Maverick Cat Vet Answers Readers Questions Her Own Way
Written by Steve Dale   

            Dr. Elizabeth Hodgkins is a cat-only veterinarian in Yorba Linda, CA who has authored a cutting edge book ”Your Cat: Simple New Secrets to a Longer, Stronger Life.” (St. Martins Press, New York, NY, 2007; $29.95). Hodgkins’ views often challenge traditional medicine, asking her colleagues to think outside the box.  She’s a guru with a growing legion of fans – breeders and ordinary cat owners who swear by her philosophy.

She answers these recent reader questions:

            Q: My 10-year old, 28 lb. cat looked right at me, and urinated in the bathroom sink. I saw her do this one other time. She licks her belly constantly and was diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). A trip to the veterinarian is horribly traumatic for her, and I don’t’ want to put her through that. Do you have any ideas?  A. M., Henderson, NV

            A: “Because of this cat’s age and size, diabetes is where I’d look first,” says Hodgkins. “Diabetic cats drink more, and therefore produce more urine. I’d also strongly consider the possibility of kidney disease, and anytime a cat is urinating inappropriately, cystitis is always a real possibility. You might find a veterinarian who will go to your home. If not, if your cat has diabetes or kidney disease – these are very serious diseases which require treatment. The good news is that there is treatment. “

            As for the OCD, Hodgkins wonders what’s really going on with your cat. Most cats who compulsively lick begin the excessive licking behavior as a result of an organic problem, such as allergic skin disease, for example. Here’s where Hodgkins parts ways with many mainstream vets, “The gold standard to deal with this is a raw food diet (if food allergies are indeed responsible), although you can get away with some canned hypoallergenic diets. Dry food is certainly implicated with these allergy issues.”

            The compulsive licking may also have started as a result of a physiological problem (perhaps it’s the same problem which has precipitated your cat to urinate in the sink), but then might have become an ingrained habit even after the physical illness had been treated. Or perhaps, your cat may truly have OCD – the bottom line is that she’s continuing to lick. At this point, a referral to a veterinary behaviorist is suggested.

            Q: Our Himalayan/Persian constantly sneezes and sneezes, and mucous comes out of her nose. Our vet doesn’t have answers. Do you? P. C., Palm Harbor, FL

            A: According to Hodgkins, the four most likely explanations for the snotty nose are polyps in the nose, a tumor in the nasal passage, an allergic reaction or – the most likely of all – chronic herpes virus. Because it’s the most likely, Hodgkins suggests simply testing for herpes first.

            If it turns out that this is what your cat has, there’s no cure. It can be a lifetime chronic problem. However, treatment is available to makes cats more comfortable, starting with L-Lysine. Anti-viral medication is suggested for cats who are totally miserable.

            If allergic rhinitis turns out to be the explanation, again Hodgkins parts ways with many of her colleagues, suggesting a raw rabbit diet. Antihistamine treatment may or may not also help.

            If your veterinarian can’t get to the bottom of the problem, consider a referral to a member of the American Association of Feline Practitioners (

            Q: Suzy eats only dry food, except the geckoes she catches. She has a bowel movement only every other day. I believe she’s constipated. My vet suggested vegetable oil, but my cat won’t eat it. What do you suggest? Are geckoes constipating?  B. B., Cyberspace

            Q: My one year old cat has been constipated his entire life. I tried to change his food, and that has not helped. What do you think? V. D., Cyberspace

            A: “Your veterinarian will determine if the cat is constipated,” says Hodgkins. “It’s normal for some cats to go every other day.”

            Hodgkins first suggestion is to transition to a moist food diet. “It’s going from around 10 per cent of water in the diet to 78 per cent,” she says. More water is better anyhow, I believe a good per cent of our cats are living day to day dehydrated. I’m not for adding fiber to cats’ diets. I am not for adding vegetable oil. However, if the cats remain constipated, do add some fat (to their food). Add butter, or turkey drippings or bacon grease.”

            Just so you don’t overdo the fat, Hodgkins says there’s no harm; cats don’t have to worry about high cholesterol. If the cat’s still aren’t having regular bowel movements, Hodgkins suggests mild human laxatives, GlycoLax or Miralax.

            As people kind of feel ‘yucky’ when they are constipated, it’s safe to say cats do too. Also, constipation may eventually lead to a cat defecating outside the box.

            By the way, geckoes are not constipating.

            Q: I have two cats, one likes to chew on boxes, corners of books and papers. The other likes to chew on lace, string, yarn and thread. Box cats are going to be 14-years old. How can I stop them?  D. K., Cyberspace

            A: “It’s normal for cats to nibble on corners of lots of objects,” says Hodgkins. “I’m not sure what you can do with normal cat behavior. What isn’t normal, are cats who actually ingest large pieces of boxes, books or paper. I’m very concerned about cats chewing on lace, string, yarn and thread because if that’s ingested, there may be an obstruction (which could require surgery).”

            If your cat is eating abnormal items, first remove the temptation – especially the lace, string, yarn and thread. Also, at this time of year, in particular, a reminder that ribbon and tinsel are interesting to many cats, but potentially dangerous.

            Offer appropriate alternative items your cat can chew on, such as freeze dried meats (available at many pet stores and online), C.E.T. chews (available through veterinary offices and online) stuffed inside a Kitty Kong toy (at pet stores and online) or cat grasses (available at many supermarkets, pet stores and online).

            “Boredom is an issue,” says Hodgkins. Give your cat more to do when you’re not there. Rotate toys. Leave out ten per cent of your cat’s food around the house; and hide it in various places for your cat to find. Leave treats inside a few Play ‘n Treat balls; plastic balls with a hole – your cat learns to roll the balls, and goodies fall out. Offer a bird feeder, so your cats have their own version of TV.

                                                                                ©Steve Dale, Tribune Media Services