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Assisting free-roaming and unwanted animals, and providing you resources to help the animals in your families and communities

Do you or your cat have a question about each other?

Ask ALF!

This is an "advice column", like "Dear Abby", "Ann Landers", "Hints from Heloise".
Please do not request surrender, intake, adoption, or other items of that nature.
Please do read our Policies and FAQs before emailing ALF a question of that nature.
If you have an urgent medical need, please consult a veterinarian.

Previously answered questions are below. Before submitting a question,
please read the typical articles discussed, to see if your question is appropriate.

Type your "advice column question" below and send it in. We may publish the answer right here on this page.
We regret that we will be unable to reply directly to questions from this page.

Dear ALF,
Signed,
Email: 
Ask ALF
This "advice column" is intended for entertainment and educational purposes only. We are not medical or behavioral professionals, and can only answer based on our own experiences. By submitting your question, you agree to hold Animal Loving Friends and its associates harmless and free from responsibility of the outcome of your situation. Please see our FAQ and Policies pages for information concerning placement of animals, and other common requests.



Dear ALF,
Why does my human want me to be neutered? I can't have kittens, and he doesn't let me outside anyway.
Signed, Mr. Peabody

Dear Peabody,
Your human loves you very much, and knows that a cat who isn't neutered runs a greater risk of testicular and prostrate cancers, or "stud tail" caused from overactive glands near the tail. When left intact, you're more likely to fight, and become infected with FIV or FeLV. Fighting wounds can become abcessed, and those can be unbearable. So getting neutered will help you live longer, healthier, and happier. Many cats aren't as lucky as you to have such a caring human, and they sometimes lose their home because they spray on things. Humans really find that strong smell offensive. You sound like a pretty smart cat, and probably know how to escape when your boy opens the door with a stack of comic books in his hands. It only takes once, and you could cause an unspayed female cat to have kittens who face a four-gone conclusion. If they don't have a home, they may end up in a shelter where their chances of getting out alive are very slim. Or worse, they might get hit by a car or killed by a coyote. A long time ago, there weren't as many cats in the world, and most of them had a home, many were even royalty! If we could go way back in time, and tell people all of the benefits of spaying and neutering, we could correct history. Then millions of dogs and cats wouldn't have to die in the shelters every year. After all, Peabody, to heir is human, to four-give feline.

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Dear ALF,
If there is food in the bowl, I have to finish it. But I can never hold down all that food. My humans think I have bulemia and want to host an intervention for me. I think I just like to eat -- what's wrong with that? Can you get those humans off my back?
P.S. I'm a 7-yr old, long-haired rescued cat.
Signed, Akira

Dear Akira,
Can you get your fellow felines off the bed before they ralph? Don't you cats know when it's coming back up? Seriously though, you don't need an intervention, Akira. What you need, my friend, is a rescue dog!

Ok, quit squirming, all you humans out there. You know it's true, even if you don't want to say it out loud.

Akira, since we at ALF like to attack problems at their source rather than cleaning up the results (aka spay/neuter, so there aren't so many to adopt!), we have several suggestions to help you keep your food down. Tell your humans they can cancel the invitations.

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Dear ALF,
Why does my cat turn his back to my friends who try to get his attention, but he harasses those who don't, especially those who aren't fond of cats?
Signed, Embarrassed in Eloy

Dear Embarrassed,
Cats say the darndest things, don't they? The thing is, you have to speak "feline" to understand them sometimes. There's a very logical explanation for your cat's behavior, if you think in cat terms. Cats communicate with body language, and they interpret human moves the same as they do cats' moves. In cat language, turning your back to another cat means that you don't intend any harm, and don't want a confrontation. On the other hand, looking a cat directly in the eyes is interpreted as a challenge. Cats are also quite territorial, and usually don't immediately accept another cat into their fold. So if your cat-friendly guests are looking your cat square in the face and trying to place their hands on him, he may interpret this as aggression, and will likely retreat to a safe place in his own home. Your guests who aren't cat-friendly are likely turning away from your cat, so he thinks this means they're harmless, and he feels safe to approach them and may seek their attention. That's why, when getting to know a new cat, we lower our heads slightly, and slowly blink at him. If he blinks back, that's usually a good sign.

You can read whether a cat is distressed or ready to attack, or if he's happy and willing to interact - if you get to know their body language. For tips on how to tell if a cat is tame or feral, and how to approach a cat you don't know, read Is She Stray or Is She Feral?.

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Dear ALF,
Why won't you give me real milk to drink?
Signed, Pirate

Dear Pirate,
Do you really need to ask? Besides the obvious - being kicked in the head by a cow - real milk provides no nutritional value for adult cats, and often causes digestive problems. After weaning, cats usually develop an intolerance to lactose. Your tummy might hurt, make funny rumbling noises, and you may end up with diarrhea. Yuk! Some cat guardians buy special "milk" products that are made for cats, and that's usually ok, as long as it's only given as a treat. Quality food (fresh prey counts), and clean water, should always be the staples of a cat's diet. Giving milk to cats can cause them to become malnourished, and we want you to remain strong, and in good health. Kittens, however, do need milk, but not from a cow. A mother cat's milk contains nutrients and antibodies, so the kittens can grow and not become infected with some diseases to which they may be exposed. When a human finds orphaned kittens, it's really important that they are fed a milk substitute made especially to give them the nourishment and protection they need in their early weeks.

