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Claws and Paws: Don’t be concerned if a cat wants to show a dog some affection

kitten and puppy sleeping

By Steve Dale

Q: My neutered male cat makes a nightly ritual of climbing on top of our 20 pound female dog, rocking back and forth, using his paws to swim through her coat. It’s as if we’re watching an X-rated movie. The dog – who is spayed – tolerates this until the cat bites her once too often. Then she jumps away. She doesn’t act angry. What’s happening in our house? Should I get involved in their mishegoss or leave it alone? – C. P., Indianapolis, IN

A: You may need to call in a rabbi but don’t worry, your cat isn’t actually sexually interested, or at least thinking he’s enamored with your dog. Although, he obviously likes the dog. In fact, kneading or the “swimming” you describe is typically an expression of affection, and comfort. Often cats purr and rub their faces while kneading.

However, the friendship apparently works both ways. Otherwise the dog wouldn’t tolerate this fastidious feline strangeness. It’s possible that the pooch may even enjoy the display of affection.

As you describe the scenario, your pooch is being a mensch about it. It won’t be surprising if one day your cat bites too hard once too often and your pup will snap back, and that will be the end of it. However, if the nightly bizzarro is getting on your nerves, you can direct your cat with a fishing pole toy and feathers, or catnip.

Q: Relative to unusual weather here, it’s been unseasonably warm – should I continue heartworm prevention for another month? – S. J., St. Paul, MN

A: “Yes, you should continue heartworm for another month, and throughout winter as well,” says Dr. Shelly Rubin in Chicago, past president of the American Heartworm Society.

“Even when you have those very cold sub-zero days, eventually it warms up for a day or two and that mosquito lurking in a crawl space or garage can become active again; all it takes is one mosquito bite to infect a dog with heartworm. Since, heartworm treatment is very expensive, I think prevention is the only way to go.”

Also, many heartworm preventatives also protect against intestinal parasites. “Some of those parasites can be active in the winter, and freezing doesn’t kill the parasite eggs when dogs eat dog poop,” Rubin explains.

“Too many dogs die of heartworm disease because their owners simply forget to give a preventative, or don’t purchase it in the first place,” says Rubin. “It’s sad because heartworm is preventable.”

Q: I’m really upset because my Doberman, Henry, was just diagnosed with diabetes. I’m not sure how that can happen since he doesn’t eat sugar and he’s only a few pounds overweight. My veterinarian explained, but I was so surprised – I don’t understand. He’s 11 but not elderly. I’ll give him insulin, but I’m worried. – H. J., Tampa, FL

A: Diabetes has increased 32 percent in dogs and 16 percent in cats from 2006 to 2011 (according to Banfield State of Pet Health) and continues to increase.

“No one exactly knows why,” says Dr. Ruth MacPete of San Diego. “Certainly, we’ve seen a corresponding increase of overweight and obese pets, and that plays a significant role. Also, in dogs, diabetes might occur more often in old age.”

Dogs and cats don’t get diabetes from eating too much sugar. Diabetes melitus is caused by the body suffering from either an absolute shortage of insulin (Type I), or from an incorrect response from the cells to the insulin that is being produced, a condition termed insulin resistance (Type II). Both of these conditions will prevent the muscles and organs from converting glucose to energy, and will result in excessive amounts of glucose in the blood, which is also referred to as hyperglycemia.

MacPete says, “What’s most important to remember is that diabetes is a manageable disease. Henry can still live for a very long time, with insulin, regular glucose monitoring (perhaps even at your home), and regular veterinary visits.”

Also, you said Henry is a “few pounds” overweight – getting that weight off will benefit Henry for several reason, as will regular exercise.

Q: My cat was never a kisser, but he’s begun to kiss us. I like the affection not the nasty breath. You’d figure they’d make a mintier catnip or breath mints for cats, or something – do they? – Bangor, ME

A: Actually, catnip is a member of mint family, points out Dr. Kate Knutson, Bloomington, Minn.-based past president of the American Animal Hospital Association. However, a breath mint, if such a thing were available, would only be a temporary breath fix, at best. That’s because something medical is likely going on with your kitty. Odd as it sounds, kidney disease can turn a breath sour, and certainly a dental problem may explain the awful breath. See your veterinarian, and Knutson bets that soon those kisses will soon smell sweet as sugar.

(Write to Steve at Tribune Content Agency, 2225 Kenmore Ave., Suite 154, Buffalo, NY. 14207. Send e-mail to PETWORLD(at)STEVE DALE.TV. Include your name, city and state.)