A neutered cat still has killer instincts

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Marc Morrone Newsday columnist Marc Morrone

Marc Morrone was born in 1960 in the Bronx and, when he was 2, his family moved to ...

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I had a spayed female indoor / outdoor cat for 17 years, and she just passed away. The day after we buried her, a young male feral cat turned up in our yard as if by magic. He is superfriendly and playful and does not act like a feral cat at all. So I have been feeding him and providing water but have not allowed him in the house yet as I want to take him to the vet first to get shots and get treated for fleas. The problem is that this cat is a real hunter. He has killed four of the songbirds that I invite into my yard. My other cat never bothered the birds. She could lie on our picnic table and the birds could safely eat at our feeder 10 feet away. How can I condition my new cat to do this as well? If I got him neutered, would that change his behavior?

--Karen Smith, Bellmore

Predatory behavior in domestic cats is instinctive. Scientific studies have proved that it has absolutely nothing to do with a cat's appetite. There are some cats that are less predatory than others, but there is no accounting for why. I've had feral cats that would allow mice to crawl all over them and birds to perch on their heads, and I have seen a flat-faced short- legged Persian cat that would run down a rabbit and dispatch it with an instinctive bite to the back of the head.

Neutering a cat just removes the testosterone to prevent it from thinking about breeding or exhibiting behavior related to breeding such as spraying; it has nothing to do with predatory behavior.

If you truly do not want your new cat to hunt the birds in your backyard, keep him in the house. He will be unhappy about it at first, but he will get used to it. After a period of time, all the feral cats I adopted got so used to it that they would not leave the house even if the door was left open inadvertently.

We got a Maltipoo puppy three days ago and set up a crate for him in our kitchen with a blanket and toys. As soon as we go to bed, he starts to scream so much and gets absolutely frantic. We tried to let him cry it out, but it goes on for an hour or longer and the cage becomes a complete mess. Oddly enough, he is fine with being in the cage during the day. How can we get some sleep and solve this issue without spoiling him?

--Terry Winters, Roosevelt

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This is what works best for me. First I put a thick layer of shredded paper in the cage -- 6 or 7 inches deep so that the dog can snuggle into it and feel more secure. A blanket or towel in the cage can get bunched up in the corner as the dog paces back and forth and the bare plastic of the cage bottom can make the dog feel even more miserable. Then, I would advise you to keep the room the cage is in brightly lit all night long, just as it is during the day. Finally, a radio left on also will help to provide some background noise to keep the puppy from feeling alone all night.

We had two parakeets together for five years, and the male just passed away. The female seems fine with the situation, and we are debating if we should get another bird as a companion for her. She did not seem to mourn the loss of her mate at all, and we are wondering what to do.

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--Lauren Sanders, Sayville

Well, she would most likely appreciate having another bird as a companion, even though she has no idea that is even an option. Most likely, as soon as you put another male bird in the cage with her, she will take up right where she left off in her relationship with her previous mate.

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