important health and behavior questions about your favorite felines. (Have your own questions? Drop Dr. Sharp a line at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Q. Our family just adopted a cat, and my husband and I are debating whether she should stay indoors all the time or go out during the day. What are your thoughts?
A. Asking a vet if your cat should be kept inside is like asking a dentist if you should brush your teeth. My office is currently caring for eight felines that are sick or injured as a result of their open-air adventures. Statistics vary, but house cats live, on average, nine years longer than their outdoor counterparts. Traffic is just one hazard. Kitties who roam outside risk exposure to potentially fatal diseases, including feline leukemia, feline AIDS, and rabies, as well as less dangerous but still unpleasant parasites and infections (fleas, ticks, ringworm). Then there are predators, like coyotes, raccoons, dogs, even humans with guns.
Plus: 70 More Pet Questions, Answered! »
Q. My kitten often "kneads" things: blankets, the couch, even me! Why does she do this, and will it stop as she grows up?
A. Kneading is a sure sign of relaxed contentment. When most cats paw at, say, a blanket, they purr intensely, repeating the treading motion they once associated with food delivered in a warm, comforting fashion. Your lap can prove an especially suitable target for a smash-down, since you've become the caretaker. Consider this attention a supreme compliment.
Q: Late at night, my cat, Scarlett, sometimes lets out a piercing howl. But when we go to her, she seems content. What gives?
A. Although felines are not strictly nocturnal, they're often more active while the rest of us are asleep - so the fact that Scarlett vocalizes in the wee hours isn't terribly alarming to me. If Scarlett's only recently started screaming like a banshee come nighttime, I'd suggest an immediate trip to the vet to rule out the conditions above or any other serious medical issues. But if her wails are nothing new (and fairly infrequent), you needn't rush; merely mention the behavior to your vet at the next routine visit. Assuming everything looks good, Scarlett's likely just broadcasting, "Hey, I'm up! Let's play!"
Q: My cat drinks water from everywhere but her bowl - a leaky faucet, houseplant saucers. Is this something I need to stop?
A: When thirst strikes, felines often turn to the veritable wet bar they see all over the house: dripping faucets, frosted windows, unattended water glasses, even toilet bowls. The only reason to curtail such extracurricular slurping is if the water could be contaminated - if you fertilize your houseplants, for instance, treat your Christmas tree with a preservative, or install an automatic bowl cleaner in your toilet. Use common sense as your guide, and assuming the drinking source is clean, let your pet have at it.
Plus: Dr. Sharp also answers 20+ questions about your dogs »
Q: How do you stop cats from chewing wires?
A: The best fixes are simple: Put away game controllers, use wireless headphones, and close off rooms of particular interest to your cord-obsessed pet. You can also coat wiring with a spray that deters biters with its pungent flavor, such as Grannick's Bitter Apple, or encase cables in a CritterCord, a clear protective sheath that has an acrid taste most pets find offensive.
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