Exercise Tips For Cats

Finding ways to exercise indoor cats is a challenge, especially when they reach middle age and kitten play is no longer a part of their psyche.  Here are some ideas for keeping cats active:

1)  Place food inside a dispenser toy.  These toys have holes slightly bigger than a piece of kibble.  When the cat plays with the toy, kibbles are “dispensed”.  You can create a dispenser toy by making holes in a plastic bottle or purchase one at your local pet store.  Brand names include Buddy Ball and Tricky Treat Ball.

2)  My cat loves to chase feathers on a stick or string.  These toys are sold at most pet stores.  Be careful about metallic ribbons as they may damage the cat’s mouth.  I had to treat a nasty laceration when the ribbon lodged between two teeth. 

3)  Play “follow the food bowl”.  Carry your cat’s food bowl or bag of treats around the house.  Shake the bowl or bag intermittently for excitement.  When the cat begins to lose interest, reward it with a little snack.  

4)  Move the food bowl around the house.  Let the cat search for their dinner.  If the cat likes to hang out downstairs, put the food upstairs and vice versa.  Climbing stairs is great exercise for cats.

5)  Experiment with laser tag.  When the cat is winded, let them catch and “kill” the dot.  If a cat never catches the dot, it might develop behavioral problems.   Give the cat a two minute break and start again.  Keep the laser pointed away from all human or animal eyes. 

6)  Carry the cat into new areas of the house away from the food bowl.  Make them walk back to their preferred sleeping areas.

7)  While you are watching TV, play a feline version of fetch.  Throw one kibble at a time down the hall or across the room.  Let the cat return to you and beg before tossing the next one.   

With all exercise programs, start out slowly and build up as your cat’s endurance increases.  Discontinue play if the cat is winded.  Please consult your veterinarian if your cat has a medical condition that might be aggravated by exercise such as heart disease or asthma.

Don’t Endanger The Endangered Species Act

It is with a heavy heart that I write this entry.  For years, the United States has worked to preserve endangered and threatened species through the Endangered Species Act.  A core tenet of the Act is having scientists from the Fish & Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service study proposed development for impact on habitat critical to our endangered species.  Now, President Bush is proposing to do away with this important protection, effectively gutting the Endangered Species Act.
Under the proposal, government agencies will make their own determination about future projects without mandatory scientific reviews.  Agencies run by Presidential appointees will be free to make their own decisions.  In my opinion, this is a recipe for disaster.  It is poor corporate governance.  Without a background in science, these leaders will likely not understand the ramifications of their decisions . . . that is, until it is too late and more species have perished.
Significant progress has been made under the current version of the Endangered Species Act.  Just look at the success with birds of prey and condors.  Peregrine Falcons are nesting in high-rise building across the country.  California Condors spread their majestic wings over the Grand Canyon just as their ancestors did.  But perhaps the greatest victory of all, the population of Bald Eagles has rebounded to a level that allows them to be removed from the Endangered Species list.  
The bottom line is that the Endangered Species Act works.  What’s more, the animals need it.           

Help, My Dog Eats Feces

    “Dr. Nelson, I think there is something wrong with my dog,” a concerned owner whispers in my ear.  Their face reddens before they speak again.  “He eats his own feces.  Although I support recycling, this takes it too far.  Is there anything you can do?”  

    While disgusting to humans, the condition known as coprophagia is actually a fairly common problem in dogs.  We humans view this behavior as a problem, but some dogs seem to really enjoy it.  This may be especially true if they are stealing morsels from a cat box.  So, why do they do it?  The short answer is that we do not know for certain why seemingly healthy dogs choose to eat poop.  Some theorize that they are looking for vitamins or minerals absent in their diet.  Others think they are trying to tidy-up the back yard.  I treated one dog who ate his own feces because he was starving.  When his health problems were cured, he stopped the behavior . . . and the owner rejoiced.  

    The truth is that many ‘normal’ dogs will go through a phase of eating feces when they are young.  For those animals, I recommend removing the feces immediately to prevent the problem.  But what happens if the dog is faster than their owners?  In these cases, I recommend a product called Forbid.  Place Forbid in the dog’s food and it will make the feces less appetizing.  Most dogs are cured within a few weeks.

    For really tough cases, I recommend a basket muzzle.  The muzzle is made from wire mesh.  This allows the dog to drink but not eat undesirable objects.  I also prescribe it for all of the rock eaters I run into.    Some stubborn dogs try to squish the feces through the muzzle.  Add a layer of duct tape to stop these stalwarts in their tracks.

    Please feel free to contact me with other questions or experiences with this nasty habit.   -Dr. Nelson