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Published June 24, 2011, 12:00 AM

Pet Care: Toilet training not ideal for cats

Dear Dr. Fox: I have two cats who are about 1½ years old – the mostly Siamese is male, and the plain white is female.

By: Dr. Michael Fox, INFORUM

Dear Dr. Fox: I have two cats who are about 1½ years old – the mostly Siamese is male, and the plain white is female.

For the past several months, I have been trying to toilet train them, using the kit that comes with a persuasive DVD showing that the system is successful. The female gets the picture and happily hops up on the toilet (with the first insert installed) to do her business. I cannot move her on to the next step, however, because the male refuses to do so, even though he jumps up on a closed toilet seat and can climb 6-foot fences.

Even though I relented and put down his old litter box with a scant layer of litter, he took to using the bathroom floor. I cleaned up the messes immediately and tried to keep the floor free from his scents. But the other night, he urinated on my bed, while I was asleep! Then the next night, he snuck in and did the same thing.

Can you provide some advice on how to solve this twofold problem? I hope it will not be to forgo the toilet training, which I am eager to accomplish and which the female is cooperating with. – A.B.S., Washington, D.C.

Dear A.B.S.: While most cats are highly intelligent and amenable to training, I would not endorse teaching them to jump up onto the toilet seat, even if purportedly modified for the feline evacuation.

Cats need to dig before they evacuate and then cover with suitable litter material. This natural process and sequence involves being on the ground rather than having to jump up and balance on a toilet seat.

The physical and psychological stress on your male cat could well have led to his house soiling and marking your bed. It could also have brought on an attack of cystitis – a common reaction to stress in cats. So I advise a veterinary checkup and a return to the more natural litter-box cat toilet.

Dear Dr. Fox: Honey, my 14-year-old female cocker spaniel, has a skin condition that makes her develop something similar to scaly warts year-round. I have taken her to many vets and received many different diagnoses: from mites under her skin to a thyroid problem. Some of the vets have put her on strong medicine that affected her hearing and sight. She was also tested for Lyme disease and heartworm; both tests came back negative.

I got to the point where I felt so bad for Honey that I took her off all the medicine and began giving her vitamin A, vitamin E and brewer’s yeast. I also only feed her a natural food made from sweet potato and fish. She seems to be doing much better. Her energy levels are better, and there seem to be fewer lumps. But she is now completely deaf and has developed red circles around her neck and chest area (and she does not wear a collar).

Can you tell me what is going on with her? Finding a natural solution would be a godsend. – D.P., Hyde Park, N.Y.

Dear D.P.: You have been through the proverbial mill with your poor dog, and have come up with a partial cure yourself. I would have her thyroid function re-evaluated. Putting her on thyroid-replacement hormones (if needed) could be the solution.

Cocker spaniels are prone to develop chronic seborrhea: greasy, scabby, itchy dermatitis. I advise giving about one-quarter the recommended human daily dose twice daily of vitamin A, plus a ½ teaspoon of oil of primrose or borage oil and 1 teaspoon of brewer’s yeast to dogs with such skin problems. For some, the addition of a zinc supplement is helpful. Probiotics, prebiotics and digestive-enzyme supplements can also be beneficial, especially for older dogs.

Periodic bathing with human-medicated selenium blue shampoo may also make life more comfortable for your old dog, along with a clean cotton bath towel to lie on (use scent-free, low-phosphate laundry soap).

Dear Dr. Fox: People claim to have witnessed the energy essence of a dying person leave the person’s body at the moment of death, and people claim to have witnessed a pet dog’s or cat’s energy essence leave the body at the moment of death. They say they’ve witnessed the energy essence form into a little cloud once outside the body.

This raises the question of whether the energy essence of a person and/or animal is the same energy essence. And once out of the body, does the energy essence of an animal possess the same degree of intelligence as that of a human? Does God create humans and animals with the same kind of soul? – R.D.P., Hendersonville, N.C.

Dear R.D.P.: I have received similar letters like yours from other readers, and while I tread deep, if not controversial, waters here, I offer my opinion.

Several years ago, a reporter with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch confided to me that when he was present at his dog’s euthanasia, he saw some kind of cloudlike ephemeral energy rise up from the dog’s body after the last breath.

I believe that all living beings are inspirited – or if you like, divinely inspired. Body plus spirit equals a living soul. This is our kinship with all life, which we should treat with respect and obey the golden rule of treating others as we would have them treat us.

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