Q. We recently obtained a 15-month-old rescue dog, a Shiba Inu mix, who likes to mark the bottom carpeted stair that leads to our finished basement each time we leave the house. His new trainer believes he is insecure and has suggested placing his own pet bed in the area he uses for his indoor toilet. It worked one time. He continues to leg-lift there. How do we stop this annoying habit? -- Ron E. Geuduschek, North Woodmere
A. Fortunately, he chose to go in an area of the house that he is not in all the time so it might be easy to fix this problem. Putting a baby gate across the top of the steps when you are not home is the best thing to do here so that he is prevented from going down the steps to urinate in that spot. With the baby gate up he no longer has the opportunity to urinate on the step and as time goes on he will forget that this was ever an option. How long this takes depends on the dog, but I would say that you should keep the gate up for at least 4 weeks before you allow him free access to the steps when you are not home.
Q. My house cat, Kasey, loves to eat soft plastic. We know it is hazardous so we hide all plastic but still find some in his litter box mixed in his waste. He must love the smell because he will open draws and pull out plastic bags. He has even opened notebooks whose leaflets are enclosed in plastic sleeves. Oddly enough, when it comes to real food, he will only eat his crunchy food. No treats, fish, shrimp, chicken, cooked or uncooked or fancy canned food. I’d love to find a treat he would like. Do you know of anything I could try that plastic-eating cats enjoy? -- Anthony Ingoglia, Northport
A. This craving of chewing and eating plastic that some cats do is a fetish and, like most fetishes, there is no reason or cause for it that can be based on logic. Some cat will eat plastic as yours does and some will eat wool or paper and some of these cats that do swallow these undigestible household items are not as lucky as your cat is in the manner that the bits and pieces come out in the stool. Some cats need surgery to remove the foreign objects from their digestive tract. It is a management situation. If there were no plastic at all in the house then the cat’s craving would go away in time. There are many crunchy cat treats on the market that a cat such as yours would like. Only trial and error will tell you if he likes them as much as a plastic bag, though.
I have noticed that many of my own cats with such fetishes do enjoy a big leaf off a head of collard greens or romaine lettuce. Some have also enjoyed celery stalks and string beans.
Q. Years back we all had iguanas as pets and I had a very clever 6-foot-long one named Iggy who actually lived loose in my studio apartment for many years. He would potty on newspaper in the corner of the room. However you never see them offered as pets anymore in the pet stores that we visit and I was wondering why. -- Don Williams, Valley Stream
A. Reptile keeping has come a long way in the last few decades. Years back the iguana was so popular as a pet only because it was really the only lizard that was available as a pet. In Central America the Green Iguana is a popular food source, and they are commercially bred on farms for this purpose. As a result, there are many babies from the farms that are available to be sold into the pet trade, and years back every pet store had them. The problem is that baby iguanas need a lot of specialized care that not all petkeepers are capable of providing. Many died as infants and the few that did not grew up into huge adults. The people who had them found out that they were not equipped to keep a 6-foot-long, 15-pound lizard in their home. So many adult iguanas were dumped in parks and other areas by those people who could not keep them, and many municipalities made them illegal as pets because of this reason. In parts of Florida pet iguanas that got dumped have taken over as an invasive species.
While all this was going on, dedicated reptile enthusiasts started to captive breed and domesticate other lizards such as bearded dragons and geckos that are much smaller than iguanas and thus easier to keep as pets. That is why you seldom see baby iguanas offered for sale these days.