so where there are mosquitoes, there’s likely heartworm. Whether you live in the big city or not doesn’t matter; mosquitoes like urban life, too. And with your dog spending lots of time in the yard, it seems your dog is even more susceptible to mosquitoes.