Q: We adopted a rescued feral cat and we do not want to allow her outdoors anymore. However, she does want to go outside so we tried to take her out on a harness and leash. As soon as we put it on her she just scrunched down and would not move at all. What is the best way to get her to move around with the harness on her and walk with us as we hold the leash? -- Lisa Rothberg, Woodmere
A: If you just want to acclimate her to wearing the harness, then put it on her without the lead attached and let her walk about the house and get used to it at her own pace. If you want her to walk with you, then you have to take a different approach.
First you have to get her used to eating something tasty off a spoon. The best treat like this is chicken or turkey baby food. Just offer a tiny bit to her on a plastic spoon and allow her to lick it off. Then keep doing it over and over again until she associates the plastic spoon with this treat.See alsoMarc Morrone columns
Next, you need to have two people sit on the floor with the cat, each one with a jar of baby food and a spoon. Each person calls the cat over. When the cat has licked one spoon clean, then the other person calls the cat over and thus the cat learns to follow this lure. After the cat is doing this exercise well, you then put the harness on her and start over again so that now the cat is wearing the harness and following the lure.
For the next step, you have to glue the handle of the spoon to the end of a dowel about three feet long. Now you can hold the dowel in your hand and the spoon will be right next to the floor in front of the cat. Put the baby food on the spoon and offer it to the cat while you are standing up and when the cat starts to lick the baby food off the spoon you slowly start to walk forward holding the spoon out in front of you. If the exercise works, the cat should then start to follow you. You have to keep practicing this scenario. As time goes on, you no longer have to keep walking while you are holding the lure. Just periodically and randomly offer the cat the lure as you are walking and the cat will follow you in anticipation of getting the treat. In the end, you should have a cat that walks with you better then most dogs will.
Q: We just set up our Christmas tree. As soon as we had it up, our cockatiel flew over, proudly sat on top of it and tried to chew the bark and the needles. We took her off as soon as we saw her doing this, but we were wondering if the tree was toxic to her in any way? -- Tanya Carpenter, Smithtown
A: If the tree was not decorated she could stay and chew on it to her little heart’s content. The bark and needles are very good for her. However, if the tree is decorated then she may also chew on an electrical wire from the lights or chew on a bit of tinsel or some other dangerous object. The best thing is to put her on the tree for a cute photo and then keep her off it when she is not supervised.
Q: Our guinea pig is six months old and used to love her pellets and hay that we feed her. However, in the last two weeks we notice that she seems very restless when she is eating. She noses through the pellets as if she is looking for something that she cannot find and keeps picking up the hay and dropping it. She also seems a bit wet around her mouth. Is something wrong? -- Jen Payton, Glen Cove
A: Most likely she has some kind of dental issue and this is why she is having problems chewing and feeling uncomfortable as she is trying to eat. This theory would also explain the drooling that you notice. Like dental issues in humans, this will not go away by itself. A guinea pig’s main joy in life is eating. You need to take her ASAP to a veterinarian who has some experience in the care of rodents and other pocket pets.