Welcome to 2001

Q: My six-year-old cat’s last recent vet visit resulted in a recommendation to clean her teeth at a cost of well over $200. This is a sum I don’t have at the moment. My husband reminded me that a new cat would cost only $30. He’s a dog lover. The vet warned me her condition is serious; she can lose all her teeth. Is there anything I can do?
J.F., San Diego, Calif.

A: In some states a divorce costs only $30. I’m only half kidding here.

I get too many letters from spouses – the vast majority are women – who tell me the husband doesn’t care much for cats. I can’t help but wonder if the cost happened to be $200 for canine dental work, you’d somehow come up with the money -or your husband would. It’s not surprising that you say “my cat” instead of “our cat.”

Listen, I understand that finances can be tight. And $200 is a lot of money. But how about $50 a month? Your vet may permit a payment plan. What’s more, with clients they can trust, many vets don’t charge interest.

If the cat is at the point of suddenly losing all her teeth, this likely means she hasn’t been checked by a vet in too long. Being proactive by visiting a vet once a year can, in the long run, save the pet misery as well as save your pocketbook. Perhaps, your vet is attempting to make a point, warning you that if you don’t clean your cat’s teeth, she will suffer in the future. Another proactive plan is to brush your cat’s teeth.

I understand the concept of “it’s broke so let’s get another one,” if you’re talking about washing machines. But your cat hopefully is considered a member of your family. Personally, I believe that the attitude your husband has – that the cat is merely a disposable object – is abhorrent and downright inhumane. What’s more, if you have children, look at the lesson you’re teaching them regarding the value of life.

Keep the cat, though you might consider losing the husband.

PETS ON THE NET

Q: How do you feel about purchasing puppies or kittens via the worldwide web? A.K., Boston, Mass.

A: Skeptical, at best. It’s always best to see and smell the breeder’s facilities; a virtual tour just doesn’t cut it. Meeting the mother of the pup or kitty is exceedingly important. After all, anywhere from about 25 to 55 percent of that tyke’s personality comes from the mother dog or cat. Another 10 to 20 percent comes from dad; it’s helpful to meet him, too. A good breeder will quiz you. While some breeders offer Internet questionnaires, it’s just not the same as a telephone conversation or talking face to face. Caring breeders are skeptical of any potential buyer – after all, you’re buying their “babies.”

I believe the web is a great tool to help locate breeders, to learn specific information about breeds and to ask questions of breeders. However, if you live in California, and the breeder you’re communicating with via the web is in Florida, what’s the point? That’s unless you’re willing to drive to Florida to pick up the pup or kitty.

What’s more, some places selling puppies on the net aren’t virtual puppy mills – they’re the real thing. There also are horrific web sites where puppies and kittens are auctioned off. Purchasing an animal from these web sites only perpetuates inhumane businesses that shouldn’t be operating in the first place.

However, rules have become blurred as an increasing number of legitimate breeders are marketing utilizing the web. If you must purchase a pet via the web, at least verify who you’re dealing with using resources such as the Cat Fancier’s Association, the International Cat Association, the American Kennel Club or the United Kennel Club. In addition, verify this breeder is a respected member of a certifiable breed club.

People do lots of research before buying a vacuum cleaner or washing machine. This little pooch or kitty will grow up, ultimately sharing good times and bad as a member of your family for ten years to more than 20 years. An impulsive decision is easy to make when all that’s required is a click of the mouse. Think before you click.

AMPUTATING CATS

Q: My husband and I are at odds about declawing our five-month-old kitten. She will be an indoor cat. How do you feel about declawing? D.B.B, Katy, Texas

How do you train a kitten to scratch? S.C., Orlando, Fla.

A: Hooray for your decision to keep kitty indoors. While an old cat can learn new scratching habits, it’s easier dealing with a clean slate – before your kitten has developed what you consider a bad habit. I say, “what you consider a bad habit,” because all cats scratch – it’s perfectly natural feline behavior. Even declawed cats go through the motions.

Give kitty appropriate places where she “can” scratch, and appropriate things to scratch on. Purchase a scratcher standing at least two feet high (higher is always better) that is wrapped around with sisal to scratch on. Cats stand on their hind legs to scratch so a post that is less than two-feet high or any post that is not sturdy isn’t likely to be used. In addition, strongly consider offering kitty a second vertical scratching option. There are many commercially available choices for under $30 (some are novel, such as the emery board cat scratcher, Cat and Mouse Play Zone, made by Omega Paw) or build your own.

Personally, I love the look of the real wood cat trees and most important, cats love their feel. My favorite are those made by Angelical Cat Company (www.angelicalcat.com, or call 954-747-3629). These kitty condos may feature hiding places, play stations and ledges to catnap and watch birds – as well as real bark and sisal and/or carpet to scratch. An added bonus is offering kitty an appropriate place to climb. However, cat trees can be costly, ranging from about $200 to over $1,000 (although the most expensive monstrosities are best suited for households with three or more cats).

Don’t forget to purchase at least one horizontal scratcher. These are inexpensive cardboard scratchers, with slots for catnip to encourage scratching.

Location, location, location is the name of the scratching game. Place various scratchers in places where the family hangs out, and where kitty likes to play. Further encourage use by interactive play at the scratchers. Catch her scratching once, and promptly reward her with treats. If she begins to scratch at the sofa, pick her up and gently place her at an appropriate scratching post. For example, if she’s scratching horizontally, relocate her to a cardboard floor scratcher. Scolding kitty isn’t necessary, and diminishes trust, forcing her to scratch behind your back.

Your cat will need to scratch less if you keep her nails short. Bottom line, I don’t care how some vets try to put a positive spin on it, declaw surgery is an amputation. Declaw surgery is equivalent to removing the last joint on all your fingers and toes.

I accept declaw only when it really is the absolute final option, and after all efforts have been made unsuccessfully to re-train a cat scratching the furniture. With kittens, this isn’t an issue; the vast majority can be trained to scratch at appropriate places. I believe obligatory declaw surgery is inhumane.

Note: This article is copyrighted by Steve Dale and can be used as source material and for reference only. It cannot be reprinted verbatim. Please contact Steve Dale at [email protected] if you have any questions.

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