Q: Tigger, my 13-year-old cat, now has black pigment just inside the lower part of his mouth. Also, there’s a clump of hair on his back; it’s like gum stuck there, but I know that’s not the case. I tried to wash the area, but that didn’t help. What’s going on? – B.S., St. Paul, Minn.
A: “As cats age, a dark pigment in the mouth is normal, as long as it’s flat,” says Dr. Sheldon Rubin of Chicago. As for the lumpy area on Tigger’s back, assuming something sticky hasn’t dripped on the cat, it’s either matted fur or possibly a ruptured cyst or tumor. Definitely see your veterinarian, suggests Rubin.
Q: Babe, our 10-year-old cat, sometimes has loose bowels, and her droppings are always stinky. Sometimes she refuses to go in her large, clean litter box; instead, she’ll go on the floor just outside the box. She does urinate in the box. Our veterinarian says there’s nothing wrong. When we changed Babe’s food, she didn’t like the taste, so we returned to her original food.
This problem has been going on for two years. Recently, we lost two of our cats, including a 25-year-old tortie. Now, Babe is all alone and seems unhappy. Is there anything I can add to her food to help with the stool problem, or anything else you might suggest? – M.F.S., Largo, Fla.
A: Dr. Vicki Thayer, president of the Winn Feline Foundation (a nonprofit that funds cat health studies), says you could try adding a probiotic supplement called FortiFlora (available through veterinarians) or a human probiotic product called Culturelle (available at drug stores and online) to your cat’s diet, or some all bran (about a teaspoon a day). Some cats benefit by adding some skinless chicken to their diet; the protein seems to regulate the tummy.
If you see a big improvement after using a supplement, great. Otherwise, understand that frequent tummy upset is as abnormal in cats as it is in people, so a visit to a veterinary internal medicine specialist might be a good idea.
As for those accidents outside the litter box, your cat’s upset tummy may be the cause, says Thayer, of Lebanon. Or, if it hurts to defecate in the box, Babe may have learned to associate the box with pain. Generally, though, when cats do their business next to the litter box, they may be suggesting an aversion to the box itself (most cats prefer an uncovered box), the type of litter, or the fact that the box isn’t being cleaned often enough.
Some cats spontaneously – for reasons only they know – decide to piddle in one litter box and want another box nearby to poop in. However, Thayer suspects your cat’s litter box issues are related in some way to her gastrointestinal problems.
As for her loneliness, sometime down the road you may want to adopt another cat.
Q: My 3-year-old Russian Blue cat likes to bite my face. He’ll bite my chin, my nose, my forehead and my cheekbone. He only bites my husband’s arm. He never breaks the skin, but just holds on unless we pull away. One time, the cat held onto my husband’s arm so long that he (the cat) fell asleep and began to drool. Is there a logical explanation for this behavior? – L.M.
A: It sounds like your cat loves you and your husband. According to certified cat behavior consultant Jacqueline Munera, of Tampa, Fla., “Your cat isn’t aggressive or biting hard. It sounds as though he may be suckling. Cats will sometimes do this on people or inanimate objects. I wonder if he purrs or kneads while doing this. These are signs of contentment, as is drooling.”
Allowing any pet to bite (even benignly) at your face is worrisome. Perhaps due to your husband’s scruffy beard, the cat finds his face less appealing than yours, or perhaps he likes your husband’s cologne. Your husband may simply discourage the cat from nibbling at his face. An arm is a better option. If the love-sucking bothers you, offer your cat something else to suck on (such as a blanket), or distract him with an interactive toy or catnip when he’s poised to offer a love nibble.