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Pets: Loving yet aloof, companion cats rule the household

The winter is still with us. Pets still need to stay warm. After the January article about outdoor pet housing, an Alabama Living reader reminded us about straw (not hay) as an excellent bedding material.

Another client asked about a Great Pyrenees puppy. When can they start to stay outdoors? Although the guardian breeds are a lot more cold tolerant, no puppy can regulate their body temperature well. They should stay in a protected warm place till they become an adult.

In this month’s article, we will talk about cats, the little lions in our bedrooms.

Any cat owner knows that cats are far from being little dogs – they play differently, they love differently, they have a different role in the hierarchy of the household. They are the boss!

Scientists believe cats originated in Egypt about 10,000 years ago. Then they spread all over the world via sea routes and migrating farmers. Now, they are on every continent except Antarctica.

Cats have special needs. One of the most important is probably their need for water. We believe that cats should stick to wet food entirely for many reasons. The two most important ones are that wet food has a lot more water, and dry food tends to be much higher in carbohydrates, which may not be appropriate for cats.

No matter whether you feed dry or wet, your cat could still enjoy a continuous-flow water fountain. There are even stainless steel water fountains for cats that may be allergic to plastic.

A cat’s tongue has little barbs that face backwards. Any string or thread-like material can get caught and forced down the throat, causing serious damage to the intestinal tract. Be sure to keep yarn, ribbons and tinsel out of kitty’s reach.

Cats are rather quiet about sharing their pain. As kitties age, watch for lower back sensitivity. They may also be slightly hesitant to jump up on their perch. Some studies show that 60 percent of cats over 10 years of age may have arthritis.

In an older cat, accidents outside the litter box can indicate that kitty is in too much pain to climb into the box.

A relationship with a cat is an amazing experience! If you don’t have one, talk to a friend who is a seasoned cat owner and then head to the shelter to save a life.

Here is one last, but highly pertinent and potentially controversial subject. As an avid environmentalist, I firmly believe that domesticated cats should remain strictly indoors with adequate environmental enrichment. Let me know your thoughts.

Goutam Mukherjee (Dr. G), DVM, MS, PhD., has been a veterinarian for more than 30 years. He owns High Falls Holistic Veterinary Clinic in Crossville. Email questions of general interest to drg.vet@gmail.com.