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Animal Doctor: Will 2019 bring newfound respect for our planet?

As people have been welcoming in 2019, there is a pervasive aura of trepidation in many circles. The new year will be challenging on many fronts concerning animal welfare and environmental protection, both too often sacrificed for short-term profits and short-lived jobs. But we can all do something in the communities and states where we live and work.

For instance, I live in Minnesota, where more people are raising concerns about mining and water quality, the environmental effects of expanding animal feed-crop production, and our shrinking and ever-more-polluted lakes and rivers. To these issues we can add chronic wasting disease in deer and the rising incidence of Lyme and other insect-borne diseases in humans. All these issues are indicative of ecological, environmental and socio-economic dystopia.

Perhaps the core issue of jobs and productivity versus conservation and sustainability will be closer to resolution with 20/20 vision in 2020. Planetary CPR is urgently needed — the resuscitation of our planet Earth through conservation, protection and restoration. Such CPR is part of the nascent One Health Initiative embraced by many veterinary and public health professionals. For more information on this movement, go to onehealthinitiative.com.

DEAR DR. FOX: My son has serious health problems, so I have had his 4-year-old rescue cat, Tippy, for two months. She never comes out of her room. She is terrified of anyone other than my son, and he had great difficulty getting her into a carrier to bring her to me.

She has a combination of dry, hard stools and soft, messy stools. Is there a medication that would calm her enough to help get her to a veterinarian?

I worry about what to do if I can’t keep her. I wouldn’t trust a so-called “no kill” facility, and it is very doubtful that my son would ever be able to take her back.

— C.K., St. Louis

DEAR C.K.: I am sorry to hear about your son and hope all turns out for the best for him. But good for you for taking in this rescued cat.

Feral cats, when not properly socialized earlier in life with humans, usually come around eventually, but not in all instances. As you say, the cat eventually lost her fear of your son but is now afraid of you.

My wife and I are dealing with a similar situation with the latest feral cat we have rescued and brought into our home. She is fearful of me because I was the one who caught her outdoors this cold winter. (She was released by the Animal Humane Society to fend for herself.) These survival instincts of self-protection, fear-avoidance and predatory behavior will take time to subdue; the best you can do is give her a quiet place to make her refuge. Keep the litter box close and feed her four small meals of moist, grain-free canned cat food like Halo or Wellness. Call her name repeatedly before setting the food down where she can see it from her safe place.

Our rescued cat does come when called for food and pirouettes in a solicitous display, but hisses when I try to touch her. Contact may take weeks. The rule with cats is to let them come to you. In the evenings, ours will play a little with a tuft of feathers tied to a string on a cane, which you may later want to try.

Accept that you have a reclusive, fearful little soul; it took six months for another one of our rescued cats to allow me to touch him, and when that happened, it was like a dam breaking. He became a devoted companion.

Take stool samples in to the vet to check for possible parasites. If medication is needed, hide it in food the cat really enjoys, such as canned sardines or meaty baby food.

Get a cat-carrying crate and put a soft towel inside it and another towel draped over it. Put the crate near where she likes to hide. She may come to see this as her “den,” making it easier to get her to a veterinarian when the occasion arises — especially if she goes inside to hide when she’s afraid.

China’s bear bile farms a global abomination

One of the world’s most horrendous forms of animal exploitation is China’s lucrative collection of bear bile for traditional medicine. Bears’ abdomens are opened to collect bile on a regular basis, which causes chronic infection and liver disease. The animals are kept in small iron crates that are so cramped they cannot even stand up their entire lives. The confinement causes skeletal and other deformities.

Many of these bears die young, while others suffer for decades. There are an estimated 100 large-scale farms, which are legal in China, with the largest holding more than 1,000 bears.

Trade between countries continues to be condoned where there is human slavery and other violations of human rights, inhumane treatment of animals and destruction of wildlife habitat, and environmental pollution. Without broader harmonization of bioethical standards, “free” trade and the current tariff wars ignore the core issues of ethics and sustainability.

The consequences of such ethical blindness are increasingly evident on almost every continent today and are epitomized by the suffering of these bears. An abomination indeed, and a shame on China.

To learn how you can help stop this practice, visit animalsasia.org.

Send all mail to animaldocfox@gmail.com or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 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.net.