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My Pet World: Conditioning can ease the shock of bathing for a cat

By Steve Dale, Tribune Media Services on

ORLANDO, FLA. -- These reader questions were answered by veterinarians attending the North American Veterinary Conference Jan. 19-23, in Orlando, FL.

Q: I rescued a cat who needs a bath. How do you bathe a cat? -- G.C., Las Vegas, NV.

A: "Carefully," begins Dr. Elizabeth Colleran, past president of the American Association of Feline Practitioners. "How quickly your cat can deal with water depends on how fearful of water the cat is. "

First, run the water while holding your cat nearby, but far enough away from the water so the cat isn't terrified and wanting to get away. Offer your cat treats while the water is running to associate the water with something yummy. That's the goal, anyway, but realistically, while some cats take to water, but most don't

Next, take a moistened towel or clean rag and get your cat just a little bit wet. Simultaneously, offer treats. If the cat isn't panicked by now, you can really get your kitty wet. However, never dunk the cat's head.

Colleran, of Chico, CA, says she prefers to at least attempt the gradual method rather than force the cat, or to use waterless shampoo. Remember, though, that whatever you put on a cat, the pet will lick off, which concerns Colleran.


By the way, congratulations on rescuing this cat!


Q: Our 6-year-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel goes to the back door and scratches there and drools whenever we leave the house. This behavior began right after our cat died. We've hired a teenager to walk Abby during the day, but that hasn't helped. Our veterinarian mentioned drug therapy, but is there another strategy? -- M.L., Cyberspace

A: Your cat's behavior "is an unusual manifestation of separation anxiety," says veterinary behaviorist Dr. Gary Landsberg, of Thornhill, Ontario, Canada. "Typically, pets become anxious when separated from their human companions. But this instance might over the loss of the cat. Certainly, videotaping the dog's behavior in your absence would help your veterinarian or a veterinary behaviorist.


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