Advertise in Print | Subscriptions
Published October 28, 2011, 12:00 AM

Pet Care: Cats like to be on top of their world

Dear Dr. Fox: My cat is going on 3 years old. I adopted him when he was 2 months old. He enjoys playing with me (and vice versa). He has a scratch pole, toys and a laser light that he loves to chase. I brush him, and he loves it. He is a lovely indoor cat and sits in my lap.

By: Dr. Michael Fox, INFORUM

Dear Dr. Fox: My cat is going on 3 years old. I adopted him when he was 2 months old.

He enjoys playing with me (and vice versa). He has a scratch pole, toys and a laser light that he loves to chase. I brush him, and he loves it. He is a lovely indoor cat and sits in my lap.

As he got older, he began to jump up on the kitchen counter and the dresser. Then he would go after pictures and knock them down. I removed the pictures, but he still jumps up on high places. Now he has started chewing on the curtains at the window he looks out of. I’m pushing the curtains back. Why is he doing these things?

– M.M., Silver Spring, Md.

Dear M.M.: One of the delights of cats, if not a basic need, is to get off the ground so they may look down on the world. No doubt they feel more secure. This would be especially true in the wild, where being up a tree could provide safety and a hiding place to ambush birds and other edible small prey.

I find that one of our cats likes to get up on a table or stool to have a better view of what I’m doing at the kitchen counter. Cats are curious creatures and such behavior is understandable, since being on the floor limits their ability to see what’s going on around them. My wife and I allow our cats onto some armchairs and sofas (which we cover with sheets), and the cats have learned that the kitchen table is OK but the kitchen counter is not.

Your cat, like mine, will enjoy one or more “cat condos” or a secure tree branch with a couple of pillowed shelves attached, especially by a window so he can look outdoors. A bird feeder placed by a window is a cat’s TV.

Dear Dr. Fox: We adopted a 6-week-old male mixed-breed dog who’s been wormed and given his shots. A neighbor says his dewclaws should also be removed. They are on his front and back legs. What is your opinion? – B.M., St. Louis

Dear B.M.: The dewclaws on a dog’s front legs should be left alone. They are the dog’s thumbs and, while they can’t move them around like we can ours, they do serve a purpose in helping dogs grip things they are chewing. Because the dewclaws don’t wear down like the other toenails that are always on the ground, the nails may have to be routinely trimmed. Otherwise, they will cause pain and inflammation when they grow long and curl into the dog’s skin.

This same problem can develop with the dewclaws in the hind limbs. Not all dogs have them. In some dogs, they are pendulous (hanging loosely) and may get torn when the dog is out running. Surgical removal under general anesthesia is then advisable.

Dear Dr. Fox: Our sweet new kitten has me puzzled. She’s been wormed and vaccinated, but sometimes when she’s lying down, I’ve seen some white things. They are about the size of a grain of rice, and they seem to move. Is it my imagination or is my cat infested with maggots or something? – W.F.P., Winston-Salem, N.C.

Dear W.F.P.: You are probably seeing segments of a tapeworm, which look like grains of rice and can actually wriggle out of an animal’s rear end. These segments contain eggs that are eaten by flea larvae on the ground. When the infected larvae mature into adult fleas that hop onto your cat, the tapeworm cysts inside the fleas complete their life cycle. The cat catches and swallows the fleas, and once inside, the parasites attach themselves with hooks and suckers to the inner lining of the cat’s intestines.

Getting rid of the tapeworms will take two things:

- Worming medication to rid the cat of the parasite.

- Thorough flea eradication, which means using safe chemicals and other treatments on your cats and in your home. For details, check my website:

Dear Dr. Fox: I have been brushing my cat’s teeth almost two times daily for two months with the PetzLife cat formula. I took him to the vet yesterday for his annual physical, and she found a red bump on a lower left tooth. She said that once it moves to the surface it will be very painful, and that my cat needs to have it extracted and a full dental cleaning.

Does PetzLife help with this? He still has brown and yellow plaque at the gum line. – V.O., Fargo

Dear V.O.: While PetzLife oral-care products are the best on the market, in my opinion, they are no substitute for the thorough veterinary dental care so often needed to treat feline stomatitis (a very painful oral disease detailed on my website) and to deal with diseased and broken teeth and buildup of tartar or dental scale.

I would hold off on having your cat’s tooth removed and see how this “red bump” develops. It could be the beginning of stomatitis, or hopefully it is a simple inflammation. If it is inflammation, it may go away if you eliminate all corn from your cat’s diet and give a few drops of fish oil daily in his food (for its anti-inflammatory properties). In addition, rub (rather than brush) his teeth and gums, alternating daily treatments with PetzLife oral spray or gel with a solution of equal parts 3 percent hydrogen peroxide and aloe vera gel or liquid (available in health stores).

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 Web site at