Q: I read your column on tick illness in cats, and I’m now wondering about what we should do. My neighbor and I care for a group of feral cats near Pittsburgh, and we’ve seen ticks on these cats. Of course, these cats play and sleep together and groom one another. We participate in trap, neuter, return with the cats, and provide shelter for them. We’re concerned about tick disease. Any advice? – N.B., near Pittsburgh
A: While cytauxzoonosis, an often fatal tick disease in cats, isn’t likely to occur where you live, there are several other tick diseases that can be transmitted.
Dr. Richard Goldstein, medical director at the Animal Medical Center in New York City and a veterinarian with a special interest in tick disease, says, “Tick disease isn’t fully understood in cats, but it is an emerging illness.”
Monthly spot-on products wouldn’t be easy to administer to feral cats (they’re unlikely to let caretakers get that close), and tick collars, which could be placed on the cats when they’re spayed or neutered, could get caught on tree branches or fences.
Your best bet might be a chewable tick preventive product, which could be tucked into a treat, then tossed in the direction of each cat. While you may not succeed at medicating all cats in the colony, this is one way to reach many.
Goldstein is impressed by your question and your obvious concern for these cats.
“Tick disease is very real, and clearly your efforts would be beneficial,” he says.
Q: What should I do about my dog who, at the age of 8, has suddenly decided that she likes to eat the frozen poop of other dogs? – B.N., St. Paul, Minn.
A: His entire life, my brother-in-law said he didn’t care for lobster. In a weak moment, he recently admitted that he’d never actually tried the stuff. I twisted his arm and he gave it a taste test. He loved lobster. Frozen dog poo is like the lobster my brother-in-law finally tried; your dog sampled some and decided it was the best thing around.
The makers of some nutritional supplements claim their products turn off a dog’s taste for frozen poop, but success is very unlikely. Instead, simply take your dog on leash walks, and be as vigilant as you can in keeping her away from her new favorite delicacy. With luck, she won’t develop a taste for thawed stool when the weather warms, and by next winter will forget all about her craving for “poopsicles.”
Q: I don’t have pets; I don’t want pets. Every day, when I open my front door to get the newspaper, I notice a fresh puddle of piddle near my front door and at my garage door. Are my neighbors slobs? – L.D., Las Vegas, Nev.
A: Possibly, or the animal responsible may not be owned by anyone in the neighborhood. To find out for sure, try to catch the culprit in the act.
If the offender is a dog and you can pinpoint the owner, consider kindly confronting the person and explaining that if the pup is running free, it should be on-leash – for the pet’s own safety.
If a cat is responsible, the problem becomes a bit more challenging, since unless the cat wears an ID collar, there’s no easy way to determine the owner, or lack thereof. You could try a motion detector sprinkler called the Scarecrow (available online and at some hardware and home improvement stores), which squirts water. Odds are an unexpected bath would convince a cat to find another toilet.
I can’t help but ask, why don’t you want a pet? I can assure you that your life would be enriched as you’ve never imagined.
Steve Dale welcomes questions/comments from readers. Although he can’t answer all of them individually, he’ll answer those of general interest in his column. Send email to email@example.com. Include your name, city and state. Steve’s website is www.stevedalepetworld.com. He’s also a contributing editor to USA Weekend.