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  • Safe, effective anti-flea and tick products

  • DEAR DR. FOX: After reading your latest column about fleas and ticks, I wanted to mention that I had a lot of success preventing ticks for my cats (whom I walk on a leash) using hydrosols, which are water-distilled oils and, therefore, safe for cats (since oils are toxic for them). These sprays would also work for dogs, and I...
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  • DEAR DR. FOX: After reading your latest column about fleas and ticks, I wanted to mention that I had a lot of success preventing ticks for my cats (whom I walk on a leash) using hydrosols, which are water-distilled oils and, therefore, safe for cats (since oils are toxic for them). These sprays would also work for dogs, and I believe the oils from which they're made are not toxic for dogs. Bay laurel and lavender are both available in hydrosol spray from originalswissaromatics.com. Rose geranium and eucalyptus are hugely effective and available from rivendellaromatics.com.
    The other thing that I did to prevent fleas and ticks was to purchase garlic flower essence tincture and put a few drops in their water and take it under my own tongue because it is purported to prevent ticks. — B.N., Potomac, Maryland
    DEAR B.N.: The search for and application of safer and effective anti-flea and tick products is ongoing, and your contribution is appreciated. For other products and practices, check my website on this topic at DrFoxVet.com. I am unaware of garlic flower essence being a good tick repellent and would like to see in-field test data to confirm.
    DEAR DR. FOX: We have a 15-year-old tuxedo cat, Tim, who is quite creative with his multicolored ribbon on a plastic wand. For the past five years, he has been using his mouth, teeth and feet to make a variety of different designs in the shape of flowers and other objects for us to notice and praise him over. Is this unusual behavior for a cat? — B.P., Fort Myers, Florida
    DEAR B.P.: I am always glad to hear about the amazing things cats do. You should take photos of these cat creations — or maybe we should call them "paw sculptures"? — and let me see and post them on my website.
    Such creative activities give us insights into animals' consciousness, dexterity and imaginative abilities. While some dogs will learn to identify spoken words and pictures of specific objects and retrieve them from an assortment of others, cats will spontaneously sort certain toys and place them in particular orders or patterns. One friend sent me photos of one of her foster-homed cats placing certain toys on separate steps on her stairs, which he did in a pattern on a regular basis. This may indicate cats' ability to essentially put things in order, if not count, and find an outlet for creative activity in the generally unstimulating domestic environment.
    But what you praise your cat for doing, he may not perceive in the same way as flowers and other objects or designs. He may simply derive great pleasure from manipulating these materials, just as our Mr. Mark Twain, a formerly feral cat, will spend intense minutes hooking a spiral of pipe cleaning wire from one claw to another, then hiding it and pulling it out from behind a leg of furniture or from under a rug where he has pushed it.
    DEAR DR. FOX: When we decided to get a cat 10 years ago, I thought getting a couple of littermates would work well. They got along during the first couple of years, often sleeping together and grooming each other. As they matured, though, they seemed to grow more competitive for our attention. They seem to tolerate each other for the most part, but they often growl and hiss when one enters the territory of the other when one of us is around.
    It seems like our tabby considers me to be her property to be defended when I'm in one part of the house, and our longhair considers me hers in another part of the house. They stiffen when I try to pet one if the other is around. If only one is on my bed, they welcome affection. If both are on my bed, they are very stiff, and they don't move. They show some of this behavior with my son, whom they both consider the most wonderful human, but they are both very attached to me, too.
    The funny thing is, they don't seem to be jealous of each other when I have them outside on a leash. I wonder if they would have been better off as single pets. Their behavior is interesting and often annoying, like having a couple of your kids dislike and fight with each other.
    I enjoy reading your column, and my girls' diets are better because of it. — D.B., Fargo, North Dakota
    DEAR D.B.: Your cats' behavior will be familiar with many cat caregivers who have two or more cats. This kind of behavior is typically "cattish" in that they assert social dominance via the places in the home — a lap, particular chair or windowsill — that they prefer to occupy. This behavior keeps them apart and prevents conflict: "This place is mine. Keep away, and I will respect your place."
    To avoid conflicts, as when one cat is on your lap or sitting beside you, invite the other over to be groomed on the floor, and get down to do this. Groom both of the cats at the same time. You may then set up a neutral territory or conflict-free zone on the floor in the middle of your living room.
    Our two cats will often engage in mutual grooming, which is a prelude to play-fighting and chasing. This often ends with one being rougher than the other and they part for a while, going to their favorite personal places to lie down.
    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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