My Pet World: Helping kittens who never learned to groom themselves

Cathy M. Rosenthal, Tribune Content Agency on

Published in Cannabis Daily

Dear Cathy,

I have two adult cats and recently adopted two long-haired sibling kittens, who are about 11 months old. The adult cats want nothing to do with the kittens. The kittens were raised by a foster mom and refused to be held or cuddled. Is there anything we can do to help this? They also appear to never have been taught to clean themselves when they were with their mom. They will leave the box with poop down their legs and stuck to their backside. How can I teach them to clean themselves? One is a girl, and the other is a boy.

— Carol, Long Island, New York

Dear Carol,

Kittens who lose their mothers sometimes don't learn to groom themselves adequately. You can teach them better hygiene by wiping them down daily with a feline cleansing wipe. Using your pointer and middle finger, use the wipe to stroke your kitten's coat similarly to a mother cat's tongue. (Watch videos on cats cleaning their kittens and try to mimic it.) If the kittens are uncooperative, have someone scruff their neck to keep them still. They will lick themselves afterward, which will, in turn, teach them how to groom themselves.

As for the poop down their legs, their stool sounds too soft, which can be the result of a health problem or their diet. Rule out any health problems first, then address the diet. I assume you're feeding them wet food for this to happen, so reduce their wet food intake and gradually pair it with dry food. If this doesn't work, wean them off wet food entirely and feed them dry food for a period of time to see if that helps.


Dear Cathy,

I have a 14-year-old Shih-Tzu mix with mild heart issues. The vet wants to do a dental cleaning. I’m nervous about putting her under anesthesia and just generally putting her through this. I’ve had dogs my whole life but never have done a dental. How necessary is this to a dog this age?

— Katherine, Tulsa, Oklahoma

Dear Katherine,


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