Q: My Yorkie is now 17 years old, and family members are putting pressure on me to have her put down. They say it is a pity to see her bump into walls as she cannot see very well now and that I am only keeping her alive to satisfy my own needs and not hers. She seems happy enough to me. She still eats and goes to the bathroom to poop on her wee wee pad, but she does leave puddles here and there on the floor. But we have tiles and not rugs so it is not an issue for me to clean up after her. At what point do you say goodbye to a pet? -- Julie Richards, New Hyde Park

A: This is an issue that I have gone through myself time and time again with all my pets for many decades. Only a handful of my assorted pets died peacefully in their sleep. Otherwise, I have been in the same situation as you.

First of all, do not let family members pressure or guilt you into doing it. The only person who is qualified to say that your pet is suffering physically is the vet who has been caring for it and knows it intimately. Older animals like yours that can eat on their own and still keep themselves clean, recognize you, enjoy your company and walk about without pain are not suffering.

Yes, there may be issues like bodily functions and vision, but these are not problems that an animal worries about as they live for the moment.

You can only put your pet down once, so do not make the choice to do it unless your vet advises it if you do not want to feel any guilt.

Wheezer, my last Siamese cat, is now 19. He is frail and skinny and suffers from irritable bowel syndrome despite a raw food diet and drugs such as Prednisone prescribed by my vet. He suffers from explosive diarrhea and, when that happens, it certainly ruins any plans we may have at that particular moment. However, he still toddles about the house and keeps himself clean and at night always finds me and falls asleep on my chest. He could sleep anywhere in the house, but the fact that he feels safe with me at this time in his life touches my heart. I do not mind cleaning up the messes he makes as I know that the problem will resolve itself sooner than I would like and I will never have another Wheezer again after that.

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Q: We have two cats that are brothers and were raised together. One meows all the time at us and seems normal in all respects. The other one hardly ever meows but yet seems to be purring loudly all the time. Is there a reason for this and should we be worried? -- Sharon Jones, Uniondale

A: Meowing by cats is done only by kittens to their mothers and by adult cats to their human keepers. Adult cats view us as their "parents" and express their needs to us in this manner.

Among themselves cats growl, hiss and make other sounds, but they rarely meow to each other. There is a lot of debate on purring among domestic cats, but scientists do agree that there are two different purring styles, one that expresses contentment and another type, measured by recording and comparing the sound waves, called a "solicitation purr." In this type of purring, cats are expressing a need for something with a purr in the same manner that they express the need with a meow. So perhaps your meowless cat has discovered that his purring gets him the same things from you that a meow would. Only the cat know for sure.

 

After a recent column, I got more than 200 letters from readers all over the country offering suggestions on how to keep ants out of a hummingbird feeder. Many people said that they bought an "ant moat" -- a cup of water that gets suspended above the hummingbird feeder and, since ants cannot cross the water, this keeps them out. However, just as many people told me the ant moats became full of mosquito larvae so they took them off.

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Some people told me they coated the holder that the feeder was suspended from with various forms of grease or Vaseline and that blocked off the ants as they cannot cross the grease. However, some people also told me that they did this but the grease in the hot sun melted and dripped all over the feeder.

One reader said that she coated the supports with Skin So Soft and that worked. Others just moved the feeder to an area of the yard where there were no ants, and some people did what I did and just took the feeders in at night and washed them.

One point I would like to add is that in hot weather you need to wash out the feeders quite often. That's because water kept in a glass jar in the hot sun outdoors can quickly grow bacteria and fungus in it that is harmful to the birds.