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By Dr. Michael Fox, Published November 23 2012

Pet Care: Feline fixates on food

Dear Dr. Fox: Our 7-year-old Himalayan cat, Toby, is a rescue. He is sweet and lovable, and he gets along famously with our other cat, Eli, an 8-year-old black Persian. They romp and play, and naptime finds them close to each other. Toby was 9 pounds when we adopted him, and he is 13 pounds now. He’s a big boy but not unwieldy. He is healthy, happy and affectionate. He never throws up or misses the litter box. He drinks plenty of water. He is a hand-nudger and a wet-nose-kisser type.

I do have some concerns, though. Toby eats dry Adult Iams with some wet canned Friskies. He frequents Eli’s bowl, which contains only the dry Iams. Toby is a dedicated, compulsive eater, and he regularly snacks on newspapers, which I find gnawed up when I wake up.

There are times when he seems haunted by the possibility of more food and goes on the hunt. The cats get treats at scheduled times. I added the wet food to Toby’s food hoping to discourage the newspaper eating or help fill some sort of nutritional need.

Toby also overgrooms. He loves to be hugged and petted, but usually hastens to groom afterward. He helps Eli groom on occasion. He also sometimes covers Eli’s litter box business – such a gentleman.

I am reluctant to incur a whole lot of expense at the vet’s on a mostly healthy, fantastic cat who has some idiosyncrasies that may not be detrimental. I waver, considering insecurity, something lacking in his diet or my overactive imagination. I hope you can lend some thoughts on my concerns about Toby. – C.C., St. Louis

Dear C.C.: I am concerned about Toby’s increased appetite, coupled with excessive grooming and compulsive paper eating. These three behaviors could be symptomatic of thyroid cancer. Toby is around the age when hyperthyroidism appears, and it is all too common in cats today – along with Type 2 diabetes.

Several environmental factors can trigger thyroid disease in cats – from chemicals in carpets and upholstery to high levels of iodine and cadmium in cat food to fluoride in drinking water.

You should consider having a full thyroid function test conducted by your veterinarian. Try transitioning Toby onto a raw food diet, a single-protein cat food or my own home-prepared diet, and see if that helps reduce the excessive grooming. If the grooming gets worse, you may be better able to spot a food allergy/hypersensitivity and take it from there.

Peanut butter product

As part of a widespread recall of Sunland human food products containing peanut butter, DOG for DOG is asking owners to return the company’s Dogsbutter, a canine peanut butter. No Dogsbutter products have tested positive for salmonella, but the company is taking this action to ensure the well-being of dogs. Thirty-nine people across 19 states have contracted salmonella in an outbreak linked to a number of Sunland products. For more information, visit dogfordog.com.

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.