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Pets Q&A

Q: Years ago, I remember watching you on “Animal Planet” explaining how you’d trained your cat to take a pill. Now my cat needs a pill, and no matter what I do, she drops it on the floor, then walks away. Any advice? – L.G., Cyberspace

A: First, buy an inexpensive pill gun, online or through a veterinarian. Several times a day, put just a bit of tuna, salmon, or baby food (no onions) in the device for your cat. You could even announce, “Time for your pill!” in an upbeat voice before each “dose.” Note: Speak to your veterinarian first about what treats to put in the pill gun based on any dietary restrictions your cat may have.

After about a week, sneak a pill in with the treat in the pill gun. (Continue to offer just bits of these treats in the device at other times, too.) Hopefully, your cat’s craving for these tasty morsels and your upbeat announcements will convince her that taking a pill isn’t so bad.

There are other products available to achieve the same end, such as tasty flavored Pill Pockets you can hide pills in. This fools some cats, but others eat the Pill Pocket and leave the pill.

Depending on the medication, a pharmacist may be able to custom compound it so it tastes like chicken or fish and becomes more appealing. Of course, pharmacists charge a fee to compound. Ask your veterinarian if this is even possible with the medication you’re giving. Some meds already come in tasty flavors.

I think the cat of mine you’re referring was Ricky, a Devon Rex. He was known for his incredible piano playing skills and appeared frequently with me on various “Animal Planet” shows. Ricky required daily heart medication. He knew that following the bitter pill, he’d get treats. If I was late in giving him his pill, Ricky would jump on my shoulder and meow until I opened the cabinet where the pills were stored. He wasn’t only easy to give medication, but he actually demanded his pills!

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Q: Could our cat be gluten intolerant? We recently adopted her and she passes gas a lot. What’s going on? – E.G.K., Buffalo

A: Unlike dogs, cats generally refrain from passing gas. (Apparently, they’re far too polite.)

While there is a potential for cats (or dogs, for that matter) to be intolerant to anything in food, so far, pets have not been shown to be intolerant of gluten, according to Dr. Kate Knutson, board member of the Pet Nutrition Alliance and past president of the American Animal Hospital Association. Besides, there’s no gluten in cat food.

However, since flatulence is so rare in cats, Knutson suggests something abnormal is going on, which may be as simple as the cat’s food not agreeing with her, or several other possible issues. Take pictures of the cat’s droppings in the litter box, and also deliver a stool sample to your veterinarian.

Knutson, of Bloomington, Minn., says she’s seen cats with similar problems, and some were eating houseplants or inappropriate table snacks, or something else caused their tummy upset.

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Q: I have a 10-month-old Bedlington Terrier and a Siamese cat. Our dog is intent on chasing the cat, and it’s annoying. The cat is not afraid and sometimes encourages the dog. How can I stop this from happening? – P.D., Cyberspace

A: Hmmm, annoying to whom? “Based on your description, the cat sounds like he’s in control – which is what cats like,” says certified dog behavior consultant Liz Palika, of Oceanside, Calif. “I suspect they’re playing. One option is to do nothing, unless either the dog or cat has gotten hurt, or you feel one of the two might get hurt.”

It seems you’re annoyed by the behavior, which is perfectly fair, I suppose. You could distract your cat with an interactive toy, such as a fishing pole toy with fabric or feathers at the end or a laser light. (Note: Never shine the light into the cat’s eyes; also periodically drop a treat on the “red bug,” so the cat actually catches something.)

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