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Cat Reader Questions Answered at Winn Meeting


Experts attending the  Winn Feline Foundation (a non-profit which funds cat health studies) Board and grant review meetings Feb.10-11, in Houston, TX answer your questions.

Q: I live in a trainer park, and a neighbor cat has been visiting me for about a year. I’m not sure of his owner, but he’s darling. My concern is a bald spot on his leg, which started very small but now has expanded to his underbelly. He doesn’t chew or scratch at the spot. Everything I see on the Internet leads me think the problem is due to allergies or stress. I can’t afford to take this cat — not my pet, to begin with — to a veterinarian. Any advice? — J.P., Pine City, MN

A: It might not be a bad idea for you to adopt this cat, unless you’re sure he already has a home. If you do take him in, however, a prompt veterinary visit is vital, especially if you have other cats at home. Even then, quarantining the newcomer for a least a couple of weeks would be wise. A first step might be to buy this cat a collar, then attach a note to it expressing your concerns to his patch of missing hair.

“Coming out of a Minnesota winter, I’m not certain the cat has a flea allergy, but it’s possible,” says Winn Feline Foundation President Dr. Vicki Thayer, of Lebanon, OR. “If you’re supplementing the cat with food, you might add an omega 3 fatty acid supplement (available wherever nutritional supplements are sold). Either break the capsule and pour the contents into the food or buy the liquid form. If there’s a food allergy, changing the protein source can make a difference (such as switching to a novel food such as venison), though it’s not likely you have control over everything the cat eats.”

How much time are you spending with this cat? I suspect there is no way to determine if the cat is chewing or scratching at his skin when you’re not there to see.

While your interest in this cat is laudable, in reality, the Internet can’t provide what you need for this cat, which a veterinarian can.


Q: Friends are visiting from California, and one is highly allergic to cats. Should we board our 16-year-old cat? What else could we do to make our guest comfortable? — J.B., White Bear Lake, MN

A: A hotel key? “Depending on how severe the allergies are, preemptive antihistamine may work. But your guest should not wait until the visit to take the antihistamine. If your 16-year-old cat has been boarded recently, and accepts the experience, that’s a reasonable alternative,” says Dr. Brian Holub, of Boston, MA, a scientific advisor for the Winn Feline Foundation. “Or try boarding the cat for a day or two in advance and see how the cat does. It may also be possible to relegate the cat to a room or part of the house which can be off limits to your allergic friend. But since this is an old cat, I’m not sure any change is the cat’s daily routine is the best idea.”

With guests coming, you do have a good excuse to clean, clean and clean some more, including vacuuming your home with a HePA filter cleaner. However, if your visitor’s allergies are severe, you won’t be able to rid the house of cat dander in a matter of days or even weeks no matter what you do or where the cat is. Can you say, “Hilton, Marriot or Motel 6”?

©Steve Dale, Tribune Media Services

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