Q. Is it dangerous for my 5-year-old poodle/Shih Tzu, Babou, to eat cat food? I am baby-sitting my daughter’s 16-year-old cat, Cinnamon, for the summer, and he is eating her food. I finally put the cat food high up where Babou can’t reach it, but wondered.
A. Dog and cat food look similar, but the kibble has very different ingredients to accommodate the distinctive dietary needs of dogs and cats. Cats are obligate carnivores, which mean they are meat eaters out of necessity. Their food is super-high in protein and fat, which is probably why dogs love it so much. It also contains taurine and arginine, two amino acids cats need and can get only from meat.
Dogs are omnivores, which means they can eat meats, grains and plant-based foods, so eating a super-high-protein, high-fat “cat food diet” is not only bad for their digestion but eventually can lead to pancreatitis. Don’t let Babou eat Cinnamon’s food. It’s good that you moved it out of his reach.
Q. Could you warn people about lost cats getting closed in people’s sheds, garages and basements? I know someone whose cat went into a neighbor’s basement. Since the man never went into his basement, the friend’s cat wasn’t found for three months. He couldn’t walk when they found him, but believe it or not, he lived. It was a miracle.
A. Thanks for the cautionary tale. Lost cats like to hide from people, so if you are searching for one, check unexpected places such as sheds, garages and basements.
Q. I adopted BeBe two years ago. She is a mixed-breed terrier about 8 years old. She is very devoted and follows me when I leave the room and hides under the bed when I leave the house. She has two issues I hope you can help me with.
First, she barks at windshield wipers or anything that moves up and down. If she sees anything that looks like windshield wipers on TV, she starts barking.
The second is, she will not come to me when I am sitting down. I have tried treats, but that does not work. When I say come here, she moves farther away, and if I keep repeating my request, she hides under the bed. But she will go to my husband without his asking and wants attention by sitting there or rolling over to get her tummy rubbed. Any ideas on these issues?
A. I tried to imagine things that might go up and down at your house that would make her bark. I thought of a seesaw, a yo-yo, your hand when you know the answer, and that is as far as I got. You are not alone in having a dog that barks at repetitive movements or things on TV. Some dogs are sensitive to movement and the shapes and shadows on these big screens.
BeBe barks to make whatever’s bothering her stop or go away. If the behavior is not obsessive, it might be easier to be amused by her than to change the behavior.
If the behavior is obsessive, offer her some training because people and dogs often can’t do two things at once. So, train her to “sit,” or come “here” or “leave it,” so when she starts barking, you can replace the unwanted behavior with a new behavior. Initially, you may have to shake a can of coins to interrupt the behavior and get her attention.
Since she doesn’t come when you call her, at least when you are sitting down, train her while you are standing. Offer her a high-value treat that she can’t resist, like cooked chicken. Don’t stretch your hand toward her with the treats. Keep the treats in a baggie close to you, and toss them to her on the floor, dropping them closer and closer to you during the training session. Once she accepts a treat from just a few feet away, sit down and ask her to sit, too, tossing that high-value treat if she complies. If she runs away when you sit down, start over.
It sounds like BeBe loves you a lot; she is just sensitive about certain things. Be patient with her. The additional training will build more trust between you and likely will create an even deeper bond.
Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, author, columnist and pet expert who has more than 25 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name, city and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal