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Dr. Michael Fox, Published October 23 2009

Fish oil can help cat fur

Dear Dr. Fox: Our 3-year-old male cat is in good health, but his fur has not been as glossy as it should be because he doesn’t get enough oil in his diet.

We have tried to put a few drops of salmon oil with his food, but he won’t touch it. So we tried mixing in a little bit of flax oil, and he wouldn’t touch that, either. He can tell the difference right away. Then we offered him a little bit of butter from a local dairy, and he turned his nose up at that, as well. I suppose he could get good oils from eating tuna-fish-based cat food, but then there’s the problem of mercury and other issues associated with eating big ocean fish.

Do you have any suggestions so we can get our cat past this problem? – B.B., Washington, D.C.

Dear B.B.: First, you are correct about the health hazards of ocean fish like tuna. Farmed salmon (and oil) can be loaded with highly toxic PCBs and dioxins. Tempt your cat with low-in-the-food-chain small fish like sardines in oil twice a week.

Many cats turn their noses up at anything new in the food bowl, so start with a microscopic portion mixed in well and increase the amount gradually to about ½ teaspoon daily.

Grass-fed beef, organic butter and eggs from free-range hens contain more nutrients than those from conventionally raised animals. Cats need a range of essential fatty acids that are deficient in flax, borage and hempseed oils (which are fine for dogs and most humans).

Nordic Naturals fish oil and Old Grizzly wild-salmon oil are two products I recommend for cats, but always start with one drop in the food. New Chapter also markets one of the best salmon oils.

Dear Dr. Fox: I hope the solution I found for cats urinating outside of the litter box will help others.

I was having this problem and one day, after I cleaned the litter box, I put the empty box on the floor. Before I could fill it, my cat urinated in it. I now keep two litter boxes, one with litter and one empty.

It solved my problem. The only drawback is that the house doesn’t smell the best, but as soon as I flush the urine down the toilet, the house doesn’t smell anymore. – M.O., Monroe, Conn.

Dear M.O.: Considering the seriousness and prevalence of house-soiling cats, any novel solutions are welcome and worth a try. I would put newspaper around the empty box to help blot damp paws. Cats could be encouraged to urinate in a new, clean empty box by dabbing a paper towel soaked in their urine around the interior.

Some cats do have an aversion to all kinds of cat litter, and older cats can miss the box when they can’t arch their backs owing to an incapacitating hip or spinal arthritis. One advantage to your cat urinating in an empty box is that it will be easier to notice any blood or cloudiness that could be indicative of cystitis – a serious and too-often-missed problem.

Dear Dr. Fox: We have a male tabby cat that we adopted when he was about 1½ years old. His name is Shamrock, and he was a stray. He is now 6 years old and has been blind for two years.

We took him to a specialist who diagnosed him with severe retinal damage, most probably from an antibiotic (Baytril) he received for a urinary-tract infection. My concern is that we will be moving to a new home soon. Shamrock has adjusted well to his surroundings in our present home. But we took him to the new house once, and he curled up in a corner and trembled.

Do you have any suggestions? We’re hoping that getting our furniture in will help. We also have a Feliway plug-in. – C.S., Virginia Beach, Va.

Dear C.S.: Some cats suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) when subjected to home relocation. It is always best to get all furniture, carpets and other materials moved in first because these have familiar scents, including the cat’s own scent marks.

In the new house, there might be odors of prior resident cats (and dogs) that might upset your cat. Using Feliway room diffusers to spread the cat-calming pheromone everywhere might help. Do not use room fresheners and synthetic scent odor removers because these could make your cat quite ill. A light dose of Valium or natural herbal extract of valerian may help allay your cat’s anxiety.


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

 www.twobitdog.com/DrFox.