On humankind and overpopulation

DEAR DR. FOX: This isn't really a question, but it does concern the animals. I appreciate your advocacy of spaying and neutering to control pet overpopulation, as well as what you say about the huge farm-animal population and the need to reduce our consumption of animal produce. But what about the ever-increasing human population? — L.E., Alexandria, Va.

DEAR L.E.: The human species is the worst of all planetary infestations! Human population control, through famine, disease and war, are ancient, arguably biologically natural and ecologically remedial correctives. Costs notwithstanding, pharmaceutical, surgical and educational components of family planning face enormous obstacles, cultural and political. Having many children provides cheap labor and economic security in some cultures. Politics are rarely divorced from corruption and the kind of disinformation that equates family planning with genocide.

There is a delicate balance between stabilizing populations through the economic security of technological industrialization and sacrificing cultural and biological diversity. If the wisdom of America's 19th-century natural philosopher Henry David Thoreau — "That in wildness is the preservation of the world" — is incorporated by all who are dedicated to improving the human condition, the relentless conversion of the natural world into a bio-industrialized wasteland may be averted.

Effective advocacy of population control through family planning is to be applauded. Opponents who make fatuous religious and moral claims such as the right to life of the unborn live in denial of the severity of the human infestation and its environmental, economic and health impacts on a planet of finite resources, and, in the process, bring more suffering into this world.

DEAR DR. FOX: Almost 10 years ago, a cat wandered into my parents' yard and had kittens two weeks later. I ended up taking in the mother, Kitty, and a daughter kitten, Dora. Until recently, I thought I had the best cats — sweet with nice dispositions. I always felt so lucky.

A couple of months ago, Kitty started hissing at Dora. It went on for about three weeks, when I decided to take her to the vet to check on medical issues, since that's what most articles I read recommended. The vet did blood and urine tests and found that she had an ear infection, but the tests came back fine. I gave Kitty the prescribed eardrops. Within four days, things were back to normal, and they were once again snuggled up sleeping next to each other. On the fifth day, Kitty was sneezing a lot. I took her back to the vet. She had an infection. I opted for a shot because I was nervous about how well she would take medications from me. By that weekend, she was really sick. I took her back to the vet on Monday. She was given stronger medicine, and this made her better.

Then Dora came down with a respiratory infection. I took her to the vet, but this time I opted for oral antibiotics since they would be stronger. It was a nightmare trying to give her the meds. After two days, I tried a pate-style cat food, crushed the medicine and mixed it in. That seemed to work. But Kitty went back to hissing, and Dora started hissing and growling.

I took Kitty back to the vet again. The ear infection had not completely cleared, so she was put on eardrops for another 10 days. Sadly, the aggression escalated when I was at work. They must have had a fight — there were tufts of fur around, and I found small tufts of fur under their claws. That night there was another incident.

Now I separate them when I'm not home and at night when I go to bed. Things are not getting better. I make sure they are not near each other to fight. Dora seems particularly traumatized by all of this. She is fine with me if Kitty is locked up, but she's skittish and a bit nervous. I hope you can assist in guiding me in the right direction. — K.D., Brick, N.J.

DEAR K.D.: I am so sorry to hear about all the stress in your life dealing with sick and fighting cats. Your reaction to all the stress is probably also affecting your cats, creating a vicious cycle. Don't feel bad about that.

How and why the older cat developed an ear infection is a mystery — thought it could possibly be an adverse food reaction. Any such discomfort can lead to defensive, aggressive behavior. You were wise to take the cat to the veterinarian. In the future, do try to get an in-home visit, especially for cats who may pick up respiratory infections even in well-run veterinary facilities.

One way to break the aggressive reactions of Kitty toward poor Dora is to try the plug-in pheromone called Feliway. Put this in the room with Kitty and in the room with you and Dora. Get a moist cloth and rub it on both cats repeatedly so they pick up each other's scent. Offer both cats good-quality dried catnip to eat — I call it cat Valium — then after they have eaten or smelled and rolled in it and you have rubbed some under their chins, let them be together briefly. Repeat this on a daily basis and be calm and quiet. Have a towel or pillow on hand to put between them to stop any attacks by Kitty.

If these steps do not help, she may need to have a thyroid function test done, since hyperactive thyroid disease can lead to temperament changes, increased irritability, self-grooming and ear and skin infections.

Send all mail to animaldocfox@gmail.com or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns. Visit Dr. Fox's website at DrFoxVet.com.

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