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Purring and Growling Back at Me: Reader Questions/Comments


I love your feedback – sometime you purr, other times you bark or growl…but keep those emails and letters coming ([email protected]). Here are some recent comments.

“I was moved by your recent column, which you responded to a reader who had recently euthanized her pet and was feeling a great deal of guilt.  Your response was heartfelt and compassionate. Your statement ‘I’m here to argue with anyone who says losing a pet isn’t like losing a loved one.’ was so eloquent.  I’m a licensed therapist and have a number of clients who, even though they may come to therapy seeking help for the death of their pet, often they still have this unresolved grief in their lives. The human/animal bond is so strong and so special. You’re in such a unique and special position to reach so many in their time of grief and, as any pet owner will attest, your statement is so right!  You’re doing wonderful work; you’re empathic words in helping this reader were so touching.” T.L., Redmond, WA

S. D. Thank you for your kind words T.L. Your are right, the human/animal bond can potentially be defined as absolute unconditional love, which – in truth – is rarely seen among people. Also, the amount of time we spend with the family pet might be more time than we spend with even a brother or sister, for example. I am in no way equating animal death with human loss. I am, however, saying the loss of an animal may be devastating, and those who haven’t lived with pets may not understand.

“I read the question about Levi, the cat who is defecating outside his litter box.  All I can say is that it sounds like the entire environment in this home is questionable when it comes to the health of all the animals. Six cats kept isolated in one room sounds like something you would see in a shelter, but at least most shelters are designed for multiple cats and include many forms of play and exercise. I hope these six cats are receiving the same.  Also, nine dogs in one household sounds like a violation of most city/county ordinances for the number of pets allowed in a single home, and the remaining nine cats being housed in a room with the birds is hideous. First of all, these parrots require clean air to breathe; most are very prone to respiratory illnesses and I am sure that ammonia from cat urine is not good for them. Second, the writer said the room is gated to prevent the dogs from entering, but what about the bird/cat relationships?

“I personally have three parrots who live with two cats, but my cats love the birds.  I suppose it is possible that all nine of these cats ‘love’ the birds, but I think the opposite is more likely true.  This whole thing sounds like nothing but a stressor for all involved.

“The dogs stress the cats; the cats stress the birds; the dogs stress the birds; the whole situation stresses the humans, who probably love all these animals, but need to ask for help. In all, 29 animals are too many and is very likely a hoarder problem.  I think you should have recommended these people take steps to reduce to a more manageable number of pets, not just to relocate Levi.  I am very disappointed in your reply”. J.J, Cyberspace

S.D. Among all these cats, I was astounded (and still find it difficult to believe) that only one (Levi) is inappropriately eliminating. Based on the description of day-to-day life for Levi; he is evidently stressed to the max – and would likely be better off being re-homed, away from the zoo that these folks reside in.

However, how do you know when too many pets is – well, too many? Certainly, when their medical treatment and general care  is comprised, There’s no way to discern for sure from an email – but I bet you are absolutely correct. I agree that it may be time for the owners to consider to seek professional help. Hoarders sometimes see themselves as rescuers. Still despite their heart being in the right place – it doesn’t mean all these animals are in the right place.

“I always enjoy reading your column. I was even more excited as I started reading the question about the 82-year-old lady not being able to get her cat in her carrier. I thought for sure that you’d suggest a visit to the house by the veterinarian rather than stressing the cat out more and trying to train it to go to the vet. As a husband of a successful house call vet sometimes, actually most of the time, cats would rather stay home. Besides what’s the point in a wellness check when the patient arrives completely stressed out? A.B., Orlando, FL

S. D. You are totally correct. One option for routine wellness care is a veterinarian who makes house calls. However, my point is that at sometime in the lives of most cats care is required which may be beyond who a veterinarian can do on a house call. You can lower the anxiety to the carrier and the car ride. Kittens are especially easy to train to carrier, but even adult cats can readjust their attitudes with patience, practice and a little help from a Feliway (a copy of a natural calming pheromone.)


“I read your column on pet insurance, you mentioned a company which offers 90 percent the cost of claims back to the pet owners. I threw away the column – what’s the company?” P. L., Buffalo, NY

S. D. Trupanion Pet Insurance

“Are all dogs born knowing how to doggy paddle?” F. J., Ft. Myers, FL

No – Bulldogs, French Bulldogs, Boston Terriers and Pekingese are among breeds which tend to sink like a rock. Other dogs seem to instantly transform into Michael Phelps, while still others  take several tries to learn. Also, some dogs sniff water and nothing can get in their way….while other dogs – even if they are accomplished swimmers – prefer to stay dry.

“My neighbor has fleas in her house – can they hop to our home?” T. J., Hollywood, FL

Not in one leap, but they probably exist at this moment in your own lawn or the neighbors’ yard. Prevention works – talk with your veterinarian about protection for all your pets – even for indoor only cats – if there are any. We tend to protect dogs, but forget fleas might still delivered by humans or dogs, and then party on unprotected cats.

©Steve Dale, Tribune Media Services

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Steve Dale is a certified animal behavior specialist who has been a trusted voice in the world of pet health for over 20 years. You have likely heard him on the radio, read him in print and online, and seen him speaking at events all over the world. His contributions to advancing pet wellness have earned him many an award and recognition around the globe.

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