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Dr. Michael Fox, Published May 10 2013

Pet care: Seal floor to stop urination

Dear Dr. Fox: I recently wrote in about our two cats. The first cat had a bowel problem, and you asked us to write back with the type of food we switched to that fixed it.

We were feeding him Friskies, but after reading your book on why cats have trouble processing many dry cat foods, we switched him to Dick Van Patten’s Natural Balance. We used the green pea and chicken variety. There is no recurrence of the bowel issues with either the canned or dry food.

Our other cat developed a problem of urinating in our basement. We lived in this house for four years before the problem started. The concrete floor was painted when we first moved in. We took the cat to the vet to have him checked for any urinary tract issues.

We cleaned the entire floor with a safe, homemade cleaning solution that we read about in your book. We used a black light to try to detect and clean up after the urinating, but this did not help. We also used a pheromone room diffuser, which made the problem worse. We tried a pheromone spray, added extra litter boxes, tuck-pointed the walls (we were afraid that the slight crumbling of mortar was confusing and might be seen as cat litter) and repainted the floor.

We would welcome any suggestions or ideas you might have to stop this behavior. – C.P., St. Louis

Dear C.P.: I always appreciate feedback from readers who have found my advice helpful (or not) in dealing with health or behavioral problem in their dogs and cats. You have really done all that you can to solve your cat’s unwanted behavior, and I commend you for your endurance!

Many cats develop a habitual place-fixation of evacuating outside their litter boxes on the basement floor. I interpret this behavior as being triggered by the earthy and sometimes moldy scent of the cement floor. Most cats will stop soiling the floor when it is sealed with a few coats of epoxy resin-type paint. Temporarily, after cleaning or treating the floor with a sealant, I would cover it with thick plastic sheeting. You can drag this outside, hose it down and let dry as needed. Relocating the litter box and whatever else is in the basement for the cats to one of the upper floors is another option.

Dear Dr. Fox: My new poodle, a rescue, is sweet, shy and adjusting to her surroundings. Her only problem is that she chews newspapers! She had been neglected in her previous home. What can I do to stop this, and is she trying to tell me there’s something wrong? – C.B., Bethesda, Md.

Dear C.B.: The set response to your common complaint is to keep newspapers away from your dog, but one should always wonder why dogs sometimes do odd things like yours chewing the newspaper.

Is she playing and needs more suitable and safe chew toys? Perhaps she developed this behavior out of boredom or having been confined in a crate/cage with newspapers on the bottom?

I would have a veterinary checkup done soon because such behavior (abnormal appetite, called pica) can be associated with inflammation in the mouth (tonsillitis, gingivitis, etc.). Chewing and swallowing things may help relieve discomfort in the mouth or a stomachache because of worms. If your dog is a toy rather than standard poodle, her teeth and gums may need immediate veterinary attention.

Incredible homing cat

Four-year-old tortoiseshell cat Holly became separated from her human companions at a recreational vehicle rally in Daytona Beach, Fla., in early November 2012. She traveled some 200 miles and was taken in by a caring family who found her in their West Palm Beach, Fla., yard on New Year’s Eve. She was weak, staggering, emaciated and with worn down back claws and nail beds. The good Samaritans had the vet check her for a microchip, which she had. Holly was soon reunited with her owners, who lived just a mile away.

I would be happy to hear from other readers who may have had similar experiences with lost pets. I explain these remarkable navigational abilities in my book “Animals and Nature First.” But as yet I have only a theory – what I term the empathosphere connection – but no concrete explanation for the rare, documented instances of animals finding their human companions in a new home to which they have never been.

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.