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Claws and Paws: Not a problem to give a pet turkey, just moderate how much

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Begging for the Holiday Feast.

By Steve Dale

Q: I don’t understand these people who go on TV and warn against our pets eating turkey over the holidays when turkey is found in dog and cat food. C’mon – it’s crazy. – T. J, Providence, RI

A: You’re absolutely right, there’s nothing inherently dangerous about cats or dogs eating turkey.

Looking oh so cute and needy, all your houseguests may be convinced to offer your pet several slices of turkey. Even small slices of turkey add up; and if Aunt Sally and Uncle Buddy and neighbors Millie and Jerry each give your pup or cat turkey – it’s simply too much generosity. Chowing down several slices of turkey for a small dog or cat may be the equivalent of an adult person eating a half a bird in one sitting. The result can be a tummy ache or even potentially life threatening pancreatitis.

Of course, any turkey (or chicken) served with bones can also be deadly. The bones may splinter and cause choking or splinter once swallowed.

If you offer your pet a slice of white meat, or very small slice for a small dog or cat, no harm done. However, what veterinarians are saying is, “why take a chance when your pet will be just as happy with a dog chewie or a few cat treats?”

Q: I adopted a cat from the streets 19 years ago, and that cat was about a year old at the time. She used the litter box for some time, but recently she stopped. I haven’t changed the litter brand. At the moment she uses newspapers, which are placed next to the box. Do you have any thoughts? – T. M., Caracas, Venezuela

A: Assuming you scoop daily, and haven’t added a pet into the home – doing the math, your cat is now quite elderly. I wonder if there’s a medical explanation. The issue may be GI related, or another problem such as arthritis, which is common in cats her age; simply getting into the box may hurt.

Try transitioning to a roomier litter box that she doesn’t need to jump into but instead can easily step into. Consider a spacious plastic storage container (the kind you store sweaters in) and can cut a U-shape entrance that your cat can walk into (be sure there are no sharp edges). Another idea is to use an extra-large cookie sheet or cafeteria tray. Since your cat apparently likes newspapers, Yesterday’s News is a litter brand made from shredded newspaper.

It’s not any more unexpected to see changes occur in a 19-year-old plus cat than it is in a 100-year-old person. Overall, it seems, this cat is doing remarkably well.

Q: Can cats get laryngitis? Our 8-year old female cat has lost her voice. One of our favorite things about Ess was that she would talk back to us when we spoke to her, especially when we said her name. According to the vet, her lungs are clear and the X-Rays showed nothing. The veterinarian prescribed something that has not helped. Do you have any ideas? – D. K., New Richmond, WI

A: “Cats can actually get laryngitis, mysteriously losing their voice for a short period of time,” says Lebanon, Ore., based Dr. Vicki Thayer, executive director of the Winn Feline Foundation, a nonprofit that funds cat health studies. “Usually, then the voice returns in days or at the most week or so. Otherwise, there may be a medical reason your veterinarian has not discovered (upper respiratory virus or even bordetella). Or maybe there is nothing to discover. I currently have a client where the same thing happened – the cat spontaneously lost her voice. There’s no medical explanation, and the cat still isn’t talking after weeks. No one knows why this happens in some cats.”

Perhaps the problem is that this cat simply has no more to say. Thayer responds, “It’s a cat, so I doubt that’s the case.”

Q: My cockatiel pulls out feathers on his back and top of the wings and breast until he’s almost bare. He does this year-round, except in August, when he has almost all his feathers. What can I do so he has all his feathers every other month? And what is it about August ? – J.F., Buffalo, NY

A: Avian veterinarian Dr. Peter Sakas of Niles, Ill., suggests that your bird molts in August, and his feathers begin to grow in, hence the likely explanation for why he looks so good then.

There are a myriad of possible explanations – or combinations of reasons to explain feather picking in parrots, including humidity, hormonal changes, illness, stress/anxiety and nutrition.

“Let’s start with nutrition,” says Sakas. “Many people choose all-seed diets for cockatiels, where a pelleted diet is ideal. You can’t just change diets overnight, it has to be gradual. And getting the bird to cooperate can be tricky. A veterinarian with a special interest in birds needs to see your bird anyway to rule out a health issue and talk with you further.”

(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.)