DEAR JOAN: We acquired Cricket in 2012. Her previous owners had to go into assisted living and their daughter already had a lot of pets in her home, so we got her.
Her previous owners have passed — and we learned that they would have never been able to pay the vet bill we did for Cricket’s issues in this past year, but I digress.
Cricket is a butter fiend. She has hairball issues (don’t all cats?). She likes the Vaseline-based product with fish taste you can buy at pet stores, but she loves butter. We are wondering if her previous owners gave her butter for hairball issues and if this is common.
Tom Farrell, Santa Clara
DEAR TOM: It was kind of you to take in Cricket and provide her with the care she needs, even though it has been expensive.
Butter is fairly common as a hairball remedy, but it should be used with caution. While fat is a necessary part of a balanced diet for your cat, some cats don’t tolerate it well, which can lead to upset stomach and pancreatitis.
It sounds as if Cricket has developed a taste for butter. It’s OK to give it to her, if she tolerates it, but don’t let her go crazy with it.
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DEAR JOAN: I have a nest in my chimney.
The mom and dad fly in and out, but I am afraid that the babies will struggle to fly that high to get out. Do you have any suggestions?
I closed the flue when the adults were coming inside the house, before I realized they had made a nest. I will eventually have the nest removed and a grate put on top, but for now I am worried about the baby birds.
Thanks for any advice you can give.
Susie Blackmore, Bay Area
DEAR SUSIE: You needn’t worry about the babies. Generally speaking, the parents wouldn’t build a nest in an area where their offspring can’t get out.
The nest is most likely in the upper part of your chimney, and might actually be on top. Some birds would have trouble flying upward and out of a chimney — pigeons, for instance, need a more horizontal take-off — but if the parents are flying in and out, then their offspring should be able to, as well.
Keep an ear out for signs of trouble. If you hear a lot of clanging around and alarmed chirping, that could indicate a trapped bird. In that case, cover the front of your fireplace with a sheet and open the flue, allowing the trapped bird to escape that way. By corraling it in the fireplace, you should be able to more easily capture and release it.
Once the birds have fledged, it’s a great idea to remove the nest and install screening. Many birds return to nesting spots and you don’t want to go through this next spring.
DEAR JOAN: My cat is sneezing a lot. Do they have allergies like us humans?
Marilyn, Bay Area
DEAR MARILYN: Cats and dogs do get seasonal allergies, which can cause sneezing and wheezing. They usually also develop skin rashes and hot spots.
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Take your cat to the vet to make certain there isn’t something more serious going on, and to get tips on how to combat it. Those small allergies can turn into bigger respiratory issues.
Many vets recommend bathing your pet or washing their feet frequently to remove the offending pollen.
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