Wacky Pet Questions, But These Folks Are Serious


After writing this column for 13 years, I’ve answered somewhere around 2,700 questions. Some have been medical, but most have focused on pet behavior, from “accidents” (inappropriate elimination in cats is the most common) to aggressive pets and cats scratching in all the wrong places.

I’ve compiled many common questions in two ebooks, “Good Dog!” and “Good Cat!” each available for only $2.99 wherever ebooks are sold (including Itunes.com and Amazon.com). Both are great holiday gifts for pet lovers. One of the most avid pet lovers of all, Betty White, wrote a foreword for each.

The idea is to be helpful, so the books include answers to common questions, but just for fun I also included some very uncommon queries. Here are three more you won’t find in either book:

Q: We just moved into a wonderful old house. We were originally drawn to the home by its charm and elegance. However, now we have a problem. Our dogs and cats — we have two of each — don’t seem to like it here. Any of the animals may be walking down a hallway, then suddenly stop and run the other way, as if they’d seen a ghost. Clearly, pets can sense more than we can. Perhaps, they can sense ghosts. What do you think? — V.D., via Cyberspace

A: I doubt what your pets sense is a long-lost soul, as much as it’s a long-lost pet. You’re right that pets can sense far more than we can, particularly with their keen sense of smell. If your pets are hitting the brakes at nearly the same place in your home each time, I wonder if previous owners had pets. The lingering scent — which you can’t detect — may be what your pets are responding to.

If they’re being spooked at one place in particular, make that a fun place. Take out the squeaky dog toys and/or the fishing pole-type cat toys and play with your pets at that spot.

Another possibility is that your pets are simply spooked in strange surroundings. A creaky wood floor, the sound of an appliance they haven’t heard before — anything novel might make them take notice and head off the opposite direction.Some pets take only a matter of minutes to settle into a new home; others need several months. To relieve mild anxiety, plug in Feliway and Adaptil diffusers around the house. Both products contain replicates pheromones which can help take off the edge.  However, I’m not sure either will defend against ghosts.

If you’re convinced you have a ghost, I say embrace the phantom! Perhaps, the spirit will help out, scooping the litter box or letting the dogs out when you’re running late at the office.


Q: I have a problem with my roommate. She says she hears my dog barking at 3 a.m., and it disturbs her. Well, my dog is with me at 3 a.m., in my bed. I’m not a sound sleeper, and I know she’s not barking. What do you think? — F.D., St. Paul, MN

A: I think either your roommate is disturbed or you’re a sounder sleeper than you think. Unless a neighbor’s dog is making the ruckus, I suggest the roommate is having nightmares. If you’re certain that your dog isn’t guilty, I suggest you either set up a recorder in your room to provide evidence that it’s all quiet on the dog front, or find a new roommate.


Q: Our Maltese mix is a wonderful, friendly and happy dog. She loves our two children and their friends. But there is a problem. The trouble began when we purchased one of those floor-to-ceiling-sized TVs with surround sound. Our family room is now more like a movie theater. Sometimes, Molly will bark at TV shows, especially if animals are featured. But what really gets her mad are the Muppets, “Sesame Street,” or any show with puppets. She barks and charges the TV while growling. I’m actually afraid she’ll throw herself at the TV. I know you’ll suggest not watching the Muppets or “Sesame Street,” but our kids love those shows. What should we do? — C.F., Wilmette, IL

A: Molly is clearly a fan of Mitt Romney, apparently wanting to see PBS go away. I can’t honestly explain why puppets or Muppets elicit an angry response. It is true that such characters look and sound unusual.

When these shows are on, try to keep Molly preoccupied. If she’s busy attempting to lick (low-fat, low-salt) peanut butter from a Kong toy or sterilized bone, she won’t be paying attention to your choice in TV programming. If all else fails, keep Molly out of the room when you watch her un-favorite programs.

©Steve Dale, Tribune Media Services