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By Dr. Michael Fox, Published March 01 2013

Pet Care: Benefits of using catnip

Dear Dr. Fox: I followed your advice about giving catnip to my three cats, and visited your website archives to learn more. Two of them love it! I grow my own in my yard, sun dry the herb and give them a pinch every few days. They get so relaxed!

I decided to give some fresh flower heads and leaves to the two who love it, and one immediately puked. He never did this when I gave him the crushed dry leaves and flowers. Cleaning it up, I found two fur balls. Maybe that’s another use for this great herb. I make my own tea with it some evenings to relax. – G.L., Roanoke, Va.

Dear G.L.: First, let’s give salutations to the many herbs in our yards and roadsides that can offer us and other animals so many healing benefits, and which most people wage war against with herbicides, not knowing how harmful these chemicals can be. We kill herbs that have many medicinal properties, but our ultimate healing will come when we change this adversarial and ignorant attitude toward all wild things that we seek to control and exterminate.

My two cats also enjoy the occasional pinch of dried catnip. One even vomited fur balls less than a minute after he ate the fresh herb, like your cat. Fur balls can be harmful to cats, and many do not regurgitate them; they can fill up the stomach, interfere with digestive processes and even cause intestinal blockage. Perhaps this is a new use for this herb, and I would like to hear from other cat owners and feline medicine experts on this topic.

Dear Dr. Fox: I have a cat with mild cardiac issues. He is on a low dose of baby aspirin and atenolol. Vets always want to clean his teeth – he has tartar and a couple spots of redness on his gum – but this cardiologist believes that while he would probably be fine with general anesthesia, in the absence of an emergency there’s no reason to take the risk. He mentioned some vets have loved PetzLife, and maybe I should try it. He said as far as he knows, it won’t interfere with medication.

What is better for cats, peppermint or salmon? – J.K., Minneapolis

Dear J.K.: I am glad to hear that your veterinary cardiologist is on the ball and acknowledging the benefits of PetzLife oral care products. I would use the salmon-flavored product that my cats like! Be sure to not overdo applications and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Giving your cat a raw chicken wing tip with all the skin from the wing or a thin strip of raw beef to chew on once a week will help keep teeth clean and will help remove the tartar loosened by the PetzLife gel or spray. Chicken skin and raw beef are like kitty dental floss, but scald them to kill any salmonella and other potentially hazardous bacteria.

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.