Proper feeding and care instructions for orphaned kittens are provided in our Found Kittens? brochure.

Read what happened to Pirate when he decided to take matters into his own paws and tried his luck as a Matador.

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Dear ALF,
I was rescued by a very nice lady. I am old enough to write you, but not old enough to eat solid foods yet, as I was taken from my momma cat too soon. What can the nice lady do to make sure I am fed and in good health?
Always Purrring,
Abandoned in Arizona

Dear Abandoned,
We're so glad you asked! This is the time of year that so many babies just like you are found in need of help. Some of them have momma cats, and some don't anymore. This makes us so sad! That's why we created a brochure to answer all those nice ladies' (and mens') questions, including when to see a veterinarian. You need an appropriate body temperature, proper nutrition and hygiene, and help going to the bathroom. The Found Kittens? brochure describes how to care for momma kitties that are still with their babies, too. And it has a section to help the humans determine how old the babies are, and what their needs are for each stage of development. The early weeks of your life are the most important time to have the right kind of care.

Proper feeding and care instructions for orphaned kittens are provided in our Found Kittens? brochure. Please share with everyone you know!

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Dear ALF,
Scrappy wants to know why I need to see the computer to be able to type. More over why do I even need to type when I could be holding him?

Dear Scrappy,
We always thought cats try to catch the pointer on the computer monitor because they think it's a bug. But since you can't see, you've convinced us that the real reason is simply to annoy their humans. Or perhaps it's to get their people's attention. Heck, maybe it's just fun! In any case, your Mom has to use her hands when she's on the computer, just like you have to use your paws when you're in the litter pan. Does she insist that you rub her when you're doing that?

Scrappy's story: Early one January four years ago, one of our volunteers had an appointment near the West side County shelter. Finding herself with some free time to kill, she made the mistake of walking through the shelter, just out of curiosity. There in the hectic, noisy dog wing, was this very young, very sick kitten with bluish-white eyes, scared out of his wits! He was obviously blind, and terrified, clinging to the metal bars at the top of his kennel. She couldn't leave him in this place, which would mean certain death after days of stressful terror. So we put out the call to our rescue partners, and one came through and sprang him for us! The visit by our volunteer that day was destiny, not a mistake after all.

Scrappy was dirty, had a terrible upper respiratory infection, vomiting and with bad diarrhea, which contained some tinsel from a Christmas tree. Poor street dogs and cats will eat anything to fill the terrible hole they feel in their tummies. Tinsel, or any type of string, can be fatal, as it can bunch up the intestines into somewhat of a knot, obstructing anything from passing through. Scrappy had a very distended abdomen, and combined with the respiratory infection, digestive distress, and blindness, all indications were that he was suffering from Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP), which is nearly always fatal. It resembles Parvo, another mostly fatal disease contracted primarily by dogs. By keeping your cats healthy and safely indoors, you can prevent them from being infected with the FIP virus, which is usually spread through nasal discharge and feces. Thankfully, all of Scrappy's tests were negative for FIP! But he was still sick for a very long time. His nose was so stuffed up he couldn't smell food, and had lost his appetite. Scrappy had to be syringe fed for weeks, and on medication for more than a year, but he pulled through! Today he's a happy, healthy, huge cat, forever indebted to his rescuer, returning her love a thousand-fold!

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Dear ALF,
My kitten needs to be litter trained but he doesn't quite get the use of a litter box. How do I solve this problem?
Yours truly,
Confused cat owner

Dear Confused,
Usually it's a natural instinct for cats, but mama does have to show her little ones the ropes. If your kitten didn't have a mama to show him, you may need to substitute. Just remember, NO SCOLDING or punishment of any kind. Repetition is the key. As soon as you see him start to scratch around outside the box, then squat to potty, gently pick him up and place him in the litter pan. You need to train him to think INSIDE the box. The box itself should be appropriately sized, depending on the age and physical ability of your kitten. If he's quite young, you may need a very shallow pan or box, and perhaps a "door" cut out of one side so he can easily get in and out. Until kitten is about 4 months old, you should also use a non-clumping litter.

What's the opposite of scold? PRAISE, of course! Always get happy and excited when he "goes" inside the box! We always do! The topics of conversation among animal rescue folks might surprise you. Pee and poop get us really excited - cause for celebration! Be sure your kitten knows he's done something Grrreat!

For more kitten-care help, read the Found Kittens? brochure, and for tips on litter box issues with adult cats, check out our Thinking Inside the Box resource page.

