Danville Express

Living - May 18, 2007

The Pet Vet says... Befriending a feral cat takes time

by Dr. Heidi Strand

Q: I found two young kittens in my back yard. They can't be more than 4 or 5 months old. They aren't very trusting of me although they do come up to eat the food I leave out. They will rub against my leg but they don't let me reach down and pet them. Is there anything I can do to make them trust me so I can handle them?

A: In order to become good pets, all kittens need to be socialized, which is the process of learning to interact socially with humans and with other animals. Cats who are not socialized are commonly called feral. The best window of time to socialize kittens is between 2 and 7 weeks of age. The older the cat is when socialization is begun, the more difficult the process is, particularly if they have been exposed to experiences that cause fearfulness. It's very likely that your kittens can be socialized if you are willing to invest some time (about an hour a day) and some money (for supplies). The Fix our Ferals program offers some excellent information on taming cats. You can call it at (510) 433-9446 or visit it Web site, www.fixourferals.org for more information.

Q. I am currently fostering a dog and hoping to adopt him. He is infested with ticks! We have given him tick baths and he still has ticks. What do we need to do to get rid of them once and for all?

A. Ticks are arthropod parasites (related to spiders) that attach to pets and feed on blood until they are engorged, then drop off. They can bite people as well as wildlife. They are prevalent in Northern California in brush or forested areas. April through July is the season when people and pets are most likely to be bitten by ticks while hiking or picnicking. Tick bites can transmit diseases, including Lyme disease, which can cause serious health problems for pets and people. Ticks can be very difficult to get rid of. We have had the most success using Frontline Top Spot ¬Ć. (It is also available for cats.) It is a once-a-month treatment which is applied to the skin and kills both fleas and ticks.

To prevent ticks from attaching in the first place, keep your lawn trimmed and clear of mulch or leaf litter, and avoid tall grass or brush where ticks breed. After being in the brush or forest, check your dog thoroughly before bringing him indoors to ensure he doesn't bring home any unwanted visitors. If you find a tick, remove it by grasping the mouthparts as close as possible to the skin with tweezers. Do not use alcohol, a lit match, or anything else to try to get the tick out. If mouthparts appear to be left behind after cleaning with soap and water, you may want to consult your veterinarian, as the wounds can get infected easily.

--Dr. Heidi Strand is a veterinarian for the East Bay SPCA in Dublin. She has lived in the Tri-Valley for 10 years with her family and an assortment of four-legged friends. Questions can be mailed to 315 Diablo Road, Suite 100, Danville 94526; or e-mailed to hstrand@eastbayspca.org. Her column runs every other week.


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