Q My friend's dachshund killed a baby rabbit yesterday. My friend is heartbroken and is angry with the dog. I don't like to have dead bunnies any more than the next guy, but I also understand that the dog is not a "murderer" and that her behavior is a natural prey drive. Is there something we can do to dampen her bunny-killing instincts?
I can't seem to convince my friend that acting mad at the dog is not productive.
A Your friend should know that dachshunds were bred to scent and flush out burrowing animals, and no one should be mad, hold a grudge or punish a dog for this behavior. The dog was acting on instinct and doesn't know she has done something wrong.
There are a few basic ways your friend can address this problem and protect the bunnies:
First, bunnies are in their nests for only three weeks. The mother rabbit digs a shallow hole in the ground and covers it with grass or other natural debris to hide the nest. When your friend knows there are nests in the yard, he or she can walk the dog on a leash during that three-week period.
Second, your friend may monitor his or her dog off-leash if the dog is well-trained to "leave it" for when the dog finds a nest or "drop it" if the dog grabs a bunny. (Injured bunnies need to go to a local wildlife rescue for care.)
Finally, your friend can use temporary fencing around or over the nest to keep the dog away, such as chicken wire or dog kennel (anything well ventilated). U-shaped wire spikes can secure these barriers to the ground. Tell him or her to make sure there is a ground-level opening large enough for the mother rabbit to get through to her babies.
Q My cat, Lumos, is about 2 years old and, though she loves to cuddle with me, when anyone else looks at her, she cowers and runs away. The whole time we've had her, we have never come up with a good answer. Do you have any advice?
A The good news is, Lumos is not biting or scratching, simply running off when she feels her world is closing in. Give Lumos her space and use a feline pheromone collar on her and/or feline pheromone plug-ins around the home to ease her anxiety.
When company comes over, ask them if you can spray the feline pheromones on them from their laps down. Tell your visitors to never reach for her, pet her or pick her up. She must come to them on her own. Lumos is not suddenly going to be in everyone's lap, but if you create a safe space, she may someday feel secure enough to remain in the room.
Q I read your column "Fireworks can have negative impact on pets and people." Like so many pet columnists, you forget that cats even exist. The headline says, "pets," but all you talk about are dogs — nine times, in fact. Not once do you mention the effect fireworks have on cats.
You're right. I apologize for not addressing cats in the fireworks column. The letters I receive about fireworks are always about noise-phobic dogs because they are so visibly shaken by the holiday. Dogs may pant, pace or even destroy the home, so dog parents are much more desperate for solutions.
Cats are not so obvious about their stress. If they are upset by the fireworks, they may hide in a closet or under the bed. Because cats normally gravitate to these spaces, cat parents may not realize their felines are stressed.
The best way to determine a cat's stress level is to check to ensure your cat has eaten that day and is engaging with you as usual. If not, cat parents can soothe their noise-phobic felines by plugging in some feline pheromones in the home, using a few drops of rescue remedy in their water, playing soft music or using a white noise machine to muffle the sounds and confining them to a room where they can hide from the noise.