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Dear ALF,
My sister Akira wrote a while ago because our people-parents were blaming her for eating like crazy and throwing up.

I have to confess, it was me. I didn't want to get in trouble, so I kept it a secret and let Akira get the blame.

The truth is, I was very sick. If my people had just taken me in for tests earlier, they could have saved thousands of dollars in emergency care for me over the weekend. I had pancreatis and required emergency exploratory surgery. (It looked like an obstruction to my awesome vet.) I almost died because of how late it was discovered. But, luckily, I am going to be just fine.

I guess I don't have a question. I just want to be a "cautionary tail."

If you are doing something strange, get a full screening for everything. You never know. And tests are much easier to deal with than surgery.

Signed,
Kazi

Dear Kazi,
We're so very glad your people were attentive and vigilant, and got you the help you needed! We're also very sorry you had to go through that painful condition and surgery. Thank you for owning the issue and admitting it was you, not Akira, and for being brave enough to share your story to help other kitties and their people.

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Dear ALF,
We recently found a stray dog. We think he is a Llasa Apso. We have not been able to find his owners and judging from his condition, we don't think he had been in a home for some time. He does have some behavioral problems (biting, marking in the house). The problem we are having is that we can not get him groomed. We can't even get him in the car to get him to the vet. Other than these problems, he is very sweet. We are willing to keep him but are worried about how we are going to get his rabies shots and get him groomed. Do you have any recommendations? Do you know of any mobile vets?

Signed,
Alice

Dear Alice,
Thank you for rescuing this dog and giving him a home, despite his challenges. Since we know more about cats than dogs, we consulted with one of our dog rescue partners. Neutering and behavioral training were highly recommended to help correct both biting and marking.

If you live in the Phoenix area, there are lots of mobile services available. Trainers who will come to your home, mobile groomers, and even several house-call veterinarians! We'll be listing some of those resources on our Pet Care page, indicating those we personally recommend. In the meantime, please search the AVMA (Arizona Veterinary Medical Association) website. In the right-hand column there are some "Find a vet" links, which you may find helpful.

There are some things to know about the temperament of a Llasa Apso. This page from dogbreedinfo.com describes the Llasa as a friendly, yet willful and assertive dog, who may think he is the pack leader over his humans. This is a human-induced behavior, easily corrected with proper training and plenty of exercise. Due to their intelligence, they readily respond to both, and will make great companions. Without these activities, the Llasa Apso may fight, snap, suffer from separation anxiety, and be suspicious of strange people and animals. It is really up to you, the human guardian, to determine his level of success.

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Dear ALF,
I had a great cat for 15 years and she died in March of this year. I am now wanting to get another cat. My problem in that I have a sweet dog and the dog has a doggie door. Our cat tolerated the dog (the cat was here first and she let the dog live in "her house") and did not attempt to venture out, she was a total indoor cat. Question is how do I keep the cat inside and not go out the doggie door. I want the new cat and our dog to be friends, the dog gets along with everyone. That is one of the reasons I have not gotten another cat. Any suggestions would be great. Closing the doggie door to the dog would not be fair to her. Thanks for your help.

Signed,
Wanting Another Cat

Dear Wanting,
First, let us say how sorry we are for your loss. That can be painful for a long time, so we appreciate that you're ready to add another kitty to your home.

Many cats and dogs live together harmoniously in the same home. You'll probably have better success integrating the two, with a mature cat who is already used to living with dogs, or with a youngster who doesn't have any negative experiences to get in the way.

There are several opinions about cats and doggie doors. Some have had success with a spray bottle or noisemaker to surprise her and take her mind off that particular thought when she heads to the door. Be sure to avoid a hard stream which could injure an eye. A coffee can with a few loose coins works well to make noise (just shake it, don't throw it at her). Anything that's not harmful to her, that will interrupt her train of thought. The idea is to make her believe the door did it, so be sneaky.

There are electronic pet doors available, that only open when the "key" on the dog's collar triggers it. Many of these exist, and there may even be a way to retrofit your existing doggie door.

Some have had success with cat fencing. This is a specially-designed fence, or a barrier that is placed along the top of the wall or fence surrounding your yard. It is designed to prevent kitty from getting over the wall, but some cats are too smart and determined! Take a look at the Purr...fect Fence, or search the Internet for "cat fencing".

What we recommend, is a pet enclosure. This is a section of your yard that is completely enclosed with fencing, including the top. It is placed against the wall with the doggie door, and allows both dogs and cats to enjoy the outdoors, without the possibility of escape. We have a page on our site showing several examples of simple enclosures, and links to some more elaborate ones, some available for purchase. Click here to view the enclosures page. We'll also be posting pictures of the ALF enclosure with the air-conditioned convalescing room (Habicat 4 ALF) very soon.

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ALF Animal Loving Friends
7650 S McClintock Dr
Suite 103-120
Tempe, AZ 85284

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Email: alfrescue@hotmail.com