Advertise in Print | Subscriptions
Published August 20, 2010, 12:00 AM

Feline’s actions puzzling

Dear Dr. Fox: Iggy is our 2-year-old shorthair cat. He was a stray and trapped at 6 weeks old. We got him from our local humane society shortly after.

By: Dr. Michael Fox, INFORUM

Dear Dr. Fox: Iggy is our 2-year-old shorthair cat. He was a stray and trapped at 6 weeks old. We got him from our local humane society shortly after.

Initially, Iggy had problems with explosive diarrhea. We tried six to eight dry-food brands, both from the store and the vet. He had problems with all. We then started giving him just canned food, and his problems cleared up completely.

About six months ago, he started chewing on things. First, he was eating shoelaces. Then he started eating holes in fleece blankets and socks. He eats chunks out of things, and we never see them again (not in his stool or vomiting). I was wondering if he could have some type of dietary deficiency. He is otherwise active and playful. He loves to fetch!

Iggy also wants to go outside and breaks through our screen door. Is there any safe way to secure a cat in the yard during the summer? He stands at the door and cries when the kids are out in the yard. – A.C., Burnsville, Minn.

Dear A.C.: Siamese and part-Siamese cats are notorious wool chewers, suckers and eaters. Premature weaning, lack of dietary fiber or, more likely, some essential mineral or other nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids may all play a role in this frequently obsessive-compulsive behavior.

Try giving your cat a half-teaspoon of catnip; and put a drop of fish oil and a pinch of chopped sprouted wheat grass or Barley Green for cats, working up to a half-teaspoon daily of each. A half-teaspoon of human grade pyrophyllite clay, such as Sacred Clay from Ee Wah Kee, may also prove beneficial. Many cats enjoy nibbling from a pot of wheat-grass sprouts, a natural source of fiber your cat may crave.

Try giving Iggy regular walks in a harness. You hold the leash and follow him – the reverse of a dog walk where the dog follows you.

Dear Dr. Fox: I have a 15½-year-old female Lab-mix who experienced a vestibular episode last December. At this time, she has some of the symptoms again: head tilt, eye movement and an inability to walk or even stand for very long. I initially thought she had a stroke, but my vet diagnosed it over the phone when I mentioned the head tilt and she had me look for irregular eye movement (nystagmus) that I hadn’t noticed at first. Prior to this diagnosis, I had even made an appointment to have her put down. Thankfully, my vet told me to give this condition the “tincture of time” and she will recover. It took about four days to see improvement, and by week’s end, she was back to her old self.

During this time, I hand-fed her baby food, per my vet’s recommendation. She wouldn’t eat the regular dog food. She had no ear infections, and her lab tests were normal, although she does have elevated liver tests. The medications she takes are daily fish oil, Traumeel for arthritis and Dasuquin. I was able to give her Dramamine non-drowsy for the motion sickness she was feeling.

I was wondering if you could share any other information you have on this condition, such as how often it recurs and should that be of concern to us. I also wanted to let your readers know about this condition so they do not rush to put their pet down when, in time, the animal can return to normal. – V.S., Frederick, Md.

Dear V.S.: It is good to remind dog owners of this sudden-onset loss of balance and frequent terror associated with this condition.

It often occurs in older dogs and is no call for panic. Holding, reassuring, and giving a little Valerian orally and lavender essential oil (also good for car-panicking and vomiting pooches) will help. Put a couple of drops of oil on a bandana around the dog’s neck. Some ginger in the dog’s food (slowly work up to a teaspoon of grated fresh root for a 50-pound dog) will help alleviate nausea and has anti-inflammatory properties. This condition, called labyrinthitis, is an inflammatory condition afflicting the middle ear and may or may not be associated with infection tracking in from the external ear canal.

Dear Dr. Fox: Last September, I adopted a 3-year-old cat who had been abandoned at my vet’s clinic. Malia has adamantly rejected all of my attempts to transition her to a healthful diet.

When she came to me, she had ear mites, ringworm and had a tooth abscess (the reason the former owner brought her to the vet but never came back to pick her up).

In January, Malia became fixated on her litter box and her urine output shrank to quarter-size wet areas once or twice daily. She began licking her genitalia, shedding clumps of fur; she then started to howl, moan and writhe sexually as if in heat, even though she had been presented as spayed. Although the vet could not obtain a sufficient amount of urine to test during our short office visit, he “assumed” that Malia had a bladder infection and prescribed Amoclan, 1½ ml twice daily. Urine production normalized, but within a week the heat symptoms increased markedly, which the vet pronounced “interesting” and prescribed megestrol acetate (Ovaban). The vet said he could do exploratory surgery to ascertain the presence of scar tissue or another anomaly, but a short course of hormones has also corrected the false-heat issue.

It is now mid-March and the constellation of symptoms has returned, although the “heat” isn’t as intense as previously. I would appreciate your thoughts on this situation. – E.G., Springfield, Mo.

Dear E.G.: I appreciate the fact that you adopted this poor abandoned cat. Many cats and dogs are suffering today because the current economic crisis is the latest excuse people are giving to abandon them and deny veterinary attention when needed. I find such abandonment inexcusable. Animal shelters across the United States are filled with such animals, many of whom are euthanized.

Many cats get fixated on dry cat food. I like Castor & Pollux Organix dry cat food (as does our cat, Mark Twain), and you can try some of Evanger’s great variety of canned cat food.

Follow your veterinarian’s treatment for Malia’s periodic heat. Exploratory surgery soon after her next hormonal surge may or may not find the remnant ovarian tissue responsible for the condition.

Send your questions to Dr. Fox in care of The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns. Visit Dr. Fox’s website at