Q: My 17-year-old cat is now alone for the first time in over 14 years. I adopted three cats from our local humane society, and he was the middle cat. The other two cats have now passed away, and Hunter appears lonely. At first, he didn’t seem to care that the other cats were gone, but now he seems bothered, although he continues to eat well and sometimes does play. Any advice? – M.C., Eagan, Minn.

A: “I’m very sorry to hear about your two cats,” says Vancouver, Canada-based feline veterinarian Dr. Margie Scherk, editor of Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery. “First, see your veterinarian to ensure there is no medical explanation – and at 17 years, the reality is that it’s a distinct possibility.”

Scherk continues, “Once you rule that out, find something your old cat can interact with. Try an iPad.” Scherk isn’t suggesting that your cat learn accounting software or send email, but there are apps available with games specifically for cats. Playing a few games a day might be enough to replace your cat’s interaction with his friends.

If this plan fails, consider adopting two kittens. In general, kittens are easier for older cats to accept because they’re less threatening than adult cats. However, all that energy can be annoying to an old-timer. That’s the theory behind getting two kittens; they can play with one another and not pester the 17-year-old. However, they would associate with the older cat, providing companionship.


Q: Our usually healthy female, spayed cockapoo has been leaving puddles on the floors for a month. Although she had no signs of a urinary infection, our veterinarian gave her antibiotics anyway. The problem has continued, however, whether we’re home or not. The veterinarian suggested kidney stones, but my research suggests hormonal incontinence. Any advice? – G.B., Cyberspace

A: Dr. Ernie Ward agrees that the problem may, indeed, be estrogen-dependent (or hormonal) incontinence. “Still, it’s important that your veterinarian rule out various problems, ranging from kidney stones to Cushings disease (overproduction of the hormone cortisol), or diabetes,” he says.

Ward, of Calabash, N.C., says that if the problem does turn out to be estrogen-dependent incontinence, ask your veterinarian about an ultra-low dose of estrogen replacement or a drug called phenylpropanolamine, which increases the tone of the urethral sphincter.


Q: My Coton de Tulear is constantly chewing on one of her hind legs. Why does she do this and how can I help? – W.D., Cyberspace

A: “It doesn’t take more than a small number of fleas to cause an allergic response,” says veterinary dermatologist Dr. Karen Moriello, of the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine, Madison.

While fleas are unlikely in Maine or North Dakota right now, if you live in the South, even in winter the buggers can abound. If you can rule out fleas, your veterinarian will next consider environmental allergies. Moriello wonders if your dog has other itchy places, such as her ears or paws, that you didn’t mention in your email. Food allergies are another possibility, but unlikely based on your description.

You could ask your veterinarian about a medicated antibacterial dog shampoo; it couldn’t hurt and might help. Ultimately, you may need to visit a veterinary dermatologist for a diagnosis.

However, since the dog is only chewing on one leg, the problem may have nothing to do with allergies. It’s also possible the leg is painful. You need to see your veterinarian, and also consider an X-ray of the dog’s leg.